By Desmond Mgbo
Yusuf Dambatta, a former Commissioner of Budget in Kano State and running mate to PDP governorship candidate in the state, in this interview expresses optimism that the Court of appeal would quash Mohammed Sani Abacha’s recent victory over them at the trial court. Among others, he says Abacha also does not have the followership to make meaningful impact in the race.
We just had a court judgment on your case and of course, we all know the direction of the judgment. May we have your reaction and probably a hint on the way forward?
All praises to Allah for making it possible for us to witness yet another judgment delivered by Justice A. M. Liman. In the past, we have had a similar experience where he delivered judgment against us. That judgment was delivered at a very critical time, I mean, only days to the PDP convention in Abuja. This gentleman also delivered a judgment against us, mandating the Sagagi- led faction as the authentic delegates to that convention and we complied with his order and thereafter, we appealed and got a favorable judgment aside his order. So, this is not the first time that his court or this judge is giving judgment against us. Last two weeks, we had judgment in our favour again upturning his in the case of Jafar Sani Bello, who had sued Mohammed Abacha three months ago. The parties to the case then was Mohammed Abacha, PDP and INEC, but he later applied that our candidate, Sadiq Wali, must be a party to the case and we opposed it. We argued before this same judge, but he ruled against us. But we approached the appeal court and again, the court ruled in our favour. The whole scenario, if you looked at it, I feel that there are people behind everything, whether our local people here in Kano or others from other states. We are suspecting that there are people from Rivers State that are fueling this crisis of the PDP in Kano State and sadly, they are in partnership with the former Governor of Kano State. Remember that sometimes ago, during one of the projects commissioned in Rivers State, the Governor of Rivers State thanked the NNPP presidential candidate for the role he played in supporting his candidature in ensuring that the dissolved executive (Sagagi led PDP executive) supported him(Wike) during the primaries. And the Presidential candidate of the NNPP also appreciated Wike for the opportunity he granted him in this direction and this was televised by Channel TV and other television channels. If you looked at that friendship, if you looked at that union critically, you will see that something is happening. This is a big drama. It has never happened anywhere in Nigeria, where you leave a political party and still want to control the affairs of the same party you left. That has been our fate since the departure of Kwankwaso from the PDP in Kano State. That is the case we are suffering in the hand of that guy. He has left the PDP, but is deeply interested in controlling PDP by use of his proxy. That is very unfortunate.
Let me put it this way, there is the general assumption that Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has made it impossible for PDP to live in peace since his departure. To what extent is this true?
You are stating the obvious. This situation is very clear. It is crystal clear. When he (Kwankwaso) left PDP in early March, 2022 to form his association…… at that time, there was a subsisting State Executive Council of the party that was led by Sagagi. This was a Council that was brought through the backdoor anyway. And surprisingly, all the members of that Executive, which are directly and fiercely loyal to him, were directed or I should say, mandated to stay behind in the PDP. And some of them were either domestic staff of the former governor (Kwankwaso) or his boys or what have you. You cannot separate the two of the members of the executive and him. That is why we concluded that leaving these guys behind was nothing but to ploy to use them to truncate the growth of the PDP in the state. We saw it coming. Even from his remarks in the media, he has been asserting that PDP is finished or that PDP has nothing to offer. His whole motive has been to truncate the chances of Atiku Abubakar from emerging victorious in the 2023 elections or getting the required votes in the state. Despite all his underhand exploits, what has kept us going and proud is the knowledge that no one gives power, that Allah gives power to who He desires to give power to.
In the last few months, there have been changes in the political equation in Kano State. In all fairness today, between NNPP and PDP, who is now the second party in Kano State?
