By Emeka Mamah & Dayo Johnson
KADUNA—FORMER Head of State and presidential aspirant of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Major-Gen. Mohammadu Buhari (rtd) and Nobel Laureate, Professor Wole Soyinka, yesterday, expressed confidence on the ability of President Goodluck Jonathan to conduct free, fair and credible elections next year and urged Nigerians to give him a chance to do so.
General Buhari spoke in a Kaduna State Radio programme “Vision Nigeria”, while Professor Soyinka had an interactive session with newsmen in Akure, Ondo State.
Buhari who said he was at the Presidential Villa last Monday on invitation of President Goodluck Jonathan to break the Ramadan fast for that day denied insinuations that he had discussed 2011 with the President.
He said: “I went there to honour the President’s invitation to break my fast. There were about 20 people there. We did not talk on any issue. Right from my car, I went straight to the breakfast table and after that, I went back to my car and left. So, I do not know where people got the idea that we discussed. That is not true.”
He expressed confidence that Jonathan would conduct free, fair and credible elections adding that he was ready to support any government that emerges through such credible polls.
Buhari who regretted that he spent 50 months in the courts challenging the conduct of the 2003 and 2007 presidential elections because both were adjudged by both local and international observers as not free and fair, added: “I will continue to fight for credible democracy in the country.”
He said: “When the Supreme Court validated the election of late President Uamru Musa Yar’Adua, my faith in the Nigerian judiciary was shaken but since the Supreme Court is the apex court in the land, there was nothing anybody could do about the judgment.
Conduct of free,fair polls
“The conduct of free, fair and credible election is not dependent on the candidates contesting the election, but the will of the people especially the elite to mobilize and deliver credible election to the people.
“If people are well informed and well led by their constituencies, I do not think we should be afraid for whoever wants to contest, including the President himself. I always bring the case of Bauchi, Kano and Lagos.
He added: “Nigerians have the capacity to reject any candidate they know is not capable to deliver the dividends of democracy.
Meanwhile, Prof Soyinka has urged Nigerians to give President Goodluck Jonathan the benefit of doubt to conduct next year’s election before condemning the approach towards the poll.
Soyinka also cautioned the media to stop portraying the internal policy of a single political party to mean the political policy of the entire country.
The Nobel laureate who spoke with newsmen in Akure after delivering a lecture on Culture and Politics at the First International Conference on Culture in the state said: “President Jonathan seems determined to make the elections free and fair hence the people should watch and see how he wished to achieve that. The President seems determined that the elections will be free and fair. The decorations are marvelous but we are waiting to see the results.
Condemning the approach
“Nigerians should, therefore, await the results of the 2011 general elections before condemning the approach towards the poll.”
Cautioning the media against dwelling so much on the internal policy of a political party, Soyinka said: “There is this habit in the media which tries to turn the internal practices of a particular party to mean the constitutional rights of the nation. That is wrong. So the press should stop portraying the internal policy of a single political party to mean the political policy of the entire country”.
In the lecture, Soyinka said the use of thugs to scuttle or disrupt election process, kidnappings and all forms of social insecurity which are yet to be tackled by government was a threat to the nation’s democracy.
He noted: “After about three decades of military rule in the country, the civilian administrations in the last 11 years are yet to restore civility to our system.”
The Nobel Laureate argued that “a better way to promote and nurture democracy in the country was for the people to respect and uphold their traditional culture and expressed concern that lack of respect for the traditional values was affecting democracy in Nigeria.”
He said that rather that questioning the source of sudden wealth of some individuals in the society, Nigerians ended up celebrating them, adding that Nigerians were fond of celebrating mediocrity while the “architects of Nigerian woes are currently being celebrated.”
According to him“majority of those who should be in jail were now major players in the nation’s political sphere. Soyinka, however, paid glowing tributes to the former Oyo State Governor and Minister of Justice, late Bola Ige and the foremost writer, late D.O Fagunwa. He said: “I advised the late Ige to accept the appointment as the Power and Steel Minister because I knew he had the solution to the energy crisis in the country then. The hawks in the system threw the spanner and he was taken to the Justice ministry where he was humiliated out of the system through a brutal death carried out in his bedroom.”
Governor Olusegun Mimiko spoke in the same vein saying that instead of questioning sudden wealth by some people they ended up being celebrate and honored.