Even as President Muhammadu Buhari is gradually settling down into his second term in office, the camp of Atiku Abubakar, his major challenger at the polls, , has remained optimistic that the ongoing litigation will turn out in favour of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Buhari will in a matter of months be out of office. In this exclusive chat with Abdulrahman Abdulraheem, Atiku’s spokesman, Segun Sowunmi, said aside the weight of evidence of massive rigging of the polls available to PDP which will be used to prosecute the ongoing case, the judiciary needs to rescue the country from the iron grip of President Buhari who he accused of showing lack of direction and lack of preparation for governance.
The last time we spoke, you expressed optimism that Atiku’s petition will be successful at the tribunal. Now that the full hearing has commenced with a lot of incidents at the tribunal, do you still nurse such optimism?
If I was optimistic before now, I am grossly, doubly optimistic right now that our petition will be successful. I am privileged to be privy to some of the evidences that will be presented to the court and the direction our argument will go. My brother I can tell you confidently, on my honour, that we won that election. I have good knowledge of the evidences and witnesses that will be unleashed on the nation and I am more optimistic now that our case would be too strong for any judge to say no to. If their lordships, the judges of the Appeal Court, will do justice is another thing. If technical ambushes will not stop us, I can assure you that victory will be ours at the end of the day.
Aside the issues you campaigned with prior to the election, how can you assess the performance of President Buhari since he was sworn-in for a new term on May 29?
There is really nothing to assess. The country has been on pause for as long as I can recall. The government has been on pause for so long. It has been over a hundred days since our stolen mandate was given to President Buhari; it has been over 35 days since the man was sworn-in, yet nothing has happened. Not even the constitution of a cabinet. In fact, the President also kept several of his aides and other key government functionaries in office for so long without announcing their re-appointment. While he made a couple of the re-appointmnts recently after some outrage, he still left many hanging. They are still in office, still issuing statements without any official announcement. For God sake, what does it cost for a government to issue a one-page statement announcing simple appointments in line with rules and conventions? Is that the standard we have in Ghana, Rwanda and South Africa where new governments also came around the time President Buhari came and they all appointed their cabinet within hours or days of being sworn-in?
Can you believe that despite all the time available to the President, there is no direction up till now. Even to make statutory appointments and replacements is a big problem. It is like President Buhari likes the lobby, hustle and bustle going on in the Villa with regards to cabinet positions. What are the aides acting on as there is no re-appointment? They have never been ready for governance. They are still not ready. It is unfortunate where we have found ourselves as a nation. It is cruel this mis-governance or no governance at all is what Nigerians have to put up with for the next few months until our Lordships see the light and do justice for the suffering millions of people who chose light over darkness, prosperity over poverty, by voting overwhelmingly for Atiku Abubakar.
In 2015, the President said he didn’t have to appoint ministers on time since they were mere noisemakers and in fact he waited for six months before making the appointments. If he eventually makes the 2019 appointments before six months, would you consider that an achievement by his standards?
We cant accept indolence as a way of life, definitely not at the level of the people who lead us and have the power to decide our destiny. It is not a one-man job. Look at how the Ruga issue exposed their lack of coordination in the government. I don’t know how they came up with the curious and rash decisions that caused all that heat in the polity because there is no Minister in Agriculture in office to use his own expertise and experience to oversee things. Buhari sees governance the way a small boy sees the toy he plays with which he just wants to keep to himself and he doesn’t want anyone to come close to. They once gave the excuse of the Senate not being in session for the delay in sending cabinet list even though you and I know that the lawmakers would have cut short their recess if something as serious as a cabinet list of ministers had emanated from the Presidency. Now that the ministers are back from break, where is the list of ministers? We are not impressed, there is really nothing to assess. We are also not disappointed because we don’t expect much from an administration that has made poverty, unemployment, insecurity and corruption its achievements.