As for me, I am always very objective. In Kano State, we have three strong political platforms. We have the ruling APC. Nobody can deny this fact, despite the personal issues and unpopular policies of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. When you come to the NNPP, there are so many things at stake that have made them unpopular in the state. The abandoned projects that Kwankwaso left behind during his tenure, the uncompleted five- kilometer local government road projects that ended in a mess, the technical schools, the SIS, the so –called 26 special institutions that he created and that are in question today and of course, the highhandedness of his administration, which many elites in the state would never wish to return to in any form or disguise. All of these are causes of worry to the Kano voters. Of course, when we come to the PDP, in PDP we have our own internal squabbles that we are trying to sort out. In other words, based on my estimation, each of these three parties controls 30 percent share of the electorate in Kano State because they are dominantly traditional political platforms. So, what is left for the three political parties is to scavenge for the remaining 10 percent and whoever gets it, wins the day. All the platforms, take note, have a former or incumbent governor. APC has the sitting governor whereas NNPP and PDP respectively have a former governor each. APC has Ganduje, NNPP has Kwankwaso and we have Shekarau and a couple of senators. If you looked at that set up, you will agree with me that it is going to be a water – tight race in the state in 2023. I tell you that no one can guarantee you today that he would win the next election in the state or I am going to be the next governor of the state. No one can predict that fate of the state and who will eventually get there. Let me stress for the benefit of those who may not know, colour red may be very obvious and can affect hundreds of minds at a sight. But let us not forget that red is a shouting colour. You may see just 10 red caps and it is looking like hundreds of caps. But when you see hundred people with white caps, it will look like ten. That is the colour magic that is different from the reality of the distribution of political support in the state. We are not carried away by the red caps at their political rallies. That is a lie. We are not bothered because part of their strategy is to move with their baskets. When they go to a particular location or town, maybe to Katsina, they mobilize hundreds of buses to Katsina and when they are leaving Katsina, they return with their buses and leave the people of Katsina there. The truth is that the crowd had gone and the total number of supporters that they have in the particular place has not increased by a single number. When NNPP was going to Gabasawa the other day, it was the same practice and when they went to Wudil, it was the same thing. Anywhere they go, they mobilize all their supporters from the 44 local governments and that would boost the human presence and lend hands to a false impression. That is why you see that anywhere they are holding their rally, it is the same people, the same faces and the same characters. Don’t be deceived by the number of red caps that you see in NNPP rallies, they are simply mobilized from outside the location to give a false sense of huge base in the area.
Are you suggesting that their crowd is deceptive?
Very deceptive; and with the way technology is today, you can see how they manipulate the sea of heads to boost pictures. Ask the Kannywood people or people who are into photography, they would tell you how you can boost numbers of people. So, there is a demarcation between the real voters and the crowd we see at their rallies. Jack, Jick and Harry can be part of your crowd at rallies. Even somebody without a PVC can be part of your crowd. But the real crowd is there and they are not for NNPP. Also, there are influencers in the state. These are captains of various trades, various businesses and various persuasions in the state and they influence decisions of people in Kano. They are not for NNPP. How can the business community of Kano State ever allow Kwankwaso or his proxy to come back to power and demolish their structures? You know that they would not? How can they support Ganduje with all his political challenges? You know what I mean. That is why PDP remains the only viable alternative political party in the state. And the people are faithful.
There is this claim that Mohammad Sani Abacha, your rival, has no huge support base, just joined the PDP and not on ground politically and cannot deliver. How much of this claim is true?
For me, I don’t want to speak about the candidature of Mohammed Sani Abacha, because I know that he joined the party in April 2022. That is a fact. On the question of his political worth in the state, I will only refer you to the result of the 2019 governorship elections where he contested under the platform of APDA and whatever you get as the result of that election, tells you, in clear terms, his actual worth or how grounded he is in the politics of the state.
But for the benefits of my readers, tell us about the result.
I may not be precise but I know that he scored about 3000 plus votes from the entire 44 local government areas of Kano State, at a time the PRP was scoring as much as over a 100,000 votes and Ganduje and Abba, who is the candidate of PDP scored over a million votes each. This is about the fairest assessment of his worth and even with the way things are, with the support from outside the state, he still lacks an appreciable followership.
