Posted by News Express | 2 February 2015 | 4,453 times
Chief Ebenezer Babatope was a one-time Minister of Transport. The member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in this no-holds-barred interview with SENIOR CORRESPONDENT, TEMIDAYO AKINSUYI, speaks on wide ranging issues which include postponement of elections, controversy over the credentials of presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Muhammadu Buhari and President Goodluck Jonathan’s chances in the South West. Excerpts:
With just two weeks to the conduct of the presidential election, there is still uncertainty in the air on whether the election should be postponed r not. Some have cited the low collection of Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) and the insecurity crisis in the North Eastern states as genuine reasons why the elections must not hold now. Where do you stand in all these?
I have stated in lucid terms that the one man who can make pronouncement that will help Nigerians on this issue of holding election on February 14 or not is Attahiru Jega. He is the one presiding over INEC. He should tell Nigerians if honestly he believes that he can run a good election on February 14. If he says so and he stands committed by it, we shall hold him by his words and we will go ahead with the election. The PDP is set for the election. Anytime INEC calls the election, we are prepared. But Jega has a responsibility to Nigeria and a responsibility to his conscience to let Nigerians know how prepared INEC is. If he feels that INEC is not prepared, he should say so then the country will see how we can manage the situation. But if he says he is confident of conducting the election, he can distribute the PVCs before the stipulated time, then we can go ahead with the election. But I want to make it categorically clear that the PDP is set for election. if you call it tomorrow, we will come out and win. We are not interested in the postponement of the election at all. If anybody is jittery about the election, it is the APC.
The US Secretary of States, John Kerry recently met with stakeholders in the country where he urged Nigeria not to postpone the election. Don’t you think he must have acted on intelligence report that some elements are trying to force a postponement of the election?
The USA is the most powerful country in the world and there must be things they have seen which makes them to come to Nigeria and advised the government not to shift the election. But that notwithstanding, regardless of the United State’s position, I still maintain, the crucial person that can talk on this election is Jega. And I strongly believe that whatever he says will be respected by all, including the Americans because he is the man who is going to be the umpire for the election. He who wears the shoe knows where it pinches. So, Jega must come out and tell Nigerians that he is prepared or he still needs certain things to be put in place, therefore the election should be postponed. Whatsoever Kerry says, whatever Jega says will be the final outcome.
As an elderstatesman, do you think the election can said to be credible if elections are not held in the states currently under emergency rule and Internally Displaced Persons as a result of the insurgency are not allowed to vote?
I must confess to you, no matter the situation, the country must continue to exist as a country. We must have election whether there is Boko Haram or not and we must do it even in those states under emergency rule. I am of the opinion that they must vote. Any areas where they can vote, the federal government must assist INEC to ensure that they carry out their civic responsibilities. Why must you disenfranchise the people? No. They must vote. Boko Haram cannot harass us into a position where we say we are not going to have elections there. Our election must continue, a verdict must be given and Nigerian people must be assured that the outcome will be respected not only by INEC, but all registered political parties.
Former UN Secretary- General Kofi Annan recently supervised the signing of a Violence- Free pact between the major political parties in Nigeria. Few days after, Ekiti State Governor, Ayo Fayose released an advertorial implying that APC presidential candidate, Muhammadu Buhari will die in office while President Goodluck Jonathan ‘s convoy was stoned in some Northern states. Do you think this pact will be adhered to as we approach the election?
Governor Fayose never brought out an advertisement aimed directly at saying ‘Buhari will die’. He never did that. But the APC media terror machine has twisted the whole thing to mean something otherwise. The boy never said that . I am of the same age with Buhari because he is only three weeks older than myself. At his age, I don’t expect anyone to think he will die because nobody knows tomorrow. But honestly, Fayose never wished him death. On Kofi Annan’s pact, I was very sorry for him when he said the political parties should sign a pact on non-violence. I know APC will be the last to respect that kind of pact. That party is built on promoting chaos, disorder and they won’t honour any of such pact. It is not surprising that their supporters went ahead and organized the stoning of the convoy of the president in Katsina and Bauchi. So, that is what the APC are. But as far as the PDP are concerned, we want a credible election that is devoid of violence, an election that will allow the Nigerian people to have the measure of freedom to elect those who they desire to govern them. We abhor a situation whereby a political party believes it can use thuggery and violence to manipulate the electoral verdict of the people. Kofi Annan would have known now that the APC is a dangerous party capable of doing anything to acquire power.
