By Tokunbo Adedoja/THISDAY
Former Presidential Candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and pioneer chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, has disclosed that all opposition leaders who nursed presidential aspirations have set their ambitions aside for the success of the coalition under the canopy of All Progressives Congress (APC). In an interview with THISDAY, Ribadu also said all eyes were on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), both locally and international, to see how the electoral body would respond to the alleged plots to frustrate the registration of the new platform formed by opposition parties.
Responding to a question on the prevailing views that the personal ambitions of APC leaders – some of whom contested the last presidential election or were speculated to have nursed such aspirations – may thwart the efforts to form a formidable platform that would challenge the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP), and if they would be willing to shelve their aspirations in the interest of the coalition, Ribadu said: “The most pleasant thing is that it has already happened. We came into this merger with nobody having any personal ambition. All of us were told to put our own interests or personal ambitions aside. This merger has come because nobody went in with any condition or with any request for anything.”
The former ACN presidential flag bearer said, “We have decided to merge and become one political party that is national, that is going to give Nigerians an alternative and through this process, I believe that this party is going to bring up candidate or candidates that would meet the expectations of Nigerians.”
On the kind of leader that would emerge on the platform, Ribadu gave assurances that the APC would produce a leader that all Nigerians would be comfortable with and that would solve the problems created by the PDP. “APC is not going to produce any sectional leader. We are going to work to ensure that whatever we are going to bring out is going to work. We are going to ensure that, not only at the presidential level, but we will produce credible leaders at the state level and at the parliamentary level”, he said.
Describing the emergence of a strong opposition platform as a healthy development and an indication that democracy is progressively getting matured, Ribadu noted that since 1999, this year seems to be the most significant in terms of the next level and a new chapter.
He said: “It is starting with the opposition parties coming together. We have only had one single political party ruling since 1999 and of course it has failed completely. Democracy means opportunity to make choices, to have alternatives, opportunity for others to thrive too.
But sadly, the opposition parties in Nigeria never got it right. We failed to build a national platform that would serve as alternative and PDP benefited immensely from that and it became the only party Nigerians would claim to be national.
“Now, different political parties have decided to come together. They are all with their own power bases and spheres of influence.
This year, we have seen the unprecedented resolve and all of them are putting whatever they have aside and saying that Nigeria is number one and far more important than anything. They are coming together and I believe that they have succeeded. We are likely going to have a national political party that is going to be alternative to PDP.”
Commenting on the likely benefits of having a strong opposition party that is national in outlook, Ribadu said, “Through that, maybe we will be able to tackle rigging and stealing of elections because when you have a strong political opposition that is going to be national, chances are that you may have a free and fair elections.”
Recalling that elections in the past were never credible, he said, “We know it, all of us know it. Even the winners know it”, adding, “A compromised election is the greatest danger to democracy. If this new platform would give Nigeria the opportunity to have a free and fair election, then it is a welcome development.”
Noting that the APC had what it takes to win the next election, Ribadu said, “In the APC, you have tested democrats, you have credible persons, individuals with integrity. We have in the APC, people who command the respect of Nigerians and we also have in the APC, may be the best public officers, particularly governors that have shown that you can have good governance and a government that can deliver.”
On the allegations that the ruling PDP was behind plots to frustrate registration of APC, he said there were valid and legitimate concerns about such plots.
Ribadu said: “Many Nigerians are also exercising that fear and expressing it. I believe that opposition politics is the most difficult thing to do. Even in developed countries, it is not easy, not to talk of developing country like Nigeria. The people who are in charge will not just sit down and say you can take power from them. It is a normal thing. They will do whatever they can do not to allow that happen.
“They are more dangerous when they are cornered. When they are in panic, they can be rough, they can be dirty, they can be lawless. It is exactly what we are witnessing today. PDP is in total mess, they are in disarray. They have seen a very credible alternative emerging, they have seen the solid support of Nigeria behind it. They are not likely going to sit down and allow it to happen like that.”
He however warned PDP to note that, “Time has come, this change is inevitable, and Nigerians are saying that enough is enough now.”
Speaking further, he said: “People are tired, people are fed up. Already, we have seen the worst insecurity, poverty, difficulties, terrible name and image, poor and incompetent leadership. Nigerians are crying for change and for alternative.
“They must realise that people are not going to take it. Those of us in the forefront of attempt to bring good people together will not just allow them to do whatever they like anymore. Nobody is going to sit down and allow lawlessness to continue in Nigeria. If they are going to frustrate or bring obstacle, let them also know that the time has come for people to say no.”
Ribadu also said that all eyes were now on the electoral body as, “Everybody is watching and waiting to see what INEC would do. Are they going to be in bed with PDP not to allow Nigerians to have an alternative progressive party or not? Everybody is waiting to see what would be INEC’s reaction, not only in Nigeria but also in the world. I have heard people, particularly from foreign countries like the US, the UK, calling me and asking what is happening.”
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