A political heavy weight Kudla M. Satumari aka HASKE, who is a PDP chieftain spoke to some newsmen in Abuja about his intention to run for the Southern Borno Senate position. Excerpts:
Sir, may we know you formally?
My name is Kudla M. Satumari aka, HASKE, An aspirant for the senate representing Southen Borno.
What informed your decision to contest for the position?
Politics is about people. Even democracy itself is simply defined as ‘government of the people, by the people and for the people’. They say all politics is local. I am fully at home with the local issues and the needs and interests of my constituency. And I have demonstrated capacity to be able to represent them with all-inclusiveness, which is what has been lacking. And in local politics, they say when they call you to come and invite you to do, is much better than when you tell people I want to do.
In my own case, I was called upon by people who have tasted a lot of other people and have found that they would rather look at fresh minds that would bring new impetus into their representation; individuals that are competent, that have capacity to deliver and also people that are compassionate. Most of the things that our people yearn for from our legislators, they don’t ask for much; just bring their issues to centre stage and through earmarks little developmental projects that you could execute in terms of constituency projects and let them see tangible manifestation on ground. So when they came to me, and they say if your wife begins to dance from morning till evening and she is not changing the dance steps, it will get to a point that you are tired. So that is how they referred to the kind of representation that they have been having. They have been having same people recycled, same style of governance and representation which has not been impactful. There is no sustainable development and the impact of this kind of representation is not felt. And in my capacity as an individual, there are some aspirations that my community and the entire senatorial district are yearning for it the extent that I could handle. I was able to address some of those issues like looking to their challenges, doing some empowerment programmes, health challenges, inclusion in political process. So they feel with my background, experience and goodwill, I will be able to garner the kind of support to lobby and pursue legislation that will bring about development in the area.
They call me the promise keeper because most of the things that they have asked for, I have done for them. The difference between me and some other candidates is that they are promising to do when they get there. I am already doing before I get there. Take for instance, when I saw that the learning environment under which some children in a particular locality were studying, it pained me that with all the opportunities that government had through various interventions, children in the Twenty-First Century are still sitting under the tree. I built them a primary school and furnished it. Three months after I handed over that school, they told me the rate of enrolment increased by 40 percent. And children were no longer in a hurry to go back home because they felt much more comfortable there and they played after school. Unfortunately, not long after, the issue of insurgency came and disrupted the educational process but the building is still standing. The structure, compared to any other that government had built, stands out. Women have approached me and I to them form yourselves into cooperative societies and I will provide you with the little seed capital for you to pursue your businesses. That I have done. I have asked other youths other people in the community to also come up with projects that they need me to intervene. I have sought for and obtained grants from different organizations including government for them to pursue their projects. Sometime last year when I went home, I met the community having and I asked them what were they doing? They said they were meeting to share the dividend of a project that I supported them that had been generating interest and what they normally do every quarter was to take their profit and share amongst them. There are some roads that are affected by gully erosion; I have intervened in providing the little resources I can to make them motorable. I don’t have records off-hand of scholarships that I have granted. I have a foundation that vets people who come to ask for grants.
Are these gestures restricted to Southern Borno?
It is not only in my senatorial district, not only in Borno State. As matter of fact, the last three beneficiaries of my foundation are from Kaduna State. Everywhere there are issues unless it is not brought to my attention or I don’t have capacity to address them. This kind of intervention is not localized to my own local government area. Majority of other interventions I have done cuts across the entire state and beyond. What we do is just part of us, not because of politics. And that is why people saw that people like this, if they get into politics, they may provide us selfless service. That is the motivation for going there.
What gives you the conviction that you will pick the ticket on the platform of PDP?
I will rather say, what is my conviction for winning the senatorial election? Because as far as picking the ticket is concerned, going by what is on ground, I think we are string on ground. And I am the candidate of choice. And it’s going to boil down to me and whoever opposition is presenting. In politics, you cannot say everything is done until it is done but we are also going everything humanly possible to consolidate out acceptance and lead within the party. So as far as that is concerned, I am hopeful that the ticket for the candidature for PDP is already in sight.
Why the choice of PDP?
Well, PDP is my party from when I joined active politics. And again, if you look around, you will see that PDP is the only national party that we have in this country. I want a situation where I sit on the table and the first thing I talk about is my country Nigeria, not my ethnicity, religion and gender. PDP is the meeting point where these sentiments are addressed. Even the provision to assist women to get involved in politics – the Affirmative Action – PDP tried its best. Our forms for women, it is just the Expression of Interest. We are giving the forms free. We are including handicapped people to get involved in politics and form part of our delegates. There is nobody that can say he has the ownership of PDP. And the personalities involved understand that we can all work together to evolve to the nation we are hoping to achieve. So, the party that presents that kind of sentiments and the possibility to have that convergence, if you truthfully analyse; you will find out that it is PDP. There is polling unit across this country that you don’t have our people on ground. You cannot say for the ruling party. Maybe now they are building because they are coming up. So, if you look at what we have on ground, I think it some extent, you will agree with me that if you are truly interested in building the nation, you would say PDP is the party. Today, you cannot look at PDP and say these are the owners. But of you look at other parties, you could say these are the owners of this party. Whatever decision they take is final. There are over ten presidential aspirants in PDP. Look at the way they are going around as they are campaigning, talking to one another. You have not heard anywhere where they say the candidate of this one is fighting that and fighting this. They understand that there is the need if truly our interest is the country, PDP is the party.
