Vanguard columnist Dr. Femi Aribisala, in an interaction with Vanguard editors, explains why he is not proud to call president-elect, Gen. Buhari his president. Quite interesting. Read below…
How did you come about your claim that INEC rigged the election for Buhari?
There are certain things that are interesting about this election. The first one is that it is one of the most keenly contested elections that we have had in this country. It involved more people. But 10 million less people voted than last time, which gives us some idea as to how true some of the figures we have been having before had been. But the question is: Where did the decline of 10 million come from? I discovered that it came disproportionately in certain areas than it did in others. And to some extent, if you look at the PVC distribution, you can project the election. It is because Buhari could campaign in the South, but the North didn’t permit same kind of liberty for the president.
The president was stoned in Bauchi and he was threatened. By the time the pattern of PVC distribution became very known even in war-torn states, it was easy to know that it had been front-loaded. When you then analyze the election result itself, you will discover that some places just had an incredible suppression of voters in spite of high level of interest. Some people had an incredible number of voters. And I am still interested in why more people voted in the governorship election in Katsina than the presidential election.
On alleged gang- up against President Jonathan
If Buhari had contested in the United States, there is no way that he could win. It is impossible. We know his antecedents. Nigeria doesn’t even teach history in schools. Once you bring up the antecedents, the very idea of having such a person gunning for a position, not even talk of the presidency, would have nullified his candidacy. I was not just writing about Buhari because he tried to arrest me. There were all sorts of things that he did and for which he never apologised. Buhari took ownership of those things. And he never asked for forgiveness. At different points in the history of Nigeria, he was given an opportunity to do that.
We set up a Truth and Reconciliation Commission but he refused to do it. You don’t forgive a man who does not repent. With regards to President Jonathan, I had a problem with the gang-up. And I think it is wrong for two major tribes to gang up against someone from the minority. Why should a President be called clueless? I don’t think that someone will get away with calling Obasanjo clueless. Somehow I feel that the South-South is entitled to have their son as president and we were acting as if we were doing them a favour. If it was not providence that threw up Goodluck Jonathan, I wonder if we would have considered having a South-South president. In the interest of national unity, the North-West producing the president again does not balance any equation in Nigeria. If we are talking about a president from the North, we should be talking about the North-East. I was offended that from the beginning, some people insisted that there would be a civil war if the man ran. They also insisted that they would create a problem if the man ran. And I said that Nigeria belongs to every one of us. So that was an issue to me. Wole Soyinka had vowed not to support Buhari but a few weeks to the election, he asked Nigerians to forget the past and move on.
Are you not being unfair to Buhari given the circumstances we found ourselves?
I said you only forgive somebody who repents. Buhari has never asked anyone to forgive him. So you are jumping into conclusion that we have a new Buhari? And the fact that he has won the election has not won him forgiveness. We are going to see if Buhari has changed. And I have said that if he has changed, he will do more than just wearing a suit. He will come out and apologise for things done and overdone. He said he took responsibility which is different from apologising. The man who admitted stealing a cow is different from the one who said forgive me for stealing a cow. Buhari is a very deliberate man. I am not persuaded by the election campaign that Buhari is going to be a very competent president. I have not seen any competence in him. There was nothing in the campaign that was of substance that impressed me. No new ideas came from Buhari or the APC. Most of the people in APC are PDP people. So I am not persuaded that we are in for any new thing. But I hope you are right.
Beyond Buhari, you are also not a friend of Bola Tinubu. What are your reasons?
I wonder why anybody will be a fan of Bola Tinubu especially if you live in Lagos. He is not a democrat. I don’t like Bola Tinubu because he has monopolised Lagos politics. To some extent, Ekiti governorship election was lost because of him. I live in Lekki and every day I have to pay toll fare and I wish I was not doing that. APC is in control of the media to a very large extent. Governor Fashola has gotten an easy pass with the media. It is easy for a Lagos State governor to be seen to be good because he has resources. In the light of the resources of the state, only 10 percent of the people have access to potable water, the same percentage has access to educational structures. In order for the APC to survive, the resources of this state had to be commandeered for political purposes.
