Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governors yesterday said they will not push for the postponement of the general elections. But there must be an assurance by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) that no registered voter will be disenfranchised, they said.
The governors, under the auspices of Peoples Democratic Party Governors’ Forum (PDPGF), said the onus was on the Prof. Attahiru Jega-led INEC to ensure the resolution of the concerns raised about the Smart Card Readers (SCRs) before the polls.
However, the governors urged Nigerians to reflect on the exercise before choosing between President Goodluck Jonathan and the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), who they insisted is too old for the rigours of the highest office.
The Chairman of the PDPGF, Godswill Akpabio of Akwa Ibom State, who delivered a keynote address at an interactive session with the media and civil society organisations in Lagos, said the ruling party was now prepared for the elections. The theme of the parley was: “Sustenance of Democratic Values and National Development. The session, which held at the Eko Hotel, Victoria Island, was witnessed by the Secretary to the Government of Federation, Senator Ayim Pius Ayim, the Minister of Agriculture, Mr. Akinwumi Adesina, and his Power and Works counterparts, Prof. Chinedu Nebo and Mr. Mike Onolememe.
With Akpabo were governors Ayo Fayose (Ekiti), Dr. Olusegun Mimiko (Ondo), James Ngilari (Adamawa), Seriake Dickson (Bayelsa), Shehu Shema (Katsina), Sule Lamido (Jigawa), Jonah Jang (Plateau), Loyel Imoke (Cross River), Saidu Dakingari(Kebbi), Ibrahim Dankwambo (Gombe), Babangida Aliyu (Niger) and the deputy governor of Nasararawa State, Bamisi Barau.
At Akpabio’s request, a minute of silence was observed in memory of martyrs of democracy, including the late Chief Moshood Abiola, his wife, Kudirat, and Gen. Shehu Yar’Adua.
Akpabio and Aliyu clarified that the governors were not in Lagos to discuss the formation of a new political party. But, the Niger State governor also fired salvos at Imo State Governor Owelle Rochas Okorocha, saying that he peddled the rummour that they stormed the state to finalise defection talks with the opposition party.
Akpabio said the PDP was ready for the rescheduled polls because it has the confidence that it will win.
Reflecting on the polls shift, he said: “INEC was ill-prepared for the 2015 elections. Twenty three million registered voters have not yet collected their Permanent Voter Cards (PVCs) before the election was postponed. It is more than the population of five countries in West Africa. Jega said the postponement was a blessing in disguise.
“Three weeks after the shift, INEC was just testing the card readers. Going by the failure of the card readers, it is certain that INEC is not prepared. Our concern is that nobody should be disenfranchised because of the failure of the card readers. We don’t want elections to be postponed, but we don’t want any person to be disenfranchised.”
Akpabio described the PDP as a mass movement, adding that Nigeria has a chance of survival under President Jonathan. He decried what he described as the politicisation of the anti-graft war by Gen. Buhari, saying that he has the history of taking over the government through anti-corruption campaigns.
The Akwa Ibom governor also said that, although he is worried by Gen Buhari’s age, his age of ideas is a matter of concern.
He said: “PDP has done a lot in fighting corruption, The PDP government established the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and Independent Corrupt Practices and other Related Offences Commission (ICPC). We, the PDP governors, want to say that we abhor the politicisation of the corruption by military veterans. When the military toppled the government, it accused the civilian leadership of corruption. Gen. Buhari did worse things to Shagari, Dr. Alex Ekweme and Ajasin. The military veterans are trying to win power by branding the PDP as a corrupt government.
“Who are the people talking about corruption? Who are the financiers of the opposition? How did they make their money? There is nothing wrong with Gen Buhari’s age, if he thinks he can withstand the rigour of the office. But, we are worried by the age of his ideas.”
Akpabio said that, when Gen. Buhari was the military Head of State and Chairman of the Petroleum Trust Fund (PTF), he was never in charge, adding that he often delegates all duties to his lieutenants.
He stressed: “He was not in charge. The regime was called Buhari/Idiagbon regime. He is using 50 year-old trick of anti-corruption to deceive Nigerians. If we must move forward, we must move forward with President Goodluck Jonathan.”
Akpabio highlighted the achievements of the Jonathan administration, pointing out that the President has ensured freedom of expression; created an atmosphere for free and fair elections; refrained from arresting and detaining media practitioners and political opponents and congratulated opposition governors who defeated PDP candidates at the polls.
He added: “What we need in Nigeria today is transformation, not change. Change is an amorphous term. It could be positive or negative. Any change that is not planned will lead to disaster.”
Akpabio accused the APC of fuelling insurgency in the North, stressing that states affected by the menace are controlled by the APC. He also said that the two most poorest states – Zamfara and Yobe – are ruled by APC governors.
