By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Bashir Ibrahim YusufÂ Â is the Secretary, Northern Political Leaders Forum andÂ an executive committee member ofÂ ACF. HeÂ is also the Deputy Director-General of Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation.
In this encounter, he answers questions on former Vice President Atikuâ€™s presidential ambition and suggests that PDP should make its position on zoning very clear by removing Jonathan from the 2011 presidentialÂ equation because it is not theÂ turn of his zone to produce the next president.
It is five months to the elections and there seems to be no preparationsÂ onÂ ground yet. Many issues are pending. Do you think this election will hold at the scheduled time?
The election will hold. This is Nigeria. We are resilient. We may have issues but we will sort ourselves out and the elections will hold.
The debate for and against zoning, electoral reforms and voters registration is likely to affect the conduct ofÂ elections as scheduled ?
We are looking forward to holding the elections and they will hold. The arguments in politics are normal because so many people are interested in power. But when the elections draw closer, some of the arguments will disappear for elections to hold at the appointed time because if it doesnâ€™t hold, we are going to hold Jonathan responsible.
But he is not the umpire for the elections.
He is, himself and his ministers will be held responsible if anything about the elections fails to take place.
The National Assembly….
The National Assembly is not the problem.The National Assembly has finished working on the electoral act and the electoral act is waiting for the accent ofÂ the President. So, if anything goes wrong, the President is responsible.
Funds have been approved for INEC for the commencement of preparations but not yet disbursed.
Yes, money has been approved but it has not been disbursed. The INEC is waiting for President Jonathan and his ministers to disburse the money and so, I maintain my earlier statement thatÂ we should hold the President responsible for anything that goes wrong with the elections.
It requiresÂ the national assembly to appropriate money and it has appropriated money for this project. INEC cannot function without money. The National Assembly has appropriated money for the conduct of elections and the President should disburse it.
You belong to ACF?
Iâ€™m a member of the Executive Committee of ACF.
The newspapers last week were bold with the headlines that the ACF has advised all the parties to adopt NorthernÂ presidential candidates. Why did the body take that decision? ACF should be apolitical.
ACF is not apolitical but it is non-partisan. It is normal for ACF to suggest that all the parties should adopt their presidential candidates from the North. The issue of who becomes the president of Nigeria is everybodyâ€™s concern and we all know it is the turn of the North till 2015.
YouÂ are theÂ Deputy D-G of Atikuâ€™sCampaign Organisation but PDP has not cleared him yet to contest 2011 presidential elections.
PDP has not cleared him because PDP is playing a game. And it is not new for PDP to play games during elections.
There is a section in PDPâ€™s constitution that demands that if one leaves the party to join another party and later comes back, it will take about a year for such a person to qualify to contest elections on the platform of the party.
Perhaps there is butÂ there is the Alex Ekwueme Committee recommendation which says that aggrieved members of the party who have returned should be accepted unconditionally. This recommendation has been accepted by the PDP NEC and that applies to Atiku.
But you know that PDP would want President Jonathan to contest 2011 presidential election.
I think he should not contest. He is a Nigerian but it is not the turn of the South to produce the president or to contest presidential election. It is the turn of the North.
PDP agreed that 2007 to 2015 is the turn of the North. So, ifÂ he is a party member and loyalist, he should not contest election. That portion is still there in the constitution.It has not been changed.
Considering the fact that he is a child of circumstance…
Yes, circumstances made him the President. He became President because Yarâ€™Adua died but Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s mandate expires 29th May 2011. Their ticket is a one-term ticket which expires May 29, 2011. They were elected for one term, 2007-2011.
Yarâ€™Adua would have gone for a second term in office. And PDP thinksÂ he should run Yarâ€™Aduaâ€™s second term.
Yarâ€™Adua would have gone for a second term if he was alive. But his death was unfortunate. Jonathan and Yarâ€™Adua were elected for one term ofÂ four years. They were entitled to a second term. Even today, nobody is saying Jonathan has no right to contest.
What we are saying is that his party has decided that it is not his turn to do so. But if he wants to defy the position of the party, there is no problem. He is free to do so.
Some PDP members areÂ saying that there is zoning in the partyâ€™sÂ constitution and others are saying there is nothing like that. To avoid problems with the elections, one thinks PDP should resolve this issue.
To tell you the truth, if anything happens during the elections to jeopardise peace and stability in the country, Jonathan should be held responsible and he knows that what he is doing is dividing the country. He has the mandate toÂ rule Nigeria till May 29, 2011.
He should concentrate on fulfillingÂ this mandate and to giving this country a free and fair election and handing over to the winner. IfÂ he derails in doing that, then, he would have failed in his number one duty to Nigerians because what Nigerians needÂ is what will hold the country together and move us forward more than anything else.
Nigerians are yearning for free and fair elections and if thatÂ fails, he should hold himself responsible. Nigerians are not yearning for Jonathan to run 2011. What they want from him isÂ free and fair elections.
There are six geo-political zones and not just the North/South. Jonathan comes from a geo-political zone thatÂ has been under-developed despite being the main provider of resources in the country. Shouldnâ€™t the North concede to the South-South based on this?
You see, Nigeria is not about oil. Nigeria is about people. We have many places in Nigeria where there is no oil but yet, the people there live their livesÂ peacefully . We should not say someone should become President because of oil being generated from where he comes from.
It is turn-by-turn, North verses South and we are saying, it is not the turn of the South. You donâ€™t say that others should go to hell because someone comes from a region that oil is generated. This issue of oil should not form the basis for blackmail.
No. Producing oil should not be the basis forÂ producing the president. Many people from the South-South are not supporting Jonathan for presidency. The argument about oil and power should not go together.
The South-South has not produced Nigeriaâ€™s president in the past.
Then, it should wait. That should be the more reason why the South-South should respect this zoning arrangement. They should wait and that is even more why Jonathan should not do anything to jeopardise the South-South chance ofÂ producing the President in the future. Jonathan should vie when it becomes his turn and if he performs well now, he will get everybodyâ€™s support in future.
Perhaps the party should hurry its national convention because it is believed that all these will stop when the party does this.
PDP is speaking from both sides ofÂ the mouth on the issue of who produces the next President. But it has become necessary for the national convention to hold so the candidate will emerge because other parties are getting interested in this matter.
Those can take their time and hold their convention at any time but PDP is the problem now. It created this problem and must find a way to sort it out.
The way things are going, zoning is now a national debate, not a PDP affair anymore.
Well, for all of us talking about zoning, have youÂ heard of any other party presenting a South-South candidate to run? No other party is doingÂ that and nobody from the South-South is vying on the platform of any other party except the PDP and that is where the problemÂ is.
So, what is your advice to PDP,Â to the politicians and to Nigerians who are beginning to lose confidence in the system?
Nigerians should be optimistic about the elections. All these issues being debated would stop. There would be elections and Nigerians should look forward to free and fair elections where their votes will count. Once we get that right, we will have our God- chosen leaders and everything will fall into place.
So, for you, it is between Atiku and IBB?
Iâ€™m glad you didnâ€™t put Jonathan into the equation. It is up to the PDP to decide between Atiku , IBB. and others. Once Jonathan is out of the equation, the problem will be solved. The party has to do things right by getting Jonathan out of the equation because it is not the turn of his zone and, he should not jump the queue.