Getting two votes at PDP primary was surprising, I thought I would score zero – Shehu Sani

Senator Shehu Sanni formerly representing Kaduna Central in the Senate in this interview with TOPE OMOGBOLAGUN recounts his experience at the Peoples Democratic Party governorship primary and laments that the monetised primaries cannot produce credible leaders

You recently lost the PDP governorship primary Kaduna state. What was your experience like?

I am not a new politician and I am not a starter but something I have found out and that has been attacked by the society is the delegate system where delegates bribe delegates to vote for them. A primary, a democratic process where leaders emerge should be clean and transparent but what has been going on in the politics of this country is that we have accepted what is wrong, decadent and negative as a political ghost ritual.

Internal democracy is one of the most important areas of a democracy that needs to be clean and reconfigured. A society cannot have credible and honourable leaders when the process that led to their emergence is corrupt and decadent.

It appears that we have accepted a corrupt and fraudulent process of governance where people are selected as delegates and paid money to vote for a particular candidate. We are in a situation where hundreds of millions and sometimes billions are spent on a few people for them to elect candidates whom the rest of the public are now being urged to select from. I have said before I went to the primaries that I am not going to give a dime to any delegates and they should vote for me based on my credibility, accountability and my agenda for the people of Kaduna state and I stood by my words despite a lot of pressure for me to part with money and give to delegates to get votes.

But I insisted that I would not do it. We need to have references who are going to revolt against the system to rescue our democracy from being suffocated by moneybags and criminals because the delegate system only makes it possible for moneybags, and god-fathers to impose candidates and have strongholds on our society through the influence of money.

My experience is well expected, I knew that it was going to be difficult for the delegates to vote for me. But I want a turning point and somebody needs to sacrifice to open up the political space for and clear the corruption that both the ruling and opposition parties have accepted as a norm.

You won the Senatorial election in 2014 and before then you won the primary ticket of the All Progressive Congress. Are you saying that you didn’t give delegates money at all?

You can go back to my social media postings of 2014. I have made it clear then and I stand to be challenged by any executive member of the APC in Kaduna. When the delegates gathered before the election in 2014, I told them in black and white that I was not going to give any kobo for me to be elected into any office. And at that time, the opposition party was desperate to win.

And this time around, I repeated the same thing but unfortunately, I couldn’t make it. What I always do is bring the issue to the front burner of national discourse. That if we are to clean and respect our country, we must begin with the home politics. If our politics is dirty, there is no way we can have clean people in the position of power. One of the reasons people in power feel that they are not accountable to anyone is that they feel everybody has a price. And that people did not vote for them but that they bought the seat/ position that they occupy.

I want the people to discuss, how can we achieve anything as a country when the process through which the leaders get to the seat of power is laced with corruption? I can say it without mincing words that I have never bribed any delegate or executive of the party to be the candidate of the party in 2014, I won my primaries

As a candidate, you can make contributions for things like the furniture for the office or pay the bills of those who are working in the office. You can pay the bills for some of the other activities of the party; you can contribute to those aspects. But for you to line up delegates and you go into an auction or billing system where they say candidate A has given us N100,000, you are to give us N200,000. It was so dirty in Kaduna State that some delegates have got to as far as N3m per candidate, and some are even collecting $5000 in National Assembly elections in Kaduna state. So how do you expect people who pay delegates to respect the electorate? Impossible! Our politics is becoming too expensive and elitist to the point that younger people are being denied the opportunity to appear in a position of authority because we do not have the finances.

So the sacrifice, which I made, is to make it possible, first for Nigerians to discuss the delegate system and the corruption that is inherent in it. Secondly to make it possible for the younger generation to participate in politics if we now put a screen to focus on how politicians gather money before primary elections and for them to win elections.

If we say delegates should be paid money and it is right, then we have no right to challenge the electorate when they say they should be given the right to their salt from the boat. It is the political system of that the politicians that are corrupting the general public. We have got to the point where aspirants have to share rice, motorcycle and cars to get votes. You know that at a certain point in time, some of the aspirants that lost elections have to use hunters and vigilantes, moving house to house hunting for delegates to return their money. So what kind of system is this?

You got just two votes. Did you think that this was going to come down to that?
Well, I did not expect to have any votes. Because I did not just write that I was not going to pay, I faced delegates one to one and told them that I am not going to pay. Who voted me, I don’t know. I wish to know those who voted for me.

An hour before we went into the primaries, I faced the delegate in the hall and told them that I will not give them money to vote for me, so I was expecting zero votes. Why I did that is because I want Nigerians to know that this is not the path for which election should thread. Our politics is highly corrupt. It is too expensive. And it is impossible to produce a clean set of new leaders in Nigeria, in a system that embraces, endorses and accepts corruption in the primaries. Corruption is institutionalised in our politics to the extent that it has polluted the seats.

Now that you’ve lost the PDP ticket, will you be leaving the party or staying behind?

I have said earlier that I will be at the party and work together for us to wrest power from the APC in Kaduna state for now.

By law, INEC is supposed to monitor primaries, congresses, and all that. Do you think INEC is doing enough to tackle vote-buying and selling of votes by delegates? And if not, what do you think they could do better?

Well, INEC is too overburdened with so many things; registration of political parties, registering voters, conducting elections these elections are not just four years, there are bye-elections and stand alone elections. And they are so much involved with so many things. I think it needs to be unbundled. A special unit needs to be created from INEC to be independent.

Who do you see winning the presidential primary election of the APC?

For the APC, it is still confused about whether to rotate or not and it has collected so much money from candidates. Only that it has not decided on zoning. There is a moral burden on the conscience of the APC if it does not abide by the principle of zoning. Because President Muhammadu Buhari has spent eight years so it’s only logical that the APC brings southern candidates so that we can appeal.

The PDP is not obliged to do that, we have candidates from all parts of Nigeria. And they thrown the race open. The APC still does not have the courage to say whether it is open or not open or they zone the Presidency. And the APC will not last a night after Buhari because of the inherent injustice that is in that party. Why can’t the South-West become the next President of Nigeria? So it would be an act of betrayal for those who stood by you and made you who you are for you to turn back against them.

Are you talking about the likes of Tinubu when talking about those who helped Buhari in the South-West?

Well, we all know the role that Tinubu has played. He has the opportunity to have been the political leader in the South-West. He would have pulled the South-West to the side of Goodluck Jonathan but he pulled it to the side of Buhari. He elected Buhari into power. It does not have to be only Tinubu that would be the candidate but the fact is that without the South-West, it would have been difficult for Buhari to achieve his political dream of becoming Nigeria’s president. PDP needs to win an election before they begin to think of zoning elections. And if PDP doesn’t win the presidency next year, it’s over for the party.

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