YIAGA AFRICA’s Media and Communications Assistant, Fisayo Okare, writes on the challenges faced by Young People during Party Primaries and how some were illegally sidelined by Political Parties
Abdulhalim Abdulahi Liman
Position: House of Representatives, Giza Gabazawa Federal Constituency
30 year-old Abdulhalim Abdulahi Liman spent over 30 million naira steadily navigating the precarious nature of the political landscape in Kano state. But he will lose to a fellow aspirant who spent 10 million naira less to checkmate his strategy through conspiracy.
In a country where community men, elders and elected representatives have long managed transfers of power according to their own self-interest, what happened to Abdulhalim on the day of his state’s primary elections is of great significance. Abdulhalim was one of five people running for the House of Representatives to represent Giza Gabazawa Federal Constituency. His competitive advantage rested on the fact that he was the only contender from his local government; the four other candidates were competing from the same local government. “If you check, you will see that I have an advantage”, the defeated candidate proudly attests. “I had the advantage going forward that everyone from my local government will vote for me.”
Abdulhalim grew up in a family where his dad was “pretty big on trying to assist people”; this has inspired his humanitarian endeavors, which is now inextricably intertwined with his political ambition. He trod on his dad’s path and soon, family, friends and community men began to say, “Look, if you are done with your studies, come. The structure is there, it is the grassroots, all you have to do is assist people and people will see it. Nobody is helping you, what better way to help than if you are in office”, he recalls to YIAGA. Abdulhalim decided to run for House of Representatives with the ruling party, APC, where he worked with old political warhorses, avoided critics and experienced the marginalization of young aspirants in the political landscape.
Like other aspirants for his position, Abdulhalim paid the required N3.85 million for nomination and expression of interest to the APC. Additionally, the state party chairman refused to recognize any aspirant who did not pay N350, 000 to the state, and aspirants needed to pay N30,000 to each of the two LGA Chairmen in the constituency. Abdulhalim’s mentors advised him to give gifts, bags of rice and sugar, to secure the votes of elders, statesmen and other stakeholders in the lead up to the primary election.
“It was all about delegates,” Abdulhalim says, recounting how indirect primary elections made it necessary to pay delegates. Aspirants had to pay delegates to attend political events, in addition to their transport. Delegates also approached Abdulhalim for cash and gifts after Ramadan: “In my constituency, there are 11 wards for each local government, so that is 22 wards. And each ward has 27 delegates, so if you do the maths, that is around 600 delegates. What we did that time; I gave out 250 bags of rice in my local government. And in the other local government, I gave around 150. So all in all, I gave out about 400 bags of rice.”
At 4:30 am on the day of the primaries for House of Representatives in Kano state, all aspirants headed to the house of Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje. “Normally the governor will try to come up with a consensus candidate because most of the time, [when] primaries hold, there [are] a lot of grievances; some people might even decamp”, Abdulhalim narrates. But this time, Governor Ganduje did not pick a consensus candidate. He told them to proceed with the primaries.
Abdulhalim and his team waited at the stipulated venue from those early hours of the morning until 5:00pm. In that time there was no sign of a primary election. According to Abdulhalim there was “nobody, no INEC official, no security, no party agents…nothing”.
Nonetheless, the party later announced a winner for the position, one of the aspirants, whose name Abdulhalim declines to state. It is alleged that this aspirant gave N20 Million directly to party elders to be declared the winner. “Everyone knows there was no primaries, but what was going around was that he paid N20 million. So that was what happened basically”.
Abdulhalim’s story reveals many things about the challenges youth aspirants face in party primaries. It shows the enormous expense associated with running for office, far beyond the N3.85 million required for purchasing the form. Abdul estimates he has paid over N30 million in contesting the primary. This is an alarming amount and raises concern that a successful candidate who spends so much to get into office will seek to make it back with interest once elected.
The expectation that the state governor would pick a consensus candidate before primaries is also revealing. While it is understandable that parties would try to avoid decamping, the APC’s constitution and the 2010 Electoral Act mandate primary elections. The fact that interference by governors to preempt primary elections is so common is worrying. Finally the allegation that Abdulhadeem’s opponent bought his declaration as winner is a serious one, and shows how opaque primaries open the door to political corruption. A person who owes his candidacy to such a dubious process will not represent the constituency well.
