By Ismail Auwal
In this no holds barred interviews with Ismail Auwal, Senator Shehu Sani shares his thoughts on wide-ranging issues including his decision to defect to the opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and why he thinks the ruling All People’s Congress (APC) has failed at both federal and Kaduna State’s level among others. Enjoy:
SAHELIAN TIMES: I don’t know whether to start by congratulating you on your recent defection to the PDP What informed the choice of PDP ?
Shehu Sani: Thank you very much. Well, when I left the APC I joined the PRP. And, I contested election and lost. Now every politician who wants to play politics must look at the political climate within a state and take the best possible step and take the right decision that will advance the course of his politics and impact on the life of the people. Now, all I did was to move from a minority opposition to a majority opposition. Therefore, I am still within the circle of opposition. And I came to the realisation that, it is impossible for us in Kaduna State to wrest power from the APC government without joining forces, aligning ourselves to each other and confronting a common danger, a common threat, to our collective existence. The APC in Kaduna State has not been a party for the people and the masses of Kaduna State. It all begins and ends with the governor of the state. So I can’t go back to APC because APC as a party belongs to the state governor. That is how the party is structured and I was able to become a senator in 2015 because there was no state governor. And that the state governor couldn’t exercise any control because he was not a governor. So in 2019 he was a governor. My presence in the PDP is to align with the opposition in the state to wrest power form the APC which I am ready to offer myself for that cause.
PRP has some issues since Balarabe Musa died. There was factionalisation between late Professor Sule and Falalu Bello. But it is not in a strong position and the people of the state have made their choices that if it is not APC, it is going to be PDP. So if you are in politics for the people and not for yourself, part of your calculations must take into cognisance that very ingredient of what the people want.
SAHELIAN TIMES: You said APC represents collective danger for people in the Kaduna State. How do you mean?
Sani: Well my story with the governor of the state and the party of the state is an open secret. I cannot belong to a political party that is owned by somebody. The way the ruling party in the state is structured, is such a way that the governor is the leader of the ruling party, the governor is the chairman of the party, the governor determines who becomes and who doesn’t become anybody in the party. The governor writes who become exco of the party from the ward, local government and the state level, the governor determines what the party should do or not. In the APC, no executive of the party will agree to come to you or you go to him as long as he or she hasn’t received any directive from the governor.
So I understand that PDP has a very dark history from 1999 to 2015. But I was not part of their past. I have presented myself and I joined to become part of the future. Because in major democracies around the world, you can see that dominance of two party system. United States is between the republicans and the democrats, in the UK is the Labour and Conservative Party. But you have to belong to a major opposition, if you want to provide a serious opposition. So my own resolution and the resolution of my own people is that I should belong to this party, do that we can to take over power from the APC, which I am confident we will do in 2023.
SAHELIAN TIMES: Are you now telling us that you will contest for governorship election since we have seen banners during the PDP’s convention in the state?
Sani: Of recent, I have been inundated with the question, whether I am going to contest for the governorship of Kaduna State or not. Well before I arrive at that answer, I would like to give you a bit of a background of the state as it is today. Kaduna State is a multi-religious state. The North is predominantly Muslim; the South is largely Christian. In the last thirty to 40 years, we have experienced series of religious violence, bloodshed, killings. But it has never been bad as it is today. The people of the state have been polarized. The political leadership in the state has not done enough to bridge the gap, the differences and the widening gulp. Rather, it has exploited and escalated it. Now what Kaduna State needs is a leader that will serve as a bridge between the Muslim North and the Christian South. What Kaduna State needs is a leader that will do justice, ensure fairness and equity to all the people in the state irrespective of their religious identity or ethnic affiliation. What Kaduna State needs is a leader that will treat each and every citizen with justice and fairness and love and kindness. Kaduna State is today under siege; there is a clear sign of genocide in Northern part of Kaduna. In central part of Kaduna, you can see the speed of the daily killings and kidnapping of our people and also in parts of Zaria, killings are still going on. Now before you talk of the roads, before you talk of the hospitals, before you talk of the bridges, what the state needs is a leader that will give hope to the people, a leader that will restore order and security in the state energise and mobilize people to see governance as part of them and also as part of their lives.
