The Senator representing Kebbi North senatorial district, Senator Yahaya Abdullahi, is one of those who secured the people’s mandate to return to the upper legislative chamber. The retired permnent secretary in the Niger/Delta ministry who spoke with RUTH CHOJI, describes the February 23 presidential election in Nigeria as free and fair. Excerpts
Some Nigerians have condemn INEC’s decision to declare some state inconclusive, what do you think?
Under the constitution and electoral act, only INEC has the responsibility of declaring a candidate to have won or lost an election, while ensuring that, certain conditions that makes declaration possible are meet. When such conditions are not met, they are empowered to take certain actions.
I think wherever there are issues and the electoral umpire decides that elections is inconclusive, then it is inconclusive. I don’t see it as anything bad or wrong. INEC wants to ensure that the people’s votes count and that nobody is disenfranchised. There are some voters who collected their PVC and refused to vote, these must be compared to balance the equation.
Should Nigerians be worried that the states affected are the ones the opposition, PDP is either leading or likely to win the elections?
It’s not enough for the opposition to win. Sokoto is control by the PDP, but the governor has not won yet, the margin of victory is about three thousand votes and when you take the number of constituency or wards that either did not vote or were invalidated, the votes there are more than the margin of victory. So there has to be rerun there so we will find out where the majority is.
The army has been criticise for the role they played in the gubernatorial election in some states. What is your take on this?
People are just being clever by half. We know the kind of condition that these states are in Nigeria and how elections are conducted by these politicians. We know the level of violence they can unleash if not checked. The military are always deploy to trouble spot as part of their act. If people are complaining now, it means we should not sent them to other places to restore law and order. It’s the attitude of the politicians that is baffling. You don’t see military in the polling unit. They are station in the streets to ensure that there is no breakdown of law and order
Would you say the presidential elections was free and fair?
Yes the presidential election was free and fair. People saw where and how the president won his elections. What you are hearing is all conjectures. The position of the PDP is that, in areas where they thought they could have gotten more votes, they got less and where they thought they will secure votes, they got nothing. It’s unfortunate for them that, now card readers count. You don’t go to justice on the basis of conjecture. Mr President won the elections free and fair.
What areas will you advice the president to concentrate on this time around?
It’s the same agenda he came in with 2015 that he will continue with, he has said so already…
But can you say that the agenda he came with in 2015 is working for Nigeria?
Yes. The issues were of security, economy and anti-corruption. Everybody knows that there is a difference in terms of security. People used to go to sokoto in two days but now you can go in a day. How many bombs has exploded since the coming of this government in Abuja? None. These problems he meet on ground have been there for long because of bad governance. Nobody did anything about it for years. You cannot settle damages that have been there for decades in just one terms. You need more time to reach out and introduce policies that will impact the lives of people.
Former leaders were just thinking of how much they can make from oil, not how they will invest the proceed into the system. As a result of this negligence, communities we set against each other, critical infrastructure were abandon while the leaders loot the common wealth of the people. For over 40 years, Nigerians were abandon by their rulers. So the system broke down and it so happen that it manifested more during this government tenure. In terms of management of resources, people know that, there is greater management of resources in this government than previous ones.
Coming back to the senate, so many senators lost their seats. What impact will this have on the in-coming National Assembly?
This election is even better, at least more than half of the senator’s return unlike the previous session. Our democracy is still evolving and people are learning. With time Nigerians will come to realized that unless a politician makes errors they may not learn to make the system better, and we might not move forward. Whatever the case, the National Assembly will be better now because more prominent people like former governors are coming in with their wealth of experience.
But Nigerians are beginning to criticize the large turnout of former governors to the senate. Are you not worried?
No, I don’t see anything wrong with it. Some of them had legislative experience before they become governors and others only know how the executive is run. So it will take them about 2 years to learn the rules. But it will add colour to the senate and also it’s good because people with huge experience like them are coming there. It’s a good things.
The senate president also lost his reelection bid, do you think it will affect the performance of the outgoing session?
The senate president did not lose his bid because of the senate he lost it because of a revolution in his backyard which he was not able to control. It was a movement that unseated not only him but everybody in Kwara. Of course whether some of the decisions he took might have lead to one thing or the other I don’t know but, one thing that is for certain is that the people of Kwara wanted to change the dynamics of Kwara politics and they succeeded. It was more or less a revolution.
There are fears in some quarters that the executive will want to impose its candidate as senate president to avoid the crises they had with the present National Assembly. If this is true, do you think it’s healthy for our nascent democracy?
The senate are operating on the rules of the constitution and whoever is there must obey the dictates of the constitution. The constitution gives us separate power. But there is nowhere in the world where the executive and legislature are independent of each other. What it does is that they share power, not separation of powers. The separation is that one legislate and the other execute. But we cannot be independent of each other completely. The executive brings the budget while the legislature makes laws that the president accent to. So if as senate president, you said you want to cooperate with the executive, it’s not because you like their face but for the interest of the Nigerian people because both of us are serving the same purpose. Whenever the two clash, its the Nigerian people that are not being served. We want the leadership that will respect the wishes of Nigerians, a seamless relationship that both will cooperate with each other. So we must try and bend backward without breaking the law to give Nigerians the best.
Can you say that this senate was able to achieve its agenda?
Everybody knows how the 8th Senate started. It started with a lot of controversy and it is ending on that note. Its normal, even the US are having problems between the president and the House. Ours was just political and personal interest. Some persons thought they could pursue their personal interest at whatever cost and this lead to lots of crises between the Senate and the Executive. But I think this time, it will be different because we have learnt from our mistake and we know that Nigerians will like to see a robust Senate that will make laws to better the lives of the people. This Senate also tried by ensuring that the animosity between the two leadership did not stop government workings. Projects were still going on and budget was also passed.