Position: House of Representatives, Ankamafara Federal Constituency
A general acceptance of power rotation amongst a selected few made it impossible for Amina Iliyasu to compete in the primary elections. The odds were already stacked against her even before she purchased the All Progressives Congress (APC) party nomination form to represent Ankamafara constituency, Zamfara state, in the House of Representatives.
Amina had publicly expressed her interest to run for political office, but her party ceremoniously terminated her aspiration at a gathering she was invited to by her local government chairman. She explains that this was thinly disguised political party propaganda. The event graced the presence of aspirants, party people, stakeholders, elders of the local government, and commissioners. “It was such a big gathering”, she says, but to her dismay, they read out a list of pre-selected candidates, who were already “anointed by the governor of Zamfara state” to run for the office—to the exclusion of her name. This was when she “was told to stop,” Amina says.
The driving force behind Amina’s aspiration for office was the youths from the constituency who prevailed on her to run. “They requested that I ran,” she narrates, “Initially, it was a bit difficult for me to accept but I did because I believe they saw something good in me and they believed in me that I could do it”. Amina consulted with political heads, who gave her the go ahead to run. Some of these individuals would later be present when she was ordered not to run for office.
In Amina’s view, the Governor’s decree to oppose her candidature was as a result of the “fair sharing” that takes place in her state. “The fair sharing we are talking about is not in the constitution. It is just something they decided to do, to make it a bit friendly and acceptable so that one local government will not feel let out”, she says. The governor and other statesmen propagated the necessary condition of alternating the seats in the House of Senate and House of Representatives between two local governments. “So if a Senator is coming from one local government, they allow the Reps to come from the other local government,” she says. In Amina’s case, she hails from the same local government with the serving Governor who decreed that she must not run because of his own political ambition to aspire for the House of Senate. Although Amina was contesting for the House of Representatives, the Governor was contesting for House of Senate from the same local government. Hence, the House of Representatives was routed to the other local government, as it was the generally accepted custom in Zamfara state. Amina was thus, pressured to step down for the candidate for House of Representatives from the other local government to come on board.
Prominent politicians already drew a line that the seat was entitled to another person, and that if she made any attempt to seek for the office, she would be checkmated. However, Amina was not defeated…yet. After being refused the seat of the House of Representatives, she had dreams to run for the House of Assembly. Reality proved otherwise. “But shockingly, they told me that that same person that has been there for 8 years, has been selected to go for another term —that is the third term. So at the end of the day, there was nothing for me and I was told to‘Yi ha kori’ as usual; ‘Be patient’,” she says.
Ahead of the primary election, other political parties offered Amina a deal to run under the umbrella of their party, but she was disinclined to abandon APC. As she states, “this is the first time I am aspiring. So I didn’t want such a situation that I will be jumping from one party to another, because the truth of the matter is I love APC. Even [if] I go to another party, I know I might end up coming back to APC. I have been one of those people who criticized people that jumped from other parties to another, so I didn’t want to do that.”
Amina further looked beyond the actions of self-seeking politicians, to explore the possibility of other socio-political configurations that worked against her. She found that gender and age are elements that played a part against her success. “There has never been a [female] politician from my state, there has never been female inclusion. [As regards age barrier,] I know few youths, who [are politicians]. Like the person in the State house of Assembly from my local government is a youth, but that is the only person I know. Gender really mattered because women are not given a chance in my state.”
Although Amina had to contend with this problematic political atmosphere, she explains that the most hurtful thing about her run was the substitution process. “What actually pains me again is that those people who were anointed never campaigned”, Amina unburdens. “They never showed any interest of running. They were just selected, just over night over us, that they were the anointed person”.
What the foregoing suggests clearly is that many Nigerian leaders and politicians almost always arrive their duty posts more by the geo-political consensus that defines the offices of their state and Machiavellian negotiations, than by the provision of the Nigerian constitution and electoral act on the conduct of Party primaries.