We know we have our shortcomings. We have understood it and we are working on it and by the grace of God, we will come out of it strong. This is the best way to deepen democracy and I don’t think there is any alternative party for me to go to.
Are you sure the party has learnt its lessons considering how it lost the 2015 elections?
Learning process in politics is continuous. Whatever challenge you find today may not be the same challenge that caused this particular mistake. But with respect to impunity, PDP has learnt her lessons. And I can you that the presidential primaries when it will hold, whatever people are thinking about will not happen because it will be one of the most transparent process; that is if they have not reached a consensus. Because we have come to this understanding that impunity will destroy the fabric of all that we have built for the past twenty years. So, everybody has that understanding. And that is why they are eager to sign an agreement among themselves. But like I said, other dynamics can come out in politics which will also be another lesson if and when it happens. But PDP has learnt and you can see how we are able to even attract some people back in our fold. Some of these people, politically-wise, they are very intelligent people, very smart and you can hardly teach them a thing or two. They will not come back to where they think there was impunity if they had not seen green light that there are really some changes on ground.
Before now, you will not expect what transpired during the Convention. But after the Convention, people came together, went round, spoke to one another and before you know it we are attracting people coming back. Yes, some other people are going. Politics is very fluid and dynamic. So, PDP has learnt its lessons.
You are contesting against Senator Ali Ndume who has been in the National Assembly since 1999. What makes you think people will vote for you if you finally emerge the party’s candidate?
When I finally emerge the candidate? There is something about human beings. They reach a point where you also want to say let me try something new. Some people have been there for a very long time. The difference between me and those who are already there is the fact that I will want to prove myself. I am coming with fresh ideas, I am a new face, I am also prepared because I have, by the special grace of God, a very good exposure both nationally and internationally. I know what the job and the responsibility of this position entails and I have prepared myself for that.
I interact with a lot of people. Being effective and impactful at the National Assembly is about your relationship with your colleague; you are able to network, lobby people, come together, reach consensus on issues.
Secondly, some people that have been there for very long have this sense of entitlement. So instead of working for the people they are working to get position at the National Assembly. So, their politics will begin to shift from representing their people effectively and efficiently to be a leader of that committee or to be the Senate Leader. Before you know it, their politics will begin to gravitate to another dimension. So, the issues and affairs of the people that they are representing is neglected. And this is common with people that have stayed there for too long. They make enemies. During elections, other people aspiring to contest with them in that particular party and because of the contribution that they have made to the party, they suppress those people and give them automatic ticket. Those proples aspirations are being dampened. They are angry. They are going to definitely do something to show and ventilate their anger. So, even if they are not going to support the opponent, they may not come out to work forcefully to make sure that that person returns.
And here at our own end, similar issues are on ground. There are people that are very qualified that are aggrieved that they are not even giving them the opportunity to pursue their aspiration by even going to do primaries with some of the people that are there because they have made an arrangement to give them automatic ticket. That of situation sends bad blood. So, I don’t have anybody to contend with in my party that I am going to out stage at the National Assembly. So, as I emerge as the candidate my party will rally all that support. And as a young person, I have the energy; I have tremendous goodwill across the country, not only in my state.
So, I will leverage on that to be able to give my people what they desire. As a result of that my focus will be what will I do so that my people will see that I’m working for them? And I will be under pressure to perform. By the special grace of God, I’m not going there for material gains. I have my businesses that are providing me with what I can take care of my family with. So, I am not going there to look for what to gain for myself since before I got there, I have started helping people. When there are earmarks for constituency projects, I will look for projects that will impact these people. I will not go like a salesman, carry my products and go and sell to you; I will go as a marketer. There are nine local governments in my constituency. So, I will check each and every one of these local governments. What is their need? But the overall objective is to look at how we can work together to bring about security and peace of that area. Otherwise every other thing we are pursuing will not work. And one of those things is by educating people and providing them with means of livelihood so that when they are gainfully engaged, they will not have themselves being lured into criminality and other vices that have been bringing us backward. I am going to serve the people and I am going with the understanding of the people’s problem. That is why I have told people that I will be big on human capacity development all round so that from day one I enter till I leave, any project that we put in place will be better maintained than the first day.
So, I have plan. I have been working on this plan. I have been implementing this plan. It has been yielding results. The difference will be that I now have a larger capacity to be able to pursue this dream using the influence of the office and government resources to be able to do that, and that by so doing; people are gaining the dividends of democracy. I am not seeking to be the senator of Southern Borno. I am seeking to be the senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria representing Southern Borno. So by perspective is national. How do I bring our issues to the national stage? And how can people of Southern Borno contribute to national discourse to make sure that we have a united country, progressive country and the voices of those people in Sambisa and all over the place are heard and their issues are brought to the centre. That is what my candidature is all about.