It is alleged that Shekarau and his tendency are more interested in the survival of Atiku and are less passionate in the party’s chances at the state level. Do you agree? Secondly, how does this judgment shifting affect your governorship?
Let me start with Shekarau issue. I don’t believe that his followers are only tilted to Atiku’s Presidency. For us in PDP, we are one family. We don’t demarcate between presidential candidate and other candidates. What we are doing in PDP is that we are supporting our candidates and once you are a candidate of PDP, we are going to support you. We are going to support all our candidates irrespective of where they come from or even your differences in tendency. Moving to the other question, you see the judgment is a just judgment from a trial court. This is just a trial court. We have three stages in litigation. We have a trial court, we have Court of Appeal and we have Supreme Court and when you have a judgment or ruling at the trial court, that does not invalidate your activities as a flag bearer. This is just like a governor who has been elected and sworn in and an aggrieved opponent decided to go to court. The tribunal might invalidate the governor’s mandate; the governor would now go to the appeal court. That does not stop the governor from performing his duties as the governor of the state. For us, we are still the candidates until the outcome of the litigation at the Appeal and possibly, the Supreme Court. We have applied to the Appeal Court and we have applied for a stay of execution and we are law abiding citizens. We saw it coming and we decided to apply and we have so many grounds, about 50 grounds but we decided to present about 20 grounds on why the judgment must be set aside. In the first place, one of the grounds that were relied upon was that PDP did not give 21 day notice to INEC. But that is not. PDP did that through the National headquarters of INEC. That is the normal procedure. If PDP wanted to send any information to INEC, they write to the national headquarters of the Commission. It is the responsibility of the headquarters to send the same information to sub- national bodies. That is why they have the Resident Electoral Commissioners in each and every state. There is also the constitution of the party that clearly states that the only eligible governorship primaries is the one conducted by National Working Committee of the party. There is no portion of the party’s constitution that allows the state chapters to produce candidates, not even the state assembly, talk less of the governorship candidate.
So the primaries that produced Mohammed Sani Abacha was done at the state level; is that what you mean?
Let me give this brief. We were nine aspirants that bought the party’s governorship nomination forms in the state. I was among the nine aspirants that purchased the forms and the National Executive Committee of the party sent the National Electoral Committee to conduct the primaries in Kano State. They came to Kano on that day, they approached INEC and they delivered their notification letters to INEC that they are here in Kano. Not only that, the Chairman of the Electoral Committee wrote a letter to INEC in Kano, saying that I am the Chairman of the so and so congress here in Kano, I am appointed by the National Committee and I am going to conduct the Kano State gubernatorial primaries at Sani Abacha Youth Center by so, so and so time and on this date, May23, 2022 and he took the letter to INEC and INEC accepted and acknowledged the receipt of this letter. And also, if you looked at the report of INEC sent to their National headquarters and also sent to PDP, the certified true copy clearly stated that they were in receipt of two notifications, one from national headquarters and the other one from the state and in the face of that confusion regarding the venue, they decided to go to the state chapter for their congress. The question is whose fault? The law is very clear. The Electoral Act clearly states that INEC shall monitor all elections. That is in Section 84 of the Act. If it says INEC shall monitor all elections, it is mandatory for INEC to monitor all elections. The mandate is not on the PDP, the mandate is not on the candidate, the mandate is on INEC to ensure they monitor all elections either single congress or parallel congresses. Whatever it is, INEC shall monitor it. And the logical thing to do for us (the PDP) was to notify INEC. And we did. We asked them” please come and monitor our election” but INEC decided not to monitor our elections as they claimed. They claimed that they didn’t monitor, but we knew that they were staff of INEC at our primary election. If that is the case, what do we do? It is not our cause to force INEC to monitor our governorship primary elections.