North-East will vote for northern presidential candidate – Satumari

The Borno South senatorial candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Kudla Satumari tells TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN about his political experience and other issues

You contested the Senate seat in Borno South in 2019 but didn’t win. You alleged that the results were manipulated. Can you explain what happened  then?

In 2019, I contested the Senate seat and the final outcome of that election was not a true reflection of the people’s choice. There was evidence and also stories thereafter, including the admission by the candidate that eventually won that the outcome probably would have been different, but for the circumstances that we found ourselves. So, that is why people came this time around to say, ‘look, you have to go back and re-contest’. I believe this time around, it is ours for the taking.

Don’t you think you lost that election because you were relatively unknown at that time?

I wouldn’t say I was relatively unknown. I have been contesting elections for long. In 2015, I actually ran for the House of Reps. What happened in 2019 was a situation that… maybe this bimodal verification and accreditation system would help us as opposed to what we saw in the previous system. I give you an instance, in a particular local government, where my opponent came from, I knew this after the election while I was gathering data and evidence for the case, and I took it to the tribunal; I discovered that the Independent National Electoral Commission actually provided us, on demand, Certified True Copies of the ballot paper allocated to every local government area in Southern Borno. We discovered and it was confirmed via the certified copies that the local government area, where my opponent hails from, was given only 55,000 ballot papers. By the time the election result was declared, we had 113,853 votes.

 If you analyse the election results  carefully, it is not possible that you gave a ballot paper of 55,000 and 113, 853 votes came back. The irony is that the returning officer is a Ph.D holder. A lot of these things happened. It happened in Damboa, Gwoza, and other places.  Even beyond Borno South, it was the same incident in Borno North. Yes, the election was held, it was not a matter of being known or popular.

As a matter of fact, with all sense of modesty, if you go to Southern Borno and most recently, former states that made up Borno State, my name is a household name. So, I’m very confident that this time around, with the election that took place in Osun State, I think things will be different. I reviewed the Osun State experience based on four major elements that could have been responsible for the transparent and acceptable results.

I looked at the electoral process; we saw a great improvement in the electoral process. We saw that the bimodal verification and accreditation system was able to filter and present probably, reasonably the number of accredited voters, which tallied with the number of those who voted. So, the incidence of having overvoting was reduced because incident forms were not used, as was the case in the past. The integrity of the electoral process has improved, our elections can now be clear, fair, credible, and most importantly, conclusive.

Secondly, the candidate himself seemed to have been a candidate that is accepted by his people, and I see that people are beginning to gravitate towards looking at individuals, not necessarily the political party. The third influence that played out is the people, the electorate themselves. The level of awareness of our people is beginning to improve to the level that they want to hold candidates accountable. They want to choose candidates and they want to take ownership of the process of electing those who will represent them. I think that played out as well.

Finally, the political structure and the political party also played very great roles in the sense that there was the involvement of party structures to make sure that results were collected and transmitted to the situation room, to the extent that we were following the election results, unit by unit, ward by ward, local government, by local government. So, we already had an idea of the total votes cast even before the results were announced, and how many votes were going to this party or that party. It was easy to keep abreast of what is happened.

If you look at it, it then gives credence to the fact that even though people say political party structure does not matter, it really matters. This is because if the party is not on the ground, then you will not be able to monitor all the polling units with your agent, supervisors and people that monitor the election, even though it is too early to judge some political parties, by their performance in Osun State, you can see the reflection of what we see on social media regarding certain political parties and the outcome of what we saw in Osun State. This is an area that they really need to focus on to see that they have that strong structure for them to be present in all the other places.

You want the North-East to vote for a northern president rather than a northern vice president. Why is it so?

I’m a very realistic person. Even you, if you are given number one and number two for you to choose one, which one will you prefer? I will definitely prefer number one. We see how our system operates, the democratic system and the presidential system. A vice president will only function at the discretion of the president. Knowing Nigeria for how almost absolute executive power is in the hands of the president, anyone will naturally prefer to be the president than to be the vice president.

You see, what has caused a lot of this hullabaloo about the Muslim-Muslim ticket is not that we can’t have Christian-Christian ticket  or Muslim-Muslim ticket . Our constitution does not stipulate that it must be balanced. However, in politics, every sentiment matters. You need to balance the sentiments. Anybody who says that religion and tribal affiliation does not play a role in Nigerian politics is deceiving himself or herself. We know that the sentiment is very strong. So, we see a candidate who has looked at the Nigerian situation, and he wants these sentiments to be accommodated. He chooses a Muslim or a Christian to run with him. He has satisfied significant population and their sentiment; he is going for the president, not vice president. So, we in the North-East, I’m a minority from the North-East. I’m a Christian from the North-East. I know what my people feel, and how they approach me with some of their feelings about the issue of religion. I am from Borno State. I know how the insurgency and other things have affected our area deeply. Even though I know the effects of the insurgency is not only on the Christians, Muslims are also affected. But I know we suffered and bore the brunt more than any other community. So, these people are telling me everyday that they will vote for someone who has provided them some sense of belonging and accommodation.

