Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state has said that the defection of members of the nPDP from the governing All Progressives Congress (APC), cannot affect the chances of President Muhammadu Buhari in the 2019 election.
Members of the “New PDP” who defected from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), to the APC in 2013, include five governors, some former governors, then Speaker of the House of Representatives and some members of the National Assembly.
Last Wednesday, some members of the “nPDP” wrote a letter to the National Chairman of the APC, John Odigie-Oyegun, lamenting the lack of appreciationof their contributions to the success of the APC and Mr Buhari in the 2015 general elections.
A splinter group of the nPDP has since distanced itself from the claims of marginalisation. This faction, led by a former governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Adamu, made this known on Monday at the national secretariat of the ruling party after it submitted a letter noting the fortunes of the nPDP bloc under President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration.
Speaking with State House correspondents after meeting with Mr Buhari on Tuesday, the Kaduna governor said the president had been winning states where the former governors came from since 2003.
He also said Mr Buhari will win those states, ”with or without the support of the ex-governors.”
Mr El-Rufai also spoke on last Saturday’s local council elections in Kaduna State in which electronic voting was used for the first time.
Why did you deploy electronic voting in your state for the local government elections?
I didn’t come about it, it was the chairman of the state independent electoral commission, Saratu Dikko Audu, who was my chemistry teacher in the university that proposed the idea of electronic voting. She felt that since we used the card readers in the 2015 elections, the next logical step is to connect the card reader to an electronic voting system and we supported it.
They went on a study tour to Brazil, India to study their own voting systems and they finally ended up with a manufacturer in China. The same manufacturer that manufactured the card reader, designed and manufactured the electronic voting machines for us.
The Independent Electoral Commission of Kaduna State, brought in 300 of the machines and spent some months going round the state, market places, people’s homes to test the use of the machines to show that ordinary people can use it.
It cost us a lot of money, the entire election cost us in the region of N4 billion. But, mind you with the electronic voting now we don’t need ballot paper, so we saved N1.7 billion in ballot papers alone. And, these machines can be used for three or four more elections because they can last for 10 years. All we need is to upgrade the software to add more parties and so on.
So, we believe that overall, it is good value for money and it has worked very well. What we are very happy about is that ordinary people could use it, the interface was friendly, simply and you can finish voting for the chairman and councellor in less than 15 seconds.
So what difference did it make in terms of credibility?
I think it gave people the confidence that their votes mattered and for many people that didn’t even want to go out to vote in the elections, curiosity of the electronic voting machines brought them out.
It made a lot of difference because the electronic voting machine has a record of how many people have voted and once the time for voting closes, it closes and you cannot take it and add more votes. Of course human factors intervened, some people abducted the presiding officers with the machines and engaged in multiple voting.
Some people tried to change the results and of course we are still doing manual collection. But the data in the electronic voting machine can still be used to discredit some of those changes during the tribunal process. And in areas where there were gross abuses in some of the wards and local governments, KASIEC (Kaduna State Independent Electoral Commission), has decided that there will be bye-elections.
One of the problems that led to the human factor problems that I mentioned was because INEC denied us the use of the card reader. When we were designing the machine, we had the option of integrating the card reader, so that you come with your voters card, put in your voters card biometrically, confirm that it is your card and then the machine will open for you to vote.
But we thought that will be too complicated since people are used to being accredited separately, it is better we take INEC’s card reader for accreditation and then our machine for voting. But a week to the election, INEC said they are not going to give us the card readers. The reasons they gave to me were not acceptable.
I called the chairman and I tried to persuade him to make it available to us but we didn’t get the card reader. I am hoping, I have spoken to him again, that for the bye-elections, the two local governments and the other wards, we are going to get the card readers so that the human link that is subject to abuse would be eliminated and then you cannot change anything.
If you change anything the card reader, it will expose the number of those accredited and that number must tally with the number of people that voted, otherwise the result gets automatically cancelled. So we are working on that. I have just seen Mr President, I have briefed him on this and he has expressed his pleasure at the way and manner as a party in Kaduna, we are allowed free and fair elections.
The president believes in free, fair and credible elections and he said it doesn’t matter if you lose some local governments, what is important is for the elections to be free and fair. This is an APC government, it is a government of fairness and justice.
Some people are also saying that the electoral law does not support electronic voting. What do you have to say to that?
I don’t agree with that. There is an amendment to the Electoral Act that President (Goodluck) Jonathan signed a few days before he left office which legitimises the use of the card readers and other electronic systems for voting. So, in my view, the current Electoral Act has provision for the electoral voting.
But, that is not even what we used in Kaduna. In Kaduna, we enacted our own electoral law that made provision for electronic voting machines and card readers, everything was totally legitimised and passed by our State House of Assembly and I think every state can do the same. But, I also believe that the current legal framework allows for it.
Are you recommending the use of electronic voting generally?
Absolutely. I recommend it highly to everyone, I have already offered to my colleagues state governors that are yet to conduct local government elections that they can come to Kaduna and we can give them the machines on mutually acceptable terms.
All you will need is to change the software, it will have the logo of the state and the number of parties active in the state and they can use it. It is easy. At the federal level, I will recommend it as well because with the card reader and the electronic voting machine, the era of rigging elections is almost over and I think that is when people will have confidence in the process.
The machines have already been manufactured, the designs are there, you only need to place the orders to the Chinese and I’m sure they will deliver them in no time. But, you need some months to go round and do some advocacy, to show people how to use it. I think it may be possible to use it in the next elections but I am not INEC. INEC has a better appreciation of their logistics challenges. I can only give my own opinion.
Some people are saying with the grievances of the nPDP, the president’s electoral value will diminish. Do you agree with that?
I don’t agree and I want to go back to 2003. What are we talking about? Who are these new PDP people that are threatening? This is Kwara, Kano, Sokoto, Adamawa, Rivers but I don’t think (Rotimi) Amaechi is part of them. So let’s take these four states, go back to 2003 and check.
Buhari then under ANPP won in all these four states. Go back to 2007, Buhari won in these four states. Even when Shekarau was running as a presidential candidate in 2011, Buhari defeated him in Kano. And, I have no doubt in my mind that even if the people threatening to leave, leave, it will have absolutely no impact on the presidential elections. The president will win Sokoto, Kwara and Adamawa easily. Kano is already in the bag.
I mean, if you saw the crowd that welcomed the president. Without the former governor (Rabiu) Kwankwaso, Kano has always been the president’s base. To me that is not the issue, the issue is that they have written, they have expressed grievances, some of the grievances are legitimate and should be looked into. But to threaten to leave the party is neither here nor there.
If they are honest with themselves they know that President Buhari will win those states with or without them. But if you have a grievance, we are a party and politics is a game of addition not subtraction, so we don’t want to lose anyone.
So, I think those the letters were addressed to ought to study it and look into what is reasonably possible to accommodate them because politics as I said is a game of addition.