El-Rufai’s statement very unfortunate –Abdullahi

17 February, 2019 Interview Culled from New Telegraph

Elder statesman Professor Ango Abdullahi is the leader of the Northern Elders Forum, (NEF) which recently, along with other socio-cultural groups, endorsed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. In this interview with BABA NEGEDU in Kaduna, he explains why the elders decided to dump President Muhammadu Buhari, adding that the President failed to live up to expectation

Reactions have been trailing your endorsement of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Why did you take such action?

We have done, what we have done, let us now allow the voters to vote. But you can also ask the voters that, so that they can tell you what they want to do. Do your research, go round the states, seek the opinion of voters then you will be able to assess the situation, whether voters will swing to the side of Atiku or remain where they are, that is the only way to get it. As for me I have given my opinion, I have given my views. It is now up to the voters to do what they have to do. I think that is the way to do it.

Is this endorsement a follow up to the vote of no confidence passed on the Buhari administration some time ago, by the NEF and other organizations in the north?

Well, doesn’t that also make sense? Let me say that if we had supported him before and now we do not support him again, then there must be a reason and we have given reasons why we will no longer support him. In our previous submissions and communiques which am sure you must have reported, we gave reasons why we thought our support should no longer be given.

In some of your communiques before now, you raised the issue of farmers, herders clash, insecurity in the North-East and unity of the country, you believe Atiku has what it takes to curb all these menace?

That is why you will have to go and ask Atiku, please ask Atiku whether he has what it takes to do what we are hoping he would do. But it is a matter of hope, because when we did that of Buhari, we did not sit Buhari down to ask him what he would be able to do, or what he would do. But when we found out that he was not able to do a lot of things that we expected him to do, we said so. But as it is now if the same thing happens to Atiku in one or two years, this is the kind of reaction that he would get; though it is a matter of expectations that Atiku would do better than our current leader.

But are you worried that NEF and the ACF are not working together on this project?

We have never worked together before, they said they are a socio cultural organization and we said we are a political activist group. That is why we formed the Northern Elders Forum in the first place, because if we wanted to stay as a socio cultural group like the way the ACF is we would not have found it necessary to form the Northern Elders Forum. I hope you know that it is the NEF that fought the battle from 2011 up till for where we are today, which am sure you remember. So actually we don’t have to work with ACF, we don’t have to work with them at all.

What was ACF not doing right that you had to form the Northern Elders Forum to correct?

They were not fair in telling people what is wrong, especially people here in the North; they are always sitting on the fence on matters that they should ordinarily come forward to speak clearly, truthfully and critically about; they always sit on the fence. The Northern Elders Forum is not fence sitters. We always say what we understand we should say.

I spoke with the Secretary-General of the ACF, Anthony Sani, on the endorsement and he said it is only a faction of the NEF that endorsed Atiku?

Anthony Sani is not the spokesman of ACF.

But he is the Secretary….

He said a faction? But does he belongs to NEF. You should have asked him whether he belongs to NEF. If he belongs to NEF then he can talk about factions in NEF but if he is not a member then he cannot speak for NEF. But then you can understand from his comments where he belongs. He does not belong to where Northern Elders Forum belongs, but still that is okay, because it was never expected that everybody will do things the same way we do or that people should expect that we do things the way they do. That is the beauty of freedom of speech and freedom of association, freedom to hold and share opinion with other people and even gather people. So from what the Secretary of ACF has said you know where he stands, he does not stand where we stand, we said we would not endorse Buhari. So he must be one of the supporters of Buhari, it is as simple as that. What he said shows where he belongs.

But does the endorsement have what it takes to deliver Atiku at the polls?

All I can say is that if you dismiss all those groups and associations that endorsed Atiku, then I don’t have anything to say. It is now left to you to adopt those groups that you consider as something. May be let me say that you will dismiss Afenifere, you will dismiss Ohanaeze, you want to dismiss the Middle Belt Forum and you also dismiss the Northern Elders Forum, and then maybe you will endorse ACF. That is your position.

I don’t have a position or endorse anyone or group, what I’m saying is you have heard the Buhari campaign organization say the endorsement will not translate into votes …?.

Well, let them wait for the votes to be counted. Why are they in a hurry to respond? They should wait until people vote, the day the votes would be counted. The election is for people to come out and vote and what I think do not translate into votes and what they think will not necessarily translate into votes, so they should wait for the voters to come out and tell us where their votes will go. But for now we are just giving opinion and other people are free to also give their own opinion and then they said that our own opinion do not matter and their own matter. But what will decide the matter is the peoples votes.

Are you hopeful of free and fair elections?

We held a meeting at Arewa House in Kaduna penultimate Wednesday. It was a fruitful meeting where all issues were discussed. We invited the police; we invited the DSS; we invited INEC. The theme of our discussion was free, fair and credible election and we are insisting that those in charge of these elections must discharge their responsibilities and obligations without fear or favour, but the moment they deviate from that then we will not have a free, fair and credible elections and that will be so unfortunate for Nigeria.

Are there measures put in place to gauge whether they are doing the right thing or not?

They are not going underground to operate; they are going to be on the surface for this election to take place and they will be monitors from around the world and even monitors from Nigeria. People should be able to see whether it would be a free, fair and credible election.

What is your reaction to the statement by Kaduna State Governor on foreign interference in the election?

Maybe he is in charge of Nigeria. It shows you that perhaps like some people are making accusations, some people other than the President that was elected in 2015 are in charge of Nigeria; because under normal circumstances, a governor of a state has no business of threatening anyone about these elections. He has no business; he is not in INEC; he is not the Minister of Foreign Affairs; he is not anything that qualifies him to speak on behalf of Nigeria. This is part of the confusion Nigeria is going through today. You don’t know who is responsible for what. Also Kano State Governor initially shut the doors of many of the stadia in Kano, in what many said was aimed at preventing the PDP from holding its rally in the state……Just like it happened, it was left for journalists to make a story out of it…

…Which we did

Actually, the stadium is a public property; it belongs to the people of Kano State, irrespective of which party they profess and that is a public property and so for every single PDP member of Kano State origin to demand for its usage, and they are millions of PDP supporters in Kano and the governor has no right and I will consider his actions totally irresponsible for him to try to deny access to a public property which is not for him. The stadium is not even the property of Kano State Government; it is the property of Kano people.