You said APC organized the stoning of President Jonathan, but Bauchi State Governor, Isa Yuguda said PDP leaders did it and that has resulted in a war of words between him and the FCT Minister. What will you say on that?
I don’t want to comment on that. It is the inner party schism that you have in any political party. Yuguda said the stoning is by FCT Minister, while the minister said the governor is a mole within PDP. I am not saying we should not believe what Yuguda has said but the minister has a very good and excellent relationship with the president. Why must he go and promote an attack on a man that he served so well and believe in his leadership? I can quote many instances where Muhammed has come to the aid of the party and Mr. President. So, apparently, we should leave the inner schism within the PDP but the main culprits are the APC. They only want to benefit from that chaos.
There has been an unending controversy over the authenticity of Buhari’s credentials. Don’t you think the issue is being overflogged especially as there are pressing issues to discuss concerning the election?
It is a very interesting development. But honestly speaking, I as an individual doesn’t care whether Buhari is a candidate or not. All I know is that Buhari can never become the president of this country again. He can never defeat Jonathan and his party can never defeat PDP. But the issue of Buhari’s certificate is a shame to Buhari himself and on his party. I and Buhari are of the same generation. We are both 72 years old. Buhari claims that he did his school certificate in 1961. I did my school certificate in 1962. And believe me, he is coming out with facts that are very strange. At the time he claimed he studied Hausa, I know very well that Latin was the language that was studied at that time. I did Latin, I got a P7 in my school certificate but Buhari said he got A1 in Hausa. Also, the principal of his college issued a paper which was called May/ June examination. Truth is, we were never using May/June in 1961. We were using December. So, that really gives me some doubt about the authenticity and credibility of Buhari’s claim. And in any case, all these has exposed the shame in Buhari’s presentation. The man has no certificate so why should he be the one talking about fighting corruption? The certificate issue of Buhari is master corruption. He has many answers to give to Nigerians on that certificate. I have given two examples that we were never taking local languages at that time, Latin was the language we took. So, where he came about his Hausa, he should explain to Nigerians. Some papers also reported that he said his credentials are with INEC. INEC must bring out those credentials if they are based on what he has issued, then the man has no credentials at all. As at now, he is yet to present a credible certificate that will exonerate him before fair-minded Nigerians that he possesses his school certificate. For him to lay claim to a certificate that he doesn’t have, I think it is absurd, it is wrong, it is criminal and he has sworn to a false affidavit. Even if he escapes and they allow him to go and contest, he is going to be a dangerous president for Nigeria and many people will regret it.
There is this statement from Obasanjo too that President Jonathan did not complete his Doctorate degree. What do you have to say on that?
University of Port Harcourt issued a statement that that allegation is false. What will the president gain by laying claim to a non-existent PhD? He lectured in the university and the records are there. If Obasanjo said so, let him bring more facts to Nigerians about it but I can assure you that they have no facts. It is just like what they are talking about that Jonathan signed a one-term pact of four years. And we have told them to bring out the pact. But they are afraid to do so. Even those who are much vocal about the fact knows what is happening to them now, their deputies are leaving them to join another party. People will be judged by what they put their hands on. If you have put your hands on falsehood, falsehood will judge you.
With the large followership recorded by Buhari at his rallies, don’t you think he stands a high chance of winning the presidential election?
You will see the verdict of the Nigerian people after February 14. The Nigerian people that I know will never permit someone of Buhari’s caliber to rule. I am surprised that till today, Buhari never apologized to Nigerians for the terrible manner he ruled this country. It could have been a different ball game if APC had picked either Kwankwaso or Atiku, then we will know we have a challenger. We in PDP don’t see the APC as a formidable opponent. The APC has not lived by the history of this country by bringing a candidate whose past will haunt him until he leaves this world. The right of Nigerians to elect who governs them is a right that cannot be trampled upon. So, whether somebody or political party is formidable or not will be determined by the Nigerian people. I am experienced enough to know that every political party in Nigeria, the one that wants to win election, is always clear about how to elect people who are going to be the candidate of that party in that election. Democratic Party or Republican party in America will never choose a candidate whose past is dirty, whose past is anti-democratic and whose past is tyrannical. A formidable party in Nigeria that has appointed a man whose record in office is such that nobody will want to touch him even with a long pole has already shot itself in the leg. Nigerians are not fools if APC thinks they are. Nigerians are good students of history and so, we will leave it to the Nigerian people. PDP will win the election because the APC has settled for the wrong choice of a man. The APC may have forgotten this, but the Yoruba have not. Three days after he became Head of State, he sent soldiers to go and ransack Awolowo’s house and then there was announcement from Dodan Barracks where Buhari was residing that they met a Lagos master plan in Awolowo’s house. He asked Awolowo to report to the police. When he got to the police station, Awolowo made a pronouncement that ‘the omens are still bad’. Buhari later sent soldiers to go and stay along Shagamu-Ikenne road giving Awolowo a kind of indirect arrest. He also seized Awolowo’s passport and he never allowed him to go see his doctor in Mayo clinic, Rochester, Minnesota in 1984. It was Babangida that eventually released Awolowo’s passport through the current Minister of Defence, Aliyu Gusau”
Pan- Yoruba socio- political organization, Afenifere last week endorsed President Jonathan. Some Nigerians are saying the president should not rejoice over this because Afenifere is no longer relevant in politics of South- West. Do you share that view?