He said: “There is a correlation between insurgency and poverty. Those who ruled those states have contributed to insurgency. The opposition is behind Boko Haram. The Senate has passed a resolution praising the Federal Government and the military for its success in the anti-Boko Haram war. But, APC has only praised the military. The Federal Government and the military deserve commendation for fighting insurgency.
“They are behind Boko Haram. Lai Mohammed said that it is unconstitutional to deploy troops to fight Boko Haram. Gen. Buhari described Boko Haram as our people on a television programme. When they wanted to negotiate, they said Gen Buhari should negotiate for them. I call on the United States (U.S.) and the United Nations (UN) to help Nigeria in the fight against Boko Haram, now that the group is associated with the ISIS.”
Akpabio thanked the President for convoking the National Conference and promising to implement its recommendations.
Aliyu, who spoke after him, refuted the allegation that the 16 years of PDP’s rule has been a waste. He also denied that the PDP governors were in Lagos to negotiate with APC. Aliyu said, out of seven aggrieved PDP governors, two of them stayed back in the party to correct the anomaly in the ruling party.
He said: “If I could enter the party through the front door, why should I now come through the back door? These people who are behind Gen. Buhari have looted the states. Now, they want to move to the centre. Gen Buhari was made a candidate through financial inducement because he promised to do one term. In their states, they are taking bond and incurring debts for the future generation. The election is not about sentiments. It is about the future of the country.”
Lamido flayed the PDP governors who defected to the APC, saying that they are dregs. He said: “How comfortable are Wamakko and Amaechi in the APC? APC is a contraption, an organisation of hate, envy, anger and confusion.”
The Jigawa governor berated Gen. Buhari for contrasting personality, stressing that, while high-profiled murders and bombings starred the country in the face, he kept quiet.
He added: “APC has as members former PDP governors and senators. But, because they lost out in their states, they connived with the APC. The question we face in Nigeria is how to banish poverty. Nigeria must be refocused. It must re-unite. There is corruption everywhere. It is in the boardroom. It is a Nigerian phenomenon. We should think of how to deal with it. APC has no plan for Nigeria. They are dregs of the PDP.
“They came to Jigawa to talk to me. They said they are saints. I asked them: why do you want me, a member of a party of rot and rogues? If two APC leaders die today, the party will perish. But, PDP is solid and organic. The challenge is how do we preserve Nigeria, salvage Nigeria, reconcile Nigeria and promote understanding.”
Ngilari, who said the sustenance of democratic value should be anchored on security, said that insecurity is not an invention of the PDP. The governor lamented that in one household, 120 skulls were found, following attacks by the Boko Haram sect. He added: “It was like watching a film in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. People go through the carnage. But, with what the Federal Government and the military are doing, we will cross the bridge.”
He chided his Borno State counterpart for not giving enough support to the military in the fight against terror. Ngilari, a lawyer, said: “If the Borno governor has collaborated with the military, as we have done in Adamawa, much success would have been achieved. In two weeks, the sect will be wiped put in Adamawa.”
Fayose urged the North to exercise patience, saying that power will shift to the region after President Jonathan has completed two terms. He said: “The North must have patience for four years so that we will not regress to the past. Jonathan should conclude his assignment.”
Fayose maintained that Gen Buhari is too old for the job of the President, adding that he lacks the physical and mental requirements. He said: “My mother is 74. Gen Buhari is 73. I want you to reconcile this.”
The Ekiti governor said the certificate issue should not be discarded, urging Nigerians to take interest in Gen. Buhari’s academic qualification.
Fayose added: “Gen. Buhari is too old. Sickness, ailments and problems come with age. This is not a replacement for Jonathan. If this is the change they want, they are making a mistake. Throughout his tour of Nigeria, Gen. Buhari spoke for 57 minutes. Why is Gen. Buhari afraid of a presidential debate. I don’t have a death wish for Gen Buhari. It is reality wish?
“The Chairman of PDP Governors’ Forum said that he has no problem with Buhari’s age. I disagree. A judge must go at 70. Permanent Secretary retires at 65. Pilots have retirement age. Nigerians must not vote for people who have the capability and mental ability to do the job.”
The governor also rejected the notion of performance in Lagos State by Governor Babatunde Fashola, stressing that the resources have not been judiciously used. He said Lagosians are groaning under the tax law.
Fayose said: “Ekiti gets N300 million. Lagos gets N30 billion. N30 billion will take care of 12 states. Fashola is not performing.”
At the interactive session were Chief Raymond Dokpesi, Mr. Bisi Olatilo, Mr. kehinde Ogungbe, Mrs. Aniko Briggs, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, Mr Monday Mbani, and other members of the civil society groups.
Ondo State Governor Olusegun Mimiko said Jonathan has entrenched democracy with his accommodation of what he described as “the intangibles” of democracy.
According to the governor, democracy is not just about building roads and others but in ensuring the entrenchment of democratic values.
He said the president has ensured separation of power by not tampering with the other arms of government.
Mimiko commended the President for convoking the National Conference, saying he is the man in best position to implement its outcome.