Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, has passed a vote of no confidence in President Goodluck Jonathan and Vice President Namadi Sambo, saying the duo cannot bring Nigeria out of the woods.
El-Rufai also said that Jonathan’s comment on the crisis that trailed the outcome of the presidential election is irresponsible. “I believe that Goodluck Jonathan and Sambo are not anywhere near in capacity to deliver Nigeria out of the woods that Buhari/Bakare could do. I have made that statement even before I joined the team and I stand by that. But this was my basis: I believe that Buhari/Bakare was by far, the most competent ticket,” he said.
On the post-presidential election crisis, El-Rufai said: “Six days after this crisis started, the Presidency said nothing. Complete indifference. And when Jonathan chose to speak, he was raising the spectre of Biafra. That was not a responsible response, with all due respect.”
Speaking further, the former director general of the Bureau for Public Enterprise said: “The three leading presidential candidates in this election are people I know very, very well. Nuhu Ribadu is my friend and my brother and if I am to choose whom to support on the basis of friendship and brotherhood, Nuhu will be number one because he is the closest to me.
“Goodluck Jonathan, I have known since he was deputy governor. He is my friend. I visited him several times when he was governor of Bayelsa State. He has visited my house; we have had dinner several times together. I know him. But more than Nuhu Ribadu, Nigerians know him as president because he has been there for one year and they can see how he has governed the country.
“General Muhammadu Buhari was president from 1983 to 1985. I was a young guy then but he inspired many of us with the rules of discipline, probity and integrity and many of us that came into public service with the passion that we did well, were inspired by the example of Buhari-Idiagbon regime and the Murtala-Obasanjo regime before it. And in my opinion, among the three contestants, Buhari/Bakare ticket was by far, the best of the three. That is why, against all appeals to my friendship with Nuhu Ribadu, my brotherhood with him or my friendship with Goodluck Jonathan, I pitched my tent with the Buhari/Bakare ticket. I think that was the ticket that was likely to change the direction of Nigeria for the better.”
How would you describe the just concluded elections?
Well, election is a multi-step process: you register, you get accredited, you vote, the votes are counted and results are announced. I will be the first to admit that the registration has improved greatly and in my view, the biometric register that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has been able to come up with, is one of the most reliable that we have had in our history.
Secondly, I think the voting process at the polling unit level has improved dramatically. It has largely been peaceful in most parts of Nigeria; there have been lower instances of ballot stuffing than before. So, to that extent, there has been improvement to that level. But beyond that, nothing has changed because the systematic falsification of results begins immediately the results and the results sheets leave the polling units and we are going to produce evidence of that as we go through the tribunal process.
There is massive thumb-printing of ballot papers and attempt to bring them into the system all through the country. In some parts of the country, for the presidential election, there was really no election. Results were just written and announced like it has been in the past. So, while one would admit that certain steps in the election process have improved, on the whole, the outcome has not improved. Falsification of results is still the order of the day and most of what you have seen announced as results of the election, have no connection with the actual number of votes cast by the citizens of this country.
Are you saying there is no much difference between the 2007 and 2011 elections?
There are some differences in the sense that the registration has improved. We don’t have names like Mike Tyson in the register now. The election process itself has improved, in the sense that people queue, get accredited and register. These are the only improvements and I would say that is the only difference but beyond that, nothing has changed. The improvement, if any, has been marginal.
There is the allegation that the INEC chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, connived with President Goodluck Jonathan to rig the elections. Is it true?
I would not go as far as that because I believe that Attahiru Jega is a decent man and I believe he tried his best to have credible elections. And within the factors in his control, the registration he did was decent. He organized the elections and have people line up and do it peacefully. I think he tried his best. Resident Electoral Commissioners and some governors failed him, but on the whole, he tried.
I would not go as far as saying that he went into the election willfully to lead to the result that we have. But I think there were some things that were a way above him. I think he could have done better in some areas. For instance, if results were brought to you and they don’t add up, I would not say go and reconcile. I would cancel the result and say do it again. But that is my opinion and I am not under the same pressure or have the same information that he has. So, I would not go as far as condemning Attahiru Jega entirely. I would say that he got some things right, but many things went wrong and I hope that now that he has time to do a review and see where he has been deceived by those working with him, he will take corrective steps because ultimately, the only way we can have real elections in this country, that reflects the legitimacy of the people, is when the results at the polling units go directly to Attahiru Jega, for him to announce the results of the election without any human intervention in-between. This is what he has to work on, but I don’t think he went into this election with any willful desire to be dishonest.
