El-Rufai: Why I want 2011 Elections postponed

THISDAY Newspaper- Idowu Sowunmi

Former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai has reiterated his stance that the 2011 elections and handover date be postponed for the new leadership of the Independent National Electoral Commission under the headship of Prof. Attahiru Jega to have enough time to conduct free and fair elections.

He said he would not be a beneficiary of an extra month or more of the President Goodluck Jonathan tenure, but the country and Nigerians would benefit ultimately if clean elections take place in the country.

According to him, “it is up to Jega to decide...for me it is better to amend the constitution to postpone the handover date to ensure that the adequate money, appropriate staff, communications infrastructure and trained monitoring personnel are on ground with an accurate voters register - thus leading to clean elections than rushing and repeating 2003 or 2007.

“I do not like the guys in the National Assembly and many in the executive and wish they would leave tomorrow...but I am prepared to grudgingly live with them for a few more months if that will give Nigerians a chance to vote all the criminals amongst them out in clean and credible elections.”

The former minister had recently called for the postponement of the 2011 general elections and the May 29 handover date while speaking on “Credible Voters register” at a conference organised by Change Nigeria Project and the Save Nigeria Group at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel, Abuja.

El-Rufai explained that Nigerians deserve better and should not settle for anything less, saying that Nigerians do not deserve “the status quo or its slight improvement.”
He added that he was closely involved in the preparations for the 1998/99 and the 2007 elections and “you need time money and people to do these things, and my assessment is that Jega has none in enough quantities. But it is up to him.”
With regards to the timeline for credible elections, the former minister said it was not the responsibility of Jonathan to decide if Jega has enough time, qualified honest and motivated staff and the communications and logistic infrastructure to conduct clean elections.

“Jega and his commissioners will determine that. If former president Olusegun Obasanjo had asked me to do the job I did in Abuja over four years, without resources with all the staff I inherited in MFCT in 2003 and without any flexibility to hire and fire staff, deploy IT infrastructure in time, but to do the job in one year - I would have declined his ministerial offer and gone back to my consulting

Knowing Jega’s pedigree, he explained that the INEC boss would “give up the job unless he is certain that all the resources, personnel, infrastructure and time he needs to do a decent election are available. If he resigns because he concludes otherwise, it will be more damaging to Jonathan.”

On his perceived closeness with President Goodluck Jonathan, the former minister explained that he is not part of the “government and will never be,” saying “I am not close to Jonathan and have made it clear that I will not be part of his administration. I do not advise him or speak to him on his job. I feel affronted that at my age, experience and achievements in this life, any one would think that there exists any human that can tell me what to think, say or do.”

El-Rufai added that he is not concerned about the controversial zoning arrangement of the Peoples Democratic Party. “I do not care who runs for president and frankly would not even advise Jonathan to run if he would listen to me. And it is not because of zoning - I have voiced my opposition to it while in government, in exile and back home in Nigeria. It is because I think we are more likely to have credible elections when the incumbent has no interest in the outcome - and that I think will what will make Jonathan the most loved President Nigeria will ever have in our history books. Besides, I think he can always contest in the future and win easily.”

He said: “What I care about above everything else and every one else is that we have elections that throws bad people out of office and elects decent ones. Everything I have tried to do while in public office, exile and back home is along this singular trajectory. I believe that good elections enable an organic link between politics and governance which is currently non-existent. If we have credible elections and by consequence accountable governance, I am quite capable of succeeding as a private citizen in Nigeria. I have done so before. I have no business with involvement in politics and desire to ever be in government if my country functions minimally. Nigeria used to function as a state, even minimally. In the last three years, it has deteriorated beyond belief.”


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