Shehu Sani, the former lawmaker who represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, speaks with GODWIN ISENYO on insecurity, his governorship ambition and other issues
You are against the creation of political units by religious bodies in the country, saying it will create fanaticism and turn Nigeria to a theocratic state. But some are saying there is nothing wrong in religious bodies taking part in politics. How do you reconcile this?
From the past, we have learnt that the Redeemed Christian Church of God has established a political unit or department and that has generated conversation across the country on the viability and danger of religious institutions getting into politics. I must be frank with you; I am speaking from the point of being a Nigeria who comes from the northern part of this country and from a state that has witnessed decades of ethno-religious violence which has always been laced with politics. The problem is especially from the North when religious institutions start setting up a religious department. It’s not simply going to be a unit as you have in RCCG but it’s going to be an ideological platform where religious bodies will be propagating an extremist, fanatical interpretation of religion mixed with politics and the danger of it is that it is going to legitimise religious groups getting into politics and fully abusing that privilege in terms of generating dangerous ideas, dangerous views which could destabilise this country.
Let us not forget that one of the problems in the northern part of Nigeria is extremism and fanaticism which now metamorphoused into terrorism in the last two decades. So, if you allow religious bodies to set up religious department, all they will do is to use such department to generate toxic extremist and fanatical views. Secondly, to propagate for a religious state or an Islamic state in Nigeria and thirdly, to hold politicians to ransom that whoever is going to assume any position of authority or power must ensure that he is there to pursue a religious idea or religious doctrine. It may not be the case with the RCCG or other religious institution that comes from the South or other parts of the country, but as far as the North is concern, once religious groups in the South are setting up political units, religious groups in the North will set up political units and how will that factor into Nigeria as a secular state? It certainly going to be a problem; my own problem with this is that religious bodies will now have a legitimate platform to pollute our political and democratic rights with extremist and fanatical religious ideas.
How would you rate the performance of the Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State?
I came from the opposition and I am in the opposition even though we are from the same political party, there are two areas which you can measure a leader and one is what he has done for the state and what he has done for the people. First of all, this government has a heavy debt profile which is going to last for generation and virtually there is no infrastructural establishment that will say this is how these funds are going to be paid. Eighty per cent of industries in Kaduna State are dead. When you go to Kakuri industrial area, apart from beverages, almost all the industries are dead. So, if you collect loans, it is not only about what you are going to do, it is also about how you will pay such money (loans). Do you think that expanding the roads in the cities and putting street lights will be able to repay $350m loans within five to 10years? No, it is certainly not going to work that way. So, he (El-Rufai) wants to be assessed as someone who has built infrastructure within the city of Kaduna. Okay but at what cost?
Secondly, the positive aspect of what he has been able to achieve was that for the first time, a state independent electoral commission has been able to announced results of election of the opposition party winning at counsellorship and local government chairmanship levels. This has never been done in any state. In most states, SIECOM simply declared the ruling party as winners of all local government elections. That’s a credit. But the issues which we are very much concern about is that Kaduna is a volatile and fragile state. It’s a state that is multi-religious and multi-ethnic. At no other time have the people of the state been so divided than now and whatever you are going to do, even if you are going to paint everywhere with gold, what matters is human lives and human livelihoods, human wellbeing and peace in the state.
So, as far as I am concerned, in the areas of cohesiveness, unity, harmony between the divergent ethno-religious configurations within the state, what this government has been able to do by its conduct and action is to have divided the people more than any time in the history of this country. Again, if you are going to assess him in different perspective, for instance, you take sports; Kaduna is virtually a graveyard of sport, a state that has history of sprouting activities. But today, we don’t even have one team that is in the Nigerian National League. That is a serious problem. Another issue is on empowerment. His so-called urban renewal program has destroyed the lives and livelihoods of many people. There has never been any serious mechanism to compensate people to empower them and to revive their businesses so that all those shops that are being constructed and all these markets will now belong to the people in the state through which they will do businesses.