What are those corrective steps and what do you intend to achieve with the tribunal?
The corrective steps are very simple, in my view. You have to eliminate human agency between the time and point that people vote at the polling unit level and results are announced to the ultimate announcement of the results. Today, with the technologies that exist, it should be possible that as soon as we finish voting, results are announced. I see no reason with the technologies that we have now, communication technologies and encrypting technologies, that these results cannot be sent directly to a central computer in INEC that will tabulate the results automatically and as soon as all the results are out, announce the winner without any human being intervening in-between. What we have seen in this election is that as soon as you take the result sheets to a collation centre, a zero is added or the results are changed, or the results sheet is torn and a new one done and party agents’ signatures forged. So, you have to remove that human intervention. Unless you remove it, we will never have clean elections in the country because those that are in authority will try to alter the results to their benefit. Those are the corrective steps and the technologies exist to do that. It is up to Jega to figure out how to do it in a cost effective and transparent manner.
The main reason I think that the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), our party, decided to go to the tribunal is to deepen and broaden our democracy because as long as people in power feel that they can cheat in elections and get away with it, governance in Nigeria will never improve. Unless people know that in the next four years if they don’t work for the people they can be voted out, we will continue to have bad governance. This is why we are going to the tribunal. We want to know how many votes were actually cast for each candidate in this election, who won the election and if no one won, let the judges decide. We will get the ballots examined to remove all those that were thumb-printed overnight by government officials and other people and stuffed in ballot boxes and declared for one candidate or another. If at the end of the day, these false results are eliminated and we have the proper results of the election, I think it will go a long way in sending a message to all election riggers that they will only have a few days to enjoy the fruit of their rigging.
Secondly, the biometric voters register will reveal the names and faces of all those that have participated in rigging elections because if you are a registered voter and you thumb-print, the biometric voters register will show your face, your name and everything. And our hope is that, that will give Jega that foundation to prosecute all those that engaged in multiple voting and multiple registrations and so on and so forth. At the end of the day, whatever the judges decide will determine whether democracy is broadened and deepened in this country and election riggers are punished and the real results of the election will be known to every Nigerian and when the real results are known, the winner can be congratulated by the loser and there will be no argument. But right now, we have argument because there is evidence available to us that there was thumb-printing of ballot papers in virtually every election. Not just the presidential election but virtually every election that has taken place and most of the results that were announced. As we speak, the ballot papers are being thumb-printed to match those results. So, we want the technology to be applied; we want the evidence to be presented, so that we can know how many people voted for Jonathan, how many people voted for Buhari, how many people voted for Ribadu truly as well as every other candidate in every election that we are challenging. We hope that at the end of the day, that will take Nigeria’s democracy forward.
Specifically, where do you situate the blame?
I think the blame lies fairly and squarely on INEC because it is their job to conduct clean elections. If they were not ready and they did not have the infrastructure in place and the capability in place to ensure that this rigging doesn’t happen, it is their fault.
Secondly, how did the incumbent governors and the team from the president’s campaign team got ballot papers?
They couldn’t have got them from any other person but INEC. But they did get ballot papers, they have thumb-printed them and they have been declared winners. So, the blame falls largely on INEC because INEC is independent and they could do whatever they want and some of them succumbed to pressure of authority and got ballot papers to the ruling party in every election to rig. The primary blame is on INEC but the secondary blame is on the government of the day because it used the security agencies and other coercive instruments of state to create a militarize situation to rig elections. In my state, up till today, we have a curfew.
Would you say the international community was misled?
The international community was deceived. It was 419 because what they saw was Nigerians lining up and voting and they thought that was the end of the election. They cannot understand that any public official will alter the results because in their country, that is perjury. That is a big offence. It is perjury and it is obstruction of justice and you go to long prison terms if you do that. But they don’t know that in Nigeria, no one has been convicted, in recent time, for those kinds of offences and that people do it with impunity. The international community was hoodwinked but by God’s grace, by the time the tribunal process is over and the real results are shown and technologies apply to show how many times some people voted, I think the international community will come to the understanding of what happened.
