The Peoples Democratic Party candidate for Kebbi Central Senatorial District, Mallam Haruna Saidu, tells TUNDE AJAJA about the controversy surrounding the ticket of the party following reports that Senator Adamu Aliero, who recently defected to the party, also won the party’s ticket in another primary
You petitioned the Independent National Electoral Commission in Kebbi State over another primary that produced Senator Adamu Aliero after you had won the party’s ticket for the Kebbi Central Senatorial District, could you share with us what really happened?
I am a member of the Peoples Democratic Party and I obtained our party’s forms to contest the Kebbi Central Senatorial District ticket. I was screened to contest and I have the certificate of the screening, which cleared me. I participated in the primary and I was returned unopposed. I got 262 votes and I didn’t at any time think anything untoward would happen. After some time, Senator Adamu Aliero, who was still in the All Progressives Congress at that time, used several channels, including some party officials, to get across to me to accept monetary compensation in place of my ticket. There were rumours going round that he was interested in the ticket and that he would find a way to get it, but I didn’t even entertain the discussion with those who reached out to me. My motivation for going into the race was to serve my people, so the issue of being bought was not even an option. I’m a member of the PDP Board of Trustees and I am the immediate past chairman of the party in my state where I served for four years. How could such a rumour come up and people would want to ridicule my personality and objectives in life. I am determined to serve my people, so nobody could just come and say he wanted to give me money as a form of compensation. I’m not into politics to make money. There were entreaties and efforts to get me to withdraw my interest for Aliero but they were all to no avail. I stood my ground, only for me to hear that he had emerged as the candidate.
Was there any communication from the party that the primary that produced you had been cancelled and there would be another one?
There was no official communication from the party, and I can swear an affidavit to that effect. For the record, the primary that produced me as the candidate was held on May 24, 2022 while Aliero defected to our party on June 9, 2022. It was on June 8 that I got wind of it that there would be another primary, and I didn’t hear it through the party. Somebody told me they had been put on the alert and that they should converge on June 9 to do a fresh primary in my senatorial district. I was in Abuja then. When I heard that, I wrote to the Resident Electoral Commissioner in the state to inform the commission of what I heard. I told the REC to disregard such notice, if it truly existed. As of the time I wrote that petition, nobody had contacted me from the party headquarters, whether verbally or in writing, that there was the need for a fresh primary. For a person not in my party to be the one to tell me of the primary was sufficient ground to know that it was a charade.
Did you reach out to the party to validate the claim?
I reached out to some members of the National Working Committee and they told me they were not part of that decision and that such a thing didn’t exist. As far as I’m concerned, it was a script by some people to say another primary was organised and that it was won by Adamu Aliero. That is ridiculous. Even if there was anything that should warrant the cancellation of the primary that I won, I should be informed. There should be justice and fairness. How can some people reach such a decision by fiat in a democracy? I didn’t think the national leadership of our dear party was aware of it. I believe they just wanted to test the ground to see whether it was possible. We all saw what happened in Yobe North, the senatorial district of the Senate President (Ahmad Lawan) in Yobe State, where the person who won the ticket said he would not withdraw for him. That is the same thing happening to me. It’s unacceptable. We are not in a banana republic.
Did you notify the state chapter of the rumoured primary?
The state chapter of the party does not have any power to conduct, cancel or appoint election committee members that would conduct the primary. It is the duty of the national headquarters of the party. The state chapter only acts on the orders of the national leadership, which sends a team of officers to conduct the election.
Who were the officers who witnessed the primary that produced you as the candidate?
The representatives of INEC were there; the representatives of the party from the national headquarters were also there. Every official that should be at the primary was there. I must say that what happened was a drama, because up till now, I have not received any communication from my party regarding the second primary that was supposedly held. What I know is that I am the legally elected PDP candidate for my senatorial district. A lot of people have called me about this that they heard I was offered money, but I told them I am not that kind of a person. There were people who came and pleaded on his behalf that I should please write a withdrawal letter for them but I won’t do a thing like that.
It was in the news that you scored 16 votes in the second primary that was held while Aliero scored 246 votes; did you eventually take part in the election?
