By Chesa Chesa
President Muhammadu Buhari on Wednesday emphasized that the introduction of Permanent Voters Card (PVC) accompanied with electronic accreditation of voters by the past administration for the 2015 elections saved him from another electoral defeat, having lost three previous attempts at the presidency.
The PVC, with which eligible voters completed their accreditation to vote at the last general elections, was introduced by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the administration of ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, who Buhari defeated to become president.
Buhari spoke at the Council Chamber of the Presidential Villa, Abuja during a valedictory session of the Federal Executive Council (FEC) for outgone Minister of Mines and Steel Development, John Kayode Fayemi, who resigned last week, having emerged the All Progressives Congress (APC) candidate for the forthcoming Ekiti State governorship election.
The President said he used the opportunity of any meet with the INEC chairman, Yakoob Mahmood, to urge him to intensify voter education among Nigerians because, thanks to technology, they can correctly exercise their power with the PVC, something he can testify to as a beneficiary.
He stressed that Fayemi also stood to gain from the efficiency of the PVC as he attempts to wrestle Ekiti from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and completed a second term as the state governor, which he couldn’t achieve four years ago.
His words: “I hope you will get Ekiti back for the party. The only time I saw the INEC chair was to insist that voter education should be emphasised, so that ordinary Nigerians will believe that Nigeria is beginning to respect them and that their PVC is their status.
“And then coupled with the card readers, God willing we are here with the help of technology. Because in previous elections – and I am in the position to say so having lost three times and got to Supreme Court – I know if not for technology, we will be doing the same thing.
“A lot of constituencies were bought, votes were allocated and results were announced and people were told to go to court if they don’t agree with it.
Now, for someone who is looking for the next meal, how is he going to get the money to give to SAN (senior lawyer), to demand for justice for his marginalisation?
“So, we thank technology because with the introduction of PVC and the card readers, votes counted. Please go and emphasise this to your constituencies, let Nigerians be respected that they can vote anybody across any party and at any constituency.
“I think that will give them the pride to voluntarily go and vote. It is not easy to go to Supreme Court three times, but I went through it. I wonder how many people will be proud to go through it in this country.”
Buhari however, revealed that he reluctantly allowed Fayemi to quit the cabinet and go contest the election because of his intellectual contributions to the work of the FEC and the achievements he was recording at the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development.
He would be hard to replace, the President said, while commending Fayemi for effectively checking the activities of both foreign and local miners.
“I very reluctantly allowed Fayemi to go to his state because of his constructive contributions. By chance he was given the portfolio of solid minerals and steel development and you know that sector was virtually abandoned.
“When he went in, he began to deal with both Nigerians and foreigners that are exploiting the lack of commitment of those who are responsible of that sector before he went there. Recall the number of children and women that suffered from the effect of mining in Zamfara State and other parts of the country and the people responsible.
“So, we certainly wish you the best of luck but it will take me sometimes to get a substantive minister and more so with the 2019 prospects that I have already indicated. But we need a a very strong minister, strong in intellect and courage, so as to make sure that both the Nigerian and foreign collaborators of taking away our resources can be checked effectively”, Buhari said.
Fayemi, in his remarks thanked the President for the opportunity to serve Nigeria and for not rejecting his plan to return “to rescue Ekiti”, and declared that he had no apologies for being labelled a “Buhari boy” by some politicians and the media. He also thanked other cabinet members for their cooperation and kind, emotional words.
He described himself as an accidental miner as he was a novice in the sector when he was appointed over three years ago, but has acquired so much experience along the line and improved the sector in Nigeria that he could qualify for a certificate in geology.
Minister of Science and Technology, Ogbonnaya Onu, said Fayemi was is special, unique and more than a bright star, who played leading role in formation of APC.
Minister of the Interior, Abdurahaman Danbazzau described him as a gentleman, down to earth and academic of repute, who “needs our continuous support as this is just the beginning”.
Minister of Women Affairs, Aisha Alhassan, said Fayemi was a worthy colleague, a gentleman, dependable ally, team player and a “he-for-she” person, who supported the cause of women whenever a request was made.
Minister of Finance, Kemi Adeosun, also hailed his well thought-out contributions during FEC meetings; while Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, recalled Fayemi’s contributions to his success as Governors Forum chairman.
Minister of State, Mines and Steel Development, Bawa Abdullahi, equally recalled how he and Fayemi were novices upon their appointments but eventually recorded modest achievements because of the former minister’s guidance, being a go-getter, brilliant and hardworking. He recalled that he never had any misunderstanding when they worked together in the ministry.