Do you think the president would try to pervert the cause of justice?
I don’t want to judge him or presume that he will pervert the cause of justice. We will have to wait and see but Nigerians should not just wait and allow anyone to pervert the cause of justice. We should be vigilant; we should bring out all the facts and we should ensure that justice is done. No one, no one however powerful, should be allowed to pervert the cause of justice and I hope no one tries.
Some Nigerians have blamed General Muhammadu Buhari for the crisis that trailed the outcome of the presidential election, while Pastor Ayo Oritsejafor and Asari Dokubo, have even called for his arrest. Should the blame be on General Buhari? Should he be arrested?
Let me start by asking, why did the violence happen? It is very easy to be simplistic about this or be emotional about this. This violence did not take place 10 days before the election. It took place a few days after the election and what was it? It was a reaction to what many people saw as patent falsification of results and cheating and it was not the first time it was happening in Nigeria’s history. In 1964, we had elections that led to crisis in the West. A state of emergency was declared.
In 1983, we had elections in which the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) tried to steal the elections in Ondo State and there was violence; there were killings. Nobody came out and called for the arrest of Chief Obafemi Awolowo. In 1993, the elections were annulled and there was crisis; there were killings in the South-West. Nobody said it was a religious crisis or called for the arrest of anyone. So, I don’t understand all these funny people going round, saying Buhari should be arrested. I don’t know whether they have read history or understand what they are saying.
In what way is Buhari responsible for this? Is the government not responsible for the security of life and property? Don’t they read security report? Don’t they know that if they are a competent government flawed elections could lead to crisis? What did they do to pre-empt it? What did they do? They did nothing to pre-empt this and when the crisis started, they were late in responding to it. Everyone was calling on General Buhari to intervene. Does General Buhari control the police? Does he control the army? Why were they asking him to intervene? They were asking him to intervene because he is the only person with the moral authority to call this thing to an end. They have lost moral authority; they have no control of coercive instruments of power because they were behind the whole crisis. They created it.
This crisis started Monday morning. By afternoon, General Buhari flew from Daura to Abuja, spoke to Aljazeera, spoke to the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) Hausa Service and any other medium he could find, to appeal to everyone to calm down, that this is not the way to resolve political disagreement. He did his best. Why is he being blamed? And this Oritsejafor and Asari Dokubo that are calling for the arrest of General Buhari, are they drunk? Do they understand what they are doing? Arrest him for what? For what? I don’t understand people that make these statements, whether they have any idea of how to govern a country because when you are governing a country, the first order of business is peace and order. And they make such careless statements, which do not help anyone.
It was also reported that the party justified the killings. Are you toeing the same line?
No, no, no, no, no. The party justified the killings in what way? The National legal adviser of the party issued a statement, explaining that this is the position of the party and this is why we are going to the tribunal. One newspaper, out of all the newspapers in Nigeria, out of all the communication media in Nigeria, came up with this headline ‘CPC justifies killings,’ and the following day, the Presidency issued a statement along the same line. Clearly, you can see that the Presidency and this newspaper are working in cohort to create a false impression. If CPC justified killings in that statement, every other newspaper in Nigeria would get it. Why didn’t they have the same headline? When did the national legal adviser say CPC justified the killings? And in what circumstances can any reasonable person justify the killing of another? What circumstances? We are a responsible people, a reasonable people. We believe in the progress of this country. How can anyone justify the killing of another?
How do you see the reaction of the Presidency and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) towards the killings?
Complete indifference because six days after this crisis started, the Presidency said nothing. And when Jonathan chose to speak, he was raising the spectre of Biafra. That was not a responsible response, with all due respect. So, there is complete indifference. There is a feeling that ok, northerners are killing themselves, it is ok. But these people are Nigerians and they are entitled to respect and the preservation of their life and property. And that is the primary duty of the government, which it has failed to do in my opinion.
Was the crisis fairly reported in the media?
I think the reporting by the media is pathetic. I am sorry. The reporting has been one sided, lacked depth and what the media were doing, was actually contributing more to the crisis because by pushing the agenda that someone else is responsible for protection of life and property other than the sitting government of the country, I think they were encouraging crisis in itself because that is what they tried to do by pushing the agenda that the CPC is to blame, rather than saying the government failed to be pre-emptive, failed to be responsive to this crisis and I think it is contributing to the problems of the country.