Another aspect which I am going to assess is security. Even though you say security is the exclusive preserve of the Federal Government, the question we are to ask is that are the security agencies in Kaduna well funded, equipped and supported by the state? You can see other states how governors purchase vehicles and communication gadgets and make sure that every police, civil defence and formations are being provided with enough equipment and resources for them to be able to protect their people. Has that been done in the state? It has virtually not been done.
Another aspect which we are suppose to assess is the fact that they said they have CCTV cameras, where were they (CCTV cameras) while killings were going on? They claimed they have drones, where are they? You can’t move a kilometre outside Kaduna here without being kidnapped. People are being kidnapped around Sabo and Rigachikun.
What kind of President should Nigerians vote for in 2023?
We are at a dangerous point in the nation today and the next President we need is one that will be uniting us because Nigerians are more divided now than ever. Secondly, we need a leader that can secure Nigeria. Terrorists and bandits as well as and criminal gangs all over the country have simply paralysed the security of this nation. Look at us in the North-West, some villagers had to pay levies and taxes to bandits to go and plant their crops and do the same to harvest them. Schools in the rural areas have been closed down. Look what we have faced from the kidnapping of the students of the Federal College of Agricultural Mechanisation in Mando, the kidnap of the students of the Greenfield University and that of the Bethel Baptist High School in the outskirt of Kaduna. You can see that our education system has been so destroyed.
So, we need a leader who will secure Nigeria. Buhari has made so many promises and the people thought that as a retired general, he will perform a lot of wonders in terms of ending the problem of insecurity in the country. We need a President who has the knowledge of the economy of Nigeria, who can address the problem. Our naira value is N570 to a dollar; inflation is at its highest point. Despite the rise in crude oil price, Nigerians are suffering. Look at the debt which we have piled for ourselves. Within two years, this National Assembly has approved over $35bn as foreign loan and Nigeria is still borrowing. What kind of a country are we? We are going to borrow money to pay subsidies. Nigeria is now to borrow about N3trn to subsidise the petroleum which we used as a country. So, we need a leader that has the knowledge of the economy of this country. We also need a leader that understands the dynamics of Nigeria and who will lead the process of restructuring of this country because the structure of this country is faulty.
This government made promises before 2015 and 2019 that they were going to restructure Nigeria and it is clear that restructuring is not part of their agenda and that they simply used it to deceived Nigerians for them to win election. So, we need a president who understands democracy and respect the fundamental rights of citizens for them to hold contrary opinions. You can’t just operate a government like a military regime that you don’t respect the principles of separation of powers. We need a president who will understand that this is democracy and it has to be democracy and must work like a democracy in this country. The kind of leader that we need for Nigeria is one that will unleash a vision for our country for the future. We are a nation of over 200 million people and it has been predicted that by the year 2040, Nigeria is going to be the third most populous country. What plans are on the ground apart from producing children? What infrastructure do you have on the ground? What are the policies and programmes to secure our future. What are industrial plans?
You should understand that most importantly, we should respect the need to observe and respect the principle of rotation of power, especially the APC. An APC president has served eight years. It’s the turn of the South to produce under the APC, and the PDP should sit down but rotation of power is possible only on the basis of understanding of consensus of sacrificing personal ambition for the unity and greater good of the country. This is what I believe needs to be done. So, as for me, a leader that can address those issues and challenges are what we ask for. My own personal preference as to who is supposed to lead Nigeria is left for me as a person.
You were in the All Progressives Congress and moved to the Peoples Democratic Party. Can you tell us the difference between the two political parties?
Ideologically, there’s no difference between the APC and the PDP because most of those who established the APC came from the PDP and they are all parties that are simply platform for political power. You can see that most of those that are governors today, the Atiku Bagudus, the Governors of Jigawa State, Abubakar Badaru, Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, Niger State, Sani Bello, and that of Kano, Dr. Abdullahi ganduje; all of them were PDP members. If you are one of the founding chairmen of the PDP and you are now in the APC – the Audu Ogbehs, Barnabas Gemade, the Abdullahi Adamu, ideologically, the difference is virtually not clear. I don’t see any fundamental difference. But the difference we have is that the PDP exists as a political party whose future and history wasn’t tied to one person. The PDP was not tied to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo or tied to late president Umaru Musa Yar’Adua but APC was founded around the image and integrity of Buhari. This is one difference, and secondly, the PDP wasn’t a merger but APC was a merger of people coming with different political tendency; some from the right while others came from the left .That is why you see that the acrimony and internal party dispute in the PDP is milder than that of the the APC.
