From BillyGraham Abel, Yola
Dr. Umar Ardo is a Peoples Democratic Party, (P DP) chieftain from Adamawa State. He contested the governorship primaries of the party three times – in 2011, 2012 and 2014. He is a former Special Assistant to the former Vice President Atiku Abubakar on States and Local Government between 1999 and 2003 and Special Assistant on Research and Strategy, from 2003 to 2004, before resigning his appointment following what he described as “irreconcilable differences” with his former boss.
He was also Director of Research and Strategy of the Peter Odili Presidential Campaign Organization in the run up to the 2007 presidential election.
In this exclusive interview with Daily Sun, Dr. Ardo said that Buhari was out and done with politics until he told him what to do, insisting that he mastermind Buhari’s comeback after he promised to leave politics for good.
The Buhari administration is now two years in office. Looking at what it achieved against the promises both the party and Buhari made to Nigerians during the campaigns, what is your assessment?
I don’t know what promises APC made, but I marked the three basics ones of Buhari – insecurity, corruption and the economy. You know I am a hyper-critic, difficult to satisfy because most times I tend to over think things. On insecurity, the regime has substantially incapacitated the Boko Haram insurgency. Being from Adamawa State in the North-East, I can attest to that. Though there are still some sporadic attacks here and there, generally things are far better.
But Buhari promised to tackle insecurity, which insurgency is just one aspect of it; there are militancy, kidnapping, armed robbery, internecine killings, ritual killings, communal clashes, etc. These are still very much around. In other words, insurgency as a national malice has been considerably dealt with, but insecurity of individuals and groups is yet to be appreciably tackled. A lot needs to be done if the regime’s score card on general security is to square up.
On corruption, I can say both the approach and the fight are superficial; they’re not thorough and well thought-out. In fact, from the David Babachir’s example, I can say the government is even losing the fight, as nothing seems to have changed. On the economy, let’s remember we are still in recession. Until things change for the better, for now I dare not score the regime above average.
You went to court in 2014 to stop Jonathan from contesting on constitutional ground, but you did not succeed. Do you see his electoral loss as a kind of compensation for your efforts?
Let us say I went to court to get a constitutional interpretation of having a president holding office for a cumulative period exceeding eight years. The Supreme Court failed to take that matter. But I am treating the issue in a book I am writing chronicling my experience in Nigerian courts. The book is a critique of the judgments entered against me in the ten civil suits I instituted. From a litigant view point, the book reviews those judgments to fault the arguments. It will be out within the year.
So many people have commented on the loss of the 2015 elections by PDP. Jonathan blamed it on the US, etc, what in your view led to the defeat of an incumbent for the first time in Nigeria?
I think I answered this question in an article l wrote which was published by this paper in July 2015 titled ‘Why PDP Failed to Rule for 60 Years’. So when I read Segun Adeniyi’s “Against the Run of Play”, where Jonathan made those allegations, I found some fundamental defects of left-outs in facts and analysis. The most critical takeoff point and questions leading to the merger and Buhari’s subsequent candidacy and victory are missing. Any analysis of the 2015 presidential election that does not have as its starting point the suit of CPC in the 2011 Presidential Election Tribunal and its fallout is obviously grossly defective. What makes the 2011 tribunal critical is that its institution altered Buhari’s political stance and its fallout made easy the merger for APC.
Recall that on Wednesday 13th April, 2011, when rounding up his presidential campaign, Buhari said, among other things, that if he lost the 16th April election neither him nor his political party would challenge the outcome at the presidential election tribunal, and that the 2011 presidential election would be his 3rd and final time in ever contesting any elective office. He wouldn’t leave politics, he had said, but he won’t ever contest again.
On April 16th the presidential election took place and on the 18th Prof. Attahiru Jega announced the results and pronounced Buhari and his CPC defeated. Going by Buhari’s 13th April avowal that would’ve been the end, yet, CPC went to tribunal to challenge the outcome of the April 16th election, and Buhari contested in 2015 again, meaning that Buhari’s vow had been reversed. The rational questions are: what happened? Why and how did the CPC go to tribunal? Why and how did Buhari contest again in 2015? Until these questions are asked and answered, any narrative and analysis of the APC merger, Buhari’s contest and the defeat of an incumbent will be incomplete and defective.
I did not see these questions asked and answered, and l did not see the narrative and analysis of the presidential election tribunal and its fallouts, mainly the sacking of Justice Isa Salami, in the politics of the merger and the 2015 presidential election made, either in the books of Professor Paden or Adeniyi, or in other narratives and analyses of the election. With this vital missing link, it’s natural to fall into misperceptions, misconceptions, misrepresentation, and even mischief in accounting for Buhari’s mystical political turnaround in 2015. This is a major flaw of Paden’s and Adeniyi’s books that rendered their general conclusions untenable.