There seems to be a conspiracy of some sort not to report everything that has happened in this crisis. For instance, in my state, Kaduna, hundreds of people were killed. Most of them that were killed were killed because they were suspected to be CPC supporters. These killings took place on both sides and I am not justifying anything. I am not saying it is right. I don’t agree to anyone killing another under any circumstances without the due process of law. But the whole focus of the media was on the death of 10 youth corps members. They even forgot that before the elections started, youth corps members were killed in Suleja, Niger State. They were bombed. They died. Nobody is talking about them. The focus is just on 10 youth corpers in Bauchi, to the exclusion of every one else.
Now, human life is sacred and no human life is better than another or more deserving of attention than another. In my state, hundreds of people were killed; no paper reported it except one. What is going on? Should not all the facts come out so that we learn from this and ensure that it is not repeated? But the spin it has got is to blame someone else rather than solve the problem. And I have deep problems with that.
Why do you think the media reported half of the crisis?
I don’t know. You should ask the media. The story going round is that some have been paid not to report certain things. We have just shown you a video where hundreds of people were put in mass graves and pictures of CPC office and Mosque and so on being burnt down. That is one side of the story. I am not saying that you should report only that side, but the media should report every side. Churches were burnt. Mosques were also burnt and innocent people were killed that were CPC supporters, that were PDP supporters. Why did it happen? What should we do to ensure that no Nigerian ever get killed in this kind of situation because it has happened too often? As I said, it happened in 1964, 1983, 1993 and it has happened again. What needs to be studied is the fundamental problem that led to this. And we should address it. But to slant stories so that you blame someone else to reach a pre-determined conclusion, I think it is irresponsible journalism.
Did you foresee that kind of situation before the election?
Look, any reasonable, thoughtful individual, living in Nigeria, knows that if the elections were not free and fair, there would be protest because the mood of the country was such that no one was ready to accept anything other than clean elections. And the mood of the country can be read from the bi-elections in Ekiti, Anambra and Delta. We can all see that the foundation was being laid that if elections were not generally free, fair and credible, there would be crisis of some sort. What shape or form that crisis will take, only God knows. But it is up to the government in power, to perceive this as others have perceived, to take pre-emptive steps and ensure that it doesn’t happen by first having clean elections and if the elections are not clean, taking the pre-emptive steps necessary to ensure that there is no violence. Let the protest, if there is going to be, be peaceful. But they did none of the above. They did none. They just sat back.
But why did it degenerate to sectarian crisis?
I don’t know at what point it degenerated because when it started, it was certainly not sectarian. Our suspicion, in Kaduna State at least, the information we got was that one of the PDP leaders said look, if you don’t muddy the waters, they will get all of us. So, some people were sponsored to go and burn a church and that gave it the sectarian coloration needed and in a place like Kaduna State, where religion and ethnic tensions have always been quite moderate to high, this was likely to happen because if you look at the pattern of this violence, you will see clearly.
Some people are saying sectarian. The Sultan of Sokoto’s palace was surrounded. Is he a Christian? Is the Emir of Kano a Christian? Is the Emir of Zauzau a Christian? Traditional rulers, respected at some point in our history, had their houses surrounded and youths were demanding to get at them. These people were not Christians. So, when did it become sectarian? It is not ethnic because these people are not Igbo, Yoruba, Ijaw or whatever.
Ghali Na’Abba’s house in Kano was burnt. Is he a Christian or is he from Anambra State? This crisis started because people that are disempowered, felt that they have been cheated and in a spontaneous way, reacted by targeting people that they thought were responsible for their condition. This was how it started and of course, things went out of control. Nobody can justify violence or that reaction but it has happened?
How do you see the constitution of the 22-man panel by President Goodluck Jonathan to look into the crisis?
Well, legal opinions have been given to the effect that the president has no power under the constitution to establish such a panel. The judgment of the Supreme Court in Fawehinmi vs Babangida also establishes that without any doubt. So, there is a legal issue involved, whether the panel is duly constituted under the law because the president may not have the powers under the constitution and the law to do so. That is one. There is a legality question. And then, the panel has a credibility question because the same day that the president inaugurated the panel, his special adviser on media, issued a statement that the CPC was responsible for the violence. So, if the presidency that convened that panel has already decided that the CPC was guilty, what do you think the panel will come up with? It is not likely to come up with anything different because their convener has already said that someone is guilty. So, they have a credibility problem too. I am not saying they will necessarily come up with that conclusion but I am saying to Sheik Ahmed Lemu that his panel has a credibility problem, created by the same person that convened them. These are the two issues.