So, you can see the end justifies the means. I think it will be foolish of Tinubu to take AIT to court over the Lion of Bourdillion case because if he does, the kind of things that would be revealed about him would be shocking. This godfather business is undemocratic. Let people choose their leaders. One person cannot sit somewhere and decide what is best for everybody. I don’t believe that elections are free and fair in Lagos. I do not believe that Jimi Agbaje lost this election. It was APC’s manipulation that brought out the governorship election result. That is my own opinion. Not many Nigerians are asking Buhari to apologise. What exactly do you want him to apologise for?
It is part of my problem with the media at the moment. We are being given the impression that Buhari won by a landslide. Please let us look at what INEC declared. 12.8 million people voted for Goodluck Jonathan. So don’t assume that they don’t have their reasons or that the people that want him to apologise don’t exist. I maintain that it is very easy to say that we don’t want to look at the past because we want to look at the future. But we need to understand the past in order to move to the future.
So, Buhari needed to apologise. He needed to ask for forgiveness because he killed people through extra-judicial means, he jailed people for telling the truth, he kept people in jail even when kangaroo courts that he set up said they were not guilty. He manipulated the judiciary into jailing some people. I could go on and on. That is why I said that if we were a serious democracy, he would never have gotten away with it. There is a reason Buhari was not nominated by the northerners. They voted for Kwankwaso and Atiku at the primaries. Buhari got his candidacy through Tinubu. We don’t have to pretend that Buhari is well liked because he has won, it seems to be like that but we should know that he only has the plurality of 2.5 million votes.
In your penultimate column you claimed the emphasis on the alleged rigging was in the South-South and South-East, but the PDP was beaten in areas where they had strengths like Niger, Kaduna and other places.
You think the resentment was not real? I mentioned those areas as well. I mentioned Kano, Jigawa, Katsina and Bauchi. I said the results from these places were inflated. We have video recordings of underage voting. There is a problem with the election because if we accept what the PVCs are saying that 17.1 million registered for the election in the North-West alone, the zone will determine future elections. If they decide that they want somebody to be president, by the time we will be looking at the result and they will come up with 9.1 million from Kano, the whole equation would change. What can you get from Imo and Anambra? So, if the North-West vote is more than the South-South and South-East, there is going to be a problem. There will be a problem if we don’t get the proper census of Nigeria. They used to tell us that Kano was bigger than Lagos. Jigawa was split from Kano and Kano is still supposedly bigger than Lagos. In this last election, about 3.1 million people voted in Kano and Jigawa. And 1.4 million people voted in Lagos. That is twice the number of the people in Lagos. I don’t believe these figures. If you do, fine. I am entitled to my opinion.
You said you don’t like Tinubu because of the reasons you adduced, but when the books would be written, it would be said that Tinubu contributed significantly to Buhari’s emergence as a democratically elected president. What do you make of that?
I don’t agree that Tinubu made Buhari the president. Let’s get the facts right. Tinubu made Buhari the presidential candidate of the APC. But in the presidential election, Buhari did not win Tinubu’s votes. And that is part of the problem. All the discussion before was that everything would be determined in the South-West, but Tinubu did not deliver the South-West. The margin of defeat in the presidential election was not much in Lagos. Tinubu, to some extent at the presidential level, is expendable. And that is the problem. You can actually not choose a president just from the North. It interests me that while the campaign was going on, all the northerners making noise that it was their turn disappeared. They did not campaign with Buhari. The people campaigning were Tinubu, Amaechi, Fashola. I bet you that the northerners are going to come out come May 29. And you will see it happen. Don’t think that the people that had been clamouring for power to return to the North in the past six years, were doing that for Tinubu to inherit. I don’t believe that. They have an agenda. That is why I said the story is not told because the election has taken place, the story will unfold when the administration comes on board.
Are you saying that you are impressed with Jonathan’s performance?
Yes I am. I think APC ran a fantastic campaign. They hired Obama’s people and they controlled so many different things. So, a lot of things were simply propaganda. And part of the problem with the PDP was that they had it so easy for so long that they did not know how to campaign anymore. So, they thought that it was just going to be another cake work, and this was a different issue for them. Many of the things that Jonathan did, his people like Reuben Abati did not talk about it. People just did not know anything until some spirited efforts were made at the last-minute during the extension. That was when they now told people what had happened. But within the framework of Nigerian presidency, Jonathan is a good president if you compare him with others who had occupied that position.