IKIMI: I’m Firmly Convinced Jonathan Will Win The Election Resoundingly
Chief Tom Ikimi, former chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention (NRC), former chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) and now member of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this chat with the media, raises a lot of issues about Nigeria and the leadership challenge. The Guardian was there.
How do you see the presidential poll playing out between Jonathan and Buhari, looking at their strengths and weaknesses; the platforms both are contesting on looking equally strong; beyond that, Jonathan has the power of incumbency. But Buhari is also positioned as the rare anti corruption crusader we need?
I would say that earlier on, my belief that President Jonathan has a good strong chance of winning the election derived from perception. I am now firmly convinced, that in fact, he will win the election resoundingly. This is based on the strength of rousing public awareness that woken to his spectacular accomplishments under his Transformation Agenda, covering several strategic spheres including, Education, Agriculture, Aviation, Roads and Railway, Industry such ass Motor Car manufacturing, Power and the Economy. He, as President, is leader of a broad based party, which is not owned by any individual, but a party that is well rooted across the entire nation with more than 70 per cent of the local councilors being PDP members. President Goodluck Jonathan, educated to Ph.D. level is of the prevailing generation and in sync with the new Nigeria.
General Muhamadu Buhari, contesting the Presidency for the fourth time was in office as Head of State some 32 years ago, when he dethroned the democratically elected Government of President Shehu Shagari. He is remembered as the ruthless military leader, who seized power and would not entertain anyone discuss any plan to return the country to civil democratic rule.
Politicians remember him, how aggressively he hunted down key politicians across the length and breadth of the country. This hunt was selective, as he manipulated the escape of selected tribal friends. He was the author of the infamous Decree 2 an instrument used to muzzle the press.
Tunde Thompson and Nduka Irabor, among others, were imprisoned. Death sentences were recklessly passed on helpless civilians through the instrumentality of a hurriedly enacted Decree back dated! Plea for mercy from inside and out side Nigeria on some of the condemned civilians, including a woman, were ignored. He ordered the selective trial of politicians for alleged corruption and jailed those from a part of the country to ridiculous terms of hundreds of years each.
Today, the hold of the APC and its leadership over the South West has been seriously dented in states such as Ekiti and Ondo; its hold has crashed in Ogun State — due to the soaring profile of the SDP and PDP in that state; in Oyo — due to the PDP and Accord, while in Lagos, a major break through has been secured by the PDP, not only because of the very diverse electorate, the charismatic PDP Governorship Candidate — Jimi Agbaje, but the total rejection of the Lion of Bourdillon. President Jonathan has an airtight support in the South South and South East, where Buhari would not secure the mandatory 25 per cent. President Jonathan will secure more than 60 per cent of the votes in the North Central and not lass than 50 per cent in the North East and North West. His return as President of Nigeria for a second term is assured.
General Buhari has failed to make the Presidency three times. After the 2011 election, he wept publicly and announced that he was not going to present himself again in contest for the Presidency. It is true that over the past 16 years, he has managed to acquire a good crowd of die-hard followers from a number of his homeland constituencies. Political contractors from Southern Nigeria, particularly from a Southwest state, cashing in on the North South political rivalry, the religious issue and the insecurity in Northeastern Nigeria, have virtually recruited the General and persuaded him to recant on his 2011 proclamation not to contest again. These political contractors see Buhari’s candidature as the convenient route for them to grab Nigeria.
Those parading General Buhari, singing a song of change have now been challenged by many to define the change they are really talking about and whether they are talking of moving Nigeria from the digital age of today back to the analog age of 1983. The media is now awash with the Transformation projects already executed by President Jonathan and many are arguing that those successful projects are indeed the change that you can see.
The GMB handlers, who advised the General to steer clear of an open debate with President Jonathan, have tried hard to formulate a platform for their man, creating a false image of him as an anti-corruption man of integrity. This is pure balderdash!
