Tunde Omolehin, Sokoto
Alhaji Muhammadu Maigari Dingyadi is the Chairman 2019 Campaign Organisation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) in Sokoto State. He was Secretary to Sokoto State Government (SSG), and former governorship candidate of Democratic Peoples Party (DPP) in the state.
He speaks on the just concluded governorship election in the state, just as he expressed the hope that the party would retrieve its mandate through legal means. He also spoke on other issues of interest.
A lot has been said about the governorship election in the state. Give us your own perspective of the exercise, what went wrong. How come your party lost the election?
Well, a lot has been said but by and large, the general election was peaceful; from presidential to the governorship. If you recall, we won majority seats in the National Assembly election and majority votes for our presidential candidate. During this period, we did not jubilate so as not to hurt our opponents. We only returned to our houses to thank Almighty God for the election success unlike the governorship election which started very peacefully but later the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) supporters did not want the exercise to continue due to their selfish reasons. But they later succumbed to the will of the majority and allowed the election to continue. Even at that, the election was conducted amid violence and intimidation against our supporters and that was how they were able to manipulate the result to their favour.
Were there no INEC officials and security personnel on ground to checkmate all these alleged violence and intimidation?
As the many abnormalities were being carried out, we were equally reporting them to the appropriate authorities but nothing was done about them. No action was taken. We have cases of people cloning voter’s cards; we had cases of illegal printing of ballot papers and other electoral frauds perpetrated by the PDP supporters. Although, some of them were arrested and I think the Police are still investigating them, in the case of ballot box snatching, the Police were unable to apprehend them. They either operated freely without any challenge or they were only chased after to retrieve the snatched ballot boxes after they must have tampered with them. All these are electoral offences which should be handled with all seriousness.
Can you tell us the areas where these alleged acts were prevalent?
I can remember some cases in Shagari, Silame, Binji and Bodinga local government areas. They were so many areas where PDP thugs invaded and snatched ballot boxes. But what is most important at this point is for security agencies to ensure that they bring to book all the offenders in this case. Once they are brought to book, it will serve as a lesson to others. They should be made to pay the price. But during the election, the security agencies failed in this regard. If you commit an offence the security agencies will just be watching without making any arrest.
Was your party able to document all these as evidences?
We never documented that because we did not think it will go that way. We believe that our party is on the side of majority. We have the confidence that we are winning the election. It was after the rerun that we realised that a lot of things have been tampered with and we never envisaged it was going to be like that. When you look at things, we are the party that have been wining the elections. Our candidate won the presidential election. We won the three senatorial seats. We won nine out of 11 seats in the House of Representatives. And coming to the state House of Assembly, we won 16 out of 30 seats available. So, you can see that the tide was clearly pointing to the APC forming the government. But we are not losing hope as good Muslims. We believe that God in His infinite mercy will do justice to this. We believe God will definitely bring change that the people of Sokoto desire.
But there have been accusations that your party used Federal apparatus during the general election too to your advantage. What is your take?
Well, if you witnessed the two elections (presidential and governorship), you will see that there was nothing like that. I can even say that most of the security personnel worked for our opponent because it will be glaring to everyone if they have worked for us. I want to tell you that without the federal apparatus as you put it, we still went ahead to win all other elections. So, we don’t need any federal apparatus to win an election in Sokoto State.
Some were of the view that your party lost because your candidate is not a match to the incumbent governor who doubles as PDP candidate. What is your take on that?
You see, our candidate is a very young, vibrant and determined politician who is willing to take the state to a greater height. We believe the people of Sokoto accepted him and strongly stood behind him during the poll that was what took us that far. If people are not behind him, we wouldn’t come this far by polling such votes against an incumbent governor. Don’t forget that our candidate was also the incumbent governor’s deputy for three and half years before he left the government to contest against him. You can see that our candidate is vast in Sokoto politics and is very popular.
During the election campaign, there was an allusion against your party that the Sultan of Sokoto will be dethroned if your candidate emerges victorious. How were you able to handle that?
It wasn’t a surprise to me when I heard about it. You see, all these are political gimmicks which are intended to divert attention of the voters and also to cause mischief among peace loving Sokoto people. There is no reason for anybody to believe that the Sultan of Sokoto will be dethroned because of politics. It is never done like that. Even when the military did it, it came with a lot of consequences. So, no civilian government will think of removing the Sultan just because he didn’t support a party or candidate as they claimed. Apart from that, our party has never thought of that and will never think of that. If opposition thought they can spread this to win some popularity, so be it. I don’t think it has also affected the outcome of the governorship election. People of Sokoto State are not new to this propaganda. There is no point of using traditional institution to gain mileage in politics. The traditional leaders are fathers to everybody. Our party knows this. We respect the Sultan and nobody can remove him from the throne.
Some said the governorship election was a battle of supremacy between Tambuwal and Wamakko. Was it?
I don’t agree with that allusion. Rather, it is a political battle between APC and PDP. Even Senator Wamakko said this during our campaign. The people of Sokoto State know this. It was not a personal battle as such because most of them were in the same political party before they moved to their different political parties.
What is your party’s position as regards the outcome of the governorship election?
Our party position has been that we reject the outcome of the governorship election right from the collation centre. We observed a lot of unfair treatments that were meted out on our party and our party supporters. We drew the attention of the Returning Officer to our complaints but maybe there was nothing she could have done at that moment. We have also reported all these to the election umpire and other stakeholders. We have sent our message across to the public that we strongly reject the results as declared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). As I speak to you, our party has gone to court to challenge the result as was declared by INEC. We are keeping our fingers crossed and we will see to the end of the matter. We are confident because we have all the facts. We pray God will be our guide.