Engr. Yabagi Yusuf Sani is the National Chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) and one of the presidential candidates in the just concluded general elections. In this interview, he speaks on the conduct of the election and other national issues. Excerpts:
How would you rate the conduct of the last General Elections, especially the presidential context in which you were a candidate?
The 2019 General Elections can be described as watershed in the political development of this country. The expectations of Nigerians and the international community was that Mr. President would have demonstrated attributes that people have ascribed to him as someone that is honest and one who will not tolerate anybody taking undue advantage of the system to deny others their inalienable rights as enshrined in the Constitution of this country. The expectations were not met. Nigerians were disappointed that under the watch of Mr. President, what happened in the election happened. You cannot divorce what happened in that election from the undue influence of the party in power. Few days to the postponement of the elections some of the utterances and conducts of the government in power was below expectations.
You were a candidate in that elections just like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar who has gone to court. Do you see him getting justice?
To me, going to court has two sides to it. On one side, you can say that you want to put something for history so that people can use it to improve on the situation and document the experience for future references, and, probably stop some of the things that happened. The other side of it is that you want to claim your mandate. So, the manipulations are clear from what we are seeing. But again that is where you have the judiciary functioning in the manner it is supposed to function. Not under this climate. Nigeria is not there yet because we are still developing no matter how you look at it.
Are you saying Atiku cannot get justice?
Justice in Nigeria, especially under this system, to me, it is farfetched.
Your party just held its National Executive Council meeting and announced the expulsion of some of your members from the party, including the National Secretary. What is responsible for this decision?
The National Executive Committee (NEC) had to take that action because of the overwhelming evidence against the characters involved. They are not bona-fide members of ADP. They are agents. It would have been a different case if it was a case between two committed members of the party which would have been settled as one family. Somebody came, collected our vehicle, went to his state, painted it in the colour of another candidate and campaigned against us. This people have no conscience. We did not have any other option than to get them out of the system to enable us identify our members.
This same Okoroma was your Campaign Director- General and you now describe him as an agent sent to destroy the party. Will you say his actions contributed to why you lost the election?
On the day of the election, these people sent out text messages telling people that I have stepped down for President Buhari. Even in my own state, I had to be telling people that it was a lie. Some people from his state came and told us the same thing that they got information from above mandating them to vote for Buhari and not me. What other evidence do you want us to put forth that they are not members of ADP?
You expressed pessimism about Atiku getting justice in the court. Could that be the reason you didn’t go to court?
Yes, that is one of the reasons. Another reason is that we believe that given the situation this country finds itself, to us as a party, we believe that four years is not too much.
Like I said, it is okay for Atiku to go to court. For us as a party, we do not believe it is necessary to waste the meagre resources we have. The only thing we need to do is to plan between now and 2023 when we know that the political atmosphere will be different.
Don’t you see that as a defeatist approach because you don’t have a case?
No, we do have a case. But the case we have is to use and build experiences acquired to build for the future. Somebody is doing what we would have done effectively for the sake of the history. But to get justice, I doubt.
Before the elections, you alleged that INEC was going to rig the elections in favour of APC and pleaded with Buhari to sign the Electoral Act which he didn’t. If you knew what was going to play out, why did you contest the election?
Mr. President was at the centre of 2019 Elections. People have ascribed to him as someone that has integrity which I thought he would have brought up. I know that President Buhari, as a person, does not have the kind of stake on what is going to happen in winning elections. I expect him to rise to the occasion and do the needful. Then when you look at INEC, we need to revisit the Electoral Act so that you can now look at it from the experiences we have had, which is who pays the piper dictates the tune. We should change this by way of taking INEC out of the influence of the executive so that it doesn’t have the power to appoint INEC chairman and state commissioners.
Will you blame the National Assembly for not vetoing the Electoral Act?
Which National Assembly are you talking about? The National Assembly and the president are the beneficiaries of what we have today.
Between now and 2023, what should we expect from your party?
Nigerians should expect a very vibrant party that will take this country to greater heights; and by the grace of God, establish the next government in this country