My first assignment as Adviser to Government in 1994/95 was to prepare the memo on which basis the PTF — Petroleum Trust Fund — was created. As chairman of this juicy portfolio over which the General enjoyed unfettered control, the PTF was funded with a total of around N180 billion between 1994 and 1999. The General failed to curb stinking corruption in the organisation, but authorised more than 70 per cent of the funds to be spent in his own part of the country. An Interim Management Committee headed by his own kinsman, Haroun Adamu, discovered that over N25 billion was stolen under GMB watch in PTF. I suppose this fact is recorded in the OBJ Watch since he set up the Haroun Adamu Interim Chairmanship. GMB cannot claim to be an example of anti corruption as there are too many situations in which he is involved that contradict such a claim. As Federal Commissioner for Petroleum resources, it was discovered that $2.8 billion of Nigeria’s oil money was withdrawn from the Midland Bank London and the funds lodged into an account in a dubious bank BCCI (Bank of Credit and Commerce International) where it generated interest amounting then to over 400 million pounds, which vanished into private pockets.
The entire anti-corruption and integrity campaign has collapsed and the final nail on the coffin of that campaign was the airing of The Lion Of Bourdillon. As for the issue of security as it pertains to the menace of Boko Haram ravaging the North East, it is now also clear, who really were supporters of the Muslim Fundamentalist attacks on Nigeria, but mischievously turned around to blame President Jonathan. President Jonathan was left to equip a military — Army, Air Force and Navy — over night. He has done a yeoman’s job that during the last four weeks the insurgents have been virtually cleared from Nigerian soil.
The overwhelming opinion across the country at this time has swung in favour of President Goodluck Jonathan and it is obvious that the overall peace and stability of Nigeria will be guaranteed by his election.
Nigeria has never been on edge the way it is since 1993; and never been so politically divided on ethnic and religious lines. How did we get to this frightening state?
FOLLOWING the overthrow of the Shehu Shagari’s democratically elected government in 1983, by General Muhamadu Buhari, we had 10 long years of military rule before the annulled June 12, 1993 election held. The build up to that election, which was contested by the two registered political parties, the Nigerian Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), saw three Northern-born popular Presidential candidates, General Shehu Musa Yar’Adua, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, and Alhaji Umaru Shinkafi among others summarily disqualified and taken into detention. In the circumstance, while it may be convenient to characterise the June 12, 1993 election as the freest and fairest, behind that façade, rested deep tribal resentment mostly from the North of what had occurred.
In some other parts of the country, mainly in the South West, protesters, not necessarily confined to the leadership of the SDP, found the Abiola cause a convenient platform on which to organise overt resistance. In the midst of all this restiveness erupted among Southern minority elements, particularly in the Niger Delta area mostly for reasons of apparent grievances. They commenced challenging what they described as a reckless plundering of the natural resources of their native soil – oil.
The coincidence of the sudden deaths of General Abacha and Chief MKO Abiola did not put the firestorms sparked by these crises to rest. The emergence of General Obasanjo on the platform of the PDP in 1999, by virtue of an arrangement conceived and executed by his top military colleagues did not really fulfill the intention of the inventors to assuage the anger of the South West, whose leading political figures distanced themselves from Obasanjo’s candidature. Unfortunately, the OBJ personal agenda, which included a plot to position himself for an indefinite Presidential reign, rather than work to unite the country, created massive assault on the peace and orderly progress of the new democratic structure. OBJ was virtually forced out of office. He departed with a vengeance, ceding power to an ailing successor, the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from Northern Nigeria.
President Goodluck Jonathan assumed the Presidency in the midst of escalating unrest and crisis in his indigenous area, the Niger Delta. Simultaneously, parts of Northern Nigeria was gradually being criss-crossed by Muslim religious fundamentalist who took advantage of Nigeria’s extensive, porous borders with neighboring Niger, Chad and Cameroons. The sectarian-fomented crisis in North Africa and parts of the Middle East started sipping through to Nigeria. Although Jonathan successfully brought the Niger Delta crisis to an end, political fortune hunters as well as mischief-makers inside and outside the PDP invoked the tribal card as a means of challenging the President’s legitimate second term bid. In the circumstance, the genuine effort by some of us to unite the opposition in order to produce a strong alternative political platform, which should ensure a balanced polity with adequate checks and balances was suddenly hijacked by a crop of desperate political contractors.
What should we be doing to bring down tension in the polity and send a signal that this election is not a do or die affair?