Atinuke Marie Leonard
Position: State House of Assembly, Chikun Constituency
“My name is Atinuke Maria Leonard, I was an aspirant for state house of assembly, Kaduna state, Chikun constituency, and I ran under the platform of PDP,” Atinuke speaks for 10 seconds and the first thing you notice is her first-name. Immediately, anyone who is aware that ethnicity is a barrier and determining factor in the socio-political traditions of Nigeria, will ponder at how difficult it must have been for Atinuke, a westerner by virtue of her Nigerian State of Origin, to seek a political ticket in the northern state of Kaduna. As a young single woman, Atinuke had other forces working against her as well.
Expectedly, all these factors were challenges for Atinuke in her campaign experience. But since political equality was part of her agenda, she persisted. Atinuke is passionate to be a flag bearer for women, the girl child, youths and everyone born and bred in Kaduna state. Win or lose, she hoped to show that single women, youths and non-indigenes could run for office. “I wanted all that narrative to change,” she says, “because being a single person is no disadvantage, it doesn’t mean that you are not a complete person to aspire for things that people aspire for. For me it was a really peculiar case, I am not an indigene of Kaduna, I am from Kogi state but I was born in Kaduna state, I grew up in Kaduna and I lived all my life in Kaduna state—so I wanted people to be aware of that too, that you can actually contest. That way, I got to inspire a lot of people.”
Atinuke brought a consciousness to the hearts and minds of many, “Not winning [the ticket] was bad, but not bad enough, because the greatest passion I had was to make most [people] aware—the women most importantly because my passion is the girl—that they can actually aspire too.” Atinuke believes that the future is female inclusivity, but to her dismay, the women of Kaduna state failed her.
Speaking about what happened, Atinuke analyzes how women’s views and actions towards a young woman running for office showed signs of sexism. One women’s group supported her aspirations but refused to publicly endorse her even as they publicly venerated male politicians as candidates for office. “There was a time I was going for my declaration at my local government level, and I invited the women group to join me, so that when other people see that women are supporting themselves, they could be encouraged. But the women [group] leader sent a message to my campaign coordinator that they are not allowed to do that”, Atinuke narrates with disbelief as she recalls the incident. She ascribes the reason for what happened to the financial benefit the women get from being allies with the politicians. “Simply because they know I’m not going to give them as much money as the man would do, they would rather not want to have an alliance with you in the open,” she says.
Atinuke also explains that she expected so much support from the women especially because they verbally vouched for her each time she went to express her political interest and mandate to them. “The way they talk about men [saying] ‘they have been slaves to men, men have been doing this, and now a woman is coming, we are going to give you 100% support’, if you are not careful, you will just think, let’s do this and today you are going to win the seat”, she says. But in her words, this was “false hope”. “It was the same women that went behind me to tell people ‘ah that girl, she is a proud girl, she is not married. If we allow her to go, she will just go and be sleeping with all the men’; it was so bad.”
Ending the marginalization of women remains a core goal for Atinuke, who was stigmatized as an unmarried non-native and young woman running for political office. She believes that to reach an ideal level of equity in the political landscape, society as a whole must first identify with the woman as primarily, a human being, and women must learn to support women, “If we could actually support ourselves, I think we would get it done better”, she affirms.
Barr. Rabi Aamu Musa Manchi
Position: State House of Assembly, Kafanchan
Rabi Aamu Musa Manchi has a very comprehensive understanding of all the elements that worked against her victory to be a member of the Kaduna state house of Assembly: gender, age and finances. She speaks about all three without floundering or over explaining, but providing a clear and complete picture of what happened. Her countenance is decisively relaxed; she is towering with a certain control of calm in the face of political unfairness that she lays bare. When asked if she sees herself running for future elections, she says firmly, “The game has just started”.
For this first ‘game’ that she has lost, Rabi briefly explains the circumstances surrounding her defeat. “Some of the stakeholders didn’t want me because they felt I was very young. They felt intimidated by my age, and of course the fact that I am a woman,” she expresses. Rabi outlines that the serving Governor of Kaduna state, El-rufai—who is bent on encouraging women in politics and youths generally, found her aspiration valid and supported her. Even with his endorsements, other stakeholders were firmly opposed. “They had a problem with the fact that if she eventually get the ticket, she will get to the House of Assembly;” Rabi explains, “they had a problem with the fact that a young person like me will represent them.”