What is the way out?
The way out is to follow the law and to allow state governors to establish panels in their states to investigate the violence within their territory and the panel should consist of credible people, non-partisan people that are respected, to go into the root of this crisis so that once and for all, we address this culture in which the slightest thing leads to people killing each other. Neighbours killing each other! It is not right. It is wrong and we must put a stop to it, whether it is happening in Jos or Kaduna or anywhere else. We must put a stop to it and the only way to put a stop to it is to go to the root of the crisis, find those that were responsible and deal with them according to the law.
How do you see the five million naira gift to the bereaved?
No amount of money is enough to compensate for the loss of a human life. No amount of money. And I think rather than engage in populist hide-out, there is a need for a comprehensive policy to compensate victims of this kind of violence. Many people have been killed in Jos. What about them? 5, 000; 10, 000; 100,000! I think there should be a policy to deal with this kind of senseless deaths of every Nigerian. I have no opinion about how much money that is reasonable. I think if you get experts, they can debate that and come up with a figure that should be paid to every family that lost a relation from this crisis and all those that lost their property should be adequately compensated by the government and then we put in place, a system that will ensure that it is not repeated. Unless the government feels the pinch, actually pays the price of this violence, it will continue to repeat itself. So, I want us to go beyond five million for youth corps members and have a thoughtful and comprehensive policy to compensate innocent victims of violence, innocent victims of arson and destruction of property. We need that in the country and if necessary, we need legislation backing it. We need a comprehensive solution and not selective, populist ad hoc interventions. They would not work. They would not solve the problem.
How would you assess the president and his victory at the polls?
We don’t think he has won. That is why we are in the tribunal and we hope that the tribunal process, as I said, will not only deepen and broaden our democracy, but will determine who the winner is. If he is declared winner, other leaders of the CPC and I, will be happy to congratulate him. He has ruled Nigeria for one year. I think I leave every Nigerian to judge what the next four years are likely to be.
People always respect your opinion (he laughs). So, what is your take on President Goodluck Jonathan?
Look, I have already made my statement and I have made my choice. The three leading presidential candidates in this election are people I know very, very well. Nuhu Ribadu is my friend and my brother and if I am to choose whom to support on the basis of friendship and brotherhood, Nuhu will be number one because he is the closest to me. Goodluck Jonathan, I have known since he was deputy governor. He is my friend. I visited him several times when he was governor of Bayelsa; he has visited my house, and we have had dinner several times together. I know him. But more than Nuhu Ribadu, Nigerians know him as president because he has been there for one year and they can see how he has governed the country.
General Muhammdu Buhari was head of state from 1983 to 1985. I was a young guy then but he inspired many of us with the rules of discipline, probity and integrity and many of us that came into public service with the passion that we did well, were inspired by the example of Buhari-Idiagbon regime and the Murtala-Obasanjo regime before it. And in my opinion, among the three contestants, Buhari/Bakare ticket was by far, the best of the three. That is why against all appeals to my friendship with Nuhu Ribadu, my brotherhood with him or my friendship with Goodluck Jonathan, I pitched my tent with the Buhari/Bakare ticket. I think that was the ticket that was likely to change the direction of Nigeria for the better.
Was that why you left the PDP?
No. I left PDP long before. I left the PDP when our attempts at reforms failed. And the shape of the PDP of today is not in anything near the PDP that I was a member of when I joined in 1999. And I left! After the reforms failed, I said there is no hope in the party and I left. I did not join the CPC until a little later. But this was my basis: I believe that Buhari/Bakare was by far, the most competent ticket and I believe that Goodluck Jonathan and Sambo are not anywhere near in capacity to deliver Nigeria out of the woods that Buhari/Bakare could do. I have made that statement even before I joined the team and I stand by that. But I don’t want to judge anyone. And if Jonathan is our bona fide president, we will congratulate him and pray for him if the tribunal declares him the winner, we will pray for him to succeed because his success is the success of every Nigerian. But I don’t want to judge him in advance. I want people to look at the last one year and project where the next one year will be if he remains president.