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I will never support Buhari – Yakasai gives reasons, declares Atiku will reclaim his mandate



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Elder Statesman, Tanko Yakasai was his usual self, frank, blunt and unsparing, during this interview with VINCENT KALU. He  said Atiku Abubakar has done the right thing by challenging the result of the 2019 presidential election in court and gave reasons why he can never support President Muhammadu Buhari.

What is your view on the just concluded general election?

Before the elections, Nigerians and the international community had high hopes that this time, we would get it right, from the assurances given by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that it was ready for the elections; that all that is needed to be done had been done to make sure that the elections were done according to plans.

But the elections turned out to be a huge disappointment. In the entire history of electoral process in Nigeria from 1951 till date, this is the first time we have cases of inconclusive elections result in a number of states; that is unprecedented in the history of Nigeria.

This inconclusive election started with Osun State, and I opened my eyes because it happened in Kano before. Then, the government connived with the electoral commission to detain the results from two local governments (I can’t remember which election it was), but the results of all the other local governments were assembled, and collations started but the results of the two local governments were not submitted until the difference between the winning party and the other was known. Then the government officials supporting the losing party connived with the officials of the electoral commission to stuff ballot boxes with the number that will supersede the number of votes that the other candidate gathered, and eventually overtook the other party, when the result of the two local governments were counted.

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That was the first time I experienced this kind of rigging.  We advised the people concerned to go to court, but I don’t know what happened whether he went to court and he didn’t succeed or not; I can’t remember.        From that time till the Osun governorship election, before Governor Aregbesola left, results from two local governments were detained until the collations were completed and they got an idea of the margin between the two candidates.

The losing candidate connived with INEC and the election was declared inconclusive. As the PDP was leading, APC went into an unholy alliance with former deputy governor, Omisore. So, Omisore negotiated with them and he got all his supporters to vote for the APC candidate, and the APC overtook the PDP candidate.

That was in respect of one state; now we have ended up with seven states over inconclusive election. Less than a year, it was one state and it has escalated to seven out of 29 states where governorship elections were held. What will happen if we were to hold elections in 36 states?

If that continues, the little confidence that Nigerians have in the electoral process will disappear; then the people will have no confidence anymore in the electoral process; there is the danger of people who wanted good governance may resort to violence and cooperating with undemocratic forces, and the little gain we have made in this democracy from 1999 till date will disappear.

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Somebody said, instead of making progress, we are backward; we are making one step forward and three steps backward.  You cannot develop a country except through democratic governance; it is only democracy that guarantees progress and development. All developed nations that you see around the world became developed because of democracy, and this is what we are aiming to achieve.

So, if we cannot get democracy through credible elections, we are doomed. This is my concern now, at 93, I’m thinking of the future of this country and the multitude of people in Nigeria who rely on Nigeria because there is nowhere for them to go; wherever they go, they are strangers there.

If there is no guarantee that we are going to get it right in our electoral process, then the future of this country is very bleak.

Even though people say they waged war against coup, but we have seen where coups are succeeding here and there; don’t make a mistake that there are no more people in uniform who are interested in power because most of the military coups in Nigeria were not driven by patriotism, but by selfishness.

Atiku has gone to court to challenge the outcome of the presidential election. What do you say to that?

I like it; he has done the right thing. The only thing open to Atiku is to go to court since he is not satisfied with the election. His going to court, there are two things, one of which must happen.

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One, he is going to succeed to overturn the outcome of the election and get the mandate, or it can be denied him, but he would be able to expose the manipulations, and the world will now know that honesty and credibility of the government of the day that we are made to believe is a mere mirage.

Whichever happens, it will be sounding positive because our eyes are now opened wider, and those things we accept without questions, in future, we begin to ask questions when something happens which is contrary to our expectations.

So, I support Atiku going to court and I hope and pray because my fear is that when President Buhari removed Onnoghen, the former Chief Justice of Nigeria, they said he was suspended, but I believe that Buhari used the ruling of the Code of Conduct Tribunal (CCT) to get rid of Onnoghen, because he knows that his election appeal will go to Supreme Court (of all people in Nigeria today, Buhari is the most experienced in going to Supreme Court over election matters than any other Nigerian).

So, he knew that presidential election matter is decided at Supreme Court. My suspicion is that when he removed Onnoghen, he knew that the man next to the former CJN would be sympathetic to him.

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Supreme Court usually appoints five justices, and a clever chief justice will appoint two who are sympathetic to one candidate and two who are sympathetic to the other candidate, but it is tie, and there is a casting vote to decide.

Knowing that there would be a tie, Buhari would look for sympathetic chief justice, who will constitute the panel, consisting of some justices who are sympathetic to him, and get the decision of the court in his favour.

The report of the rigging even as noted by international observers was so obvious; even the rigging was done in amateurish way that you took 200,000 votes from one candidate and lump them up in favour of another candidate to create a wide margin. The issue is a clear cut matter for decision.

It is a good thing that Atiku has gone to court; it is not only Atiku but also other Nigerians and the world at large will have an opportunity to know whether Atiku won the election or not, and secondly, even if they denied him victory, then it will expose the manipulations and that will open our eyes the more, not only our eyes, but also the eyes of the international community.

Buhari came to power on the platform of honesty and integrity. I doubt if he will be happy to receive election result that is marred by manipulations. Then the people will know that the honesty and integrity attributed to him are not real.

Considering that the polity is already overheated, one would expect that as an elder statesman, you will prevail on Atiku to congratulate Buhari and accept the election result instead of doing things that will further escalate the tense situation in the country?

