As preparation for 2019 elections is gearing up, a PDP stalwart, Milnda Kulda Satumari who wants be in the senate spoke to some newsmen in Abuja on how he intends to represent his people. He also spoke on the voting pattern in Borno State, and on other issues. Excerpts;
May we meet you sir?
My name is Kudla Sakumari popularly known as Haske. I am from Askira/Uba LGA of Borno State. I am aspiring to be the candidate of PDP for the position of the Southern Borno Senatorial District. I have been in PDP for a very long time now. I was a candidate in 2015 for the House of Reps, representing Askira/Uba Hawul federal constituency. I have decided to bow to the demand of my constituency and friends, well-wishers, to run for the position of the Senate to represent Southern Borno State. In a nutshell that is who I am, apart from also being a business man, I do one or two things in both aviation and construction businesses.
Borno State is controlled by APC, what are the chances of PDP as regards Southern Borno Senate seat?
Well, contrary to popular opinion that PDP has not been winning election in Borno State, the gubernatorial position has always gone to other parties in the past and this has been as a result of one or two issues which cannot be discussed over an interview of about one hour or two hours.
But if you go deep into history you will know that most of the election results were very close which led to some court cases in many instances because of how close they were. I will pick one instance. When Ali Modu Sheriff finished his term of eight years and he was running for the position of senate; as a sitting governor then, he lost to PDP candidate. Of the three senatorial candidates in Borno State in that particular year 2011, two out of the three senators were from PDP and quite a number of the reps members were also from PDP. So it was not as if PDP is not strong in Borno State, but it was a matter of some issues that were political, some issues that have not been comprehensively addressed which PDP is now addressing. So, just to clear the air, PDP is on ground in Borno State. Yes it is true that ANPP, APP, CPC before APC now has been the one producing the governors but PDP is on ground and my focus now is to see how we will take back the Borno South Senatorial District from APC to PDP.
Well it is not why now? Actually the sitting senator was first elected as PDP senator in 2011, so it was in the process that he changed to APC. We are trying to return it to where it actually belongs. It rightfully belongs to PDP. Predominantly, majority of the LGAs in Southern Borno are predominantly PDP members. They like PDP as a party. So it is going to be like they want to return to their first love.
What do you intend to offer the people of Southern Borno?
Well I am not the normal type of politician. I am a professional who has joined politics to add value to the process and in the process of me participating in politics I have moved from working from the background to getting myself involved in direct electoral process by offering myself as a candidate. And during the process of participating from state level to the Federal House of Representative as a candidate, I have demonstrated that I am into politics to serve the people and to create better life for my people and for my community.
And one of the things that makes me to stand out according to what my people have said, (to the extent that they call me a promise keeper), is the fact that when I promised that, if elected I will do this, I will do that; It turned out that all my manifesto promises that I made while contesting for the positions that I did, I turned round and went round and fulfilled them. Because I am very careful in making promises, I make sure that I make only the kind of promises that I can fulfill. And because having run a successful attempt into the positions that I sought, I went back and fulfill those promises, built hospitals, built schools for the community that I promised that I was going to build such for. I helped people with health challenges. I did some community development efforts in terms of road construction, fixing some bridges, some dams that got broken down. All little, little things that I said I will help fix if elected I still went back to the extent that as an individual, I helped them do that.
So it was not surprising when they come back together as a group to begin to say that look, we have looked round and we saw you for the past election cycles and we have seen that you have been very consistent, we believe that if given the opportunity, you will represent us well.
So they sent religious leaders, opinion leaders, community leaders, and party leader across board to approach me to see if I will offer myself again to represent them at the level. That is why I fill there is difference between my candidature and other people’s aspirations.
Actually I am not desperate to represent my people but my people saw it in me. And I feel it will be a disservice to turn them down knowing fully well that I have the capacity and commitment to represent them satisfactorily.
What is the composition of the zone? What is your spread of kindness to them?
Well one thing that I am noted for in my party for instance is that I, in my party as a whole, I do not show any discrimination. We have 27 LGA in Borno State. When I want to offer any kind of assistance within my capacity, I offer to build the party across the 27 LGAs, not across my senatorial district. However, my senatorial district consists of 9 LGAs as follows; Askira/Uba, Chibok, Gwoza, Danboa, Biu, Hawul, Kwaya Kusar, Shani and Bayo. There is hardly anywhere you step in any of these local governments that you will not see my foot print in terms of human capacity development. They are on my scholarship. Some are financial empowerment for them to start up their businesses, women empowerment, one form of assistance or the other.
However you can find out, in PDP as a whole in Borno State, I have made my little contribution to the growth and development of PDP in the State. I am not the only stakeholder, there are people who have contributed, but I have also made my little contribution because I see development coming to Borno State. When it is holistic, it is about PDP taking the governance of Borno State and other electoral positions for the state to be able to move forward.
