By NBF News

Bamanga Tukur
Coming on the heels of Prof Attahiru Jega's assumption of office as chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), a member of President Goodluck Jonathan's Presidential Advisory Committee (PAC), Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, has said that there is no structure for the conduct of free and fair election.

In an exclusive interview with Saturday Sun in Abuja, Tukur, who is also a founding member of the People Democratic Party (PDP), said that it is possible to have a credible election in the country if the right things are done.

He condemned those angling for zoning of the presidency, saying: 'Nigeria deserves credible, honest and patriotic citizens as leaders.'

Tukur spoke on these and other things.
What is your assessment of the general political situation in Nigeria?

Am sure we are all witnesses of what is happening. Now we have a president, a sitting president. We have a parliament, all right. We have a budget that has already been approved. So, it means that now we are on the right track. We also have the chairman of INEC in position. We have had the pronouncement of our president saying that votes must count this time. That is a very encouraging statement. It means that once the votes count, democracy would thrive, because in a democracy, once people are free to associate and free to elect their own representatives, it means that they have the chance of getting representatives that will be accountable to them. What this means is that they are going to move according to their interest. While that is done, democracy will be stronger. That is the situation. We have to support the vision of the president to make votes to count. We must mobilise our people and tell them how important it is to freely choose people they believe will truly represent their interest and, therefore, represent the national interest.

Do you sincerely think we will have free and fair election?

They should.
From the setting on ground, are we likely to have free and fair polls?

Yes, at the moment you can't really say because it is the question of mobilisation. All of us, the community, the media, the activists, must mobilize our people and tell them that nobody can develop our country or our community than we can. We are the people to do it. Therefore, first and foremost, like good citizens, we must select or elect people who are genuinely interested in our affairs, who are going to see that we are well secured; that our children go to school and can get employment; that we have food security. Being in the West African community, we must interact and start flying the flag of Africa because we are Africans essentially.

Do we have the structures to guarantee free and fair election?

No, I have not seen that yet. Until we see what the INEC chairman does; because we have to allow him to really put up the structures. So you see, it is so important that we also, in our communities, understand what we are doing. We will not allow the miscreants to take over situations that demand leadership, sincerity, honesty of purpose. No need to say 'yes' we will run free and fair elections and then we sit down in our homes and say nothing. If we do not help our people to understand how to elect people on issues, people can bring bags of maize, flour, sugar or rice to bribe the electorate. The issue now is that if you want me to elect you as the chairman of my local government, I must say what I want to see in that local government. I must ask if you are ready to make promises within your mean. I know that you will get the resources. I know we have the need and that we are the people.

Are you ready to utilise the resources given to you either through taxation or allocation, whatever, to really promote our interest, to see that our children go to elementary schools and that the schools are well governed? Are you going to ensure that our children do not drink muddy waters and get sick with malaria? Are you prepared to do so?

You are one of the founding fathers of the PDP. Do you agree with your chairman on this contentious issue of zoning? He says that zoning is dead.

There is nothing in our constitution that says that if you want to vie for the presidency of this nation, Nigeria, you cannot do so. The parties themselves do it in order to bring more members to see that minorities are now holding positions, so that they do not say only people in the majority are getting the votes. Of course, to me, they are saying that for nothing. What I want to see are credible leaders coming out and vying for the leadership of this country. Nigeria deserves credible, honest and patriotic citizens as leaders.

It is just like young people with their elders eating and then the small one cannot get the crumbs. Then before all of you, the elders would say give the young ones some so that he can also have a taste of it because he cannot compete with you. What matters is that you give it to the minorities because they cannot compete with you. So, please make sure he also has a clear platform to stand. I don't believe that people should be talking about it. I see it in the newspapers and all you are saying, today, is whether Jonathan can stand or cannot stand. Who says Jonathan cannot stand? Who?

You mean Jonathan can stand election in the circumstance?

