Kaduna state governor, Nasir El-Rufai was a guest on Channels Television where he spoke on the just concluded local government election in the state and the effectiveness of electronic voting system.
He also speaks on the security issues in the state and efforts being made in the war against banditry.
If the results are of the Kaduna Local Government Election is anything to go by where your party, APC lost your local government to the PDP, do you think your party members will have confidence in the usage of electronic voting in the future, having seen that it did not favour them?
First of all, let make this correction. The chairman of Kaduna North Local government is APC. He won but lost some councilors because councillorship elections are very personal elections. People know who they are voting for and people are not happy with the councilors in the first term, they voted against them even if they are APC in their second term. That is what happened. But overall, the chairman of Kaduna North local government is APC. Yes, I lost my polling unit, yes, the councilor in my ward is PDP but that is okay. The councilor that was in the first term was APC, I don’t think the people liked him very much, so they voted against him. They voted against the individual, not really against the party. But they gave more votes to the chairmanship candidates than they did to the councilors because they know the councilor, they see him everyday. The chairman is a bit remote. And of course, the governor is very far remote. So, those saying it is a referendum on me got it wrong. I am not on the ballot. So, we won in Kaduna North local government. As I said, the 15 local governments so far announced, APC has won 14, PDP has won one in Kaura in Southern Kaduna. Even the heart of Southern Kaduna opposition , Jama’a local government where PDP has won consistently since 1999, this time, it flipped to APC. So, it is not about incumbents, it is about commitment to democracy and allowing people make their choice. I think whether you are an incumbent or not, you should put the interest of democracy and public interests ahead and allow free and fair election.
What is your general assessment on the usage of electronic voting machines in the Kaduna Local Government election?
I will say the elections in Kaduna using the electronic voting machines and electronic back ups have been very successful. The reason why people will try to compromise policemen and all that is because that is the system they are used to. Truly, the police cannot do anything to change the results of the election. They can’t touch the machine. If anything is done to compromise the machine, the electoral commission can switch it off and cancel the results of that polling unit. They will be able to use GPS to track where the machine is and recover the machine and then schedule a date for another election in that polling unit. And indeed, in several local governments, we are going to do bye elections in polling units with the machine either malfunctioned, were snatched, stolen or whatever. So, as I said, the system is nearly foolproof. You cannot manipulate it. As electoral officials, you cannot really change anything because you cannot change the results in the machine. You can’t change the results in the USB that will be taken to the collation centre. You can’t change the results that are printed and signed by all the party agents and given copies to the security agencies. So, unless you can change all three, hack into the server and change it, hack into the USB somehow and change it and also rewrite all the results that are with the security agents and party agents, you really cannot win in these things. You may succeed in cheating initially but by the time all the facts are brought before the election tribunal, you will lose. So, it is nearly foolproof and if we can make all the lawmakers in the national assembly understand this and they are confident they were duly elected, they didn’t write results in the last election that brought them into the national assembly, they will have nothing to fear. The only person that will fear this system is the person who knew he wasn’t elected, that he used the security agents and INEC to somehow manipulate the results that brought him to the national assembly or to the governor’s office or the presidency. This is my view.
You did this in 2018 and now, yet voters turn out is still low. What do you think it will take to restore voters confidence in the electoral system so that they can turn out enmasse on election day?
Yes, voter turnout is a major concern and there are perhaps two or three reasons for this. The first is that because we have to do modifications to the voting machines, it arrived a little late. We didn’t have months to prepare people and show how the machine works extensively, so that people have confidence that even though I am not educated, even though I have not seen how the machine is, I will still be able to vote. So, there was the fear of technology even on the part of voters and I think this contributed to the apathy. This is why I said earlier that we intend to use the next two, three years to try to get more people to participate. Secondly, local government elections usually have lower turnouts because unlike national elections where the entire populace is mobilised, local government elections are isolated elections in one state. So, there is that issue. We need to have more advocacy on the use of the machines and the third thing which I think is a very positive thing is the fact that, for instance in Kaduna North local government, even though APC won the chairmanship, we lost more than half of the councillors because the councilors that served in the last three years were returned by the party using consensus but many people were not happy with that. So, they voted against them. They didn’t vote for PDP, they voted against the councillorship candidates, so we lost. Now, the results of that will send a message to the people that their votes matter. They can vote out people they don’t like. I have a feeling that next local government election will have higher confidence and turn out which will also be improved by the continuous advocacy that we will still do in the next two to three years. They shouldn’t wait until election cycles to show people how these machines works. They should use the two years period before the elections to really show people that these machines are easy to use. Go to village by village, ward by ward and go to the markets to show people that these machines are easy to use. This is how to improve the voters turnout but like I said, the loss of APC of many councillorship even when we won the chairmanship is a clear indication to the people that yes, our votes matter, so let us come out next time and vote out people we don’t like. So, I think it will work generally in future elections but a lot of advocacy and communication is needed.
Let’s talk about the issue of insecurity. Do you feel hamstrung by the security architecture as it currently exists?.
Yes, it can be very frustrating sometimes because as state governor, I am supposed to be the chief security officer of my state but as I have explained several times, the state governors control no security assets at all. These are federal security assets and while they collaborate with us to some extent, at the end of the day, they take their orders from Abuja. There are some things that we want done but are not done. We have been meeting as governors of eight frontline states and we have very clear strategies and plans to end this banditry but the constraints on the federal sides sometimes slow us down. But we are working together more collaboratively. Right now, I think we have turned the corner. I think the issue of banditry in the North West is at a tipping point and very soon, we are going to see the end of it. The aggressive military and police operations across the air is dismembering them and I think we are coming to the end of it by the grace of God.