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Spokesperson for the Atiku Campaign organisation, Mr. Segun Sowumi, in an interview with select journalists in Abuja, spoke about the 2019 general elections and also dissected the first term of President Muhammadu Buhari. Adedayo Akinwale presents the excerpts:
You believe the outcome of the 2019 presidential election was a stolen mandate. You’ve also had a number of narratives as to why you thought it was a stolen mandate. But also looking back, were there things you should have done differently?
This question comes up a lot from the media. There is no human engagement that is not open to improvement. Observations after the event are always 20/20. You never make any mistake with it. So, in that regards, I would say maybe, topmost of them is that we could have used our support groups more. We could have relied on them more as election day managers. Perhaps, if our support groups had been our polling booth managers, maybe they would have resisted more. But then again you have to ask: why put your supporters in harm’s way?
So, from the point of view of how statesmen should approach election, Atiku did everything he was meant to do and whatever was asked of him he did. In the campaigns, you all are witnesses that we speak to issues; did we provide the minimum logistics required to organise things? We did. Did we run on a clear agenda that can be given to the people which will help them to better their lives and move us into greater level of development across the country? We did.
Did we prosecute it with the diligence and the discipline required? We did. Did we engage the media and the public? We did. Did we get in touch with the traditional rulers and the owners of the emotions of our people, everything that was required and that was descent? We did. Did we participate in debates as many of them as possible except for the one debate, where it was clear that the main challenger was not going to be there. But in terms of our campaign, it was a beautiful campaign. It was a campaign that had life; that had message – it was a campaign that really spoke to Nigerians. As far as I am concerned, the 2019 presidential election – the campaign part of it – the one that has to do with Atiku Abubakar, the ‘let’s get Nigeria working again motive’ was absolutely fantabulous.
Looking at the areas where Buhari won, which is mainly in the north: was it a case of Buhari being very popular in the north or Atiku not accepted in the north?
You must first of all understand that our position is that Buhari didn’t win and it is etched permanently in our hearts. And then you must also see that there is a lot of disconnect and inconsistency in the way the number from the north especially, the key states, came in. The various patterns of human beings towards election are actually a scientifically predictable set of outcomes.
What we saw is that the North would have to come and explain itself how it was easy for the numbers, that the presidential election could be so much different from the numbers at the state elections. What we saw in some of those areas that you are talking about in the North was that something like abracadabra must have taken place there. We are in court already, therefore, some of these matters we cannot delve much.
If you don’t examine critically, thoroughly, holistically what happened in 2019, you will not be able to prevent it from repeating itself and if you cannot prevent it, God forbid we will be inching our country nearer crisis, because election on their own are even very emotive and you can see the ugly signs showing up in some locations.
Take the case of Rivers, however you call it, nobody will be happy to see that kind of thing. Take the case of even some locations in Lagos, why would you be happy as a Nigerian to see that and if you stretch it to the other locations in the country, you just find out that examining the 2019 election is a way to prevent us from a bloodbath that would be uncontrollable?
And when you look at all of the things happening in our country now, the earlier we do that the better for us. So, for us and Atiku, going to court is actually a service to humanity and a service to Nigerians.
There are insinuations that the former vice president is being backed by some foreign powers. How true is this?
I will know or I ought to know. Atiku is a phenomenon and with phenomenon what you find is that everything they do have a way of even becoming larger than life. Atiku is not backed by any foreign power to the extent of maybe in the course of the campaign of this magnitude all the nations of the world that are interested in the activities of Nigeria may be interested and other agencies of government all over the world. Atiku is a Nigerian; his patriotic, nationalistic zeal is such that Nigeria first all the time.
Atiku is not backed by any national power. There is no truth about that. Atiku is not conniving with anybody. He is not trying to undermine this country by any means. He is not even wishing for crisis in the country. Atiku is not interested in the shedding of the blood of any Nigerian for whatever reason let alone for his ambition. That is not Atiku.
If Atiku did not get enough reason to believe he won or that it could be challenged in court, Atiku is not the kind of person, who would do that. This is not Atiku’s first time of running an election in this country, he has been running election for some time, when have you ever heard Atiku ran for an election and lost and he tried to implode the country? It is not his style.
Don’t you think it would have been better for the former vice president to wait for the current president to finish his tenure, and then contest again in 2023. After all, the APC is talking about zoning the presidency for 2023 to the south?
