Honourable Simon Yakubu Arabo, a lawyer, represents Kauru federal constituency of Kaduna State on the platform of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). In this interview with Juliet Oyoyo, DAILY INDEPENDENT he speaks on the postponement of election, PDP’s chances in Kaduna state and other issues. Excerpts:
The recent comments by former President Olusegun Obasanjo is being viewed as disparaging the office of the President and has attracted a lot of comments, especially from the elders of the PDP who are calling for his suspension. As a member of the National Assembly and a stakeholder of the PDP, what are your views on this?
Let me start by saying that I was alarmed by the statements credited to the former President, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo and I hope he was not quoted out of context. But, if it is true that he said that the incumbent President is trying to win the March 28th Presidential election by hook or crook, to me that is like playing God; implying that he already knows the outcome of the election. And if it turns the other way round, then it will be implied that it was not a free and fair election and that is putting everybody in the country. In fact, it raises very strong security issues; putting everybody at risk. He cannot play God and it is only God that knows the outcome of the forthcoming elections.
And, I think that it is carrying liberty too far for statements from a man that many people hold in very high esteem. That to me is taking liberty too far from a reasonable level. Like I said, the statements to my mind, puts everybody in very strong security issues in the country and to that extent, has elements of subversion. I believe that, we expect something better from the former President. He should be interested in the security and stability of this country; he should be interested in the peace of this country. As to what the party would do with him is left for the leadership of the party but I am saying as a stakeholder, as a National Assembly member, we expect more matured and decorum statements from the former President of the country.
It was reported that the “Northern Christian Leaders” endorsed General Muhammadu Buhari and this has caused a lot of problems amongst the Christian faith. What is your view on this situation where it is said that religious leaders are getting too involved in politics?
As far as I am concerned, it is not true that Christian leaders endorsed Buhari. I was in Lagos when I saw that news but in the content, it just said: “some” and in any event, subsequently, I also watched on AIT, some Christians elders denying the fact that the forum had actually endorsed Buhari. As a matter of fact, to me, Buhari played into the hands of some fraudsters. So, I do not believe that a group of Christian elders in the North or whatever endorsed Buhari. In any event, some people have come out to deny it. And I think, it is not very proper for them to do a thing like that. In any event, some people have come to say; it is not true and those who made the purported endorsement have not come to restate their position. So, it makes it very suspect.
There is a lot of apprehension in the political circle following the postponement of the elections. A lot of people from the Southern parts have already relocated out of the North for fear of possible outcome of the elections. Do you think this would affect the outcome of the elections in terms of the voting rights of this group of Nigerians?
I do not subscribe to people relocating because of fear of elections. And I can tell you that some people have died in the process of relocating, which is very sad and unfortunate. Talking about the postponement of the elections, I don’t see what the big deal is about the fact that INEC has reconstructed the election time-table. This is not the first time that INEC is doing that anyway. People should only cry foul if INEC is planning to hold elections less than thirty days before the end of the tenure of the current administration. Otherwise, what INEC did is still within the constitutional window.
So, I do not believe that hell should be let lose because INEC postponed election. In fact, it happened in 2011, so it is not new. I believe sincerely in my heart that the fixed date window that INEC has gotten that they should be able to get their acts together, completely. I do not believe that people should insinuate ulterior motives because INEC postponed elections, the election is still within the legal time frame and there is nothing wrong with that. If INEC has its reasons in postponing the election, why not?
We cannot have a constitutional crisis because they are not doing their elections beyond the life of the current regime. And in any event, I sincerely believe with all my heart that elections will hold, Nigeria will remain and a new government will come in place, in May 29th.
What do you think would be the fate of the IDPs in terms of their PVCs?
I think INEC should be able to have a way of getting to them. I don’t know how INEC is going to arrange for them to vote but there is no way that they can vote without the fact that they have to go and vote, based on their constituencies but, let me make this point very clear. It is not practicable to have 100% distribution of the PVCs. It is not possible. Firstly, because some people have died, some people, like you said, have relocated. On the issue of the IDPs, INEC should find a way of getting to them and I hope that there will be good security for them to go and see these people and give them their PVCs and they cannot vote based on their own constituencies. I think that is why the government is trying to see whether it can create an atmosphere, within the six weeks period for them to resettle these people so that they can go back to their constituencies so that they can vote.
A lot of politicians, especially PDP members from the South are jittery. They feel that the PDP members from the North have sold out to the opposition parties because of religious and ethnic bias. How sincere would you say are the PDP members from the North in providing the required support to Mr. President?
I would not know whether anybody is very sincere or not. That will manifest on the day of the election but it is stated that, any PDP member, irrespective of his tribal inclination to the nation must work for the party. On the day of the election, it is not Jonathan’s picture that will be on the ballot. It is the logo of the party to which all of us are members.
So, it is expected that every PDP member, whether you are from the North or whichever part of the country, it is expected that you are supposed work for the interest of the party. If there are any people who for any reason, should work against the party that will be very unfortunate. But, as to whether they are sincere or not, that I cannot say now because, like Shakespeare will say, “there is no art to find the man’s construction of the face”.
So, it will be very clear on the 28th of March 2015, 28 hours after as INEC has said, we will know the results.
My plea to all PDP faithful, all over Nigeria is that, all of us should bury our differences, be it religious, tribal or whatsoever and work for the progress of our party.
That is, we are going to do what is expected of us. Every PDP member is expected to work for the party. It will be very unfortunate if it is the other way round for a member of the party to work against the party for whatever inclinations. If that happens, it would be termed as unbecoming of a loyal party member. It is expected that a member should be loyal and supportive to the party. It is the party that is going to be on the ballot, not the President or any other candidate for that matter, because, for now, there is no independent candidature under our laws.
So, every candidate that is contesting is doing so on the platform of a political party and it is therefore expected that party members should go with the party. And in any event, if we are not pretentious, nobody can say that Jonathan has not done anything for this country. That will be very uncharitable.
If you look at the statistics of the key positions in the current, they are being held by northerners. So, what are they talking about? As a journalist, go and do your research and you will discover that most of the key sectors of the leadership in this country, currently are being run by the northerners. Will the world end in 2019? 2019 is not far and I believe that the North should wait till 2019. That is my honest and candid advice. Hell will not break loose; the world will not end because somebody is going to be on the seat for another four years and, the man is performing anyway. But, of course, the man has his own shortcomings.
My call therefore, to every PDP member is that let us all work together for the party and I think, for the good of the entire country.
All these years that the North has ruled, other parts of the country that should have complained have not really been complaining. I think, the North by its behaviour, is gluttonous for power.
The Kaduna state chapter of the PDP is fighting a serious battle considering the kind of candidate the opposition is fielding in the person of Mallam Nasir el-Rufai. How prepared is your party, the PDP to retain its position?
I am a stakeholder of the PDP in Kaduna state and it is my prayer everyday that our party will win at the state level, all positions and then at the central level.
Talking specifically about Kaduna state, it is my prayer that we retain then governorship of Kaduna state. Of course, you are talking about their fighting an opposition in the state. But in any event, PDP made el-Rufai who he is today. No pretense about it. We, the PDP made him who he is today. So, he has the right to contest but what we ask for is that we should do this thing with decorum and mutual respect. I sincerely believe with all my heart that our party faithful are going to be loyal to the party that come April 11th, during the gubernatorial election, should be able to deliver Kaduna state for the PDP.
In any event, the good thing is that both the Governor and the APC candidate are from the same part of the state and that is beautiful for us.