Talking about insecurity, some of the killings that plagued the country before the elections seem to have gotten worse and escalated to more states since President Buhari was announced winner of the election. What do you think is responsible for this development?
Let us tell ourselves the truth, security issues are very difficult to deal with. No degree of fire for fire can deal with the enormity of the problems we are facing. We need a comprehensive review and overhaul of the entire structure of our security services as proposed by Atiku in his plan to Get Nigeria Working Again. I am not talking about routine change of personnel and award of contracts. I am taking about a detailed change in strategies and tactics and going deeper into the root of problems including morale, welfare of personnel and recruitment process as well as socio-economic issues that expose people to danger. I am talking about other issues like the porosity of our borders, the serious problems in the Sahel region, Syria border and how violent herdsmen allegedly moving freely to pose danger to local populations including the interest ISIS has shown in Boko Haram and how the terror group has now metamorphosed into ISWAP. With these issues and dangerous developments, a serous Commander-in-Chief should have known long ago that our security architecture is due for a major overhaul. The generals have to go when their tenures expire because I dont understand the idea behind keeping people who should retire longer than necessary when there should be too many brighter, younger guys with better capacity and up-to-date expertise ready to step up if our recruitment and promotion process is devoid fundamental problems. It is not every noise you hear at the neighiurhhod you send soldiers to go and resolve with iron hand. The C-in-C has missed the target and is applying the wrong tactics.
Now that you have said a lot about the problems, if Atiku’s petition is upheld and he is sworn-in as President today, where will he start from?
Atiku Abubakar has over the years taken his time to think deeply about the problems and with a vibrant team of world-class thinkers proferred workable solutions to them, some of which you heard during the electioneering and for which Nigerians chose him over the incumbent. The clarity of Atiku’s diagnosis and the fact that he has been around long enough to know the places to go and all that will also help in the quick resolution of the problems. Atiku’s attitude to national issues and his sensitivity to the country’s diversity will also help in bringing an end to the security challenges. Atiku will be a unifying factor. He will be that centre of unity that all Nigerians from all ethnic groups and religions will come to and will find easy to relate with.
Due to his cross-national and international profile and connections, the investments will come in and the economy will receive massive boost. Foreign Direct Investments that will expand the economy and create jobs and return the era of prosperity will easily flow. Atiku will put his extensive experience and cognitive skills into action, make prompt appointment of credible hands that will help him actualize he prosperous Nigeria of his dream in such a way that even some of the social and economic problems that contribute to the security crises will begin to reduce gradually till they are fully wiped of. The problem we have in this country right now is one dimensional thinking. People in power don’t even understand the enormity of the problems. They don’t have the depth to think of far-reaching solutions as they are just repeating the same old popular tricks that are not working and that will never work.
Nigeria is in trouble right now and that is the consequence of a stolen mandate. The stolen mandate has terrible consequences. We therefore hope that our Lordships summon the courage to do justice to our petition and restore the smile of poor Nigerians who voted for a serious candidate like Atiku Abubakar. We can only urge our Lordships not to be cowed by the desperate antecedents of some people. They should dispense justice on the basis of the overwhelming evidence and testimonies available to them. Their conscience and the need to restore Nigeria should guide them and not the fear of the Executive. They should not be intimidated by the fate of Onnoghen and other. colleagues. They have a date with history.
… What if Atiku’s petition fails at the Supreme court, what next?
Like I said before we do not envisage any failure at both the tribunal and Supreme Court. We trust and respect the impartiality and integrity of our Lordships, that is why we did the right thing by going to court. I said before that the evidences and testimonies at our disposal are overwhelming and we don’t see how the judges will not deliver justice to the Nigerian people. But if due to any resort to technicalities or frivolous considerations, Atiku is not declared winner, Nigerians still have to be grateful to him. The court will at least make strong pronouncements that will make us to sub-correct the whole electoral process in such a way that Nigeria never has such a terrible election again. Whatever happens, Atiku remains a hero.