I know how much votes come from my area. For instance, in the last election when I ran in only nine local government areas of Southern Borno, I got more votes than the presidential candidate in 27 local government areas, and this people are telling me that this is how they feel.

What will you say about Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu’s presidential bids?

Tinubu, apart from being the governor of Lagos State, and a short stint as a senator of the Federal Republic, he built his career mostly as a party leader, who has supported the evolvement of some of his mentees to occupy positions. So, you will give it to Tinubu. But Atiku has been contesting election; he has been involved in politics for a very long time. I grew up to know Atiku as a politician. Remember, he contested against Moshood Abiola in 1992/93. Ever since then, Atiku has been involved in one form of contest or the other. He became the Vice President of Nigeria for eight years. Whatever anybody says, he was instrumental to bringing some of the best hands to Nigeria. At least, from what I read, he (Atiku) was instrumental to bringing people like Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, El-Rufai, a former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria and the rest. We saw what they did with the economy. Atiku is known to attract best hands to work with him. He is someone that I believe has the experience that he can bring from politics and  economy.

Also, Atiku has a network of followers all across the country. He has a network of global influences that he can bring to bear. I’m not saying that Tinubu does not have, but I want to believe a team that has more of those experiences than Tinubu. The fact that he (Atiku) has Okowa as a vice-presidential candidate is also an addition. Okowa is a brilliant governor. He was a senator; he also has experience from the legislature and executive. Atiku is contesting on the platform of a political party that is one of the most nationalistic in spread across Nigeria, because the national spread is deep.

The experience that we have in democracy is deeper. I believe the structure of the political party and its composition also matter because if you look at the other political parties, with all due respect, the PDP seems to be the one that does not have absolute owners. If you go to other political parties, they can decide it must be this or not. But in the PDP, it is difficult to claim that we are the only people that own the party. That is good for our democracy.

Do you think people want another northerner as president at the end of the current President’s eight-year term?

If you look at the PDP as a political party, it is actually the turn of the North. Take a look at the 16 years that the PDP was in power, a northerner has only been in power for about two and half years or thereabout. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo took eight years, Jonathan took about five, six years after Umaru Yar’Adua’s reign. God bless his soul. I believe he was one of the best presidents, but God did not allow him to complete his term.

We cannot say effectively that the North has been ruling on the platform of the PDP. If Atiku had won in 2019, it’s likely that he would have performed better than what we have now. People would have given the PDP another term, which means that the North will relinquish power in 2027. So, if you look at it from the point of the PDP, actually, if we’re going by zoning, it is not the time to zone it completely. However, I agree with you in the context of a northerner from the APC is ruling, and it is now time for a southerner to come.

I agree with you if it is with regards to an individual who happens to be a northerner. However, that is why in the wisdom of our party leaders, they threw it open. But it is a northern candidate that has been there for the past eight years. So, what do we do? Let’s throw it open. Whoever God gives becomes the candidate and all the political intrigues that played out thereafter manifested.

Looking at what Borno State and the entire North-East was before Buhari came into power and what the state and region are now, we will say that there is relative peace compared to what it was back then. Don’t you think that the North-East can vote for the APC based on this factor?

I wish I can answer you in the affirmative. But the truth of the matter is that President Buhari came in and multiplied the types of insecurity we were experiencing. There have been more people killed in this period that Buhari is the President than were killed from the days Boko Haram began as far back as 2009 to date.

We were only dealing with Boko Haram around the confines of the North-East around Sambisa, Lake Chad area and their fringes. Today, we are dealing with kidnapping, Fulani herdsmen and the rest of them. We are dealing with other splinter groups from ISWAP and other different groups of terrorists that have taken over our country.

Yes, the notoriety of Boko Haram reduced because they are sharing their publicity with other splinter groups. Before Buhari came, nobody talked about having issues with travelling from Kaduna to Abuja. The bombings, the terrorism were alien to Nigerians when it first started. At that time, wherever it happened, it became instant news. It became something the opposition began to emphasise and why they should kick out former President Goodluck Jonathan. If the same vigour and the same exaggeration of the situations that they were using during the Jonathan era were what we put on every incident that happened with kidnapping banditry, terrorist activities in Buhari’s administration, you will not even bother to compare the level of improvement.

In terms of local government areas that have been reclaimed from total or partial control of Boko Haram in Borno State, I will say yes, there has been improvement. But have they fared better in terms of constant recurrence of one form of criminality or terrorist activity or the other? I will say I don’t have the complete statistics. But I hear more of these incidents happening than it used to occur in the past.

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