Rabi’s third challenge was the money; female aspirants running for the State house of Assembly were demanded to pay N475, 000. “Being a young aspirant, you [are made to believe] politics is about money, so I had a lot to do based on logistics; I had to finance my movement and all that. At the end of the day we, the female aspirants, were asked to pay N475, 000—it wasn’t funny,” she presses.
After she lost her party’s primaries, she got offers from other political parties to join them. She declined. “As a young politician, you are trying to build a career. And when people see you jumping from one party to another, they just tag you as an unserious person, or even someone that is a desperado. So we are not desperate, I’ll still be in the party, I’ll work for the party to make sure we succeed in 2019”, she says of her decision to not re-strategize under another party’s banner.
At the start of her interview, Rabi introduces herself as “wife, mother, and politician, also an entrepreneur”—the ordering seems deliberate, showing what the phrase ‘family over everything’ means to her in respect to her career. She explains that her husband, family and a few of her friends remained a strong force, providing essential support for her to rely on all through her political straits. “As a young woman that I am, if not for the support of a husband and of course family, and very few friends, I wouldn’t have been able to achieve my dream of even aspiring to be in the state assembly.”
Although defeated, Rabi knows this is not the end., “as a matter of fact,” she says, “we are just starting. And so we would keep pushing, until we win. Eventually, in 2023 by God’s grace, we’ll see if we can contest again”.
Position: State House of Assembly, Dass Constituency
While some aspirants were defeated even before they could compete for the primaries, Naji mujeen Garba’s case was different. Garba was actually announced the winner of his election. Garba prevailed over 6 candidates to become number one. Two days after the announcement of the supposedly successful result, Garba and his team saw a report on social media that listed the names of all State House of Assembly candidates. Garba’s name, as well as that of six other candidates, had been substituted. This was only beginning of his confusion. And Garba—who is a former Special Assistant to the Governor of Bauchi state—is still confused about his missing name.
The first thing Garba did was to reach out to his party chairman over the phone, “I gave him a brief about [the substitution] and he said he doesn’t know anything about it. I became relaxed because as far as I am concerned, the Party is the only way I can get credible information about my status quo”. But Garba’s intentions to run for office seemed precarious, especially as rumours of his substitution spread throughout Facebook and Twitter. “I had been trying to calm my supporters, my people, to remain calm and to not be demoralized. But the thing is, as we continued going, a lot of things were happening,” he narrates.
For Garba, his substitution marked the latest event in a battle with stakeholders that began from the moment he had declared his aspirations. “There are a group of people called stakeholders; my age bracket is not in tally with theirs and I am not in their circle. [But] from day one, [when] I expressed my aspirations to contest, I knew that those people will not support me and they will make sure by all means, they stop me from winning.” Apparently, they did. According to Garba, “what they did—and they succeeded—was that they constituted a delegation to meet my governor because I am a former special assistant to him, and he encouraged me to participate—He encouraged me, and supported me—So they met him, tried to threaten him that if he allows my emergence, he will surely lose my constituency”.
What matters more than anyone’s conspiracy, though, is the platform Garba has simply been legitimately contesting for his election: his political party, APC. Regardless of what anyone had to say about him not winning the primaries, Garba strongly believed in the affairs and processes of his party. However, days after the report with substituted names emerged on social media, the unfathomable happened. There was a workshop for the state house in Gombe, Bauchi state and Garba’s political party “sent a comprehensive list of all their aspirants”. “Our name was not there, we were not invited. From there, I started becoming demoralised honestly,” he explains as he processes his thoughts. Garba adds that even when the Independent National Electoral Commission “(INEC) pasted a list in various local governments in INEC offices,” his “name was not there, and the names of the six other [candidates] were also substituted”.
This is rather puzzling. If Garba claims he won the political primary election, and all the bodies that have political administrative power and control have no documentation of Garba’s win on the list, there is no way Garba could continue to formalize his supposed success in the primaries to the public.
However, Garba has evidence to substantiate his affirmations that he won the election in his constituency. His team retained the audio of the announcement of results, which included Garba’s name and the other substituted candidates as winners. “They even published it [the list of successful candidates] on Daily Trust. I filled all the correspondent forms by INEC. All this happened, and later on all these stories came up about the issue of substitution. Till now, there has been no credible person or authority that has told us what happened and why it has happened.”
