TIME OF MY LIFE
Penultimate week, I ran as an aspirant in the 2011 National Assembly elections but I didn’t win. I had the best and worst time of my life and unwittingly found myself in the centre of one of the most acute, grimy and gripping political dramas.
I didn’t start off wanting to be in the front line of any political race: contesting for elected office was not my forte or desire. And, certainly, being at the centre of any political controversy was never my goal.
Yet, somehow, providence thought I was worthy of such accolade, such a role. To be fair, I did play a major role in what played out like a callous local political soap opera, in a drama that I refused to vacate even when I was intimidated by impossibility.
Today I stand as a proud female aspirant from Katsina who was able to, against the odds, challenge the royal establishment in my village of Musawa, the unscrupulous calculations of the chairman of the CPC in Katsina State, Dr. Yushau Armayau, top ranking officers of government reference and model administration from my village and millions of public funds that were deployed to the constituency of Musawa and Matazu local government areas in order to deliver that particular seat to the CPC.
Today I stand as the main reason why the Musawa and Matazu federal constituency remains the lone seat in Katsina State that the CPC was unable to capture - the single seat that the PDP won. Today I stand as the main cause of CPC’s failure in my constituency. This is how it happened:
My journey into the murky world of politics started a little over 11 months ago when high ranking members of a newly formed party asked me to come and run as a member of the Federal House of Representatives on their party’s platform. “We want you to run for the House of Reps under the new hope of the common man, the Congress for Progressive Change,” they said.
At that time, my first reaction was one of rejection. I had no interest in offering myself for elective office even if it was on the platform of the party that was created by my mentor, General Muhammadu Buhari. After much persuasion of the effect I could have on my people, the example I could set, against my judgement at the time, I eventually accepted the offer.
One of the reasons why I accepted the offer was because of the ethos and honour of General Buhari. I knew he represented integrity, decency and honesty. I had a firsthand exposure of this because I had, for over a decade, been in the movement that General Buhari had created. And so I found myself running for office under the CPC.
From the time I began the race, I was advised by my mentor and my father to go into politics with the purest of intention of helping people and to take my campaign to the grass roots. My father had always been a grassroots politician and I had watched and learnt from him about relating one-on-one with the populace. I knew that my main challenge was that I was a young woman contesting for election in a very conservative part of the country.
So I turned that aspect of my gender into an advantage. You see, as a woman in the conservative north, I could enter into the houses in the villages without any condition. As a contestant, I walked from village to village, entered house to house and spoke to people in person. I saw my village folks at their worst and their best, I learnt much from the ways and culture of my ancestors.
Within them, I woke to beauty that compels, beauty that repels; and I was confronted with their poverty, their reality. I ate with my people, celebrated with them, mourned with them, spoke with them and understood them. They related to me because they said that I was the first politician that had ever taken the time to come to see their reality firsthand. I did this for five months straight while my opponents concentrated their efforts on wooing the top executives in the party.
When it came time for the primary elections of the CPC and it was announced that the party would conduct direct primaries, the masses that I had related with came out in their hordes to show their support for me. The national headquarters had rejected the use of party registration and membership cards because they learnt that certain state chairmen had issued fake cards to their favoured members in order to ensure they won the primaries.
In my constituency of Musawa and Matazu, Dr Yusha’u Armaya’u had allegedly given his favoured contestants over 10,000 membership cards to ensure that they emerged from the process. Executive members of the CPC in my constituency were directed not to register any person that supported me.
When I presented this evidence to the national headquarters of the party and wrote a petition on the matter, the national headquarters called on all CPC members, with or without membership cards, to participate in the direct primaries. The rationale behind this was to see which candidates had the most support in the community in preparation for the future battle with the ruling party.
During the primary election, people all over Musawa and Matazu lined up one after another to choose me as the flag-bearer of the CPC. Almost before the election was concluded, there were protests from those that had not emerged from the primaries, and so the party was compelled to conduct another primary election. Five days after the first primaries, people were asked to go out and vote in a second primary election.
Again, the people of Musawa and Matazu LGAs came out in their thousands to vote. In the second primary election that was held in Musawa/Matazu, I scored over 26,000 votes while my closest contender scored just over 4,000 votes. With a difference of 22,000, one would have thought that the matter of who would fly the flag of the CPC in Musawa and Matazu was concluded.
But that wasn’t to be the case because the people that the chairman of CPC in Katsina, Dr Armaya’u, favoured did not emerge from either of the primary elections. Two days after the election was finalised, while I was in Kaduna, I received a call from a party member in Katsina who asked me whether I had participated in a third primary election that had been conducted a day before.
