Two prominent northern leaders, Alhaji Tanko Yakassai, and Dr Junaid Muhammad, a famous radical frontline politician, have offered insight into how President Muhammadu Buhari can be defeated in the 2019 presidential election.
Yakassai, a former special adviser on National Assembly matters to former President Shehu Shagari, told Sunday Tribune on telephone that one of the ways the opposition can defeat the president is by ensuring that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conduct a free and fair election and security agencies, especially Department of State Services (DSS) and the police, remain neutral.
According to Yakassai, with the gale of defections from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), what happened in 2015, which led to a change of government, when Buhari defeated former President Goodluck Jonathan, could repeat itself.
“But the only issue now is whether when election comes, President Buhari and his people will behave in the same manner former President Jonathan and his people did by allowing INEC to do its job without fear or favour,” he stated.
The critical issue now, according to him, is whether or not the present government will allow the security agencies to be neutral and INEC also not to be partisan.
“If they do that, what happened in 2015, when the opposition party defeated the ruling party, can equally happen again.
“But my fear is in respect of what happened in Ekiti governorship election and also what recently happened in Benue State, when security operatives allegedly took sides by paving the way for eight members out of 30 members of [House of Assembly] to want to impeach the state governor, Samuel Ortom.
“It was saddening when the police prevented the majority members from attending the meeting in the state House of Assembly, but gave security backing to eight members to make a move to impeach the governor.
“The attitude of security operative is giving me a strong fear that free and acceptable election will not happen in 2019 general election. But if INEC can conduct the forthcoming general election free and fair, there will then be hope for true democracy to triumph,” he said.
Yakassai said it was too early to compare the various personalities who have signified their intentions to vie for the presidency on the various political platforms, especially Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), or their capacity to defeat Buhari in 2019.
But Dr Junaid believes that given what he called the failure of the Buhari government, it will be easy to defeat him.
“I think you are fooling the sensibility of Nigerians by that question [that which of the aspirants has the capacity to defeat the president]. This country’s population is over 200 million and you are telling me there is nobody amongst this huge population who can defeat Buhari?
“What is so special about him that some people would be saying there is no better candidate apart from him? Tell me, what he has he done since he came to power that benefited the teeming masses of this great country?
“What has President Buhari done in the past three years? he queried, “rather than high rate of nepotism being exhibited by his government and whipping up tribal sentiment in appointing people to his cabinet. I do not know what he did.
“He has only been giving preferential treatment to those people who joined him from the South-West. Other than that, tell me what he has done for the country,” he said.
According to him, two factors play a key role in making a candidate to win an election are the political party on the banner of which candidates contest and the popularity of the candidates.
“If the political party is good and is well-organised, that automatically gives half of the victory for such a candidate. The second point is the popularity among the supporters. When we know the actual candidate of the PDP, it is then one will be able to assess his popularity and begin to compare the competence of the platforms,” he said.
Alhaji Yakassai, who spoke to Sunday Tribune on Saturday in Kano, however, noted that the 2015 presidential election was not only between the Buhari and Jonathan, but also between the North and the South; a Christian and a Muslim.
He noted that the factors such as religious leaning and origin of the contestants would no longer be the issues because it is certain that both the APC and PDP would present northerners as presidential standard-bearers.
“However, let us wait and see who PDP will present as its presidential candidate, then one will be able to compare him with incumbent president in terms of capability and capacity to pull weight against President Buhari in the election or not. As you know, the Hausa-Fulani constitutes a large population in the North. The above factors will determine the outcome of election.
“Another issue is that you the media and observers, whether local or foreign, should concentrate attention alone on the conduct of the election and not only when electorate come out and cast their votes.
“What people do not know is that you do not rig election at the level of voting. However, rigging occurs after the voting has ended, especially during counting and collation of election results. Therefore, I wish the media, local and international observers will take note and buy this idea.
“Free and fair election solely depends on credible counting and collation of results, not only supervision of the process of voting alone. The credibility and collation will determine the credibility of the result announced,” he said.