Jonathan lost the election from that Sunday he removed Justice Salami as President of Court of Appeal because that act effectively ended the secret alliance between Jonathan’s PDP and Tinubu’s ACN. More importantly, it handed over Tinubu’s ACN to Buhari’s CPC for the APC merger. The reason is, of the then six ACN controlled states, only Lagos was by INEC’s pronouncement; the rest was by tribunals’ pronouncements headed by Justice Salami as President Court of Appeal.
So Salami’s brazen removal obviously was a serious affront to the ACN. The causal causation is this – without CPC going to tribunal, Salami wouldn’t have been removed; without Salami’s removal, ACN would not have been thrown in the arms of Buhari, without which there would be no merger, and without which incumbent wouldn’t have been defeated.
Would you then say it was a case of political sophistication that made Buhari to see the signs and contest a fourth time after he had declared he wasn’t going to contest again or what?
I suppose he saw a winning strategy practically placed before him, superior to previous ones. He saw from his three defeats a convincing victory formula formulated. He was advised to resent the two decisions of not going to tribunal and not contesting again. Part of the argument was that going to tribunal would keep the torch of his presidential ambition burning and with the biometric voters registration he had a good chance of upturning the election once tribunal ordered for forensic analysis of the ballot papers. It took him less than three hours to make up his mind. Afterwards he called back and said ‘I accept your suggestions; go ahead and implement them.’ And so they were implemented. The rest, as they say, is history! Thus, the foundation for Buhari’s fourth attempt and victory, turning around his political fortune, was singularly devised. Every other thing done thereafter in furtherance of that objective was built on that very foundation. This is without prejudice to other great efforts and contributions made by individuals and groups, singularly and collectively. So those who claimed that it took them 15 months to convince Buhari to contest again in 2015 are either ignorant of what transpired or are just self-servingly twisting the truth.
Many people are also of the view that without the breakaway new PDP joining APC, Buhari would not have won the 2015 election. Do you subscribe to that view?
I don’t agree. Those who hold this view argue that Buhari won the election through the instrumentality of two major impetuses: CPC-ACN merger in the formation of APC, and the movement of the n-PDP into APC. Without either of these two, they assert, Buhari would not have emerged president. With all due respect, the facts on ground say otherwise. With the consummated APC merger as it was, Buhari would still have won the election whether or not the n-PDP joined the APC. The political calculation is easy and the electoral mathematics is simple.
How many of the New-PDP governors joined the APC? They are Rivers, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa and Kwara; along with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and Senator Bukola Saraki. The analysis is this – Rivers, as it turned out, did not vote APC. So Amechi had no electoral value to the APC other than probably the money he contributed (the same goes for Rochas in Imo). Kano and Sokoto had always voted Buhari; so with or without Kwankwaso and Wammako joining in, the votes would still have come in from their states anyway. The governors merely aligned with the wind of change blowing across their States rather than changed it.
In Adamawa, Nyako was long impeached and was in self-exile in faraway London when the election took place and it was common knowledge that Atiku joined APC for his own personal ambition and did not support Buhari. So Adamawa voting Buhari was not on account of these two defectors. The only State where Buhari won as a direct result of the new PDP’s cross over is Kwara; without Saraki Buhari would never have won Kwara. But even at that, the difference in the results was less than 200,000 votes, which if subtracted from the total votes scored by the APC nationwide; it would not have materially changed the final result for APC’s victory. So the often stated above assumption is fundamentally indefensible. The only thing Buhari needed to coast to victory in 2015 was the CPC-ACN merger; the rest was only icing the cake but certainly not baking it.
You are a member of the PDP, why engineer the defeat of your party? Is it because of regional and religious considerations or what?
The driving consideration was the nation. I believe Jonathan did not much understand the dynamics of our national politics, which understanding was vital if he was to govern well. That’s why the country was slipping out of control. I believed the first solution to halting the slide was regime change. It was the same national consideration that led to my initiation and drive for South-south’s presidency in 2007, with Dr. Peter Odili as president, at the end of eight years of ‘Southern Christian’ rule under Obasanjo. I was convinced that it was good politics for the nation to reciprocate South-south’s contributions to the national economy and for its traditional alliance with the North.
Some have also said the inability of Jonathan to reconcile with the ACN after it threw up Tambuwal as Speaker was a major gaffe that later led to Jonathan’s defeat. How far is that true?
It started the process but the removal of Salami completed the jigsaw.
Your party, the PDP, seems headed for destruction. Can it be remedied?
PDP will not be destroyed; we won’t let it happen. Let’s await the outcome of its Supreme Court case then things will happen. Did you see IBB’s daughter’s wedding in Minna lately? That shows PDP still has the greatest elite’s mobilizing capacity in the country. That should tell people something about 2019.
Finally, will Buhari win again if he contests in 2019?
But where is Buhari himself now? We must first have the sight and sound of the man before we talk of his contesting or not. As it is, without any sight and sound of Buhari, I think it is preposterous to engage in any discourse on his even completing this current mandate talk less of his contesting again. One cannot make postulation on what is physically not there.