The Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Saniâ€Ž, in an interview with Mohammed Aminu, reveals how top members of the All Progressives Congress plotted to find a replacement for President Muhammadu Buhari while he was in London for treatment hoping that he would not return alive. Excerpts:
A group in the South-east has been agitating for Biafra. What do you think is the way out of this quagmire?
We must admit and accept that Nigeria is facing serious socio-economic problems that cannot be only solved by a ruling party.There are structural, economic, historical and social problems. Therefore, addressing them requires an overhaul of the system. A system that has over the years only benefited a class of Nigerians and a clique. A system that defies changes of government, policies and programmes of different governments. What is clear to us is the need for us to redesign and reshape the country so that the system can work. Anyone who is against a united Nigeria is against peace and our togetherness.
If Nigeria must remain a united nation, we must implement structural, political and economic reforms that will entrench peace and re-enforce our solidarity and unity as a nation. The winner takes all syndrome is not going to work. That All Progressives Congress (APC) removed the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in power in 2015 does not mean that the party (APC) has monopoly of wisdom and solution to the problems of the country. Once you are in power, you are to preside over a nation and not political party.
The crisis within the ruling party is seriously affecting governance. We have an incoherent and inconsistent opposition that is not on a good moral, political and economic footing for it to give a serious challenge. The PDP finds it difficult to adjust to being in the opposition that will lead the awareness for people to hold their government accountable. They have being used to power for long and unable to adjust. Tthat has created a lot of problems. There is a disconnect between the thoughts of people in government and the reality on ground. It is not all well for the ruling party.
The recent outburst by the Minister of Women Affairs Hajiya Aisha Alhassan who has contributed very well to the success of the party and former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar should not be brushed aside. A lot of people in the APC are seriously aggrieved and complaining of not being carried along. There are crisis and violence in Kano and Kaduna states that had not been resolved. APC is in crisis in 85 percent of the states and that has not been addressed. The ruling party’s life and heart beat is still hinged on the credibility, moral standard and integrity of Buhari. If President Muhammadu Buhari is out of APC, then the party will be simply like others. But what we are taking for granted is the fact that the masses are still attached and aligned to the APC because of Buhari.
Some people have started calling on Buhari to contest in 2019. What is your view?
Those in position of authority calling on Buhari to contest are doing so for their own personal gain, interest and political privileges. This is because their political existence, future and relevance is dependent on Buhari contesting in 2019. It is high time he called his campaigners to order because if care is not taken, public resources will now be diverted for his campaign and governance at states and federal level will come to a halt. Buhari should focus on delivering the promises made to Nigerians. You can see the hypocrisy, the double dealing on the side of the political elite within the ruling party. When Buhari was on sick bed in London, you can see the inactivity of the political elite within the ruling party. How the political elite in the ruling party were not sure that Buhari would come back. They were scheming, holding meetings, trying to choose a successor or provide an alternative . And then when he came back, they rushed to him organising stage- managed and mock prayers as well as protest for him. This is just to please him something that was never organised when he was on sick bed.
As far as I am concerned, I will prefer Buhari to show his intention first whether he wants to contest or not. I must make this clear that the masses calling for Buhari to contest are doing so out of genuine intention that he has done much and has a lot to offer as they see him as a messiah that will take Nigeria to the promise land. But the political elites urging Buhari to contest see him as an instrument that will give them the lever to return to power. El- Rufai is one of them. He cannot win election without mentioning the name of Buhari. He solely depends on Buhari because that is the only way he feels he can win.
El-Rufai doesn’t like Buhari but want him just to win elections. They are opposites. Buhari is a leftist who doesn’t believe in policies of the World Bank and IMF, privatisation, devaluation and liberalism while El-Rufai is a core capitalist and liberal, a rightist. He wants to privatise everything, retrench workers and demolish people’s houses.