What makes you think that PDP will win in the zone?
That is a very good question. What makes me sure? It is only God that can be 100% sure of the outcome of something that has not yet happened, but if public perception is anything to go by, our people are not happy with the government in place. Take for instance, since 2015 till date, you will see that no development has come closer to the people at the local government level and we are in democracy.
Government is supposed to be of the people by the people and for the people, but you find out that since 2015 there has never been any local government election in the state. People have been appointed for caretaker positions every six months either they are renewed or they change another person, denying the people the opportunity to make choice of who they want to represent them. And it has become a chronic kind of business. If you sing praises, you like me; I make you the caretaker chairman tomorrow.
And again the local government funds from what we hear, don’t even reach the local governments. For the past six years, majority of the local government have been bedeviled by the activities of the insurgents. And we are told that developmental projects cannot be executed. So the funds for local governments are not reaching them, only their salaries are being paid. So what happens to the other part of the money? We are told those part of the money were not saved.
Now that peace is gradually returning to the extent that local governments are moving back, we are not seeing anything on ground. People are crying, people are complaining. There is hunger in the villages. There are no good roads, there is no portable drinking water, and there are so many issues on ground that people are yearning for change.
One of the community leaders that I met the other day I travelled to Chibok was telling me that look, even if he is the one, he used an example of; if he stands up here and starts dancing from morning till evening and the same dance pattern, even me that is watching him will be tired of watching that his same type of dance. So people are now tired. They see the same faces repeated over and over. They are recycling them. And almost all the communities are despondent to the extent that they are calling for complete change and there has been some kind of awareness now that people deceived them and they are beginning to see the reality to the extent they are saying, look we are no longer going to vote on the bases of this party or that party. We are going to be voting for individuals based on our assessment of their performances.
And I have performed in my community. I am a bridge between the young and the old people. They see me as a young person who has come out and shown compassion. And I have extended help to people; irrespective of religion or gender. I have made only promises that I can keep and I have kept them. They see me as someone who also has the exposure and reach to interact with people that are even older than me. So the younger elements identify with me as a young person and the older people see me as a young person who has demonstrated maturity. So I am the bridge between the young and the old, so it makes things a lot easier because people access me. They are able to tell me their challenges and I am able to reason with them.
When you follow on my trip to my communities you will begin to see that really there is a connection between me and the people. There is a connection that makes them see that I am believable in the things I tell them.
I tell them that as a legislator somebody who is going to the Senate, or House of Assembly or member of the House of Representatives, we are concerned with making laws for good governance and peace and security of our country. We are not the executive to promise that we are going to build road for you, or we are going to give you this, we are going to give you that; we will help pursue legislation and other things that will make governance easier and bring development. We don’t go there and make promises that only the executive can execute. I educate them about the roles and responsibilities of people at the national assembly. That when elected, these are the things we could do.
We could lobby for development to be brought to our constituency. When other people go, they make promises that you and I know that is outside the purview of their job description as legislators. So these are the things that set us apart. We tell the people the truth about what needs to be done and how it has to be done.
What other factors do you think can make one to win or lose election in Southern Borno?
Well our people are beginning to look at politics differently. The dynamics are beginning to change. Those days, the party in government seems to have influence in the sense of bringing resources for logistics and being able to influence security and other things to make situation more fluid and easy for them to access power, but it is changing. People used to say that individual capacity to mobilize people, capacity to provide logistics for people in terms of moving round during election and what have you are the issues. People also used to say that, to some extent religion plays some factor because some politicians, for lack of ideology tend to cling to religion and weep up sentiments, but our people are educated and enlightened to the extent that religion is not a factor.
It is your capacity to deliver. And somebody like me, I have been in this process for long. I have my structures and I thank God. Whatever kind of capacity you are talking about, I am not found wanting.
Gender is also an issue. People will say oh, this is woman, this is man. People used to say that gender is an issue, but these days our people don’t look at that, because if you look at Southern Borno in particular, we are educated, when you are comparing us with other parts of the state. We are part of the state that is more educated; and most enlightened. So the issue of gender, issue of religion, issue of party affiliation; people are now able to objectively analyze. And what used to be a consideration in the past, based on what we see on ground now is no longer an issue. And most importantly, we are beginning to see our people take interest in politics.
One of the things that people used to say in those days was that some people used to think that people who are in politics are not righteous. They used to consider going into it as something that is not religiously right, because of the kind of politics that some people played in the past. They see it as may be it will expose them to some form of temptation that will make them to sin.
So those issues have fizzled out one after the other. So I as a candidate, I do not have any of those challenges. As a matter of fact, majority of the people that are calling me are bi-partisan. They cut across the two political divide, because of the challenges they have seen from their candidates. They said look, from the candidates that have represented us, you seem to be the only one that stands out.