Now as for me, I am not a professional politician. My background is activism. I stand for justice and I speak for justice. And I believe that when I served as a senator from 2015 to 2019, I was able to touch the lives of so many people, and I was able to provide that kind of leadership that our people need, and most importantly, both the Muslims and the Christians in the state, I treated them with justice, equity, and fairness. So as for me, if I am not going to contest an election I have no business joining a political party. So I am going to contest in 2023, and I have, after consultation with my people, resolved that the position I should contest is that of the governorship of the state because that is the position where you have the leaders of the executive, to positively impact on the lives of the people and implement programs and policies that will unite the state and move it forward.
SAHELIAN TIMES: You talked about genocide in parts of the state, who is carrying out all the genocide?
Sani: Let me tell you how it is. I don’t know why people have problems with the word genocide as it is going on in Kaduna State. The state is divided into three senatorial zones. let’s start from southern Kaduna. It’s a fact that it has a history of ethno-religious violence from the early 80s up to the 90s and up to the Sharia violence. But what is going on in Southern Kaduna today is not a war between Muslims and Christians. Terrorists, well-armed are attacking villages, killing people, razing down buildings and forcing people to flee from their homes and taking over their lands. So what is that? I don’t understand, I don’t have any word to qualify genocide other than that. Now in the central part of Kaduna, only two local governments are free from kidnappings which are the Kaduna North and Kaduna South where I come from. Every day people are kidnapped, people are killed. It has reached a point today you cannot move a kilometre outside of Kaduna without getting into the hands of bandits. From the kidnappings of students of Federal College of Forestry in Mandu, outskirts of Kaduna to the kidnappings of students from Greenfield University in the outskirts of Kaduna, to the attack on military Defence Academy. You can see the gangsterism, kidnappings, and killings, and how the state has been ruined and how lives have become so difficult. Just a few months ago, the son of Senator Bala Ibn Na’Allah was killed within the city. And now you have Air Marshall Maisada was killed. So both the people living in and outside of the city are not safe.
In Zaria zone, nowadays kidnappers go into homes to kill and to kidnap people. Both the Zaria zone, Kaduna zone and Southern Kaduna are experiencing something that is more monstrous, evil and tragic. The leadership of the state has failed to address this issue. So I can understand that it is not only Kaduna State, you have it in Zamfara, Katsina and Sokoto states. Kaduna has a large Christian population unlike in the other states in the North West. So when you have a leader, who gives them, both the Christians and the Muslims a sense of belonging and accommodation, you now solve some problems which are possible and you now move to other problems which are now bigger and wider in concept and in context.
SAHELIAN TIMES: You have talked extensively about how Nasir El-Rufai’s government failed to secure Kaduna State. How then can you rate his government in terms of infrastructural development, education and other human capacity indices?
Sani: Well I could have, I am making my own personal compilation and I don’t want to pre-empt myself on that. For all I know is that, the infrastructural development that is going in in Kaduna State is going on within two local governments which is metropolitan local government. So apart from that, I have not seen any infrastructure. And we have twenty-three local governments in the state. So as for me, if you are really making impact in infrastructural wise, it should be felt in those local governments. So, I would not pre-empt myself. For now, I can tell you that what is called infrastructural development under this APC government is taking place only in Kaduna North and even in the Kaduna North, which is part of the GRA and small portion of Kaduna South. That is all.
SAHELIAN TIMES: Senator you have been part of the eight National Assembly which was described as the best in Nigeria and you were the only senator then in 2015 that publicly declared your asset, which means you are very particular about the issue of transparency. Some of the key things people are celebrating about Kaduna State government are transparency and accountability, how do you view transparency in Kaduna State?