These are people that came from the PDP that are disgruntled. We were brought together by the common need to remove former president Goodluck Jonathan. After we have done away with the common enemy, our differences have started manifesting. Buhari, Bukola Saraki, Bola Tinubu all think differently. We have become the enemy of ourselves.
Is your plan to dislodge Governor El- Rufai from his position?
There are ideological and political differences between us. I am a leftist while he is a capitalist. You see, after winning elections, I now became a threat to him that should be fought because he is a rightist and I am a leftist. He has been instigating members of the party against me and sent thugs to my constituency office in Kaduna. You are aware of what happened at the NUJ Secretariat in Kaduna when thugs sent by El-Rufai attacked us. You can see the level of desperation. Kaduna journalists are under siege of El- Rufai not to write stories or end up in jail if you dare write any report.
I am not afraid of him. You know my antecedent as an activist that I have been speaking about mis-governance for decades since the time of Gen. Sani Abacha and Gen. Ibrahim Babangida. I fought Babangida and was arrested and went to jail. I was convicted and sentenced during Abacha regime. So, I cannot change because I am now Senator. Recently, El-Rufai boasted of being a dogged fighter and that he fought late President Umaru Yar’Adua and former president Goodluck Jonathan. The reality is that during the time of late Yar’Adua, El-Rufai was abroad. It is unfortunate for a governor of a state to make such a statement about Yar’Adua. That is why I insisted that Buhari should set up a panel to investigate circumstances surrounding the death of Yar’Adua.
I have been supporting Buhari when El-Rufai described him as an unelectable old man and a dictator who should not be trusted with power. El-Rufai is a toxic to Buhari. He has the resources but he cannot have Shehu Sani. He is the only governor in Nigeria that did not go into primaries until Buhari raised his hands.
Is it true that the party made efforts to reconcile both of you?
There are APC chieftains that have issues with El-Rufai and not me alone. This is a man that is fighting many people. He is fighting religious leaders, labour unions, traditional leaders, people of Southern Kaduna and demolishing people’s houses. It is true that the party made efforts to reconcile us and bring peace to Kaduna. But he sees himself as stronger than the party. He is arrogant. Katsina Governor Bello Masari was mandated by the party to reconcile us but El-Rufai never respected him or the APC national chairman. All the aggrieved party members respected Masari and attended the meeting except El-Rufai . He is not a progressive politician at all.
Some groups are agitating for the restructuring of the country. What is your view?
Nigeria must remain one. We are a nation with a regional and global responsibility as a black power. First with a duty to ensure that other west African states toe the line of freedom, democracy and liberty. There is no doubt that our unity and the existing political and social order is being challenged by some issues that are seriously undermining those structures that our founding fathers laid. It is natural that when you build a structure and it is faced with some defects, that necessary changes need to be made in the area of reinforcements for it to truly stand the test of time. Many things need to be done. We don’t need 36 states, bicameral legislature and 36 ministers, we can do with less.
Almost 60 percent of the nation’s revenue is used to service overhead of political office holders and changes need to be made. We cannot continue to run a system that benefits few people while the masses are in poverty. Go to the states and see how our industries, those areas they call industrial zones have turned into bushes now and many factories have been leased out to churches and event management halls and that is very unfortunate. All we do is trade goods from other places. How do we get Nigeria working? Structural political changes are necessary to reduce cost of servicing political office holders. Every state or region must have a source of generating revenue to address its own issues, policies and programmes. But advocates of restructuring have forgotten one fundamental issue that Nigeria is not simply all about North and South, it is also about the few elite and the oppressed masses who have not benefited from the Nigerian enterprise but victims of one policy or another. So, the solution to Nigeria’s problems hinges on implementing those reforms or face revolt from the masses.
Those in position of authority calling on Buhari to contest are doing so for their own personal gain, interest and political privileges.
After we have done away with the common enemy, our differences have started manifesting. Buhari, Bukola Saraki, Bola Tinubu all think differently. We have become the enemy of ourselves.