By Dirisu Yakubu
Alhaji Shehu Gabam is the National Chairman of the Social Democratic Party, SDP. In this exclusive interview, Gabam speaks on a wide range of national issues including the 2023 general elections, the nation’s faulty political recruitment process, why Nigerians should ditch Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu for SDP’s Presidential candidate, Adewole Adebayo, among sundry issues. Excerpts:
The Electoral Act (amended) is giving a lot of Nigerians hope that the 2023 general elections would pass the credibility test. Do you have any fears that the elections may still fall short of expectation despite the new law?
Well, the Electoral Act (amended) is a welcome development. There is no doubt it has improved certain sections that are very complicated. It has untied the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, that was unable to move or do certain things. It has empowered INEC to take certain decisions, simplify issues and take away high profile corruption even within INEC itself. Before now, once you submit your documents to INEC, if you are not lucky, somebody will take your file and hide it but this time around, you send every single item through the system. There is no obstruction absolutely and nobody can tamper with it. So, there is a paradigm shift.
However, some of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System, BVAS, being used in the states, recorded a lot of issues. In some states, there were lots of allegations that the BVAS were being programmed not to function, to put someone or parties that have large population of voters around those areas, at a disadvantage . These are some of the major observations and concerns that parties have raised and INEC is aware of them.
Your Presidential candidate would be up against highly experienced politicians like Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Bola Tinubu of the APC. Do you agree with those who argue that his lack of political experience may count against him at the polls?
President Muhammadu Buhari has more experience than all these ones you have mentioned. He was a former military Head of State, former military governor, erstwhile Minister of Petroleum Resources and more. How has he performed as an elected president?
So for me, I don’t consider experience as the singular most important factor in who should be our president. What Nigeria is going through today has nothing to do with experience, but everything to do with agility, capacity and ability to perform the task of nation-building. We need someone that can take apt decision, spend his time not sleeping but monitoring the situation of the country, giving decisive orders and creating deterrence for those who do not obey law and order.
Yes, Tinubu and Atiku have their experiences. Tinubu has been part of the system for a very long time, Atiku has been part of the system for a very long time but again, none of them has contested presidency and won before. Atiku has contested Presidency a couple of times and have lost. Tinubu is contesting for the first time.
I know as a matter of fact that Tinubu did well as governor of Lagos State. I was in Lagos when he was the governor but the dynamics have changed; the situation of Nigeria has changed. Nigeria requires someone who can melt into the whole system and deal with the system decisively.
The administration of President Buhari is winding down with less than a year to go but he vows to hand over a peaceful and secure Nigeria to his successor. How optimistic are you about this?
That benefit of the doubt is what brought us to this sorry state. Don’t forget that when he was campaigning, there was this ravaging Boko Haram challenge but he said that within six months, he would wipe it out and stabilise the country. This same President said that and on that basis, he raised the hopes of Nigerians. On the basis of his background as a military man, Nigerians were optimistic. All these turned out to be fallacy.
He has not exhibited the experience he has and as a result, the country is descending into anarchy day by day. The boldness of these gunmen is unprecedented. The President’s convoy was attacked, Kuje Prison was bombed. The President was there to see the level of damage but nothing has happened. We were told there were security reports before the attack. Why were there no proactive measures taken?
The president has displayed lack of capacity. He appointed people that have not shown that they are committed and that they have the capacity to stop these crimes from happening. What is the percentage of these criminals that are destabilising the state? They are less than 1 per cent and now they are destabilising the whole country and the President is the Commander-in-Chief. Now, if the commander is not commanding well, what happens? Anarchy will ensue.
There is a clamour for a reform of the political recruitment process. How do you think credible candidates can emerge in subsequent elections regardless of their financial status?
Did you see how we conducted our convention? It was decent, credible, transparent and was rated highly by INEC. The process of also producing our presidential candidate followed same pattern. This new thing of vote- buying will cripple the country and it will raise gangsterism. People will form criminal gangs or what have you, just to get money. They will not bother to campaign as they will wait for election period and just buy votes. May we not become countries like Mexico where drug barons are driving the government.
These are the implications of allowing vote-buying to continue. It will collapse the democratic process, ridicule the system beyond anybody’s imagination and then, we will have people who stole money and bought their way into governance. Such people will not perform as they will be busy trying to recover what they have put in. What is even more important today is that 65 to 70 per cent of PVC owners are anti-establishment. They are the youths. Now whether the youths want to sell their votes, I don’t know. But if the youths are not selling their votes, you can completely be rest assured that the status quo will not remain. You can be rest assured that Nigeria will have a new leadership, you can be rest assured that we will have a new system that will decisively deal with the current situation. However, if the youths decide to sell their votes, then Nigeria will be more in trouble and nobody would be able to salvage the situation.