President Goodluck Jonathan has made it clear that he is not loosing sleeps over the looming Presidential election, rescheduled for this Saturday.
Jonathan affirmed: “I’m not apprehensive at all as to whether will win the election. I have worked very hard to win the election. My party is working very hard for me to win the election. Political process is not an individual business because it is actually the party that is presenting you but as a sitting president I’m more interested in the nation so nothing will keep me awake.”
The President who was responding to international teams that interacted with him at the Presidential Villa, Abuja today, reassured that the elections would be conducted as scheduled and that it would be free and fair.
He said that as a government, “we will do our best even though I’m a candidate but I’m more interested in peaceful elections than who emerges as the next president of Nigeria.
“I want a situation where the whole world should respect our electoral process. I will feel diminished if at the end of the day that the international and observers don’t accept the process, the result. I won’t feel comfortable.
“I will be happier if both Nigerians and international observers agree that the process is credible, is transparent at all levels from the state house of assembly, to the governors of the states, the house of Representatives to the senate and of course the presidential, that they were duly elected by the people. It will make me happier as a president who preside over the elections the way although I don’t control INEC, they are independent body but if anything goes wrong it is on the head of the President. So if INEC does very well I will also take the glory. In 2011 after the elections when I travelled out I was happy when other heads of states commended me, I accepted the credit. If they had done poorly the admonition would have come to me.
“So I will be happier to see a credible elections accepted by the world than anyone emerging as president. Presidents will come and go, so even if I win the elections in the next four years I will go, is not an office that you must be there. Luckily in Nigeria, unlike other countries where presidents stay for a very long time, here you can’t say more than eight years. So the issue is not that President Jonathan must continue in office but that our elections process must be accepted by Nigerians but also by international community.”
President Jonathan said that those who are close to him know what he stands for, saying that his interest is more about the country and not about him.
Responding to the question raised about the postponement of elections from February 14, President Jonathan said that if elections were held on February 14th, there would have been problems in this country because the tensions were quite high and the security challenges were quite enormous.
He said that when the security operatives advised that elections be rescheduled for security reasons, a number of people thought it was just because of the terror attacks in some parts of the north.
“Yes, that was a major factor too because at that time, the Boko Haram were in three states: Borno, Yobe and Adamawa states. They were holding territories, some local governments were completely under their control and invariably there were no government in those places. And of course, some states like Gombe and Bauchi were also not free. In fact, it would have been difficult to conduct elections in five states of the federation. And if we had conducted elections on that 14th, they would have come up to disrupt elections in these five states and that would have made the presidential elections in these five states inconclusive. Because whoever emerged a winner though we are 14 candidates but the PDP and the APC candidates are the two that are well known.
‘It would have been difficult because probably the vote difference of any of these candidates, if you aggregate the remaining five states that elections would have been disrupted, it would have been difficult to declare a winner.
“When these elections were rescheduled, on that 14th, Gombe state was attacked because the Boko Haram thought elections were to be held and they came out actually to disrupt it but they were repelled. But now we have cleaned up Adamwa and Yobe completely. And even Borno state, before the elections, it was only a little area like the Sambisa forest that will be in the hands of Boko Haram. We believe by tomorrow or latest Friday, we will be able to take over Gwoza. If we take over Gwoza, it will not take us more than one week to clean up. Now Boko Haram are not in position to come out and disrupt elections.
“So I want to assure that elections would be conducted on the 28th across the country so there will be no reason for inclusive results.”
President Jonathan said that apart from the issue of Boko Haram, within that period, there were some red flags which were dangerous signals, adding that as a sitting president, there were some states they even attempted to stone his convoy, adding: “it was as bad as that because some people were instigated. It shows clearly that we may run into crisis if we don’t recalibrate our security architecture.
“So it was Boko Haram at one hand which was key and that has been handled but at the same time, even internal security needed to be reviewed and re-strategise and within this period, a number of things have been done by government through the intelligent services and so on.
“So even states where people were extremely hostile to opposition parties have died down completely. Before now, bill boards belonging to opposition were destroyed sometimes even attacking vehicles. So generally, you now see that the country is calmer than February 14th and a number of people didn’t know but I know of course, by virtue of my office. And the best thing that happened to this country was the rescheduling of the elections. The rescheduling of the elections was not to give anybody advantage because is the same Nigerians that are to vote we are not importing new people.”
Jonathan said that even in terms of the electoral body, Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) said that it was very ready to conduct the elections, but that as at that 14th on February, some states, more than 50 per cent of the people had no permanent voters card.
“A state like Lagos for example, as at that time, only 38 per cent of people had PVCs. That means that only 38 per cent that would have voted and by all standards the turn out for elections is about 60, 65, so if you take 65 per cent of 38 per cent, that means overall, only over 20 per cent people would have decided who becomes the next governor, senator, house of reps members in Lagos state. That is totally unacceptable.
“But at least, between that time and now, more people have collected their PVCs. That has also helped to bring down the tension because a lot of people were angry believing that the government was trying to disenfranchise them from voting. They accused state governments, accused federal government but at least, some people have gotten their cards though not 100 per cent. I would have preferred every Nigerian who is interested to vote, to vote because this is election. In 2011, all those who were interested in voting voted.
“So on the overall in terms of the security threat generally, it has come down drastically across the country. In terms of the Boko Haram enclaves, they have been degraded to a level that for now they cannot come and disrupt elections. So we are quite happy with the security services.”
The leader of the African Union (AU) electoral observer team, Mr. Amos Sawyer said that the team is here first in full solidarity with the Nigerian people as they deepen the democratic experience.
He said that Nigeria is very important to West Africa and Africa as a whole.
He also stressed the importance of peaceful and credible elections to not only the deepening democratization processes of Nigeria but for all the peace, stability, and progress of Nigeria benefits the entire region.
“We are highly encouraged by developments thus far, particularly the Abuja Peace Accord where the President met with the opposition and together committed to elections that would be credible, free and fair and respecting the results and moving forward.
“One example Mr. President is that we have watched you and you have often said that your candidacy or political career is not worth the life of a single Nigerian, that is commendable.” [myad]