The Nation is currently gripped in the reality of the struggle for the Presidency. This has generated a certain heat of its own. Otherwise, tension in the polity basically, the product of intra Party differences has been simmering all along. That was not an end product of the quest for the Presidency. The lack of consolidated Internal Party Democracy is the bane of all the Parties in various degrees of complexities. Party Primaries conducted by the two leading political parties have not been the best examples and INEC monitoring of the primaries was ineffective. The PDP, despite its long tenure as the party in power, has suffered fundamental stress emanating not only from the sudden adjustments to its Party National Leadership, but also the loss of cohesion in the ranks of its Governors. A number of Governors who left the Party are now engaged in do or die battles for survival.
Similarly, the APC, recently born out of a successful amalgamation of major opposition parties has not been able to retain its appeal or freshness, following its leadership hijack by some desperate individuals as well as its final contamination by the influx of the break away PDP Governors. While those who lost out in their party primaries are gradually coming to terms with the reality, at this point in time, only the prospects of a free and fair election conducted by an unbiased umpire can bring down the tension. Nigeria is a vast and vibrant Nation and with the rather high stakes in the 2015 elections, the crucial role of the media no longer rests with the print press, only but also with the influence of radio and television, as well as an increasing viral social media. With the proliferation of smart phones in the country estimated at about one hundred million in Nigeria, the social media has emerged as a key factor in molding the disposition of our people. Therefore, moderating the dissemination of volatile materials will help in bringing down the tension. The Peace Pact, recently signed by the presidential candidates, as well as some governorship candidates in some states seem to be a mere public relations exercise, as the frequency of its breach by some elements make nonsense of the high profile launches.
The latest bid for the presidency appears to have ruptured the north/south south political friendship that dates back to the First Republic. What went wrong?
In October 1963, Nigeria proclaimed itself a Federal Republic. Parliamentary elections were held in the country in December 1964. The election saw most parties run as part of alliances. The Northern Peoples Congress (NPC), whose national stature was only guaranteed by a formation that included Southern minority parties, led the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA). These were the Nigerian National Democratic Party, The Midwest Democratic Front, The Dynamic Party and The Niger Delta Congress, led by Chief Harold Biriye. Harold Biriye led some Southern minority leaders, principally from Degema, Ogoni, Brass and Western Ijaw divisions. The friendship between the Southern minorities and Northern Nigeria was bolstered by the role of Melford Okilo of the Niger Delta Congress, who was appointed Parliamentary Secretary by Sir Abubakar Tafawa Balewa. He became leader of the NPN in the Rivers State. He was elected Governor of Rivers State in1979. He mobilised the region to support the emergence of Alhaji Aliyu Usman Shagari as the NPN President of Nigeria. This record speaks eloquently of a long-standing friendship between the South South, particularly Southern minority and Northern Nigeria.
Nigeria celebrated one hundred years of the amalgamation of Northern and Southern Nigeria last year, but since Independence in 1960 and the political party elections from 1963, the struggle for ultimate leadership of the country between the North and the South has remained a hard nut to crack. The situation has been complicated not only by the multiplicity of ethnic groups on both sides, but the emergence of Islam as the dominant religion in Northern Nigeria and Christianity as the dominant religion in Southern Nigeria. The formation of alliances has been one way of ensuring that a balance is retained.
However, the PDP that has retained national power over the past sixteen years operates a system of rotating the Presidency between the North and South of Nigeria on a two terms eight-year basis. This arrangement never envisaged a President dying in office and so the passing of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua after two years in office has presented controversies over putting back the rotation principle on track. I am sure the North would certainly be comfortable with the South South Region as their long-standing reliable ally. In the circumstance it would make for national peace for President Jonathan from South Southern Nigeria to complete his two elected terms so that the Presidency may revert to the North in 2019, when hopefully they will field a healthy, nationally acceptable candidate.
This is the first time in the history of Nigeria that the opposition has been so organised, so much so that the incumbent is not sure of being returned. What do you make of the scenario?
This claim has turned out now to be more apparent than real and is indeed not an accurate portrayal of the history of strong opposition organisation in the political history of Nigeria.
In the late 1960s, two major parties UPGA and NNA emerged through the amalgamation of political parties with similar political and ideological tendencies and partly skewed towards the sectionalist arrangements of the period. These were the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) formed by the amalgamation of the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and the South West-based Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) led by the Premier, Chief S.L. Akintola.
On the other hand, the other big and strong party, which was the opposition party, was the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA). This was an amalgamation of the National Council of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC), the Action Group, the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and the United Middle Belt Congress (UMBC).
