Iyobosa Uwugiaren writes that the All Progressives Congress senatorial candidate for Kaduna Central in the 2019 general elections, Malam Uba Sani who is currently Special Adviser (Political Matters) to the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasiru El’rufai and previously served as Senior Special Assistant (Public Affairs) to former President Olusegun Obasanjo is confident that his principal and President Muhammadu Buhari will return to office for a second term
In the last few months, you’ve been going around your senatorial district, seeking support for your senatorial ambition; share with us your experience so far—before and after the primary
It has so far been a very intensive and extensive campaign. What really gladdens my heart is the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) executive in my senatorial zone has taken complete ownership of the campaign. Ours is a very inclusive and participatory campaign. This is quite comforting after the long drawn battle for the ticket. The process was attended by confusion, uncertainty and all sort of controversies. As you are aware, we adopted the indirect primaries. In the constitution of our party, there are three modes of primaries: direct, indirect and consensus. The National Working Committee of our party accepted the resolution of the Executive Committee of our state chapter that indirect primary should be the mode of election for elective positions in Kaduna State. There are other states that adopted direct primaries, some consensus, but in Kaduna State, the SEC decided on indirect primaries because of several reasons. One of the reasons was security and the most important reason was the fact that we do not have an updated membership register and we cannot do direct primaries when some members of the party are not even sure if their names are in the register. And of course, direct primaries means every member of APC must come out and vote; if you are a member of the party and you have membership card, you are qualified to vote for a particular candidate. And those that have the responsibility of conducting the direct primaries will tell you that you cannot vote simply because your name is not in the register. We communicated that to the party and they agreed with our position and it was really a fundamental reason; and so we decided to adopt indirect primaries. The election was conducted despite numerous obstacles and challenges. A day before the primaries and even on the day of the primaries, we were told that out of five aspirants that actually bought the forms, went through the screening, only one candidate was cleared. This was an affront on the wishes and democratic rights of the people of Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone. My co-aspirants were also not ready to accept the ill-conceived alteration of the list. The four of us came together and rejected the doctored list. The party eventually saw reason and cleared all of us and we went through a very transparent, free and fair election and I emerged winner. I got the highest number of votes and so that was what really happened. I believe the primaries in the Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone was the most transparent, free and fair primaries and the committee sent by the national working committee to conduct the primaries testified to that.
What has been the response of the electorate – in your effort to convince them to support your aspiration?
The response has been overwhelming and humbling. Kaduna Central is a political fortress of the APC. The people are unwavering in their support for us. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been struggling to make inroad into the zone, to no avail. What we have been doing is to consolidate on the people’s support by assuring them of a brighter future. We are determined to change the face of the zone through quality and effective representation. This is important because for some time now the people have been victims of poor, ineffective and unresponsive representation. From a senatorial zone that was the envy of all, it became a reference point for how not to represent a people. People of the zone saw the diminishing of opportunities which hitherto were taken for granted. What reigned supreme was grandstanding and the abuse or denigration of leaders who are selflessly working to positively change the condition of the people of Kaduna State and Nigeria. They did not stop at that. They deliberately sabotaged the Kaduna State Government’s efforts at attracting investments and getting loans for the development of critical infrastructure. A clear example of what really happened was when the state government wanted to borrow $350 million from the World Bank to rehabilitate and build new hospitals in Kaduna, to rehabilitate and build new schools-both primary and secondary schools – in Kaduna; and to also build some infrastructure, I mean roads and other amenities for the common man and woman. The people were livid with rage. Kaduna State was the only state that was denied the opportunity to access the loan simply because those people in the Senate decided to look at their personal interest instead of the overall interest of our people in Kaduna State. The loan is not about Mallam Nasir El – Rufai, it’s about the nine million people of Kaduna State, and for me, that was what really made people to come out openly to support my aspiration. They believe I am better equipped and positioned to restore the glory of Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone.
If you win the election what are you going to do differently from what the current senators are doing?
Our senatorial zone is populated by APC and everybody knows that – it’s a fact. And if you are a member of Senate representing a particular constituency which you are also aware that over 80 to 90 percent of the people belong to APC, surely the first thing you need to do is to work closely with the APC government at the national level. Some of us worked in the past at the national level: I worked with former President Obasanjo as you are aware, and we know how government is run. If you are a member of the Senate and you are lucky that your party is the ruling party, and you are also lucky that your governor is from your own party, what you need to do is to work closely with the president, work with your governor, and find a way to lobby on how you can bring infrastructural support to your own people. It’s about serving the people, not the advancement of our personal interest. What I will do differently is to work closely with my party to attract development to my senatorial district. And this is only possible if I work closely with my party leadership, the leadership of the Senate, my Governor and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I will know when to lobby vigorously. I will respect people. I will be tolerant. I will not talk down on people. How to better the condition of the people is paramount. What I am and have been is immaterial.
