Makarfi: In Kaduna, El-Rufai took over job of INEC
• His Voting Machine Lacks Credibility
Former governor of Kaduna State, and erstwhile chairman of Caretaker Committee of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Senator Ahmed Makarfi spoke with SAXONE AKHAINE on the just concluded local government elections in the state, as well as the use of electronic voting machines during the exercise.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) lost to the All Progressives Congress (APC) in the recent local government elections in Kaduna. What is your reaction to this?
Firstly, I wish to commend citizens that came out to vote. I commend their perseverance and for exercising their fundamental human rights. I equally want to commend our party men and women, who braved the situation to contest, vote and canvassed for votes in spite of brazen intimidation, even before elections.It is not that we did not anticipate that government would tamper with the election results. Rather, it was the brazen manner the election was truncated. There were wards, where not a single polling unit had election materials, which were taken to the office or farm of an APC stalwart and they did what they liked with them.
And since they could not declare any result in such local governments, they converted a hotel into collation centre. Returning Officers were ferried with the aid of military and police escort to the heart of Kaduna, where prepared results were declared.What is alarming here is that for the first time, Returning Officers that didn’t show up at constituencies, where they were supposed to collate results, went straight to a government office and a hotel to write results. The implication is that this is just a rehearsal to 2019.
So, it is not just about local government elections. Rather, it is a question of timing, who is doing it and how it is done. We don’t fear losing elections. We lost elections before, and we didn’t say heaven should fall. Why should people fear losing elections? If PDP didn’t lose 2015 election, would they be where they are now? It has happened; they declared themselves winners. They didn’t win, and they just did what they wanted.
Despite all this, our party men and women have remained peaceful and law abiding. My call here goes to the Chief of Army Staff and Inspector General of Police (IGP). They must think of national interest and the country’s stability, because if such things happen and people are pushed to the wall, nobody knows how they will react. You can’t be everywhere and when people are so suppressed, you don’t know how and when they will react. This is what all of us political players must avoid. This is what security agencies and politicians must bear in mind, whether they are in PDP or APC. We should not lead our country in this manner, because it will be a serious disservice to the nation. We should follow lawful ways of doing things. But again, all political players must take extreme precaution on how they carry on their political business in the country.
The Chief of Army Staff and the IGP should investigate what happened in Kaduna. In some places, there was sporadic firing into the air to scare people away, so they could do what they wanted. Many Nigerians are being killed on the roads, in their houses, villages and communities by armed bandits. No solution has been found to all that. It is law-abiding voters that were being chased away from voting centres to actualise personal political wishes.
Prior to the elections, the coalition of 31 opposition political parties withdrew from the exercise, citing alleged irregularities. Why didn’t PDP also boycott the polls?
It was a good thing we decided to participate in the election. You see, dictators don’t want elections to hold anyway; so, they can fight and cow their opponents anyhow they like. If they were alone, how would the issue of manipulation have come about? No matter the obstacles, we must go through democratic process and make our point. Let us win and let them change the results. Nigerians and the whole world are watching. They may succeed today, but who knows the price they will pay tomorrow for such manipulation?
They would have loved that we withdrew from the elections and we knew that. But we said no, we must go through the elections. Let us win and let them rig the elections and upturn the results the way they want. At least a message would have been sent, which was what we did.Remember that it was the state governor, who announced that electronic machines would be used for the exercise in the state and subsequent elections. Should the governor be speaking for the nation? Have you ever seen where a governor speaks for the country? This is the kind of disorder prevailing in Nigeria, such that you don’t even know who is in charge of the nation’s affairs. And this is what our party wants to stop. Everybody should remain and exercise authority at the level the constitution permits him/her. And people should take their responsibilities seriously.
And how does this electronic voting machine work? People are identified with their voter cards, but it is not you per se that will slot the card into the machine. It is the electoral officer that will do that for you; and after the machine becomes operational, then you thumbprint. Which means that the electoral officer can as well select his card, open the machine and thumbprint as many times as he wants. A good machine is one that recognises characters on your personal cards, which is personal to you and allows you to vote. But why is it that it is only one individual that activates the machine?
The council election in Kaduna is a prelude to 2019 general elections. What lessons did your party learn from it?
It is not just the PDP that should take precaution. It also concerns all other opposition parties and lovers of democracy. I have received calls from across Nigeria and outside on the outcome of the local government elections. I have received calls from all over the world on the credibility of the voting machines. What Kaduna State government does not take note of is that people are taking it beyond local government elections issues for obvious reasons. It has become an international issue.
People are not fooled; they are taking note of what is happening. That is why over-ambitious politicians should not be allowed to derail our democracy. The world is a global village now; and people have interest in what is happening in Nigeria.