In the Second Republic, though the NPN was the ascendant party, its narrow sectional base hobbled the UPN, a formidable opposition party.
The Third Republic featured the SDP and the NRC as two National formidable political parties. I was honored to serve as the pioneer chairman of the NRC. I have always desired a balanced polity in which the opposition is strong enough to be an alternative platform ready to assume the role of Government. This would assure effective checks and balance in the polity. My experience in the days of the SDP and NRC gave me remarkable insight into this option. I eagerly pursued, with some dedicated colleagues, the creation of the All Progressives Congress (APC). The entry of the APC into the Nation’s political firmament was received across the nation and beyond with great joy and happiness.
We proclaimed a new party with a clarion call of change, as we strongly believed that we had created a party that would pursue democratic principles with an emphatic culture of internal party democracy. For me, I thought we had finally broken loose the shackles of tribal, regional and religious politics, unlike the NNA of 1960s that was founded on the premise of securing National Electoral Power through a coalition of fundamentally ethnic-based parties involving the intrinsically “North for Northerners”, Hausa-dominated NPC and the essentially schismatic Yoruba party, the NNDP. That assumption, which seemed feasible under the regionalist Independence Constitution was that this sectionalist alliance as a formidable political party would win Federal Power.
Those who hijacked the APC dwelt on that erroneous assumption based on the archaic 1960 theory that a Yoruba South West and a Hausa-Fulani North West Nigeria alliance will produce electoral victory. The APC democratic credentials was put to test in its very first Convention, where the self-styled ‘leader of the party’ successfully plotted and executed the installation of cronies as the party’s National Executive. In a desperate effort to build a team that was solely designed to unseat President Goodluck Jonathan, PDP breakaway governors were recruited to pollute the top leadership of the party.
It should be noted, as it is already evident, that the assumption of automatic and unanimous votes from the two zones, the North West and south West for the APC is not realisable. Today, the hold of the APC and its leadership over the South West has been seriously dented in states such as Ekiti and Ondo; its hold has crashed in Ogun State — due to the soaring profile of the SDP and PDP in that state; in Oyo — due to the PDP and Accord, while in Lagos, a major break through has been secured by the PDP, not only because of the very diverse electorate, the charismatic PDP Governorship Candidate — Jimi Agbaje, but the total rejection of the Lion of Bourdillon. President Jonathan has an airtight support in the South South and South East, where Buhari would not secure the mandatory 25 per cent. President Jonathan will secure more than 60 per cent of the votes in the North Central and not lass than 50 per cent in the North East and North West. His return as President of Nigeria for a second term is assured.
Opinions are divided on the reasons of security adduced for shifting the polls for which government is being blamed; whereas many believe INEC was not ready. What do you think?
While various opinions being peddled around, speculating on the rationale for shifting of the polls, the compelling facts that eventually rendered February 14 unsuitable were quite simply the obvious security situation, and INEC’s unpreparedness. Both these reasons were plainly valid.
The security situation in the Northeastern states of Adamawa, Borno and Yobe as existed in early February was such that if elections had been held, large numbers of Nigerians would have been disenfranchised. In this context, whichever party lost could use the fact of low voter participation to generate interminable post-election crisis that the country does not need. Conducting the elections in those states with swathes of territories still disrupted by Boko Haram would have been a very daring undertaking and definitely not in the interest of election personnel.
My quest for an alternative political platform in the country was not motivated towards fulfilling any personal ambition to contest for executive power, but I hold firmly that it is in the best interest of our country to have a credible structure of two strong political parties that would guarantee the necessary checks and balances in the system. Notwithstanding the negative trends exhibited by the APC at this time, I believe a robust political contest has at last arrived. But this is not the time to cede Government to a desperate upstart commanding a vengeful army of flatterers all with a mission of stampeding an illusory enemy
Therefore, the decision to shift the election dates and vigorously address the security has achieved two objectives. First, was to demonstrate President Jonathan’s determination to enfranchise voters wherever they may be located. This is significant because some of these areas are assumed to be opposition zones. Secondly the decisive, speedy and stunning victories of the Nigerian forces have resulted in the liberation of virtually all of the Northeastern territories previously under the subjection of Boko Haram. This liberated condition automatically provides the opportunity for the voters in these areas to exercise their franchise that would not have been possible if the elections had been held in February.
