In this interview with TERHEMEN OOTA, the immediate past Senator representing Nasarawa South zone, Sen Suleiman Adokwe speaks on the outcome of his legal tussle with the former governor and current occupant of the seat, Sen Umaru Tanko Al-Makura, and other matters affecting Nasarawa state.
Your perception about the judgment at the appeal tribunal in Makurdi, do you see democracy being under threat, given the fact that your prayers at the tribunal were ignored?
I don’t see democracy being under threat in the light of my case, the balance of judgment that has been happening, some were won while others lost, some look like obvious cases but were lost, but whatever the case is, at the end of the day, I believe that nobody who tries to undermine democracy, not even the military, have ever outlived the continuity of the Nigerian polity, it is a passing phase, and this too shall pass away, if we could survive the human emasculation under the military dictatorship, we will also survive this one, I have accepted the will of God for me.
I served in the senate for 12 years and remain eternally grateful to God and my people who have always massively elected me even in the last dispensation, whatever happened in the course of the trial was merely technicalities and on the other hand, we were not challenging the election per se, we were asking for the collection of the result at the polling units that were not collated, the court feels that in asking for that, we should have called witnesses from the polling units, we thought that in a documented evidence, you don’t need oral evidence to substantiate the authenticity of the documented evidence and all the results in the polling units that were lawfully excluded, we were asking for them to re-collate it, they were certified by the same INEC that conducted the election as true results, so we didn’t feel the need to call witnesses in the polling units but the court insists that we ought to have done so, we even have judgment from the supreme court to the effect that you don’t need to call witnesses in such situations and our opponents did not deny that those results were there, so its beats ones imagination but we got to the court of appeal, the last court of instance but as a lawyer, I will be the last person to deny the judgment no matter how bad it is, that is the state of affairs, we abide by it, we succumb to the will of God for us.
The lesson to be drawn from this is that our people need to unite to make sure that you vote for the person you want, you protect your votes even at the cost of your life, you did not give things to chances for a strong man to take away your mandate because you cannot hope for justice in the court. I’m someone who believe that election is a matter of votes, it is not a matter of legality and the courts will also do well to be responsive to what we really want, if a vote is cast and any intervening thuggery that seize the votes, they should be well informed to give substantial justice to the wish of the people and not to encourage people who force themselves on the wishes of the people, so beyond that, Im very satisfy with myself, Im grateful to God Almighty for the opportunity given me to serve this constituency for a period of 12 years, I was not rejected at the polls, everybody knows that, even the person who has taken away my mandate knows that he was not voted for, I just prayed his conscience should allow him to do justice to the people of this constituency by representing them effectively knowing the pains and aspirations of our people, it is no longer another money making venture for him, it is now a call for service to the people.
In Nasarawa state PDP is the major opposition party, it is PDP that has the support of the people and PDP must learn to put its house in order, and there is a difference between when you are in government and opposition, those things that you do when you are in government, you cannot afford to do them when you are in opposition, opposition must have focus, build consensus and create opportunity for itself to win election, not to go to the election with a weak hand, most times we go into elections with a lot of bickering, people deliberately entered into contest with each other, they are unforgiving when they lost out in the primaries and you take those bitterness to the general election to either work against the party or sit on the hence therefore reducing the chances of the wining of the party, it happened to our party at all levels, it is a common feature of the opposition in the third world, opposition hardly unite, it is not easy to defeat a sitting government, for you to hope to do that, you have to be a strong opposition, before APC came into power, all the opposition elements in the country were united with a common purpose of removing President Goodluck Jonathan and they didn’t joke about it and PDP thought that it was a joke until they found themselves out of power, now APC is doing those things PDP is regretting they ought to have done, but we need to offer credible opposition, mobilise our people back to the drawing board to win elections. It is not going to be easy because the party in power today, APC, is a typical third world party in government and are not ready to give opposition a chance and to draw them over board, you need to be altruistic about it. These are advice to the PDP because APC is a party that is developing into a dictatorship and once a government is developing into a dictatorship, it can eat up everybody and the best thing is to stop them at this early stage, my advice to PDP is for us to learn to forgive ourselves, learn to understand that if you lose out, your brother should also not lose out, we always believe that because I have lost, every other person should lost.