If anybody says Afenifere is not significant, that person must have his brain medically examined. I tell you one thing. I don’t believe in Afenifere organization as it is and they know that themselves even though we belong to the same parent. Papa Awolowo is the father of all of us. But Afenifere is a credible political organization. Are you going to say that whatever Fasoranti , Ayo Adebanjo or Olanihun Ajayi say should be thrown into the waste basket? Anyone who says that must be mentally unstable. They have seen the facts, they are not emotional or sentimental about facts and they have come out to say that as far as they are concerned in Afenifere, which is a pan- Awolowo Yoruba organization, let Yoruba go and vote for Jonathan. The words of the elders are words of wisdom. Therefore, if anyone says Afenifere is not significant, that person will regret it to his dying days. Afenifere is significant and powerful because it is the voice of the elders in Yorubaland. They didn’t just issue that statement. They did it by their calculation and by what they saw on the field. We in PDP are very happy about the development. It clearly shows that the Yoruba are properly guided. They cannot just go and throw their votes away or put themselves in slavery. Voting for Buhari is enslaving the Yoruba people. That is the truth. Our leaders were tortured by this fellow. Bisi Onabanjo was operated upon in Lagos. A week after the operation, Buhari pounced on him and sent him to Jos and Bauchi prisons. The doctor that carried out the operation on Onabanjo, late Dr. Okuwobi, a famous heart surgeon, protested and said ‘why are you taking my patient away after just one week of operation’? Nobody listened to him. Onabanjo survived the ordeal. Babangida gave him his freedom but eventually he died. Onabanjo is one of the most credible leaders Yoruba has ever produced. We can cite so many examples. Three young men, Bartholomew Owoh, Bernard Ogedengbe and Lawal Ojuolape were arrested. They said these trio pushed cocaine and they were executed because Buhari backdated a law to calm his feelings. Are we going to forget all those things? Are we going to forget that a man, a former cabinet commissioner in Bola Ige’s government, Alarape Jolaosho who went to prison with his two eyes open but came back from Buhari’s prison with his two eyes blind. He is still alive as I speak. This man also created Ita Oko concentration camp near Epe which can only be approached by helicopter and by boat. One of the man that was put there was the late Comrade S.A. Dada, who was formerly the principal of Patrick Lumumba college at 3, Montgomery road, Yaba. The man is dead now but he wrote his account. Apparently, these are all the things that the Afenifere movement consisting of the elders of Yorubaland put together to say go and vote for Jonathan and not for Buhari. Go and write it down ‘Buhari will never defeat Jonathan in the South West because Yoruba people will never permit political leopards to govern them’. Jonathan can never lose to a Buhari who is a tyrant , a man who murdered democracy and a man who disorganized the country.
Are you not worried about the fact that more PVCs are distributed in the Northern part of Nigeria where Buhari has his stronghold than in the South?
It is part of what should touch the conscience of Jega. Any in any case, if Buhari beats Jonathan in the Northern states, it will be marginal. He beat us in 2011 there and it was marginal.
But between 2011 and now, don’t you think things have changed positively for Buhari especially with the formation of APC?
Which APC? They will not electorally descend on us in the North. There are factors that make it impossible for that to happen. And the factors are present. Nigeria has moved but the APC as a party has chosen to stay on one spot and that is why they are caught in this kind of difficult situation. The PDP will win very well in many Northern states, in the South , East and in the West. APC will meet their waterloo.
•Culled from Daily Independent. Photo shows Babatope.
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