Number one, I have not held public office and I am found wanting. And number two even without holding any public office, I have made promises and fulfilled all of them. I am slow to make promises. I am not taken by the euphoria of gathering of people and what have you. I am careful to tell them that there are three kind of promises that I can make. The ones that I can fulfill now that I have the capacity; The one that even if I am not in office, over a period of time I can fulfill them and the one that only when I get into the office that I can use the office to bring about their development.
So my people used to say that if the person talking is foolish, the person listening is not foolish. And that is why from my utterances, they say this person – the Friday that will be good, you know it by Wednesday. And that is why the followership is genuine. Since I started contesting, this is going to be my third attempt at elective position, never have I received this kind of goodwill.
You can see these things, (he brought some campaign materials), people brought them as contribution. Youths are donating their vehicles as their own contribution for logistic movement. Women are making contribution to support me. All over the place, before I say let me begin to print posters and what have you. Youth groups and associations are forming themselves and requesting for my pictures and they are making posters and pasting. This is contrary to how it used to be before and that is one of the indicators that I am on the right track, because they are not only calling for me, they are putting all the logistics to support the mobilization of people to make sure that this objective is achieved.
Last time out, elections were held in the IDPs camp and there were reported cases of rigging. What is your concern now?
We thank God that at the moment, majority of the local governments that have people in the IDPs are moving them back to the extent that, I think it is only three local government that have some of their people in the camps. And the governments have said that they have degraded the capacity of the insurgents and that they are mopping up. And government have promised that they will move all the people in the IDP camps back to their local government areas. We have seen recently, Bama that has the largest number of IDPs are moving back to their base.
Yes one of the things that affected election including my own in 2015 was the fact that election was held in the IDP camps and IDP camp was not even in my constituency. An entire local government which is the largest local government area in my constituency held their election in the camp and the camp was located about 78hours drive from wherever they could reach the camp to vote, but now majority, with the exception of few IDP camps in Gwoza and Danboa, all the other local government areas that are in my constituency have moved back to their local government.
So even if there is an IDP camp, the IDPs are inside the local government areas which are different from what it was before. We are also going to be calling on government to fulfill their promise and what they have been telling the international community that they have degraded the capacity of the Boko Haram.
And prove will be, let everybody do their election at home and I believe that they want to keep to that promise so we may likely not have a situation where a chunk of our voting population will be kept in the IDP camp. We will resist that.
How will you secure your votes?
Some of the strategies you are asking about is that we are going to use the experience of what has happened before to guard against rigging. We may not say some of our strategies on the pages of newspaper. One of them is the fact that our people now are thoroughly mobilized to the extent that we are going to demand an approved photo ID in addition to your Voter Card. I told you something that happened recently. I was travelling by road from Gombe to Yola and we were stopped along the road, and the military people and joint task force stopped us and asked us for our ID. They asked the person in front for his ID, he removed his voter ID Card and they said they didn’t want voter ID Card. They wanted another ID card. They said preferably national ID card and fortunately the guy had national ID card. When they had a look at it, they left. They said we can proceed and as we were discussing inside the vehicle, some inside the vehicle said the reason why the security agencies are using that is that there is this rumour in town that people can easily get the voter ID card including those who are not Nigerians. That is why they are relying on another form of ID card.
Now what we are educating our people to do on the voting day; there is no way you don’t know people in your community and we are telling them if they see anybody who they have not seen in that community before in the queue to vote, let them demand for their another photo ID card, either driving license, national Id card in addition to that voter ID card. And we are telling them to hold tenaciously to their voter cards.
In the past, 2015 we had a situation in an entire ward; one person went INEC and collected their voter cards that they are going to distribute to them. If they know for instance we have five, six, seven in this room and they know may be you belong to this political party, they know the voting pattern. This ward or local government will vote PDP or APC, they will go and take the voter card belonging to those people and throw it away or keep it. If you don’t have voter card you can’t vote. They are not using it to vote but they are denying the party that number of vote.
Everything we observed in 2015 we have taken note, we are improving on it and we are making sure it does not happen again. However, we also call on the government, I know our president wants to project image of sincerity and make sure that the election is done properly. So we are going to appeal to him to also appeal to INEC so that they do the right thing, because we have had where a politician even admitted participating in rigging.
So this time around we are advising our community, that if they allow the election to be rigged, they are rigging their future and the future of their children. Other strategies that we want to explore I will not be able to talk about it now because we are still fine-tanning it.
It is our community people that are telling us how to do it. Fortunately, you will laugh at this, some people that are supporting us because other people have failed them are coming to tell us that they were the ones that were rigging at the other side. So now they are at this side, they know how they used to rig. So they will prevent it from happening.
Thanks for your time.
You are welcome!