Men must be fearful of playing God for God is the eternal and omnipotent, omnipresent, absolute ruler over the affairs of men. We are yet to bury the carcass of 2019. It is too early to start to speculate about 2023. In any case, what is important is that democracy does not imagine some musical share: run I run after you, chop I chop kind of thing.
If the people go through a dignified process and the credibility or otherwise of the process is not in doubt, then, even whoever it is that loses an election must be very proud of himself for he would have done the job of opposition and even if the other man gets to carry it. So, there is no way you hedge it. Atiku is already the winner of the 2019 election in the minds of the people for he is the leader of the opposition now.
His views are the views by which we are going to measure the performance or otherwise of government. Atiku is not going to be silenced whatever the outcome be. We are going to bring forward alternative viewpoints, even on policies, on ideas and directions and the reason is because democracy is supposed to be like that. So, I don’t believe that Atiku shouldn’t have gone in 2019. He was the best bet for the party. He was the best bet for the country. The entire process was energised as a result of him. We believe he won and we are waiting to see how that goes.
If Atiku loses at the courts, will he contest again in 2023?
You cannot pre-empt the judiciary. There are no otherwise in the affairs of the judiciary. They are going to do what is professionally expected of them to do.
We hope and pray that the cankerworm that is nepotism, corruption and lack of integrity that have eaten into the other fibres of the society; we hope and pray that the court had been immune – the court of appeal and this panel from the same integrity issues that have bedevilled the country and it is up to the court to demonstrate that.
After the elections, there have been reviews of INEC’s performance by the CSOs and other stakeholders. Already, 75 out of 91 political parties that participated in the 2019 election gave a pass mark to the electoral body and its chairman said it means the commission was right in declaring Buhari as the winner of the presidential election. What do you think?
Seventy-five political parties gave INEC pass mark; maybe those political parties were not involved in the election or didn’t go into the election to try and get anything out of it. All those 75 political parties that endorsed INEC, INEC should just withdraw their certificate. What are they endorsing? Are they endorsing the process of accreditation that is difficult for anybody to understand?
Or is it the fact that after all the political parties that are serious went in to go and do election, five minutes before the election started, INEC came up with one annoying story about logistics and postponed the election, is that what they are endorsing? Is it an INEC that went into a location and the rules by which they declared some parliamentary elections inconclusive is not consistent with how they quickly rushed and declared the presidential election results?
There is a difference between the person whose child is dead and the one whose child is missing. If your child is dead you will cry and they will console you but if your child is missing it is like madness. Have you ever seen a mother looking for her child? So, you cannot come and tell me to clap for INEC when we are the victims of the things INEC have done.
We thought that after the huge applause that Jega got, we thought it will only get better but little did we know that the people who are going to step into the tiny shoes of Jega are going to have the feet of a mouse, whose legs will be so small that the entire body will be consumed by Jega’s big shoes.
What’s your assessment of Buhari in the past four years?
The past four years of President Buhari’s administration has been extremely unfortunate. It has been retrogressive. It has not even met the minimum that anyone would have expected from someone, who is as experienced or ought to have been as experienced as Buhari. He couldn’t manage the legislators well to his own advantage. He couldn’t manage the security of the country well as he should have.
In the economy, he scored zero. He couldn’t manage the relationship with the judiciary. If he is not arresting them overnight, he is uing Gestapo style to cow them. He couldn’t even manage his own anti-corruption drive. He converted it into a machine by which he goes after the enemies or perceived enemies of his own government and his party. He couldn’t even manage the health care requirement for a country.
He has been president for four years and even though he himself needs medical intervention but that has not spurred him to create a situation in the country where we can have one good hospital that can take care of the high-networth persons in our country for whatever it is worth. He has not even thought about the security situation of yielding the number of citizens of our country to the management of another country.
Only God knows what you want to score Buhari well on. I heard that even in his state, Katsina, people are crying. They are being killed. He met the Boko Haram insurgency in the North-east and he tried in that regard. But he has allowed the insurgency to go to the North-west and the North-central and the South-west. Even the Abuja-Kaduna road has become a harvest ground for kidnappers, where they kidnap people every day.
He has not been able to manage well the security apparatus in my opinion. He has left the officers, who should have been retired for younger people and fresher hands to take over. He has extended their stay longer than necessary while their colleagues have been retired and he has retired people, who are even their junior.