Of course, he can.
In spite of the PDP chairman's clarification, some northerners are still insisting it is their turn to produce the president. What is going on?

Do you want to believe that PDP is the only party? I am one of the founding fathers of the PDP. If today, PDP is doing things that are wrong… That is the reason the chairman had to leave. They have just appointed a new chairman. We are watching. The party is for the public. It is all-inclusive. But when you start taking the party as your private property, it will derail. The day the PDP decides to appoint a chairman and not elect him; the day the party refuses to conduct primaries, so that credible people can emerge, that party will be in trouble. That is the reason they are having problems. If there is no rigging and there is free and fair election, how can you stop a credible candidate that Nigerians want? Who tells you the PDP cannot be defeated. Have you not seen it happen before?

The North's argument is that this formula was adopted to avoid marginalising other groups. They are claiming that Yar'Adua's time has not elapsed and that ordinarily, if he were alive, he would have gone for a second term. They say that now that he is no more, a northerner should complete his second term..

I say we are not talking about North. We are talking about PDP.

But they have been speaking.
I say they are PDP people. You want to tell me that all northerners are in PDP? Is that what you want to tell me? You people must start to separate the reality. Who are those saying that? Don't bring North or South or East into it. There are people who believe not only in Nigeria but also in Africa. I am a Pan Africanist. I have seen an African emerge as the President of the United States of Africa. So, how can I start saying that you have to divide people along regional lines to vie for Nigeria's presidency? What does it do to a southerner or a northerner because one of them is a president? He is supposed to be the president of the whole country. If he doesn't do well, we should not elect him.

Some people have said that if Jonathan contests 2011 election, it will ruin Nigeria. What is your own opinion?

It could be possible. So far, so good. So far he is doing the right way. So, if he doesn't, people can talk about it. He is trying to grapple with the difficulties of power generation, trying to fix credible elections, setting up a system for that and trying to mobilise people so that they can do the right thing. So, if he continues with it, Nigerians will elect him. I am telling you.

What message do you have for people talking about North…?

I have no message for anybody. I have message for myself. I know that, for example, today, if I am in Lagos and Fashola is in Lagos, I will cast my vote for Fashola. Period. If a PDP person is in Lagos standing against Fashola and I don't believe in him and I am serious, I will give Fashola my vote. People should not always be talking about tribalism, religion and those things that divide us. That is not the way. People should grow up to be self-dependant, self-supporting and confident enough. We should move our nation forward and not continue to do the same thing, as we have been doing before. What we have done before did not led us anywhere. Why should you continue doing it? Tell me what difference it makes today? I don't care. When Obasanjo was doing those things, I was one of those who supported him. Am I a Yoruba man? No. At that time, it is because he performed before. He had a record. We thought that he was going to continue with that record.

Given the present scenario. Would you support Jonathan if he comes out to contest election in 2011?

This is my right. You don't have to ask me that. This is because it's my right. I am not going to tell you who I am going to support until all of them have come out. Supposing somebody that is better than Jonathan comes out. I told you about Lagos. If today, somebody better than Fashola comes out, it will be a different thing. Jonathan should leave a legacy. Let him put structures for free and fair elections and make sure that we get the voters register, where I can go to my constituency and see my name and my vote will be counted. If he can do that, I will vote for him.

Can we have a free and fair election?
Why not? If we have got the political will, we will do it. Let me tell you, today, look at how many graduates we are bringing out and after NYSC, there is no job. So, send them to the local government areas and let them prepare the register. In one week, all Nigerians will be registered. Whoever is over 18 will be registered. That is political will. You have to express it. We people must come and help our leaders in achieving what they want. But we are always keeping quiet. First of all, I want us to have a credible election by having a credible register of voters. Let the fresh graduates, who are not working prepare the voters register. There has to be a political will, you know. Since we will have 500 voters in each polling booth, why can't we count in each polling booth and record? If this is done, everybody will see.