The APC, after the victory of the 2015 became so malicious and vindictive to its members and it became a house of rancour from 2015 to date. The APC has been moving from one crisis to another. So, you can see that if there is any fundamental difference between the APC and the PDP, it is the fact that there is more harmony, coordination and organisation as well as discipline than you have in the APC. In the PDP, you don’t have anybody that can shout anybody down and there is some level of democratic argument that is being respected in the PDP than you have in APC. That’s why the PDP is able to conduct its own convention. The crisis the APC has within this few years is even more than the one in the PDP which has been there since 1999.
If you are in APC, the first enemy you face is the APC member and not the PDP. That’s why most of these dirty stories being planted in the media are coming from APC members. If you are in APC, your enemies will be in APC. The attacks will be coming from the APC. The character assassination and defamation will be coming from the APC. So, APC is founded around that line of fighting their own, defaming their own and destroying their own. Right now, you can hardly hear the supporters of Atiku Abubakar abusing the supporters of Aminu Tambuwal. You cannot even hear the supporters of Tambuwal abusing the supporters of Nyesom Wike. You cannot hear the supporters of Wike abusing those of Peter Obi. You cannot hear the supporters of Peter Obi abusing the supporters of Bala Mohammed but in APC, the supporters of (Bola) Tinubu are abusing the supporters of (Yemi) Osinbajo and all the dirty stories you see in the media are coming from the APC people. So, this is to give you a little idea on the difference about the two parties.
You have expressed interest to contest the 2023 governorship election. Are you hopeful of victory, especially when the incumbent governor has wished that one of his cabinet members succeeds him?
I have an agenda that I want to unfold to the people of Kaduna State. As a governor of the state, I will build a bridge between the predominantly Muslim North part of the state and the predominantly Christian South of Kaduna State. I’m going to be the bridge between the North and the South and this bridge will be founded on equity, justice, equality and fairness to be done to the people of both sides because as the arrangement is now, some people are treated as outcast in the state while some people are treated as the owners or landlords of the state and this has been promoted by the political establishment for them to be able to achieve that.
I am going to secure Kaduna State. I don’t believe the Federal Government is the only one that has the duty and responsibility of securing the lives of our people. As a governor of Kaduna State, I will launch a security programme where people will be directly involved security arrangement for the protection of their own towns and villages. I will do this in synergy with the existing security agencies in the state. I will provide our security agencies within available resources, equipments, vehicles and communication gadgets that will ensure that terrorists will not have a grip on the state. I will spread development to all the 23 local government of the state. It’s not simply about the metropolis. I am going to ensure that the 23 LGAs of the state will benefit from the government which I preside over. Another thing which I am going to do is the revival of the collapse industries in the state.
You have talked about insecurity in your state. What do you think the governor should do to address the situation?
First of all, Kaduna State is under the siege of terrorists and in the northern part of the state, they kidnap people and kill people and in the southern part of the state, they have a campaign of extermination against a whole set of communities. They burn down villages, slaughter people and it cannot be called anything other than genocide. So, as far as I am concern, if we have to address the problem of Kaduna State, we have to unite as a person and understand that terrorism is a common danger. We cannot harbour terrorists in any way in whatever tribe or ethnic group they come from, they must be tackled headlong. So, it is either people choose to live in peace or they will pay consequently. As a governor of Kaduna State, I will go after informants because informants of terrorists and bandits are the most dangerous form of people that we have. I am going to make sure that every village, every town has a security committee and a security vigilante force that will take the war to the camp of the terrorist and not waiting for them to be attacked. If it requires Kaduna State entering a security arrangement with private firms to secure the state, I will do it as far as I am concerned.
