PDP, others must form formidable opposition – Atiku’s aide

Daniel Bwala,  one  of  the spokespersons of the Peoples Democratic Party presidential candidate in the 2023 elections, Atiku Abubakar,  in this interview with says there is a need for strong opposition in the country

Whether I agree with the judgment or not, it doesn’t matter. If it is the Court of Appeals or High Court or any other court that delivers a judgment you can disagree with it and give your reasons. And the idea is that because the judgment is subject to appeal, it has not been treated by the final court.

You see, there’s this thing we call a settled law. A law is a settled law when it’s a decision by the final court, once it becomes a settled law, it is the law so the opinion of anybody doesn’t count. The good thing about it is that the Supreme Court can make a mistake. That’s why in their famous dictum, they said that the Supreme Court is not final because it is infallible, but it is infallible because it is final, meaning that if the Supreme Court gives a judgment in error, that judgment becomes final, not because the judgment is not full of error. But that is what democracy has given to us. So that is the point in which once a Supreme Court gives a judgment, your opinion doesn’t matter.

The only thing that can happen after the Supreme Court judgment is that lawmakers can try to address whatever the Supreme Court raised in the course of their conversation, like, for example, Justice Okoro, in the course of delivering the judgment noted that INEC by not abiding by what they said they were going to abide by, that they have reduced the confidence of the people. I ask myself the question, the whole gamut of election what is it all about? Is it about confidence? Because the gamut of the election is a popular vote. So an act of INEC reduces the confidence of the people what is the implication in law? But you can’t fault the Supreme Court, because the implication in law is not very clear and clearly stated by the Electoral Act, if INEC does anything wrong, what do you do to them?

If you ask about the reasoning of the Court of Appeals if the Supreme Court agree with the Court of Appeal. I assume that the Supreme Court adopts the reasoning of the Court of Appeal. For example, one that raises my curiosity is regarding the application of section 134 sub 2 regarding the 25%. The Supreme Court agreed with the court of appeal that FCT does not have any special status that it is only for election, that 25% is required, but that if you don’t meet it, it is not a violation of the constitution. You know this is also another area that we’re hoping to be further enriched by the court because the same Supreme Court in the past when they were determining a case either in 2007 or 2011 remarked that the reason why they have failed to comment on it, the 25%, it is because all the candidates have met the requirements. So the implication is that if the person has not met the requirement, it will form the basis for the issue to be raised.

Number two is the law about non-compliance, non-compliance with the provisions of the electoral act, and the constitution is what is like bread and butter that we feed on every day, the courts have been cancelling elections for non-compliance even after the court of appeals decisions on Atiku, we saw cases that have come to the court of appeal, people were sacked because INEC didn’t comply with the provision of the law. Or do you also come to the issue of double nomination? We have seen lawmakers in different parts of the country that were sacked because of double nominations.

This season of elections has opened up our eyes to see the diversities of the decisions of the court in various cases, hopefully, at the end of the day, this will form the basis for the lawmakers to have a look at it, distil fundamental errors and make amendments against the next time. That’s one side, on the other side is that as a country, the implication of the judgment again was confronted by the same fact. In former Zamfara State Governor, Abdulaziz Yari’s case the Supreme Court ruled that with or without a card reader election stands. The effect of the judgment was that the entire excise around the card reader was nonsense. With all the struggle by INEC and other stakeholders on BVAS and IREV, the Supreme Court said it is not necessary. So again, by the judgment of the Supreme Court IREV and BVAS are not relevant. And it also means INEC can choose to say it is in another case. So the question that we are going to ask ourselves is, at what point will the law be made so clear that no court of law can deviate from that? Because the effect of this judgment is that INEC may choose to abide by IREV, BVAS, or not.

With INEC as a respondent in the case, it means that INEC can choose at any given time not necessarily pandering to APC. It can in some cases pander to the PDP or pander to the Labour party, whichever way they pander then that becomes the judgment of the court. So we’re getting to the point where there would be no need for an election petition because whatever INEC says will be validated, which didn’t used to be so before. I am hoping one day, in our lifetime, the court shall not be bound by technicalities.

 If you look at the last year, you will see that decisions of the same court that set precedents that were departing from technicality to substantial justice have gone back to technicality. I am suggesting that it’s about time as a nation, the judicial system takes a formed position on law and technicality, on substantial justice and technicality, and where they stand; come rain, come high waters.

The truth is both the PDP and Labour Party are controlled by President Bola Tinubu through proxies, Nigeria is a one-party state. Let me explain to you, you may have noticed in the build-up to the election, like immediately after the elections in all these major political parties, I am sure you read about, this one has gone to court and the court has sacked the national chairman of that party. This one is going to court, this one is about to go to court. They have sacked the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party. Then in PDP, you have one of the individuals who is a cabinet member in this administration that held the party by the balls as we speak today.

However, for the PDP probably there will be a forensic analysis of the party, there will be soul searching, and there will probably be a conference, in which the party will now take a position to form a formidable opposition moving forward. The hope that I have, I see, and very predictably  LP, PDP NNPP, and other fringe political parties, are going to come together, reinvent themselves, and post the opposition for the governing party. That is the future of Nigeria, but if you’re looking at individual political parties, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is determined to keep those parties in disarray till 2027.