Sani: OK. Like I said, I don’t want to pre-empt but all I will ask is: I know in the last three years the government in Kaduna State has advertised for the sales of thousands of properties belonging to the state government. So in the spirit of transparency, publish the names of those who bought them and for how much. That is all I want. If that is done, I will be satisfied that there is transparency. So one out of two. Secondly, public declaration of assets is something that should be encouraged. We have a code of conduct act where public office holders are required to make declarations of their properties, their assets, their liabilities, and those of their families; and it will be kept in confidence and secrecy for the state. So to me, I believe that if you have nothing to hide, there is no reason why you shouldn’t come out publicly and say this is what I own. If you own it and you can defend and protect it make it public. That is all what I need. That is why when I went to the National Assembly, I went there not as a politician but with activists constituency from which I am also accountable to and I said I am going to make a disclosure and then I moved further from disclosing what I have and then I came to the Senate, to also what I am earning. But I know that cost me a lot of friends and I said if not for the Senate President, Senator Saraki, and the Deputy Senate President, Ekeremadu, I could have spent the rest of the years in suspension. And you know what suspension is; your allowance would be suspended, your office would be closed and then you would move into serious hardship. So I will always remain grateful because when I discussed the allowances and the emoluments, there was a lot of pressure that day that action should be taken against me which the Senate President even refused to give it an audience. So he saved my neck at that time.
SAHELIAN TIMES: You have spoken about insecurity and failure of the state government, what about the federal government? The federal government recently said that they should stop all communications between some areas in Kaduna and other parts of the North West where they have banditry. How far will you say this measure has helped to curb the insecurity ?
Shehu Sani: Well, as for me, I believe that the federal government has failed the people of Nigeria. All the promises of securing and protecting the lives of our people it has failed. Banditry has assumed one of the most dangerous, unprecedented, and tragic level in the history of Africa. Bandits who have been attacking motorists and extorting ransom have now moved ahead to becoming a state within a state imposing levies on villagers, imposing fines, imposing imams, imposing chiefs, and becoming an authority in ungovernable spaces. So these are the symptoms. And it started from Zamfara, moved to Katsina, Sokoto, then Kaduna, and Niger State. And you can see the contagion that is moving to outskirts of Abuja. So how else can we rate a government? This is a country where it is said that over one thousand people were killed in two months. This doesn’t happen in Somalia, this doesn’t happen in Afghanistan, this doesn’t happen in Yemen. There is nowhere in the world today where these people are killed within sixty days, only in Nigeria. And this is to show you the level that this government has completely failed. So as for me, there is nothing to advise this government other than to wait for election time because they have run out of ideas. All the money that has been pumped into security and defence in this country has failed. Recently the Minister of Finance disclosed that she has given 1.3 trillion to the former service chiefs within twenty- four months and that has not addressed the problem. So if all the resources that have been pumped into defence and security have not protected the people, have not provided the necessary assurance and confidence for our people, have not secured lives and properties, I think the government has run out of ideas.
SAHELIAN TIMES: Sometimes when you make this kind of comment on social media pages, your followers accuse you of that since you are not part of Buhari’s government, that you just complaining?
Sani: Well if you are saying that then every person who voted for him has also, because how many of them…if he has eight million or twelve million votes then twelve million are always part of it. I am also only one person that has a vote and I know very well that there was a good intention to bring Buhari in 2015, because the government of that time had failed us. But you see, he moved away from the Buhari we knew to another Buhari we don’t know. And the most unfortunate thing is that people of the North elevated him from a democratically elected leader to a messiah with a magic wand to solve all the problems of the country. All attempts by people to even advise or counsel the president, people are tagged as enemies, as subversives, as people undermining Nigeria or unpatriotic. So almost disloyalty to government becomes disloyalty to the state. We have reached a point where those who call themselves supporters of Buhari today are burying their heads in shame and in the sand while the North bleeds. The North West gave the highest vote and today is reaping the highest misery in the whole Nigeria.