No, I didn’t partake in the election. How would I participate in another election when I won the first one and there was no official communication to me that the previous election was not valid or had been nullified. How can you conduct two primaries for one seat? In fact, it is ridiculous. I was in Abuja when they said the other election was held. Up till now, the party has yet to tell me there was another election, and up till now, the officials of the party are denying knowledge of such a primary. I’m a law-abiding member of the party and I have communicated to the party regarding the development the way I heard it. I have an acknowledged copy of the letter I sent to the national chairman and the NWC.
Have you got feedback from the party?
No, I have not, and that is why I’m at peace. I believe nothing untoward will happen. The PDP is not like those parties that people’s names are smuggled in through the back door. We have procedures, regulations and laws.
The returning officer that announced Aliero’s victory was Baba Lawal-Aliyu, and he was described as the acting chairman of the party’s electoral committee and the secretary to the committee, do you know him?
I don’t know him. But I can tell you that the name of the returning officer that announced me as the authentic winner of the primary is Aliyu Abubakar, and he sent by the national headquarters.
Some reports said INEC was also at the second primary, what do you make of that?
Let’s see what INEC report would say, if at all their officials were there. In the election that produced me, INEC was there and the commission had a report. They can claim that INEC was there, but let us see the report of INEC on the second primary they said they had.
What if the party submits Adamu Aliero’s name as its authentic candidate?
My party has rules and regulations with regard to conflict resolution and that is what we will follow. By the time I have exhausted that, in case it happens, I reserve the right to take whatever decision I deem fit. I’m a respected member of the party, a member of the BoT and by extension a member of the National Executive Committee, and I was a member of the executive in my state because I am the immediate past chairman of the party in Kebbi State. There is no way a decision like that can be taken and I wouldn’t be aware.
How much were you offered by those who wanted you to jettison your candidacy?
I didn’t even entertain such discussions because it’s an affront to my person. Anybody who approaches me with such, I will not welcome any discussion with them. It is when you are interested in something that you would want to get details of what they have to offer to you. As far as I am concerned, I am the PDP candidate for Kebbi Central Senatorial District.
The deadline for the submission of names was Friday, has there been any development?
I have filed an originating summons over the issue at a Federal High Court in Kebbi. The court has yet to give us a date but the matter is already in court.
What are your prayers before the court?
I’m challenging the whole process that brought that man (Aliero) to come and claim that he’s the PDP candidate for Kebbi Central Senatorial District. As of the time the primary that I won was conducted, he was not even a member of my party. He was an aspirant in another party (APC). He filled the APC forms and submitted a letter of withdrawal on the day the primary was conducted. By that time, the counting had started and his name was announced as one of those who had votes. So, he participated in the APC primary. With the provisions of the Electoral Act 2022, you cannot contest the primary of one party and jump to another party to contest another primary, regardless of the position in question. Let him go and sort himself out with INEC on that. The examples of Ahmad Lawan in Yobe State and Godswill Akpabio (former Minister of Niger Delta Affairs) in Akwa Ibom State are almost the same with this and this cannot be an exception. If care is not taken, our party will end up losing the seat in this critical election.
Do you have information that his name has been submitted to INEC in place of yours?
This is something that was announced on the television (that he won the primary). Names and scores were announced. Like I said, he had written a letter of withdrawal from contesting in the APC by putting May 27, but the submission date was May 28. That was the day the (APC) primary was conducted. This is ridiculous. Then you come over to another party where the primary has already been contested. By the time the PDP primary was held, which I won, he (Aliero) was still in the APC. He tried several means and sent people to make offers to me, but I refused. I told them I’m not for sale. I don’t have a price and I’m not into politics because of money. For God’s sake, I’m not into such shoddy things. That was why he took recourse to other means of getting the ticket. There is law and that is why I have gone to court. I don’t know how INEC rejected the candidacy of Akpabio, a former minister, and would leave this one. How? We cannot allow such impunity to go. I’m not a desperate person but we should not allow impunity to continue in this country. There must be rule of law.
Have you heard from your party on this issue?
I have not, and that is the saddest part of it all. I have written a letter to INEC and the party but nobody has told me anything. I even went to the party’s office to see if they would have a correspondence for me, but nothing.