The member-elect for the Kaura Constituency in the Federal House of Representatives, Donatus Matthew, tells ISRAEL BULUS how he won the February 25 National Assembly on the platform of the Labour Party
Before now, not much was known about you. Who actually is Donatus Matthew?
My name is Donatus Mathew. I am from Kpak, Kagoro chiefdom in the Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna State and presently an elected member of the Federal House of Representatives to represent Kaura on the platform of the Labour Party. I was born in 1976. I attended LGEA Primary School Kadarko, then proceeded to Saint Jani Seminary, but completed my secondary school education at Teachers’ College, Kagoro. I am a graduate of Saint Albert Institute with a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and I am married with four children.
You were declared the winner of the House of Representatives election for the Kaura Federal Constituency on the platform of the Labour Party. What inspired you to contest the election?
There are a lot of issues, personal and communal, based on our perception of how things should be done as everyone will testify to the issues and the problems we are facing in the Kaura Local Government Area, and to a larger extent, the state and the national levels. So, it became very imperative that people should decide for themselves. So, people like me, with great conviction, believed and adopted the ideologies of the Labour Party and the candidate for the Labour Party at the presidential level in particular. So, it was one of the issues that drew our attention.
I joined the Labour Party to work for the presidential candidate then. But later on, in the course of events, many people came up to suggest that we should go into the contest, which I reluctantly went into, because I never intended to before now. However, after due consultation, people insisted that I should come for service and that triggered my interest. That was the simple reason why I joined the contest. Also, we want to give people the credible leadership they expect, most especially my constituency.
Some Nigerians were shocked when you were elected because they believed you did not go out to campaign yet enjoyed the votes of the electorate in your area. How will you respond to that?
You know, everybody has their understanding of what a campaign is. I think they probably defined a campaign based on their understanding. But you see, nobody will go into a contest without going out to campaign. That is one. Two, who are they even campaigning to? You see, we are politicians from the grassroots and the people from the grassroots know us very well. So, we do not come from any other place and go around telling people this is who we are or this is what we want. Already, by a mere declaration that someone like me was joining the contest, there were people all over the area that could say one or two things about me. So, I have the people, I have the masses. All I needed to do was to go round and thank them and tell them to join me and help me in this quest and that was what we did.
The wrong idea people had was that one must have money and that one must have a big car; that is wrong. So, they focused on those who had money and big cars. They minded me riding a motorcycle. So, that was why many people could not understand that I was campaigning because they knew I rode a motorcycle and I don’t know if my movement on a motorcycle was what made them think that I was not campaigning. That is left for them. But as far as I am concerned, we took our time; we went round, we met with people, begged them for their support, we solicited their support for which, at the end of the day we had every cause to glorify the Lord.
What is your assessment of the National Assembly election in which you were elected?
Honestly, in my case, what led to my victory was a collective decision of the people of Kaura, most especially, the youth, who seriously needed that change and who believed in me. They put their trust in me; they came out en masse and stood by me, and I am thanking them for that.
The Kaura Local Government Area has experienced ruthless attacks in recent times. What strategy will you adopt to ensure that insecurity is tackled?
Thank you very much. I have come with certain experience of what is happening as regards insecurity. I have been a councillor twice and during my two tenures, I experienced security issues. So, I have a clear understanding of what the solution can be. There must be sanity in the Kaura Local Government Area. There must be dialogue. There must be understanding among the communities. There must be understanding among the different religious groups. There must be a clear understanding of the difference between the herdsmen and the farmers, the Fulani and the natives. All of these are some of the issues that we will have to look into to also bring these people together so that there will be harmony and understanding.
There appears to be a running boundary conflict between the Zankang community in Kaduna State and Ganawuri in Plateau State. Is that not another issue that needs to be addressed?
I think already there is no issue because everybody knows that there is a boundary between Plateau and Kaduna states; between the Kaura Local Government Area in Kaduna and the Riyom Local Government Area in Plateau State. I am one of those that went to settle the disputes with the paramount rulers in 2012. We had meetings with them and they know where each local government ends, but the only issue is it is when people live together for long and sentiments come in that you find unnecessary crises.
What will you do in collaboration with the state and federal governments to ensure people who were forced to leave their homes due to insecurity return to their communities?
As an individual, I will do the best of my ability to see that I come to their aid to help them and bring succour, but we can only go to the government, both at the state and federal levels, to solicit assistance and see if we can lobby them to draw their attention to the people.
There are reports everywhere that you’re an Okada rider. How true is that?
Honestly, it is very true. Before I became a councillor, I was an Okada man. I have been using a bike to sustain myself and I am proud of that. Even now, I have colleagues who are still doing it (riding Okada) and I think there’s nothing wrong with that. That is my humble beginning.
Many do not regard Okada riders as prominent individuals in society. Do you think this is a wrong perception?
Riding Okada is just like any other business that puts food on the table. These (Okada riders) are a unique set of people in every society. When a visitor visits a town or community, they (Okada riders) are the first contact to convey passengers to their destinations. They also help in identifying people with negative intentions. My experience helped me to meet and interact with people from different backgrounds. I live most of my life in Kagoro, and I know what it means to get a meal in a day to put on the table. As you grow from one level to another, you learn how to assist others. I have visited almost all the nooks and crannies of my constituency and I am aware of their peculiar challenges. That’ll guide me on what to do for my people. In the course of my experience as an Okada rider, I gained knowledge of what’s called human existence. I was a supervisory councillor in my local government before I contested to become a councillor and won.
It is expected that Okada riders will look up to you to improve their lives. What kind of programme will you initiate for them to benefit from your leadership?
There are programmes that we have been doing long before now. We have been assisting them and advising them to come together in groups and register to benefit from other programmes. But we will look at things carefully to see the kind of initiatives that will benefit the majority. There will be a turnover of credible leadership for our people.
What will be your message to other Nigerians who are inspired by your election and have a passion for politics, but come from humble backgrounds?
What I will say is that wherever they find themselves, they should be themselves. They should not allow distractions from other angles. They should be focused and determined, and believe in God because there is nothing God cannot do once they put in the effort. Once they come into politics, they should just be real and people will assess them for who they are.
What kind of leadership should people in Kaura expect from you when you are sworn in as a federal lawmaker?
My leadership, by the grace of God, will be inclusive. We are going to carry everybody along, irrespective of party, religion, creed or dialect, or chiefdom in the Kaura Local Government Area. As far as I am concerned, they are under my care and I will give them the necessary attention.