This is not a matter of pressure; it is just like faith in religion. When Goodluck Jonathan felt that he should concede, he didn’t consult anybody, he called Buhari and conceded, but where somebody felt very strongly that he has been cheated, to ask him not to look for justice, is itself injustice.

Nigeria is a multi ethnic nation, considering the way we are, do you think that the court can muster the courage to upturn a presidential election knowing that it can cause ethnic or religious conflicts?

The only thing you should pray for is that justices do their duties with the fear of God; and are committed to democracy and the nation to do the right thing when it is proven beyond any reasonable doubt that the result of the election declared was manipulated. We should pray that God gives us justices who will do justice to justice. People have lost elections, why should it be different this time around.

The Buhari camp says all of you that didn’t support the president lost in your polling units, which means you don’t have followers?

I joined politics some 67 years ago, and I resigned from partisan politics 20 years ago, so, I don’t have any followers now. I have only my conviction, and if it tells me what is the right thing to do, I do it.

I don’t fear anybody. I don’t believe in Buhari; I don’t believe in anybody, who would use the weapon provided to him by the nation to rob the nation of its civility. Anybody who takes over power through the barrel of gun is not my friend, whether it is Buhari or anybody; they are never my friends. I never supported Murtala who through gun became Head of state.

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I never supported Buhari who overthrew Shagari. The way he first came to power is my concern because millions of Nigerians sacrificed to stand in the scorching sun; some exposed to all sort of targets to cast their votes and elect a candidate of their choice; the election was conducted and the loser went to tribunal, and the court tried the case on merit and decided that the winner was actually the winner. The man who complained appealed the case up to the highest court in the country, and the court went through the case and affirmed the judgement of the lower courts.

After all, these things that cost energy, time and money have been done, then somebody came and truncated it.

I followed Shagari to all the 19 states at that time and every local government headquarters then, and after all these troubles, Nigerians came out to cast their votes, only for somebody to come and use the weapon against the nation and change the government.

To me, like I said, I joined politics 67 years ago, and since then, I abandoned my profession and politics then became my calling. There are many people like me, who made all these sacrifices just in an effort to establish and build democracy so that we can develop our nation because democracy is instrumental to the development of any country.

For somebody to hide somewhere only to come and take over power for his own sake, not because he has something to offer, that person will never be my friend till I go to my grave. I don’t contest election, the last time I voted was about ten years ago or more. I think I didn’t vote for the past three consecutive presidential elections.

Some analysts are of the view that Buhari’s second term may not be different from the first term. Do you agree with them?

Why should you quarrel with them?

You build your government’s policies on your programme. Why is it that Buhari didn’t perform in the last four years; it is because he has no programme? If I ask you, the programme of Buhari to address the issue of abject poverty in Nigeria, what is his programme to create employment opportunities for Nigerians? There are millions of unemployed youth, apart from graduates, I mean those who have no university education, there are areas that you create to employ these people; it is not a question of speaking big grammar or Professor of Development to give you a programme. Once you decide on these two issues and you commit your mind to them – improve agriculture, which is everywhere in Nigeria and also everywhere in the world, and within one year you can create employment for 24 millions of people if you have the right policy on agriculture.

The second opportunity for industry is this, you know the economy of the United States, which makes them the most powerful nation in the world is derived by small and medium size industry. Only by providing power that you can provide all these industries that will create employment opportunities for millions of Nigerians.

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What programme has Buhari in respect of agriculture and power. For four years we are marking time. In fact, about four years ago before Buhari took over, in my house here, we were getting power daily, maybe nine, eleven or even 15 hours sometimes.

Today, two three days, you can’t talk of getting electricity for one minute. Everyday, I have to buy petrol or gas for my generators. In three, five days, one of the generators packs up, and it will cost money to fix it. I have them five. Almost everybody in Nigeria is suffering that, and the government can’t create enabling environment for industrialisation.        You don’t need any specialist or professor for you to know that you provide solution to your problems. The biggest problem in Nigeria is unemployment and the way to address it is to develop agriculture and provide power.

Do you know any programme of the APC that can increase the current mega watts of electricity to 6,000 next year? Do you know of any programme of Buhari and APC that will change the narratives in Nigeria by this time next year? If you knew, put it as an answer to your question. I’m challenging you.

But the president has programmes; all through his campaigns, he maintained that he would not look back on corruption fight and will send many corrupt people to jail?

This is what is making him popular. I read recently, where the Vice President Osinbajo said that Buhari is now poorer. But what the vice president didn’t say, is that the country that Buhari rules is now poorer that he met it.

To the vice president, it is a matter of pride that somebody is poorer. You are a pastor, bishop or chief Imam, and not that you are preaching for somebody to look for blessing from God, but you are taking pride in a person becoming poorer as if that is a virtue. Is that something one can beat his chest? Make this country richer and also make yourself richer; don’t take pride in making yourself poorer, it is wrong. Don’t take pride in making your country poorer.

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Like I said earlier, I don’t belong to any political party, but I compared Buhari and Atiku, and I know that Atiku was vice president for eight years; even if he were a mere onlooker for eight years, as the number two citizen, he must have learnt something in the art of governance.

After leaving government, he went into business, and whether we like it or not, he is one of the most successful businessmen we have in Nigeria.  This country requires somebody with the acumen in governance and in business to fix our problems. The fight against corruption alone cannot create employment and cannot fight poverty that is ravaging Nigerians.

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