Your state has been ravaged by insurgency. With your level of exposure, how do you think this can be nipped in the bud?
First and foremost, the issue of insurgency should not be seen as a Borno or North East problem. It should be seen as a national security issue. And it should also be projected as an international issue and should be approached with all that level of seriousness. One of the things that I have been doing and I will continue to do is to remove completely the issue of insurgency from politics. Because as much as everything that has to do with the life our people, regardless of your political party, we should look at the safety and security of these people first and foremost. So, if everybody that is involved in governance see this issue of insecurity as a common issue, then it is a starting point for us to all work together to make sure that we sustain peace. Of what use will it be for me to be a senator when there will be no people for me to represent because of insecurity?
Secondly, we will support all issues that will promote peace and unity amongst our people; starting with supporting the local security outfits that are working hand-in-hand with the Armed Forces. Because we discovered that when the vigilantes started working together with the Armed Forces that was when we started seeing tangible results in terms of degrading the capacity of these people. Because these vigilantes, they live in the community, they know the nooks and crannies. So, we should encourage synergy amongst them so that there won’t be suspicion amongst the security forces. And they have been doing that. So we will promote that kind of synergy.
We will encourage the community also to be each other’s’ keeper to give information. We will invest in security awareness so that people will see the whole process that if we do it together, we will be able to curtail it.
In my community, when it became very serious, the moment a stranger comes to that town, in thirty minutes the village head knows. And that is how we were able to curtail influx of people either Boko Haram running and coming in or people running away from Boko Haram.
And most importantly, when people are idle, they engage in criminality. If people are sitting down there doing nothing and somebody comes and says ‘Come follow me. Let’s go and do this and that, I will give you this’. What do we do? Get the youths and all the people that can gainfully be employed to do one thing or the other, provide such opportunities for them. So, if everybody is busy doing a productive engagement at the end of the day, you will discover that people don’t want to die because they have something. But if you don’t have anything you don’t even fear death.
Another thing is to also make sure that we perform our oversight functions effectively. For instance, there is the North East Development Commission. Wherever they need assistance in terms of following up on appropriations so that they are able to execute projects that will touch the lives of people. I think the approach will be collective. There is no singular way to approach it but we will be doing it multi-dimensionally.
You seemed to place emphasis on the welfare of the people, thereby placing less emphasis on the issues of lawmaking, representation and oversight. How would you react to this?
I have told in the beginning that I may conscious and aware of the responsibilities of a legislator. In the context of those responsibilities, I took one aspect where earmarks are made. We all recognized how it is done in our country where monies are set aside for constituency projects. And this is just one single element that I have taken to say that in this projects that we influenced as National Assembly members, we will approach this issue by making sure that those necessary interventions that our people need are those that are impactful. And the reason I picked one and dwelt on it is because so many resources have been expended. We were supposed to complement what the Executive at the state and federal levels are doing. So many resources have been released for such interventions and they are not done. And that is why I zeroed on this aspect that we would do. And if course I told you that we will pursue and support all legislations that impact on the lives of our people positively. And we will bring their issues to national stage. And we will perform oversight functions regarding all developmental projects that the Executive brings. So I will exercise my oversight functions to make sure that those things are executed. So, I am mindful of my position as a lawmaker but while you are making those laws, we know also that we interface with the Executive.
President Buhari seemed not be a fan of constituency projects, as witnessed by agitation of lawmakers who complain of poor execution. What’s your reaction to that?
People confuse constituency projects to sound as if it is a different and parallel project from what government is doing. Even in America, earmarks are made for constituencies. You lobby for development in your area. What the National Assembly is doing that we need to execute people on is the fact that they are not saying ‘give us the money. Let us go and do it by ourselves’. They are saying that ‘you said you are going to do roads in our area, these are the roads that require urgent attention in my area’. And if you are able to do that, it will impact the lives of our people more.
Anyway in Nigeria, some of these things have been abused. And that is why people see it as legislators are taking money, appropriating constituency projects to themselves. Of course, there are some practices that can be improved upon. But I think what the legislators are doing; they are actually complementing the work of the Executive. When members of the National Assembly speak, they are speaking for the one hundred and eighty million Nigerians. For instance, a bridge in my area was broken recently. And two communities could not have a link. And you now tell me that you are planning a solar plant in my community while as we speak, it is that bridge that we want you to connect for us. You have to bring the interest of your constituency to the table and pursue it. Like I said, it is because democracy is not practised the way we know it should be. That is why we are having these frictions. Otherwise, the Legislature, Executive and the Judiciary are supposed to work together for the good of the people. And that is one area also that I will really need to educate our people to create the awareness that they should not expect from their legislators what they should be getting from the Executive arm. Because we can’t say ‘I will build road for you’. We can only facilitate and lobby for those things to come.