I would only appeal to Nigerians at this time. When an election is over. We should all wear our patriotic gowns and caps. And think of how we can push the country forward. I am not saying let us go and be praising APC but neither will I encourage a situation where we will scatter the image of Nigeria, you see because whatever happens to Nigeria affects all of us. Providing opposition in my view, should not be like insulting somebody you know like for example, this issue of drugs, then certificate, and the rest. We should be concerned about important issues. So, the economy is there, security is there, and education is there. There are so many issues that Nigerians should engage in and interrogate the government, rather than talking about certificates or drugs and the rest because once you go to that realm, then we are taking our minds away from those things that matter to Nigerians.

I think that it is the economy and unity of Nigeria. This is the foundation of every other problem in Nigeria the insecurity will be triggered, it will multiply if the economy does not address critical issues like hunger or lack of access to healthcare and the rest. As of today, the policies of this government are full of grammar, but there is no clear definition of the direction. The problem confronting Nigeria in my view is the lack of unity. Every country of the world that you see, whenever you see a patriotic action, that pushes the economy of that country, you would always see the effort by the government to unite the country along a common objective. If you look at section 14 of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution as amended, it says the government must be run in a manner that will reflect the principles of federal character so that no part of Nigeria feels they are more than the other. If you look at the next preceding verse it says that that way, you will command national loyalty. So Loyalty to the country is when there is a sense of belonging where you and I know that in this administration, it will not favour you because you are Yoruba or it will not disfavour me because I’m Hausa, but that it is a platform created where both you and I can thrive and achieve the Nigerian dream. For now, the decisions of Mr. President have not been reflected, in the economy in my view, he is getting them wrong, maybe because he has not been able to deal with this issue of unity. One thing about life is if you give me a sense of belonging, whatever belongs to you, I see it as mine, I will protect it. if you make me feel like I’m an outcast. If you are doing anything and it is falling. I will not assist you because I feel he’s on his own now and I don’t even belong there, I don’t have a future in his plan.

But President Bola Tinubu in my view, can transform that if, President Tinubu will be the Tinubu we know. For now, he seemed to have the same problem that his predecessors had, they would speak like they were men of their own. They have their own opinion. As soon as they get to power the people they recruited under them will begin to tele-guide them, it is happening. All the signs we saw him Buhari we are seeing in Tinubu. So, the President needs to be the president in charge of his government. We began telling Buhari this from the beginning, but he did not listen. Because sometimes when you tell me to be in charge of my house, there is a feeling that I will get that. Because I will ask myself why are you telling me to be in charge of my house? If I take a sober reflection, I may realize that there may be one or two persons in my house who are manipulating my thoughts.

But as long as President Bola Tinubu does not deal with the issue of the unity of the country, does not bring an inclusive government, and does not deal with the economy, his administration will be worse than the administration of President Buhari. I am not speaking negatively, but I’m seeing the signs, if you plant groundnut, you can’t reap mango. I have my highest respect for him. This is like a sport, the Supreme Court has affirmed him. We are praying for him to succeed but we will never keep quiet from seeing what is the truth even at the risk of our lives.

Do you regret leaving President Tinubu?

I have no regrets till tomorrow because my decision to leave him was not based on personal issues like I am against him. I left because he decided for a Muslim Muslim ticket which I believe till tomorrow morning, a conviction I hold that the decision does not protect the unity of Nigeria and I have no regret for taking that decision even those whom I took this decision against, they respect me.

Then somebody who thought the vice president, Senator Kashim Shettima who was elected would feel bad but very surprisingly, after the election, I got a call from the Vice President. And I respect that forever. The Vice President said he respected my rights and the decision I made but he felt that being my former governor I should have known that he does not tend to make the government a one-sided government he spoke at length and then proceeded to say I call you because I need your support to bring to bear that conviction that you have. I want you to support the emergence of Senator Godswill Akpabio who is a Christian. So I felt if he came back to say he wanted me to support Akpabio so that we could have a balancing government that confirmed that my conviction was right. They did that for the necessity of winning, but he respected my rights and that’s why he reached back to me. You cannot say I should regret that. So I have never come across anybody who says that the decision I’ve made is bad.

You see whether Atiku wins or Tinubu wins, Daniel Bwala is not a loser. Do you know why? Because I have supported both individuals at different points in my life. So I am a successful person, let me tell you this. President Tinubu’s biggest challenge then was getting an APC ticket. Because they believe that when he gets the ticket he will win the election. And it was at that time I played a role to give him that value. So he became the president because people like us supported him to get the ticket of the party. So if Atiku had won or now that Tinubu won, I am a winner because I have supported these individuals. I supported Tinubu before, I’m supporting Atiku today. If Peter Obi had won, You might consider me a loser because I did not support him at any time. But Tinubu winning or Atiku winning does not make me a loser because I have supported these individuals at different levels of my life.