For me, I will always be PDP and will stand for my oppressed people of this region, we are accused of being people who are pro-middle belt, we are trying to protect the lives of the indigenous communities vs the dominant oppressed Hausa Fulani, what they keep saying is that Adokwe is religious, well I have no regret, these are the people that vote for me, so I have a right and duty to stand for them and I will do so. I’m not against anybody , we are for the fact that development should belong to everybody, everybody who is in Nasarawa state, whether you are Hausa/Fulani, you are Tiv, you are Alago, Gwandara, Eggon you should have fair access to government, that is a collective task, is it that it will be a government of one family, a government of few identified people, even the Huasa/Faulani on the streets are suffering, so there is no pretense about it, it should be a government that will carry everybody along, it shouldn’t be a government of ones family taking all the wealth.
Few days ago, CAN in Nasarawa state accused the state governor of pursuing a religious agenda by appointing only 4 Christians out of 15 commissioners?
Well, it is a legitimate complain, but my own perspective is that CAN itself did not mobilise the Christians properly during the elections, and politics is a system of distribution of patronage and if CAN does not mobilize Christians properly during elections to create the desired impact, whoever comes into government will know that the Christian population in the state cannot be ignored but if you make yourself so weak, so there is nothing you can do about it, if the governor says, well Christians do not vote for me, what are you going to say, but CAN itself was so confused about its priority during the elections, they were the same people who will go and play with the devil and go to the church and condemn the devil, they were eating with the devil and were unable to make decisive intervention during the electioneering process, so we couldn’t make any impact either way, we distributed our strength to
all political parties, we have candidates in PDP, APC, APGA and other parties and if you are struggling to come to power, you cannot afford to dissipate your energy , CAN did not unite the Christian candidates, infact the way they played the politics, today you will see them supporting this candidate and tomorrow you see them supporting another candidate and they will even go and pray with Al-Makura.
When I read the statement, I was shocked for them to say that Al-Makura was very fair to Christians, they are confused, how can you ever say Al-Makura was fair to Christians, it is when it was getting close to election and for the purpose of his own election to the senate he gave some small appointments to Christians in this zone only, it was not across the entire state so that he can woo the Christians here to vote for him, that was what he did, now that he is in the senate, which Christian is his aide, those are not his priorities, the struggle lies on the CAN officials that they unite Christians because the desire of Christ when he was about to ascend into heaven, he even prayed for his disciples, followers of his Father in heaven asking him that he should let his people be one. Our prayer is that we should be one, and the Christian population in Nasarawa state is quite big, it is up to CAN now to mobilise that population not to the total exclusion of every other person but for whoever is in government to know that this a significant population you cannot ignore, you cannot do things by excluding them, everybody has the right to enjoy Nasarawa state, Christians, Muslims, pagans and every political party but when you decisively exclude somebody because of his faith or because of where he comes from, you are going against the spirit of Nigerian constitution and we must rise against it. When people are pushed to the wall, they will kick back, so CAN should go home and do its home work, but first and foremost, they should ensure that the Christian community is one and they can now participate effectively, so that when a Christian finds himself in any party whether APC, PDP or APGA, their rights will be properly asserted in that party as a block and if it is clear that, if that party is not according them their rights, they will have options of moving as a bloc to another party but right from the word go, if you don’t know how to strategize, you will not come and blame somebody, if the government of Nasarawa state does not include us as Christians, it is good for us, now it opens our eyes to the possibility that this party does not like us so you don’t vote for this party tomorrow, you vote for the party that will give you equal opportunity, that is just it, we are in a democracy, what goes round will come around, if they don’t recognized us, tomorrow, the Christians will go for a party that will respect them.
Are you still going to contest election in 2023?
I have just concluded my elections, whatever will happen in the future is in the hands of God, I have reached a level that I should be an elder statesman and I cannot come out deliberately to say vote for me for this or that, it all depends on the circumstances of the state affairs, if you are called to come and help salvage one situation or the other, it is a different thing, but at my age, I cannot go and be hustling for electoral positions again, I’m 65 years old and I have come a long way, the people of my zone have supported me all along , I can say without fear of contradiction that I have never lost election in my zone whether primary or general election, so they have done well for me, they have given me a lot of respect and I will always work for the people of this zone and we will collectively together decides what to do in future, where to go, where to pitch out tent, just as I have been given support, I’m ready to also support the young people coming to become what they want to become, standing for election for me is no longer something that is in the pipeline, it can only happen if I’m mobilized by the people for reasons that they think I ought to do it for them but on a reasonable scale, that is off for me, but I’m ready to work with my people, I need to show my gratitude by continuously belonging to the process that will shape my political future, that I will definitely do, I can never go back and forget because my own is over, I have a duty to help the community bring out a new leadership.