Garba spent a million naira to acquire a nomination form—“I spent like a million because we deposited N850, 000 through bank and we gave N100, 000 to the state party. And in the party secretariat too, we settled some.” He still has hope for the future, and he strongly believes that the government can do better to encourage young participants and set up rules to regulate expenses for political campaigns. “If the politicians believe that by putting [a large] amount will regulate the number of participants. On our own side, it is not in favour for us to participate,” he says. In his view, the cost of nomination forms is an attempt to keep young people from participating in the electoral process: “there are more competent youths that have not been able to. Not because they are not willing but because they are not financially [equipped] to partake in the process.”
Position: State House of Assembly, Numhan Local Government
Mary Frank explains that she lost her political primary elections on three bases: Misogynists, Unsupportive delegates and pretentious mentors. When she commenced the distribution of her flyer, people looked her in the eye and said, “We are not going to vote you because you are a woman.” Similar comments rained on her all through her political aspiration. “A guy asked, ‘Is she married?’” Mary Frank recalls. But in that moment, a passer-by who has clearly not been indoctrinated into the patriarchal system, spoke in support of her saying, ‘Is that one of the things that will make her?’. This kind of support was what Mary Frank needed from her mentors and the party’s delegates, but as she proceeded with her campaign and journey to political primaries, she did not find much of it.
In any competitive field, mentors offer an inexperienced person a rare opportunity for adequate immersion. When Mary Frank decided to run for Adamawa’s Numhan Constituency, she found it difficult to get reliable mentors. “I didn’t have someone saying ‘yes! I am stamping this lady to stand in for this’,” she explains, “I felt I was just alone. The part of mentorship was not really there. You meet them and they tell you that ‘yes, we are supporting you, but we cannot come out openly to support you’”. It appears, the mentors alienated her as an ally and undermined her political interests and strengths.
Mary Frank did find “one or two” people to mentor her. “Mostly because I am female, I felt I should have had more elderly people who have been there before me to tell me what and what not to do,” she says, “[There are] a lot of women that [are] ahead of me, which I have met to discuss my ambition with. In most cases, they will tell you that ‘yes I am giving you 100%, support’ but afterwards, it’s like they have someone in their mind already”. Despite the weak support of the women she approached for advice, Mary Frank was not finished. She still had the intellectual capacity to energize a significant base of voters. Yet she would face other challenges.
As the only female contender for her constituency, her male opponents were intimidated and demanded that she quit. As she says, “another challenge which I had, [was] two guys—I am the only female—trying to bully me to say, ‘step down for me’, but I felt “I have what it takes to go into politics, and I have what it takes to rule my people’. With that in mind, even though at a point I felt discouraged, something inside of me said, just push through.”
The drama that unfolded on the morning of the election primaries had profound implications for Mary Frank’s chances of winning the elections. “At the course of the events, I found out that there are some people that someone somewhere really endorsed them and the person wanted the person to just go in for that office [against the run of play]. The whole thing just turned around for me,” she reveals.
While some candidates had godfathers plucking the weeds on their path for them, and who were very influential as an engine rocketing them nearer the gates of stratosphere, Mary Frank had no staunch person like this. All she had to rely on were educated voters and delegates. But even this was missing in the face of money. “At the end of the day—you know, they say the highest bidder takes it—we cannot do away with money issue. But if we could have educated people as delegates, I think that will help, because that is the major problem I faced,” she explains. Mary Frank expresses that she is intensely concerned about the issue of delegates: “These are the set of people that I think we have to seriously focus on.”
But there has always been a case to be made for hope. And the case was made, most powerfully, at our interview with her: “this is class one. Definitely I am going to go for class two”.
Position: House of Representatives, Ekiti South Federal Constituency
Olarinwaju Ojurinwaju knows what he wants and exactly how to get it. “I am not just going to run in the future elections,” he states confidently, “I am going to win”. This is coming from a man that lost his political primaries for the 2019 elections for House of Representatives, not because he didn’t get the highest vote but because a political bigwig bargained for substitution with Olarinwaju’s political party. Olarinwaju speaks passionately; he had strategic policies to execute in his first term in office, and with a premeditated plan of action, he is coming for that politician that coerced his party to kick him out: “he’s losing out as it were. I’m very sorry for him”.