With regards to INEC, I found it very strange that the chairman, Professor Attahiru Jega, failed to disclose to the public the actual reasons why he postponed the elections. In his presentation to the Council of State a few days before he made the postponement announcement, he had admitted that a number of critical elements for free, fair and credible elections were not yet in place. As at February 7, the date of his world press conference, of the 68.8 million Nigerians registered to vote only 45.8 million had collected their Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs). This meant that a total of 23 million (33.8%) Nigerian registered voters had not yet collected their Permanent Voters Cards. It was obvious that it was not logistically possible for INEC to complete the distribution of the said 23 million cards in the one week left before the election. If INEC had proceeded with elections on February 14, 23 million registered voters would have been disenfranchised.
The skewed distribution of cards affected States that were not necessarily PDP states. For example, in Lagos, a major cosmopolitan state, only 38.4 per cent off the 5.9 million registered voters had as then received their PVCs. A similar case existed in Ogun State where only 36.44% of the registered voters in that State had received their PVC as at 4th February 2015 – ten days to the elections. Further more, the statistics presented on the distribution of PVC defy logic. It was observed that states such as Borno, Yobe and Adamawa, where insurgency had presented the most serious security challenges, leading to mass displacement of persons, some of whom resided in IDP camps or have left their states, the PVC collection rates were unusually high, compared to states like Enugu, where there was no crisis.
The issue of card readers, which INEC proposed to use, is a new device based on a technology that had never been demonstrated or tested in situ in any Nigerian locality or previous elections. The first tests only recently carried out three weeks after the February 14 had recorded massive failure. For some unknown reasons, Jega is determined to throw Nigeria into unprecedented confusion with this ill designed contraption, otherwise referred to as Card Readers on March 28… Help us God!!
Do you regret leaving the APC, which has today become the most formidable, opposition ever to the ruling pdp?
It was an experience of great joy and satisfaction for me to host and lead the process that gave birth in February 2013, at my Abuja residence, to the All Progressives Congress (APC), with the successful unification of the major opposition parties — ACN, ANPP, CPC and a part of APGA.
Various people had made several failed attempts, since 1999, to strengthen the opposition by uniting a number of the opposition parties. This had not been successful for a number of reasons, prominent among which was always personal interest and ambition. Consequently, most well known leaders, particularly in the ranks of the former ACN, never thought it would be possible to achieve the unification. As soon as it became apparent that we would succeed, a number of them, notably the current self proclaimed leader of the party, moved in to seize control of the party and has since employed every means to retain his hold.
It became clear to me that a sinister agenda was brewing as the main objective of the new party. This included, a plot hatched to install General Muhamadu Buhari as President with Bola Ahmed Tinubu as Vice President, notwithstanding the facts that both men are Muslims who possess stunningly negative credentials. Most of my colleagues in the top leadership of the party also became aware of this trend. They merely grumbled about it, but seemed not able to muster the courage to openly fight against it. The first National Convention was an abysmal failure. The event was a mere charade at which a cabal succeeded in installing a group of cronies as the Party National Executive.
Core leaders of the legacy parties found themselves trapped in this arrangement, which turned out to be the construction of a framework dedicated to just one objective, which was to bring down President Goodluck Jonathan and install General Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Notwithstanding, Tinubu’s failure to make their ticket recently for this election, I am convinced that Professor Osinbajo has only been brought in as a stepping-stone and much has been spoken about this already. I observed the negotiations between ACN and CPC in 2011, at which Tinubu insisted that Pastor Bakare, who was already picked as running mate to Buhari by CPC should provide an undated letter of resignation as Vice President. The Pastor refused and so the negotiations broke down.
My quest for an alternative political platform in the country was not motivated towards fulfilling any personal ambition to contest for executive power, but I hold firmly that it is in the best interest of our country to have a credible structure of two strong political parties that would guarantee the necessary checks and balances in the system. Notwithstanding the negative trends exhibited by the APC at this time, I believe a robust political contest has at last arrived. But this is not the time to cede Government to a desperate upstart commanding a vengeful army of flatterers all with a mission of stampeding an illusory enemy.
I have no regrets at all leaving the APC as I have always viewed a political party as a congregation of like-minded persons, who become welded together in a close-knit brotherhood in a manner beyond mere friendship. I find the APC now a collection of strange bedfellows of very ambitious people of diverse interests all constantly plotting against each other.