As the nation awaits tonight’s presidential debate Chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption, Prof Itse Sagay, has stated reasons why the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressive Congress(APC), President Muhammadu Buhari will not honour the presidential debate.
Speaking with VINCENT KALU, the erudite Law Professor, said, the president is far ahead of all other candidates, he described as ‘political dwarfs’, and as such, appearing with them in a debate is just to give relevance to people who have no hope. Sagay’s position on the debate was confirmed from multiple sources in the presidency, who told Saturday Sun that President Buhari won’t participate in today’s debate because he had attended one on Wednesday along with his deputy, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, tagged ‘The Candidates’ anchored by Kadaria Ahmed and wouldn’t want to give his opponents the platform to embarrass him.
In this interview, Sagay also said that Aisha Buhari enjoys his sympathy in her fight to cut down the influence of the cabal in the presidency.
Barely four weeks to the election, how do you see the atmosphere?
I welcome the calmness; four years ago, the frenzy was all over the place, over heating the polity. There was too much activity. I remember few days to the election that Jonathan was all over the West carrying money from one person to the other.
There were all sorts of things; of course before the election, there was attempt to disqualify Buhari before he could even start campaigning.
Luckily, we don’t have that now; there is quietness as people are campaigning with their posters, and going from home to home.
We have campaign rallies, not as we had before. I welcome it because it introduces some calmness in society. That is one aspect, but the other aspect, which has retained rather unfortunately is diversionary things instead of going to the issues, like when former Chief of Defence Staff, Badeh was killed, the opposition queried President Buhari’s absence at his funeral. Some thing was decided recently and the PDP decided to go to the European Union. I think we are too matured now for this type of thing; why should the European Union be our arbiter. There are still some evidence of childishness and immaturity particularly coming from the PDP, which should not be, otherwise, I prefer the present atmosphere, it is cooler, and it is calmer.
What could be the reason for this?
I suspect the Central Bank of Nigeria and the Economic and Financial and Crimes Commission (EFCC) have restricted the availability of money, very seriously on this occasion. You can’t bring in money; you can’t withdraw money unless you explain precisely what you need it for.
So, there is money restriction. The Bureau de change has also been warned about changing money for people. So, people are being careful as nobody wants to be arrested and charged for breaching financial regulations.
That constraint has limited the capacity of our people to be boisterous, noisy and behave in a way that can create anarchy and upheaval.
Boko Haram is waxing stronger, then there is the banditry going on in Zamfara; the other day, Katsina governor cried out that the bandits were in his state and El- Rufai also raised the alarm that it is spilling over to Kaduna. Don’t you think that this may imperil the general elections?
It may have a limited effect, but not serious, because elections took place in 2015 when Boko Haram was holding sway. I think there is a way the INEC wanted to manage it.
In this country, we suspect each other so much; they wanted to have some special centres for the IDPs , but all the other parties said over their dead bodies, so that has to be scraped. We will go on and do the best we can in this situation. Yes, there are limitations, but we can still manage to hold elections.
You mentioned that in 2015, Boko Haram was all over the places in Borno State, it hoisted its flags, but elections were held. Who then did the voting, who were the brave INEC officials to go to those council areas to conduct elections, and the PDP said the figures that came out from those places for Buhari were mindboggling?
No, it wasn’t mindboggling. I can still remember, but I can’t give the exact figure. I downloaded it and I kept it somewhere. It was relatively small, well below a million. It was relatively small given the size of Borno. It was low; the security situation affected it.
Lets come back to the campaigns, are you satisfied with the way the campaigns are going?
On the part of the opposition, particularly the PDP, there is not enough concentration on issues. When you want to attack, attack on issues so that the other person has to respond by defending himself.
If you make accusation of, ‘oh, he is going to rig’ that has been said over 20 times; every day, ‘oh, they have perfected plans on how to rig.’ I don’t think that helps because there is nothing to discuss; it renders the whole campaign poorer in quality; in terms of ideas and thoughts. We should go on issues; take on the government on issues, force them to defend themselves that is what they should do.
Coming close to this is the issue of presidential debates, which almost all the presidential aspirants are eager to feature, but the feelers we are getting is that Buhari is not going to participate. What is your view on this?
One really has to look at this thing from the point of what favours you. From the little information I have, opinion polls and so, Buhari appears to be far ahead from the other credible party’s candidate, that is, Alhaji Atiku. Buhari is far ahead, and when you have that, you then calculate, if I take part in the debate, I don’t have anything to gain but they may have something to gain, so, I’m not going to give them that advantage. It is a calculation anybody can make. This is not the first time, Goodluck Jonathan did it, Obasanjo did it, and Yar’Adua did it.
If you are far ahead, you may just say what do I stand to gain by going to debate and give them an opportunity of talking to me shoulder to shoulder as if we are equal when I’m far ahead. So, I will not go.
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