By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
ABUJA – GOVERNOR Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna state Tuesday said that the recent threat by members of the defunct New Peoples Democratic, nPDP, to quit the All Progressives Congress, APC, if President Buhari refused to meet with them and address the alleged marginalization of its members will not affect the election victory of the President in 2019.
Some members of the PDP that broke away from the party and joined the APC in 2014 had recently accused the government of President Buhari of not treating them fairly in appointments and distribution of political positions and therefore threatened to dump the APC if the situation remained the same without the President addressing them.
But Governor el-Rufai has said that even if the nPDP members leave the APC, it would not in any way affect the election fortune of the President, who he claimed had always triumphed in previous elections in the states where majority of the nPDP come from.
Fielding questions from the State House correspondents after meeting President Buhari behind closed-doors at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, that the electoral value of the President would diminish in 2019 if members of the defunct nPDP leave the APC, the Kaduna State Governor said that even if the aggrieved members dump the APC, as a result of the grievances they marshaled out, it will not affect the victory of the President in any elections.
He, however, said that the APC, would not want to lose any of its members.
According to him, “I don’t agree and I want to go back to 2003. What are we talking about? Who are these new PDP people that are threatening? This is Kwara, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers but I don’t think Amaechi is part of them. So let’s take these four states, go back to 2003 and check. Buhari then under ANPP won in all these four states.
“Go back to 2007, Buhari won in these four states. Even when Shakarau (Ibrahim) was running as a presidential candidate in 2011, Buhari defeated him in Kano. And, I have no doubt in my mind that even if the people threatening to leave, leave, it will have absolutely no impact on the presidential elections, the president will win Sokoto, Kwara and Adamawa easily.
“Kano is already in the bag, I mean if you saw the crowd that welcome the president without the former governor Kwankwaso, Kano has always been the president’s base. To me that is not the issue, the issue is that they have written, they have expressed grievances, some of the grievances are legitimate and should be looked into.
“But to threaten to leave the party is neither here nor there. If they are honest with themselves they know that President Buhari will win those states with or without them. But if you have a grievance, we are a party and politics is a game of addition not subtraction, so we don’t want to lose anyone.
“So, I think those the letters were addressed to ought to study it and look into what is reasonably possible to accommodate them because politics as I said is a game of addition.”
On why he deployed electronic voting in the just concluded local government elections in Kaduna State, he said, “It was the chairman of the state independent electoral commission, Dr. Saratu Dikko Audu, who was my chemistry teacher in the university that proposed the idea of electronic voting because, she felt that since we used the card reader in the 2015 elections, the next logical step is to connect the card reader to an electronic voting system and we supported it.
“They went on a study tour to Brazil, India to study their own voting systems and they finally ended up with a manufacturer in China. The same manufacturer that manufactured the card reader designed and manufactured the electronic voting machines for us.
“The independent electoral commission of Kaduna State brought in 300 of the machines and spent some months going round the state, market places, and people’s homes to test the use of the machines to show that ordinary people can use it. It cost us a lot of money, the entire election cost us in the region of N4 billion.
“But, mind you with the electronic voting now we don’t need ballot paper, so we saved N1.7 billion in ballot papers alone. And, these machines can be used for three or four more elections because they can last for 10 years, all we need is to upgrade the software to add more parties and so on.
“So, we believe that overall is good value for money and it has worked very well. What we are very happy about is that ordinary people could use it, the interface was friendly, simply and you can finish voting for the chairman and chancellor in less than 15 seconds.”
On the difference it made in terms of credibility, Governor el-Rufai, “I think it gave people the confidence that their votes mattered and for many people that didn’t even want to go out to vote in the elections, curiosity of the electronic voting machines brought them out.
“It made a lot of difference because the electronic voting machine has a record of how many people have voted and once the time for voting closes, it closes and you cannot take it and add more votes. Of course human factors intervened; some people abducted the presiding officers with the machines and engaged in multiple voting.
“Some people tried to change the results and of course we are still doing manual collection. But the data in the electronic voting machine can still be used to discredit some of those changes during the tribunal process. And in areas where there were gross abuses in some of the wards and local governments, SIKON has decided that they will be by-elections.
“One of the problems that led to the human factor problems that I mentioned was because INEC denied us the use of the Card reader. When we were designing the machine, we had the option of integrating the card reader, so that you come with your voters’ card, put in your voters card biometrically confirmed that it is your card and then the machine will open for you to vote.
“But we thought that that will be too complicated since people are used to being accredited separately, it is better we take INEC’s card reader for accreditation and then our machine for voting. But a week to the election, INEC said they are not going to give us the card reader. The reasons they gave to me were not acceptable.
“I called the chairman and I tried to persuade him to make it available to us but we didn’t get the card reader. I am hoping, I have spoken to him again, that for the bye-elections, the two local governments and the other wards, we are going to get the card reader so that the human link that is subject to abuse would be eliminated and hence you cannot change anything.
“If you change anything the card reader will expose the number of those accredited and that number must tally with the number of people that voted, otherwise the result gets automatically cancelled. So we are working on that. So I have just seen Mr. President, I have briefed him on this and he has expressed his pleasure at the way and manner as a party in Kaduna, we are allowed free and fair elections.
“The president believes in free, fair and credible elections and he said it doesn’t matter if you lose some local governments, what is important is for the elections to be free and fair. This is an APC government, it is a government of fairness and justice and he was very happy with the way we conducted the elections with Kaduna so far.”