Shocked that a primary election would be held in addition to the two that we had done before, and confused that a further election would be called without the participation of the aspirants, I placed a call to CPC headquarters in Abuja and was told that there had not been a directive for a third primary election. I then called my coordinators and agents in Musawa and Matazu to ask if people were called to conduct another election to which they answered in the negative. Everyone asked in Musawa and Matazu about a third primary election in the CPC, gave the same answer: there was no third primary election conducted!
It is to my benefit that all two primary elections held in Musawa and Matazu were recorded on video: from Dr Yusha’u Armaya’u speaking on tape, to the dispatch of the election materials, to the conduct of the elections, to the collation of the results.
The video footage includes the participation of all the required security agencies, INEC officials, contestants and the live collation of the results. I intend to mass-produce and mass-distribute this footage in future in order to finally clear up the mystery and controversy surrounding the rightful winner of the CPC primaries in Musawa and Matazu in the run-up to the 2011 elections.
It was only days later I was to learn that my opponents in Musawa and Matazu had obtained the election materials, filled out the result sheet, obtained post-dated signatures from Katsina INEC officials and presented these fake results as evidence of victory. Believing that INEC would have the reliability of upholding the truth, in the flash of an eye, the issue of the candidate to represent CPC in Musawa and Matazu got tangled up with an already existing case in CPC between two factions of the party. By the time the court case was concluded, the dynamics in Musawa and Matazu had completely changed.
I wanted so desperately to do well for my people, to meet their needs and do everything just right, but as I sat in the court-room listening to the judgement of Justice Abdul Kafarati, I felt completely overwhelmed. I felt as though I’d been sucker-punched because, right before my eyes, the judge upheld an election that had never even taken place.
I was flabbergasted and thought of going into the chambers after the judgement to show the judge my video evidence of the real election that took place. How could he have made such a wrong legal decision despite the fact that the purported third fake election did not satisfy vital legal prerequisites in order for it to override the elections that had been held prior? How could he, with one judgement, have destroyed the hopes of so many people that came out to line up and register their wishes?
I knew at that point that my choices were limited. With only 49 days to the general elections, I could take the matter of Musawa and Matazu separately to court, but I knew that the matter would not be resolved before the general elections. For a minute, I thought of pulling out of the race, but I knew that there was so much hope and reliance on me; and to do that would be to pull the carpet from under those who relied on me. So I quickly went back to my constituency to consult with my supports. At the time, with all the intrigues and schemes of Dr Armaya’u and the Katsina CPC, we felt that the only option left for us at that time was to leave him to his machinations, to do the unthinkable: move to another party.
It was a massive risk, but one that I was willing to take to do right for my people. With only 47 days to the general election, it was a risk that could only be taken if one had full confidence of their support base. Despite the fact that my mind was filled with all sorts of thoughts, the one thing I was sure of was that the people of Musawa and Matazu would not vote for the CPC knowing the injustice that had been carried out by Dr Armaya’u and his team.
It was never a given that the people of my constituency would vote for a new party purely because I had moved to it, but I knew for certain that they would not vote for the CPC once I had vacated it. And so that’s a brief insight of how I came to contest for the Federal House of Representatives under the CPC and eventually found myself moving to the ACN. That is the story of how and why the CPC managed to lose the sole seat of Musawa and Matazu in Katsina to the PDP.
Consider that, in almost all of the constituencies in Katsina, there is still no identifiable candidate owing to the fact that the cases of the rightful candidates are still in court, but, despite that, the party still managed to win all the seats because of the popularity of General Buhari in the state. Does it not then speak volumes that the party was able to lose in the one constituency that there was an identifiable candidate due to the fact that I had left? With that in mind, I rest my case!
I used to think that the people who participate in politics and find themselves shifting from one political platform to another symbolize a major part of our country’s greatest political tragedies, I’ve written about it numerous times in my column. But now that I have become one of the people I used to deride, I realise that there are some redeeming features in their actions, in that, at times, there is some spirit of sacrifice and heroism displayed within such an act. I’ve never been afraid to do what I feel is right even when people disapprove.
When I moved from the CPC to the ACN, I did so in order to reject injustice, to take a stand. I used my inner compass, trusted my instincts and followed the wishes of my people to do what I knew was right. In doing so I knew that I was taking a risk; I knew that I may have been mortgaging my chance of success at the election but, regardless of the outcome, I knew that once I stood for what is right, I and my supporters would always come out stronger for it; and we did.
