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The Makaman Yauri and former military administrator of Kebbi and Ekiti states, Col Inuwa Bawa, has warned President Goodluck Jonathan not to underrate former vice president, Atiku Abubakar. He argued that anybody who underrates him, does so at his own peril. He spoke with Daily Sun in Jos, Plateau State. Excerpts:

How do you see Atiku's emergence as a consensus candidate in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) for the North?

The emergence of Atiku came to a lot of people as a surprise for many reasons. The fact that he left the PDP to join the AC before coming back to PDP. Be it as it may, anybody that underrates Atiku does so at his own peril. He is an astute politician and had been in it for a long time. He also has a lot of resources to fight election.

When he was the vice president he had the governors under his grip. He can win the PDP primaries but the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is not going to lose sleep over him. CPC is a grassroots party. We have our supporters entrenched there. No matter who emerges as the PDP flagbearer, even if he is a northerner, we will not lose sleep over him.  Buhari, who would eventually emerge as our presidential candidate has his supporters at the grassroots.  Atiku or no Atiku cannot affect the fortunes of our candidate.

A Jonathan/Buhari ticket?
It is a tall dream to expect that Muhammadu Buhari and the President could work out something in case Jonathan fails to get the PDP ticket. I know CPC had been talking with some opposition parties in order to come out with a single strategy for 2011, but not someone in the PDP. It is an abstract possibility which I do not think will ever happen. Our priority now is to have a workable relationship with the ACN and I believe it will come up successfully.

It has been on for a long time, why the delay?
In working out a relationship with any party, we have to be very careful. The stand of the CPC is that it will not collapse into any other party. After working out the nitty gritty, we will come out with a workable solution.  At this stage, it is too late for CPC or any other party to collapse into another party. The best thing is for us to work out how we will co-operate during the election. The prospects are there. ACN is very strong in the South-West and the CPC is strong in the North and it has made an inroad into the South-East. With that combination, the future will be very bright.

Is it true the delay is because Buhari is opposed to a Muslim- Muslim ticket with Tinubu?

I am not sure that that there was any disagreement with having Tinubu as a running mate to Buhari. It was just speculation that they had a disagreement because Buhari did not want to have Muslim/Muslim ticket. I did speak with Buhari recently and that issue did not come up. In 1993, there was the late Abiola and Kingibe ticket and it worked. It shows that in Nigeria, if there is a good combination, people will accept it.  Buhari/ Tinubu combination would have been a terrific one, but I do not know whether it has been discussed at the party's national level. I am not a member of the national executive council.

INEC time table
I do not know how INEC came up with that time table despite its meeting with all the registered political parties long time ago. Every party was allowed to come up with its own suggestions on how the timetable should be. Eighty per cent of the parties were opposed to staggered elections. This is because it is going to be very expensive for the parties and even for INEC.  It is a way of giving advantage to the ruling party.

There is going to be bandwagon effects because subsequently, elections would follow the way of the first after the result had been announced. I believe my party suggested that elections should be done in one day. I personally believe that if we cannot hold elections in one day, they should all be held within a week. We can have the first set this Saturday and the next Saturday, let the remaining be held. I do not think INEC had done its homework properly before announcing that time table.

Elections are being upturned few months to another election period, what does this say about our democracy?

It is the fault of the judiciary this time around that we are still getting judgment delivered few months to the next election. The election petitions were not disposed of, on time. The Ekiti and the Osun own have just been delivered. That is giving lots of us headaches. A governor who has been doing his work for about three and a half years is suddenly asked to quit because he should not have been there in the first place. 

To guide against this sort of things it should be entrenched in the Constitution or the electoral law that election matters must be settled within a particular period. It must be enforced that anyone with electoral cases should not be sworn in until all the matters have been disposed of. A time-frame must be provided in the election time table for these cases to be settled.

The problem we often have is the judiciary which often complains that it does not have enough judges or enough hands. The National Assembly is tinkering with so many things in the electoral law at the tail end of its tenure. That would not be good enough. Let the next National Assembly tackle these things early enough so that we can have things in place at least three years before another election. Let them do all the necessary things so that we can have a very good and acceptable electoral law.