ADP lost Niger gov election to vote buying —Isah Kawu
Isah Kawu, is a former Speaker, Niger State House of Assembly and governorship candidate of the Action Democratic Party (ADP) in the just-concluded election in the state. In this interview by ADELOWO OLADIPO, he spoke about his loss and his determination to continue his mission of rescuing the state.
The governorship and state House of Assembly election has been won and lost in Niger State. What was responsible for the loss of your party, the action Democratic Party (ADP), in the election?
Well, to begin with, for any contest, you should be ready for the outcome. I lost because my votes did not add up. But if you ask further why the votes did not add up, I would say that maybe we did not have the instruments of vote gathering and this includes influence, money, appeal, sentiments and other things like that and which contributed immensely to electoral victory. Yet, sometimes you don’t look at just your loss but you look at your success in the loss. You joined a new party and you came third with about 40,000 to 45,000 votes. It showed that I was really accepted by some people in the state.
So, we are taking the results in good faith and I wish the government success. I would hope they would do better than they have done in the last four years. But I am not very confident that they will do better than they have done in the past four years. It is okay the elections have come and gone, but thousands of votes were bought. But when you are blaming people for vote buying, you should also blame people for vote selling. One professor in Lagos called it vote trading. I just pity the state because of the resources that was used to execute or prosecute that election. But it is okay, we are fairly okay with our number three position in the election.
Have you congratulated the winner of the election, Governor Abubakar Sani-Bello?
No, but I will do that very soon. I want it to be intimate; I sought the party’s permission and they have given me the go ahead to do that. I would let him know that the elections were free, fair, but not credible. But I would not challenge the results of the election in the court because you don’t build the political culture on the altar of the judiciary. Rather, you build a political culture on the field of politics, parties, conventions, debates and mobilisation, among others. The courts may interpret the technicalities of the law but they cannot really do any political engineering to ensure that parties are better, that the people are more enlightened and that the people are conscious.
Did you mean you intend to seek political realignment with politicians of like minds?
Well, it depends but we will study the terrains, the occurrences and there is going to be a lot of alliances and it is my belief that the drama would begin to unfold by 2020 and 2021 as many people are waiting to succeed the incumbent. So, the unfolding development would determine the type of alliance with other people of like minds.
What did you think is the major complaint of the people?
Well, the people are hungry. Votes had been bought and they had sold their votes and they are regretting it, but you cannot eat your cake and have it. To have the money, then you have to sell your votes but a lot of them are now saying, ‘why did we do that?’ That is life: we all regret what we did not do right but that is a sign of a better thing to come. People may want to change their views next time and their actions in the way they respond to elections next time. One of the economic challenges facing Niger State and its people is general poverty, because 80 per cent of the population is civil servants and they cannot feed themselves and their families with the salaries they receive at the end of the month. Secondly is mass youth unemployment and thirdly is the collapse of infrastructure and clean water. Added to these is the neglect of agriculture, knowing very well that the state is an agrarian state and it is 10 per cent of Nigeria’s land size. As a result of this, we should be at the forefront of the agricultural value chain in this country. But we are still at the receiving end; we are indeed backbenchers in this country.
Despite the allegation of non-performance against the APC-led administration in the state, the government said it has expended about N2 billion on the purchase, installation of water pumps and the supply of potable water in some four major cities…
If they claimed to have done that, then where is the water? It is not the money you spent that matters, rather it is what you get out of it. If there is water, everybody should be a witness. You cannot harness the distant resources if you have not harnessed the basic resources. Fix the roads; keep the society safe; produce more food and get the youths employed. Then you can now use these platforms to explore other resources that you have. There are basic, fundamental issues that you can take care of; if you are not taking care of these basic things, why dream of far-fetched and grandiose economic programmes of precious stones or gold or petroleum exploration?
What are those things that are not being addressed properly by the government in power that informed your decision to contest the governorship race?
There has to be an articulate posturing of revenue and expenditure like what do you get and how do you spend it on the basic needs. You cannot tell me you spent N2 billions on water. Is it in Minna, Suleja, Bida, Agaie, Lapai or New Bussa? Rather, you need to prioritise what you are doing now. We should focus on the basic things. If they had taken the N2 billions to agriculture directly, there would have been some impacts. What I keep saying is that it is not the award of contract or the amount of money they have spent. My question is, ‘where is the water?’ Like President Muhammadu Buhari once said that the administration of President Olusegun Obasanjo claimed to have spent 16 Billion Dollars on the power sector but Buhari asked, ‘where is the power?’ Anybody can tell you anything, but where is the water in Niger State? As soon as the pumps begin to run, even if you ask us to pay, then we will pay for it.
You are yet to explain why you are in politic?
I have told almost everyone why I am in politics and one of the reasons is that I want to rescue Niger State in all spheres. I want to do a revolution in education, agriculture, sanitation and town planning and augmentation of our security structure. For example, if I am the governor of Niger State, nobody will prostrate to farm in the state and we are going to have four to five times our present output in food production. If I am the governor, I would encourage the people to cultivate yam tubers, cereals and vegetables, among others. Those are some of the promises we made to people. But I am not having a socialist posture or talking about the process of production but to be more honest with the resources. If I had been with the people like the sage, Chief Obafemi Awolowo, I would have been on the list of his favourites because you have to move the society forward. And even now, it is not like the people elected you to do it.
I believe that each of the votes I got during the last governorship and state House of Assembly elections in the state was genuine because I had no money to give anybody to vote for me. I got the votes because I went round the state to convince people more than any other person that contested in the governorship election in the state. I spoke in three languages: Hausa, Nupe and English. I wanted to speak Yoruba Language but I did not have anybody to write it for me. If they had written it for me, I would have read it on my own but I am not fluent enough like you. So, I moved round more than anybody and our promises were more cogent, more coherent and the people knew I would do it for them if I was voted into power because they believed me. In fact, there was a village I went to, I promised them potable water and road and they gave me 350 votes in that village because of the promises.
Your critics are saying you might have performed better than you did but you only limited yourself to Bida and another axis of the Niger South Senatorial District. Don’t you think this is true?
That was not true because nobody traversed the whole of Niger State like I did among other contestants in the state. If what they said was true, how did I get votes in Paikoro Local Government Area that is not in my zone? Also, how did I get almost 4,000 votes in Minna, the state capital which is not my zone too? So, while our performance is a question of the age of the party and the seriousness of the politicians, the incredibility of the election at the level of using money by the dominant parties was responsible for our loss. But we would still have lost even if they didn’t part ways with their billions of naira. But they could not take chances and we would still have lost as a result of the challenges I talked about.
Now that you did not win the election, how would you assure the people that you remain an agent of positive change?
Well, I can still go back to them and give them my assurance that if I am voted into power in the next political dispensation that I would attend to their needs.