SAHELIAN TIMES: The Senate had passed a bill okaying electronic transmission of results, yet the latest controversy on direct primaries. Where do you stand on this?
Sani: Let me tell you the pros and cons of direct primaries. Direct primaries will produce a popular candidate; direct primaries will wipe out money politics. These are the two issues. The negative aspect of it is that it is chaotic and most political parties do not have the databases to conduct such credible elections and you also need security as you have in general elections.
The indirect primaries are about money bags. And they are the only primaries where governors and godfathers can impose candidates but it is neater but it is also dirty. So you can see how it is. So as for me, I stand for a direct primary election no matter the negative side of it. Because that is the only election where you will not need tons and tons of money to pay delegates to vote for you. So in that, I am in support of those who are for the direct primaries.
SAHELIAN TIMES: Senator, moving away from politics, in your fifty-four years in this world, you have transitioned from being an author, a playwright, an activist and now into politics. And out of the 54 years you have spent on this earth you have written, I know of ten books, I know you have written two poems books…Senator this is saying along the way you have bagged a lot of experiences. Today more than fifty percent of the country’s population are youth, what will you say youths from this country should learn from this your transition?
Sani: Well, when you are a young man, you are exuberant, you are ambitious, you are confrontational, and you are daring; those are some of the qualities you have. Never lose those qualities because those are the qualities that are appropriate for that very age. But what is also needed in order for you to have a guide with all those qualities is that you must have a vision and you must know that you cannot continue to be youth forever. There is a stage where your life has to move from that youth to position of responsibility. And that is why our young people must have interest in politics. But for now, most young people are interested in reality shows, and English Premier League and La Liga, and other European leagues. These are the two issues that preoccupy the minds of most Nigerian young people. So what they need to know is that they must always get themselves politically on what is within their environment and the whole country. And be able to spare time to hold the people in government and power to account. When your peers are protesting for a good course you need to join the good course. You need to challenge authority, you need to confront authority, and you need to make those who are in the position of power to always be reminded that they are elected into the office to serve and they are servants and they are not masters. So this is my own summation of what the youth is supposed to know at his age and where you are supposed to move from.
SAHELIAN TIMES: Lastly, where do you stand on this issue of how to treat IPOB and Igboho all these people calling for the break-up of the country? Some people are saying solution. The people calling for political solution. I don’t know if the federal government can decide to release people to go to catch Igboho today. Can they really control them? So where do you stand?
Sani: Let me tell you this, I stand for a united Nigeria. And I believe in the unity of this country. But Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho were also believers in the unity of Nigeria. So we need to ask ourselves how do people who are patriots, who are nationals who believe in the unity of Nigeria suddenly become champions of patriotism (check this, it doesn’t make sense). It is simply the fact that the leaders of this country have failed. They have failed to use the resources of the country to develop the country. They have failed to ensure equity and justice to all parts of the country, they have failed to deliver good governance, so separatism is a product of failure of governance and a failure of leadership. So if Nigeria functions, if the government is just and fair, there will be no Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho. So Sunday Igboho and Nnamdi Kanu are a product of a system that has failed. So they are not a cause, they are consequences of that failure. They are a reaction to that failure. So I believe that the best way to extinguish and quash the causes of Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho is to address the issues which they are addressing. How can you have a country whereby the son of this, the son of that are the only ones who are in charge of power; and they have appropriate resources for themselves? How do you have a country where some positions are are specific for some ethnic groups and some regions in Nigeria? How do you have a country where some people are impoverished and some people are enabled and empowered? How do you have a country where leaders appoint people mostly from their ethnic groups and regional identities and affiliations? You can’t have a nation like that. If this country belongs to all of us, then it must be just to all of us. So, Nnamdi Kanu and Sunday Igboho are products which the system delivered. They should not be accused of the problems of the country.
SAHELIAN TIMES: Thank you very much sir. I think you have spoken very well.
Shehu Sani: (Laughter).