'FAULTY ELECTORAL PROCESS WILL PUT OUR DEMOCRACY AT RISK'
Chieftain of the People Democratic Party (PDP) and former governorship aspirant in Kaduna State, Alhaji Suleiman Othaman Hunkuyi spoke to SAXONE AKHAINE on the lack of internal democracy in the party. Excerpts:
YOU are still contesting your disqualification by the PDP screening committee in the Kaduna zone based on incomplete tax clearance?
I don't know what is incomplete tax clearance. So, how can I answer a question I don't know? The guideline said I should present a valid tax clearance, which I did. So, if anybody says it is incomplete, I don't understand what is incomplete about my tax clearance and so, I cannot answer a question I don't understand. It is the tax authority, which is the Board of Internal Revenue that is in a position to answer if there is anything incomplete. But as far as I know, I have attended screening committees, I have served as chairman and member of screening committees and indeed, all the people that presented their papers are not more valid than this tax clearance.
It is also said that the committee raised the issue of a receipt but you brought an affidavit…
They raised an issue over receipt and I told them that the guidelines did not ask an aspirant to come with payment receipt. It says tax clearance certificate or evidence of payment. The second is an option to the first and the first is the priority and the priority is the tax clearance certificate, which I have produced before them. They have the option of cross checking.
The issue of affidavit came in because they raised a non-existent issue. They were asking for tax receipt of payment for the three years, 2007, 2008 and 2009. It is nonexistent because the guideline did not say so. It says tax clearance certificate or evidence of payment and so, I insisted that what I am holding is what the guidelines says I should bring and I have produced before them. They insisted that I must produce the receipt of payment, which is not a condition. But because I found myself with no option, I went back, scrutinised my document and came up with five payment receipts; 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009, with one missing receipt of 2007. They harped on that saying where is the receipt for 2007 and I told them that it is not a condition, but because they insisted and I have gone through my documents and have been able to come up with not only the three they needed, but also five, with one missing. They said I should swear to an affidavit of the missing 2007 receipt, which I did.
Were you the only one asked about a tax receipt?
Most of the aspirants were not asked of their tax receipts. I met only one who told me that he was asked of his tax receipt. That is unofficial and I cannot confirm that here. It is not a requirement and so, they didn't ask for it. Even if they asked for it, why are they insisting on that of Hunkuyi and why should you insist on a non-existing requirement? Why don't you insist on the guideline requirement for fair play, equity and justice? That is why the guidelines are drawn so that you don't add any burden on one person and remove a burden from another aspirant. There is no equity and justice there. This issue is like presenting a certificate after graduating from an institution and somebody says, you read English, what did you score in English, go and bring the script. A certificate is the last document issued by the statutory authority in question and if anybody has any issue arising from that, they should question the statutory authority.
Will you challenge the disqualification in court?
The issue is beyond me as an individual. There is injustice and I might decide to take legal action for many reasons. One reason is that, I was assessed, taxed N722,000 for the preceding year and I paid and collected a tax clearance and somebody say I have an incomplete paper. Ii is painful. Should I allow my name to be dented because someone beclouded the vision and understanding of people that I have incomplete documentation on tax as if I did not pay or I forged a certificate or I even appeared without a certificate? The ambiguity is too wide and the injustice too grave. I cannot say that I may not contemplate to clear my name.
The appeals committee also disqualified you…
The Appeals Committee indicated that they do not agree with the affidavit. What the screening committee forwarded to them was that there is incomplete document and I have submitted an affidavit, but they do not accept it. I am not an officer of the law, but find out the significance of a court affidavit.
With what is going on right now, how do you feel about the promise made by the President, Goodluck Jonathan to conduct free and fair elections?
I am an aspirant who is running round looking for a mandate from the people of my state. The public is in a better position to make an assessment. But we have a problem in our nation.
With the developments, are you considering dumping the PDP and joining another party?
I am not considering that because I believe in justice, I have belief in God and my people. I don't have to jump ship because of this development. But the issue of what we do is beyond me alone and that is what I have said. For me, by the time the people understand exactly what happened, my pain is gone and I leave the rest to God.
What will you do if your people urge you to move out of the PDP?
There is nothing we can do until that decision is made and all options are exhausted. One of which is taking the legal angle.
But the primaries are around the corner?
We have until January 15 before the acceptance of aspirants by the Independent national electoral Commission (INEC). From what I heard from my colleagues, there were no elections for the delegates to prove internal democracy. Where will that take us? I think that our democracy is at crossroads.