Presidential race: why Nigerians are not allowed to vote based on ethnicity, religion -Yakasai

Kano State-born elder statesman and former presidential liaison officer, Alhaji Tanko Yakasai, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI about the presidential election, including the qualities the next president should possess.

What is your assessment of the leading presidential candidates in terms of what they have told the Nigerians?

I don’t think it would be fair of me to do that, because when I say something about which of them has a better chance, in the same way I say that others don’t have a chance. I do not like to do that. I don’t want to create any misunderstanding between me and any of the candidates.

Some people have expressed concern that the issues of ethnicity and religion will come into play in the run-up to the election. Do you see it that way?

Well, I think you’re going through the woods. You want me to talk about Muslim-Muslim tickets and you make a preamble. The candidates were nominated and the nomination took place across the country. Each and every one of them, in the process of getting the nomination, was supported by people from different ethnic groups. The fact that they came forward through that process, in my view, means that they are national candidates. The people who voted for them to get out of their various platforms are Nigerians. So, who’s to say those who voted for them shouldn’t? They have been nominated by their parties in a manner as prescribed by the Constitution, the Electoral Act and of course the guidelines of their parties. So I can’t query that process.

What is important is that we let them go to the polls and Nigerians from all parts of the country will decide who will be the next president. The appointment issue is now over. So nobody can do anything about it. They have been duly nominated by their parties and INEC seems pleased with the process as it has since accepted their nomination. So we cannot change anything that may have happened during the nomination processes.

What would you like to hear from the candidates when the campaign is in full swing?

I don’t have anything in particular that I want to hear from them. What I think they should all do is come out and tell the Nigerians what they have in stock for them and how they plan to run their programs if they win. When the time for elections comes, Nigerians will go out and choose the person of their choice. It’s too late now to talk about someone qualified to run for president or not.

Are you concerned that after 23 years of civilian rule, the longest in turbulent history, political parties have not yet achieved stability?

Yes, there is instability in the parties, but the fault is not only with the candidates. It is the intervention of the military from 1966 that ensured that the practice of politics was not the way it should be played. I think we should encourage voters to vote for people based on their merit. They should not vote for people because of the part of the country they come from or their tribe or even the religion they profess. Who goes to the next president should be a president for all Nigerians, Muslims, Christians and even non-religious people. This is a country with more than 200 million inhabitants. No one can make 200 people think the same, let alone 200 million people. So let’s ignore the issue of the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Let’s face the issue of elections. Today we have 36 states in Nigeria. If you make an inventory of the candidates that have emerged from the various parties, they will form their cabinets by appointing people who are not based on religion or ethnicity. This is if they win. If you look at the list of governors in the 36 states, you will see that there are some states, both the governors and their running mates have the same religious background and are nominated by their parties. So you will find that the practice of people of the same faith running together is not new. In fact, those who do this in the country are in the majority when you look at the parties.

The US has raised the alarm about possible terrorist attacks in some parts of the country. The election period is approaching, what do you think about this?

The US government that issued the warning has not explained the nature and character of the threat. So we need more information from them to be able to decide what the nature and character of the attack will be. The information is not complete. So we cannot jump to conclusions. Let’s see if the claim is true.

Will such a report have anything to do with Nigerians’ pre-election vote?

Well, it’s premature. We need to know the nature of the threat in order to determine what will happen. There is a lot of speculation in the world, including in Nigeria. People speculate a lot. So the concern should be to confirm the story whether it is true or not.


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