What exactly happened? The man who was substituted in his place lost out in a bigger party, during an election in FCT. He negotiated with the Independent Democrats (ID) in Ekiti state, taking Olarinwaju’s place as a consolation prize of sorts. “What he did was to re-negotiate with my party nationals,” says Olarinwaju, “and he won the bargain.” His eyes move ceaselessly about, squinting and flaring, his emotions betraying the intonation of his voice as he visualized what happened yet again. Then he laughs. What happened to Olarinwaju is common in Ekiti and around the country. “Whenever you lose out in a particular primary, what they do is to scout, they keep searching for wherever it is they can go to. In fact, we had two experiences during the Gubernatorial elections. A particular man won the primaries of a party. He travelled out for two weeks and before he came back, somebody else was already on the flag bearer of the party and it’s just so unfortunate,” Olarinwaju explains a puzzling situation that he is determined to fix, had he been rightly granted his victory in the primary election.
Olarinwaju ran to be a member of the House of Representatives for Ekiti South Federal Constituency 2. There were four aspirants for the position and he won with a margin of 70 votes. Everything was running smoothly until he received a call from his party chairman who told him something weighty had happened and they needed to meet. “I had 32 wards to work with,” he recalls, “so I was concentrating on that. I actually continued with what I was doing but I went back to the secretariat the next day. He informed me that the ‘Abuja people did something’. And I was wondering, what could the Abuja people have done that concerns me or affects me.” Olarinwaju avoids mentioning names here, but is clearly disappointed with the way events unfolded. He was told that he had been substituted and that his replacements name had already been sent to INEC. “I never knew I could be a victim of such but it’s dawning on me as it were now. I feel so terrible, because as a young man that has visions and dreams, there are things that I had in place. My terrain is actually difficult to conquer.”
Olarinwaju cannot recount the total amount he invested in his political ambition, but he remembers the up-front costs. “We had a bargain after the Guber elections,” he says, “that any candidate coming from Ekiti state, gunning for any position, the form will be free but there will be Expression of Interest. It turned out that the form, which is supposed to be free, we had to pay token around N100, 000. Then the Expression of Interest was N500, 000 flat.”
The most compelling thing about listening to Olarinwaju is hearing the specific visions he hopes to actualize once in office. “I had plans,” he says, “and they are highlighted in my manifesto. From education through health and a whole lot of action points, I was driving towards sponsoring a policy. Not one, just two. I discovered that those were the two areas I could focus on and get it sooner than later.”
He began, “there was this bill I was hoping to push: Too Rich to Suffer. “I also had another policy, which is Hang the Thief; it was a policy towards fighting corruption. I believe that to fight corruption, you have to create a system that chokes corruption, as against running after individuals. When you create a policy that fights corruption, it naturally chokes corruption. And there is no other way to go than to go the Chinese way: hang the thief, hang them!”
Olarinwaju’s determination as a campaigner is not to be underestimated. Well aware of the risks of political aspiration, he believes he is better prepared for the tricks of political manipulators when he runs in 2023. Now, he has acquired more followers that will be political allies with him in future. As he says, “in fact, people from other platforms, that were looking at me from afar, now became so close to me; they sympathized. I have been on it for the past five years. I have a program on-air in Ekiti over there, I have followers that follow me week-in week-out. So they know that I have committed to what I am doing. So it turning out the way it did, they were still there too.”
Sanusi Lawal Isehu
Position: State House of Assembly, Daura Local Government
28 year-old Sanusi Lawal Isehu is a member of a youth forum of “almost 75 people” in Kastina state. All members of the forum sought to get involved in sate-politics, but only 25 had the means to purchase nomination forms and still finance credible political campaigns. Sanusi was among this 25.
He believes that reducing the cost of forms would attract more youths to the forum, allow more young political aspirants and lead to more youths victorious in primaries. In his primary election, Sanusi—“the only young contestant out of 10 aspirants from that same city [Daura local government]”—came third with “87 votes. Some of them got 12, some 10, and some even 3,” he narrates.
