No Voter Should Be Disenfranchised On Account Of PVC, Says Makarfi
Former Kaduna State governor and Chairman of Senate Committee on Finance, Senator Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi, spoke with SAXONE AKHAINE, Northern Bureau Chief, on the state of the nation and preparations towards the general elections.
DO you think the ground is set for the general elections to hold as scheduled, going by what is on ground?
I believe in law and order and the constitution is one that requires that elections should hold.
I believe all hands should be on deck to make sure that free, fair and credible elections hold on the scheduled dates. I will want to assume that both the INEC (Independent National Electoral Commission) and supporting agencies are cooperating and collaborating with the security agencies to make sure that we see a very high standard of election conducted.
All the investments that have been made should yield something positive. It should be one man, one vote and we should look at our operational modalities to ensure that the elections do not linger till late in the night, because it is late in the night that all sort of things can now happen.
For example, I don’t know why, with the electronic accreditation, you have to wait again for some hours before you vote. That unnecessarily lengthens election time and for me, it would have been better that as you get accredited, you vote and go away.
I don’t know the reason behind using electronic accreditation, only for you to go back home and come again after some hours and line up. This would create chances or all possible rooms for unnecessary things that might happen.
Even if not for this election, but subsequent election, there is no reason to make people consume the whole day. Voting is important, but we should mind the man-hour we waste in the process.
What is your take on the controversy surrounding the use of card reader machines?
In all the controversies, people cite legal issues. I am not a legal expert, but if INEC had contemplated making use of this reader machine, it should also have contemplated the controversy, or maybe they should have used the machine for some of the bye-elections conducted earlier and we would have had precedence of it. Even if there were challenges and we would have known what the court would have said.
But this is history, because now the elections are before us. So, all I can say is that elections must hold and we must never create any situation that election would not hold, card reader machine or no reader machine. I am not in a position to say if it is lawful or not.
However, the court should help the process of election by avoiding giving judgments that would throw total confusion into the process, because we all have a stake in this country.
If you create total confusion and calamity, nobody is immune from their consequences, so we must all do our jobs diligently for the good of the generality of Nigerians.
How do you view the reasons INEC gave for the postponement of the elections?
That is for INEC; maybe they were given the reasons or they made the reasons. But I also agree with those who said it is unconstitutional to disenfranchise millions of Nigerians, after all, you can win this election with a margin of 100,000.
If you can win the election with a margin of 100,000, and you have five million, for example, who for no fault of theirs, could not vote, it would bring to question the credibility of any election, not just the one being contemplated.
So, you can see quite a number of reasons why probably they felt the election should not hold at the time it was scheduled. Maybe we should have started distributing these PVCs (Permanent Voter Cards) long before we started. Even when they started distributing the PVCs initially, they restricted collections to four or some few days. This is a right of voters and even on the day of election, you can collect your PVCs.
There should not be any restriction, because once your name is on the register, you can go and collect your PVCs any time. It is wrong to put deadline for collection. What is important is that they should have all the PVCs ready.
With the feat the military has attained in the fight against Boko Haram in the past weeks, do you think the elections can now hold safely?
It is not just about security; all other issues are relevant and all registered voters should have their PVCs. Even if they don’t go to collect it, let it not be that it is not just available. Nobody should be disenfranchised on account of PVCs.
What is your take on the allegation that the Presidency could be exploring the possibility of removing the INEC Chairman, Prof Attahiru Jega?
A mere allegation! So, how can I comment on it, even an allegation the President has publicly denied?
So, I cannot because the whole thing does not warrant any further comment.
Do you think the kind of campaign tirades from both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is good for our democracy?
They are not healthy. They should address issues, rather than destroying both leadership and institution in the name of politics.
No party, whether APC or PDP, should engage in campaigns of calumny and name destruction. In politics, your life becomes subject to public scrutiny, but there is how far that should be taken or a limit to it. It should be in terms of accountability or morality.
No party should resort to this.
What would you say about the former President Olusegun Obasanjo tearing his PDP membership card publicly?
He is a party to what is going on in the country. It may not be in one direction; it may be in a different direction.
In any case, everybody has the right to choose for him/herself and maybe that is actually what he chose to do now.
All of us have choices to make. If anybody makes a particular choice, it is his/her responsibility.
In Kaduna State, APC and PDP have been engaged in campaigns that have raised security concerns, despite a peace accord. Do you see any danger ahead?
It is not just about the state; wherever this sort of thing is happening, it should be condemned.
It is not about what document we signed; it is about our behaviour. All of us should take responsibility.
There is no reason for any party to begin to destroy the opponents’ billboards, posters or attacking the opponents. We should have campaign on issues. Politicians should use ideas and persuasions to sway voters. After all, it is about the ballot.
For me, that is not what I will want to see happening anywhere in the country. Let us use the power of persuasion to win votes.
When you are looking for leadership and you are using violence, is that a good thing? This is not exclusive to one party and this is no good for our democracy.