SEN. SHEU SANNI (SOCIAL CRUSADER)
Interviewed by Funke Olaode
How did you develop a passion for activism?
I started as a Students’ Union leader in Kaduna. I later joined the Committee for Defense of Human Rights (CDHR). I later served as vice-chairman of Campaign for Democracy (CD). We led the resistance against the military rule. In the process, we suffered arrest, detention and even imprisonment. In 1995, I was arrested and brought to Lagos.
I was charged for treason and was sentenced to life imprisonment. I served part of my jail term in Kirikiri Prison in Lagos and was later moved to Port Harcourt Prison. At another occasion, I was taken to Aba Prison in Abia State. We were given amnesty by Gen. Abdulsalam Abubakar. I delved into politics and contested twice in 2003 and 2011 but couldn’t make it. And like Abraham Lincoln, I made it the third time to the Upper Chamber of the National Assembly representing Kaduna Central District under All Progressives Congress.
Were you not afraid for your life back?
Over the years, I have groomed myself to prepare for eventualities. The struggle is about justice and freedom for the masses. There are consequences for it, which may sometimes lead to loss of freedom or life. I was willing to sacrifice all.
How does your immediate family especially your wife take this risky vocation?
They are not activists or politicians. They just happen to live with a man who has chosen the path of justice for his environment and the masses at large, and who also has a mission to pursue. They have been able to adapt themselves to the reality of my chosen career. My wife is comfortable with being married to me and my activism.
Where did you get this trait of activism?
My father was not an activist. He was a government printer who was also worked partly as journalist. He worked with Northern Nigeria Newspapers and served the media all his life. I have always been conscious of myself and happenings around me. As a child, I was not deprived of the good things of life. I didn’t come from a poverty stricken family.
I came from a middle class home, but I was influenced by the struggle of people like Malam Aminu Kano, political icons in West African countries and across the world who had stood up to free their people from the establishment. My ideas were also shaped by the fact that the country had been under the military rule for a very long time. There was moral call for all men of conscience to stand up and restore freedom and democracy back to the country. But the clamour had always been happening in the South-west. Someone had to take the flag to the North and I led the struggle there.
You were in Lagos recently for the late Bola Ige annual symposium where you promised to re-open his murder case when the Senate reconvenes. What was your relationship with the late politician?
I admired the late titan as lover of his people, who always fought for their rights. People in the north see him as Yoruba man in politics who defends the rights of the Yorubas. I see him beyond that. The fact that he was a front runner, a legend and an institution endeared me to him. He was an intellectual warehouse in Nigeria.
We lost a great man whose contribution to Nigeria politics cannot be over-emphasized. So I had great respect for him. I promised to re-open his murder case when the house reconvene so that the police can be compelled to reopen the investigation. As far as I am concerned, the first article in our constitution is right to life, which we have failed to guarantee to our people then all other rights cannot be easily guaranteed.
In recent time there has been a rift between you and your state governor that led to your suspension from your party. What is the bone of contention?
I come from the political left and he comes from the political right. He comes from a conservative political background. And as someone who came from Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), our attitude would be quite different. But we still belong to the same political family. Remember in politics naturally we disagree to agree, we fight and at the end of the day the interest of the party and the country is what matters.
If you are to rate your satisfaction with your life so far, out of 10, what would you score yourself?
It is very painful that it is difficult to score oneself high when you live in a country where people find it difficult to eat, educate their children or even address their basic needs. In such situation, one’s happiness is temporary.
Are you fulfilled as an activist?
I am. I have toed my path of activism to the upper chamber as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. With modesty, I think it is an achievement. I am partly fulfilled. When we deliver what our people expect from us, I will claim total fulfilment.
What lesson has life taught you?
Never to give up in life. Never surrender and then stick to your beliefs and principles and always stand up to fight when the need arises. Show love to those who need it. Always stand up for justice. Whatever you do as a businessman, activist or journalist, bear it in mind that your first constituency is your family and you must not in any way sacrifice them for anything.