Although he did not emerge winner, Sanusi remains very appreciative of all the processes he went through. He expresses gratitude to the youths of his constituency and to YIAGA AFRICA and ‘Not Too Young to Run Movement’. He speaks highly of President Muhammadu Buhari, who signed the ‘Not Too Young To Run Act’ into law, reducing the age for running for the office of the President from 40 to 35 years, House of Representatives, from 30 to 25, and State House of Assembly, from 30 to 25. In his words, the ‘Not Too Young To Run Act’ was a spark for his political ambitions: “it made me courageous to be more involved in political participation”. However, he is not content to rest with that alone. He explains that he still wants more “youth involvement in our country so that our dream will come true”.
Long before Sanusi became a political candidate, his late father was elected chairman in his hometown, Daura. “He contested for the state house of assembly in 2003, he also contested for the State house of Assembly in 2011,” Sanusi says about his dad. Sanusi always knew he was going to go into politics as well, and now he is treading the exact path his dad journeyed before his death in 2012.“Honestly speaking my dad’s friends and colleagues, they helped a lot,” he says, “my family [also] played a good role to my aspirations. I went to them and explained that I will like for them to show me the way, or to donate something for me. They did.”
While his dad was a candidate under the platform of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), Sanusi chose to run for elections through the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a strategy to win the hearts of many in a local government where “80 or 90% of them there are in APC”. When asked if he plans to run again, Sanusi is resolute. “The struggle has just started,” he says, “still I will continue.”
Umar Farouk Mohammed
Position: State House of Assembly, Alkaleri Local Government
“I didn’t lose the election,” says Umar Farouk Mohammed, “I won the election but very unfortunately, the governor snatched my mandate.” Umar begins his interview with very strong declarations that he is ready to defend anywhere, anytime. He has solid evidence to back it up; he appears to take this sheet of paper everywhere he can, to present a case of apparent injustice for examination and legal proceedings. He has met with political officers, chairmen, and several authorities including the President of Nigeria: “we have a forum that visited the President, and complained to him. I’m sure that if the president [can understand] what happened in the primaries, most especially in my state, I think APC can no longer exist after his tenure, maybe, in 2023.”
Umar continues to solicit ceaselessly for listening ears. He followed up by submitting a petition to the party’s national headquarters. “Up till now they haven’t contacted me,” he testifies. “They didn’t even call me. I have a copy of the petition here and the results.”
Umar holds his political party responsible for making “some changes” to the results. He contested through the leading political party, All Progressives Congress (APC) for the State Assembly seat of Alkaleri local government, Bauchi state. He explains, “The state APC changed five names [and] they submitted the names to INEC.” Holding up his very important paper sheets now, he comes bearing his hard facts to convey the level of injustice he experienced, “These are the names of the aspirants in that constituency. We are nine, and I got the highest votes of 4,551, the second one is 1,032 —that is the person that they substituted my name with his name—and the third one is 777.”
He tells us that everybody in his local government knows he won the election: “If you can go and ask them, they will tell you that I am the winner, and later on, the state chairman of the party substituted my name with somebody else’s.” Umar then veers into the incidents that led to his substitution on the list. He senses in his substitution the hand of Bauchi’s Governor, Mohammed Abdullahi Abubakar.
“The only problem is that I don’t know the governor,” he explains, “I don’t know his wife, I don’t know his relatives, and he doesn’t know me, that is why they just changed my name with the second one: Yusuf N. Bago. That is the only problem. Not the issue of resources, capacity or anything. The issue is that the governor actually puts his voice in that position. So if you are not part of them, no matter the kind of votes you get, you can’t get the chance of being there.”
This type of god-fatherism is a serious challenge for young aspirants. Umar is 32 years old, while Yusuf N. Bago, his opponent who was substituted in his place, is “around 50”. It is safe to say there is no internal democracy in the Bauchi State APC. “They will just collect your money, and at the end of the day, they will just write what they want,” Umar expresses. “I spent a lot, I spent my hard earned money,” Umar says, recounting how he sponsored himself and at the end of the day, someone else appears to be reaping the fruits of his labour. The government attempted to pacify Umar’s emotions, by inviting him for a meeting of the candidates that lost the elections, “to compensate them”. But Umar, refused this attempt at compensation and cover-up. “I can’t go to the meeting because I didn’t lose the election,” he explains, “I won the election.”