We will not allow and; we will not condone the massacre of people in Southern Kaduna by terrorists. We will not condone genocide in Southern Kaduna. We will not condone the kidnap of our people in Central Kaduna by terrorists. We will not condone the kidnap of our people and the killing of our people in Zaria and other parts of Kaduna. Terrorists will not have space in Kaduna. And I am making this known because if this is the only thing that I will achieve, I will be very much contented. Our students must go to their schools. We must spread development to all parts of the state and we must not concede our land to terrorists. It’s not acceptable for terrorists to move into villages and exterminate and push our people out of their ancestral land and they will be treated with kid’s glove. We are going to have our own security structure that will ensure that our people are being protected.
Do you think the APC would survive after the internal wrangling evident in the different state chapters of the party?
The heart, soul and spirit of the APC are Muhammadu Buhari. He remains the only glue that is keeping the party together. There are political tendencies and power blocs around the APC which if not for Buhari today, the party will go into extinction. I don’t think the APC will survive a post- Buhari era because most of those that are threatening to break the party are not afraid of the other camp but they are afraid of Buhari. So, if it’s Buhari the only person they fear, what will you imagine will happen? So, as far I am concern, I believe that APC will begin and end with Buhari. That’s why the party will be on fire if Buhari is silent. It’s only when he talks that the fire goes off. So, you can see that the life span of the party revolve around him and you can imagine the day when there will be no Buhari. The chairmanship of the party is about Buhari, the organisation of the party is about Buhari, programme of the party is about Buhari. Anything Buhari likes, the party likes. Anything he dislikes, the party dislikes. When you have this kind of personality with this domineering control of the party, you know that the party will live as long as Buhari lives.
Apart from insecurity, Nigerians are facing a lot of economic challenges. Who should be blamed and how can these problems be solved?
The security situation we face depends on the region you come from. In the North-Central part of Nigeria, most of the violence going on there is between herdsmen and farmers but in the North-West, it’s terrorists killing people, extorting ransom, unleashing mayhem, burning down communities, imposing fines, levies and taxes on people. In the North-East, it’s ISWAP and Boko Haram that are killing people and unleashing bloodshed and trying to establish their version of Islamic state. We actually carry out the audit account of the money we spend on security. In the last six years, between N2 and N3trn has been spent on security. It’s unfortunate that there is nothing to show for it. Our military and policemen are still crying that they don’t have equipment, they don’t have weapons, they don’t need machinery to take on terrorists. We ended up creating billionaire retired generals and billionaire policemen without security for our people.
So, auditing our security and defence apparatus is very important. The money for security should go for security. We can only tackle this problem if we use technology. From Kaduna to Abuja here, there are about 30 or 35 villages but there is no singledrone stationed to move around to locate where kidnappers are in order to launch attacks. We are still using the archaic system of mounting road blocks, flashing touch lights on the faces of drivers and telling them to put on inner light and open their boot to see what they carry. We are using 20th century strategy to fight 21st century crimes. So, the third is the use of human intelligence. We need to involve the locals. We should reward information. Informants of terrorists are being paid by terrorists; we should pay our informants too, to give us information. Bandits and terrorists have decided to abandon their criminality and we should join to fight those who refused to repent.
You tweeted that presidential candidates should avoid shedding tears but moving about with white handkerchiefs as a campaign strategy because it leads a nation. Could you expatiate on this?
First of all, it’s on a lighter mood. When Buhari was contesting election, he shed tears and used handkerchief and when Atiku was contesting, he shed tears and used the handkerchief. Now, Atiku was not the president but Buhari became the president. So, leaders should be able to know the situation as aspirants or candidates and not to dramatise because that tears Buhari shed for Nigerians seems to be a curse that Nigerians are shedding tears now. You only shed tears when you are in pains. When you are in sorrow, when you are mourning and when you are in crisis and when you are face serious trouble. Nigerians need vision, action, policy and programmes that can be implemented. Nigeria needs leader that will give people hope, a leader that will take us from Egypt to the Promise Land.
Source: The PUNCH