After three failed attempts in 2003, 2007 and 2011, Muhammadu Buhari was elected President of Nigeria at the fourth attempt in 2015. In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party from Adamawa State, Umar Ardo, narrated why he believes Mr. Jonathan lost re-election to the current president.
PT: Sir, the Buhari administration is now two years in office. Looking at what it achieved against the promises both the party and Buhari made to Nigerians during the campaigns, what is your assessment?
Ardo: I don’t know what promises APC made, but I marked the three basic ones of Buhari – insecurity, corruption and the economy. You know I am a hyper-critic, difficult to satisfy as most times I tend to overthink things. On insecurity, the regime has substantially incapacitated the Boko Haram insurgency. Being from Adamawa State in the north-east, I can attest to that. Though there are still some sporadic attacks here and there, generally things have quietened down. But Buhari promised to tackle insecurity, which insurgency is just one aspect of; there are militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery, internecine killings, ritual killings, communal clashes, etc. These are still very much around. In other words, insurgency as a national threat has been considerably dealt with, but insecurity of individuals and groups is yet to be appreciably tackled.
A lot needs to be done if the regime’s scorecard on general security is to square up. On corruption, I can say both the approach and the fight are superficial; they are not thorough and well thought-out. In fact, from the David Babachir’s (suspended Secretary to the Government of the Federation) example, I can say the government is even losing the fight as nothing seems to have changed. On the economy, let’s remember we are still in recession; Naira’s exchange rates are still unacceptably high. As it is now, I dare not score the regime above average.
PT: You went to court in 2014 to stop Jonathan from contesting on constitutional ground, but you did not succeed. Do you see his electoral loss as a kind of compensation for your efforts?
Let us say I went to court to get a constitutional interpretation of having a president holding office for a cumulative period exceeding eight years. The Supreme Court failed to take that matter. But I am writing a book chronicling my experience in Nigerian courts in which the issue is treated. The book is a critique of the judgments entered against me in the 10 civil suits I instituted. From a litigant’s viewpoint, the book reviews those judgments to fault the arguments. It will be out within the year.
PT: So many people have commented on the loss of the 2015 elections by PDP. Jonathan blamed it on the US, etc. What in your view led to the defeat of an incumbent for the first time in Nigeria?
I think I answered this question in an article l wrote, published by this paper in July 2015 titled “Why PDP Failed to Rule for 60 Years.” So, when I read Segun Adeniyi’s “Against the Run of Play”, where Jonathan made those allegations, I found some fundamental defects of left-outs in facts and analysis. The most critical take-off point and questions leading to the merger and Buhari’s subsequent candidacy and victory are missing. Any analysis of the 2015 presidential election that does not have as its starting point the suit of CPC in the 2011 Presidential Election Tribunal and its fallouts is obviously grossly defective.
What makes the 2011 tribunal critical is that its institution altered Buhari’s political stance and its fallouts made easy the merger for APC. Recall that on Wednesday 13th April, 2011, when rounding up his presidential campaign, Buhari said, among other things, that if he lost the 16th April election neither him nor his political party would challenge the outcome at the presidential election tribunal, and that the 2011 presidential election would be his third and final time in ever contesting any elective office. He wouldn’t leave politics, he had said, but he wouldn’t ever contest again. On April 16th, the presidential election took place and on the 18th, Professor Attahiru Jega announced the results and pronounced Buhari and his CPC defeated.
Against Buhari’s 13th April avowal, that would’ve been the end. Yet, CPC went to tribunal to challenge the outcome of the April 16th election, and Buhari contested in 2015 again; meaning that Buhari’s vow had been reversed. The rational questions are: what happened? Why and how did the CPC go to tribunal? Why and how did Buhari contest again in 2015? Until these questions are asked and answered, any narrative and analysis of the APC merger, Buhari’s contest and the defeat of an incumbent will be incomplete and defective. I did not see these questions asked and answered.
l did not also see the narrative and analysis of the presidential election tribunal and its fallouts, principally the sacking of Justice Isa Salami, in the politics of the merger and the 2015 presidential election made, either in the books of Professor Paden or Adeniyi, or in other narratives and analyses of the election. With this vital missing links, it’s natural to fall into misperceptions, misconceptions, misrepresentations, mispresentations and even mischief in accounting for Buhari’s mystical political turnaround in 2015. This is a major flaw in Paden’s and Adeniyi’s books that rendered their general conclusions untenable.
President Jonathan lost the election from that Sunday he removed Justice Salami as President Court of Appeal because that act effectually ended the secret alliance between Jonathan’s PDP and Tinubu’s ACN. More importantly, it handed over Tinubu’s ACN to Buhari’s CPC for the APC merger. The reason is of the then six ACN-controlled states, only Lagos was by INEC’s pronouncement; the rest was by tribunals’ pronouncements headed by Justice Salami as President Court of Appeal. So, Salami’s brazen removal obviously was a serious affront to the ACN. The causal causation is this – without CPC going to tribunal, Salami wouldn’t have been removed; without Salami’s removal, ACN would not have been thrown into the arms of Buhari, without which there would’ve been no merger, and without which incumbent wouldn’t have been defeated.
PT: Would you then say it was a case of political sophistication that made Buhari to see the signs and contest a fourth time after he had declared he wasn’t going to contest again or what?
I suppose he saw a winning strategy practically placed before him, superior to previous ones. He saw from his three defeats a convincing victory formula formulated. It took him less than three hours to make up his mind. Afterwards he called back and said “I accept your suggestions; go ahead and implement them”. And so, they were implemented. The rest, as they say, is history! Thus, the foundation for Buhari’s fourth attempt and victory, turning around his political fortune, was singularly devised. Every other thing done thereafter in furtherance of that objective was built on that very foundation. This is without prejudice to other great efforts and contributions made by individuals and groups, singularly and collectively.
PT: You are PDP, why engineer the defeat of your party? Is it because of regional and religious considerations?
The driving consideration was the nation. I believed President Jonathan did not much understand the dynamics of our national politics, which understanding was vital if he was to govern well. That’s why the country was slipping out of control. I believed the first solution in halting the slide was regime change. It was the same national consideration that led to my initiating and driving South-south’s presidency in 2007, the Dr. Odili for president bid, at the end of eight years of ‘Southern Christian rule’ under Obasanjo. I was convinced that it was good national politics to reciprocate South-south’s economic contributions to the nation and as traditional allies of the North.
PT: Some have said the inability of Jonathan to reconcile with the ACN after it threw up Tambuwal as speaker was a major gaffe that later led to Jonathan’s defeat. How far is that true?
It started the process no doubt, but the removal of Salami completed the jigsaw.
PT: Your party, the PDP, seems headed for destruction. Can it be remedied?
PDP will not get destroyed; we won’t let it happen. Let’s await the outcome of the Supreme Court case then things will start happening. Did you see IBB’s daughter’s wedding in Minna lately? That shows PDP still has the greatest elites’ mobilizing capacity in the country. That should tell people something about 2019.