Despite the wish of the royal lineage in Musawa, the wish of Dr Yusha’u Armaya’u and top ranking officers of government reference and model administration from my village, it is impossible for me and my supporters to be unspotted from my roots in Musawa when we are in it, when our dust is from it, and our spirit-made-new wages war for freedom in the unseen nooks and crannies of the villages. One cannot make their own righteousness; it comes from the Almighty and the consciousnesses of the masses that cry out for truth, fairness, transparency and change.
When the village and district heads were given the order to deliver each of their areas to the CPC, when top ranking officers of government reference and model administration from my area gave out motorcycles, jeeps, tens of millions of naira to social leaders to deliver the constituency to the CPC, when Dr Yushau Armaya’u and his CPC team in Katsina connived, lied and set up a fake primary election in order to secure the party tickets for their chosen candidates, the people in my constituency reflected on mine and their personal battles, trials and the triumphs and they protested by rejecting the party in spite of the popularity of the party in Katsina.
When I reflect on the true meaning of my candidacy, I don’t think there was anything that fueled me more than the need to stand up for what I believed in. Too often people let themselves get bullied into submission, sway to popular opinion, or let the ignorant rant and injustice of one or a few people force them to question their own stand. When something matters, when something needs to change there will always be opposition. The only way to make change is to steal the wool and charge adverse opinions head-on.
When I made a covenant with the people of Musawa and Matazu that I would stand by them, I knew that I would have to stand by my words, enforce them with my actions, and be willing to take hard decisions against my greatest opponents. I have learnt so many things from this journey, among which is that, sometimes, one has got to be ready to sacrifice everything in order to complete the unfinished agenda in one’s march for what is right and that human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable because every step toward the goal of justice requires suffering.
But the greatest lesson for me is that in one of the major losses of my life comes my greatest victory. I may not have won the election, but today I feel vindicated and I stand proud that I was able to stand up to injustice and make a difference.
Am I sore about not winning? Nah, I have fully embraced the choices that God has made for me. From the beginning of my candidacy to the point that I am at now, I am not oblivious to the fact that my destiny is God’s destiny for me. God’s plan for my destiny is, by the Grace of God, a done deal finalized in my life and death. I don’t believe that the fact that I ran for an election which I didn’t win is an accident of fact but a design of destiny.
When people query me as to why I am not contesting the election in court despite the plethora of malpractice evidence I have, I tell them that I have participated in four different elections for the Musawa/Matazu House of Representatives Federal Constituency seat - two in the primary elections that was held when I was a member of the CPC, one in the first election that was aborted midway and one in the final election that was held last week.
Although I am positive that in all four elections victory was ours, the fact that I was unable to attain the seat despite four elections means that the seat is not my destiny, is not my place. God knows everything and I trust His judgement completely. And if His judgement is that I will not attain that position which I have sought four times, then, I can only thank Him for his choice, pray to Him to grant me the serenity to accept the things that I cannot change, the courage to change the things that I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.
My journey on this political quest has been a long and tedious one, but I believe that I have just about started and have a long way to go. I believe that no matter what I was confronted with in the last 10 months, as long as I knew that my actions were governed by what I believed was always in the best interest of the collective, then, I was always willing to put myself out there. It’s the only way I know to make a difference.
No one ever changed the world by agreeing with the self-appointed dictators, corrupt party chairmen or the political tyrants who endeavour to police our unfortunate, warped political norm in this country and who hover over polling stations and INEC headquarters with the dominance and rigid mental demeanor of fundamentalist zealots.
I was determined at all costs to take a few blows in order to stand up for what I knew was right, to push back regressive thinking and to push forward for real change. I was always willing to engage in fisticuffs, toe-to-toe with the bully in the courtyard in order to undo the tyranny of fear. Trust me, once you take to the mat and show the world that you won’t back down, others will follow and therein the tide of change can be ushered in.
I strongly believe it is the person who never gets started that is destined forever to lose. I have just begun in my march for the liberty of my people, in the fight for their freedom. And even though that march came at a price, that quest for freedom must be protected because, to sacrifice it even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.
I have kept heart and faith in the face of what some see as a disappointment and consider my defeat not as an end but as a new beginning. I wish the successful PDP member-elect in the Federal House of Representatives for Musawa and Matazu, Alhaji Danlami Garba, all the best for the next four years. He is the successful candidate to emerge from a very long and grueling general election - an election that I neither won nor lost; in fact it was an election where I had the time of my life!