Apart from being a senatorial candidate of a party, you are also the Political Adviser to the Governor of Kaduna State and you just said you were very convinced that El – Rufai will win his election and Buhari will win his election. But that appears to contradict the opinion of some people who believe that APC has not done anything in the last three years to deserve re-election
Most of the people thinking that way are either naive, mischievous or probably they are unwilling to tell the truth. We are all in this country; some of us as I said earlier had worked with the previous government in the past, we know where we are coming from- and I can tell you clearly that when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected, we know the state of the economy of this country — the country was almost going down completely, in terms of the economic situation. Our international image was in tatters. Investors had taken flight. Corruption had become a way of life in governmental circles. Insecurity had enveloped the country. The Boko Haram took over many local governments in the North East and hoisted their flags. In major cities of Nigeria, rumour of possible terrorist attack remained the daily staple. Life in Nigeria had become sheer nightmare. Many people were already predicting the possibility of Nigeria becoming a failed state. That was the situation President Buhari inherited. Since assumption of office he has been working assiduously to clear the mess left by the previous administration. He has degraded Boko Haram, arrested the drift in the economy, restored investors’ confidence and is implementing a well-conceived social investment scheme geared towards giving succor to the underprivileged in Nigeria. Restoring security remains one of the president’s biggest achievements. I can tell you that for some of us who travelled from Kaduna to Abuja by road during that difficult period, it took us three to four hours to get to Abuja because of multiple checkpoints created by the deadly activities of Boko Haram. People could not even go to mosques and churches to worship God. Going to the market or any crowded area was like a death sentence. Nobody knew where the next bomb would go off. It was a horrible situation. But today we can all heave a sigh of relief. Normalcy has been restored. But some challenges remain. Terrorism is a scourge which must be fought continuously until it is rooted out. Other security problems are also being addressed or tackled with all the force the government can muster. Progress has also been made in the area of fighting corruption. EFCC has been reinvigorated. Investigations, arrests and prosecutions have been stepped up. Campaigns are also being carried out to create awareness among the populace on the need for zero tolerance against corruption. We must root out corruption if our country must make progress. Corruption is a violation of the people’s right to development. It is majorly responsible for our arrested development in the areas of education, health, agriculture, etc. We must commend President Buhari for raising and amplifying the issue of corruption. Before now, corruption and the need to tackle it received little or no attention. In fact, it wasn’t an issue because you could do whatever you liked and nobody will talk to you. The revelations coming out of EFCC’s investigations are mind boggling and scary. EFFCC has continued to harvest successes. They have over 737 convictions. That’s the highest number ever in Nigeria. And for me, when we look at it clearly, it shows that the level of impunity in the past was very terrible.
What will Governor Nasir El-Rufai be campaigning on in the forthcoming elections?
I have worked for three and half years as the Political Adviser to Governor El-Rufai. I am conversant with the vision and mission of the government. I know its programmes/projects and the level of implementation. I know where challenges lie. I am close to the people at the grassroots and I have interacted with them. So I am in a good position to tell you what is on ground and the shape of things to come. Sometimes when I read some stories or comments on the Kaduna State Government in the conventional and social media, I just laugh. Either the writers are ignorant or misinformed of the situation of things, or they are downrightly mischievous. Let me state without fear of contradiction that Governor El-Rufai’s achievements in the last three and half years are unprecedented. He has invested heavily and achieved so much in critical areas like education and health. In the area of education, when El -Rufai came, we had about 4,000 primary and secondary schools. We realized that more than 70 percent of our schools were completely abandoned, some of them were not even habitable. In the rainy season the students could not even sit in the classrooms because of the condition of the schools. The first step the governor took was to rehabilitate the schools. After that we took a look at the quality of students and the teachers. This is because you may have beautifully designed and constructed schools, but if you continue to churn out half – baked pupils and students, it amounts to a waste of scarce resources, time and energy. We wanted the best for our children and we were prepared to take all necessary measures to achieve our goal. In the face of sustained opposition to the government’s decision to weed out unqualified teachers from the system, Governor El-Rufai stood up to be counted. That’s the mark of leadership. Good leaders are known for taking hard and difficult decisions. We subjected the school teachers to a test and we realized that over 75 percent of our teachers were not even qualified to teach our students. Probably that’s the reason why people keep saying the North is backward in terms of education because the foundation was really terrible. After our thorough assessments we found that over 22,000 teachers could not even teach the students in primary schools. So we decided to fire the teachers and as I am talking to you 25,000 teachers have been employed to now take over those positions. Those that have been hired are not only qualified but are competent. They were subjected to rigorous tests and found to be qualified in their discipline as well as teaching methods, techniques and principles. When we came into office, the enrolment of our primary school students was less than one million yearly but as I am talking to you now, every year in the last two years, the enrollment is about 2.3 million. And I will tell you why: the secondary school enrollment is even better than the primary that I am talking about. Why is that happening? Because, when El – Rufai said, “I am going to give free education to our people.” He meant every word of that. He abhors a situation where you mouth “free education” and go behind to impose all sorts of levies. Free education must be total. Previous governments were merely deceiving the people. It is El-Rufai’s government that is offering free education in its totality. He has abolished all levies. Previous governments were collecting over N3.5 billion as levies from the children of the poor who go to primary school. School uniforms are now free. The government also started the school feeding programme even before the Federal Government in order to encourage indigent parents to send their children to school. And as I am talking to you, we have 2.3 million to 2.4 million enrolments as against almost one million, which for me, is a major achievement. When some people are talking about Kaduna, we just laugh because they are naive and they are just misinforming the public. For the mischievous ones there is nothing you can do about that. Their minds are made up. They are anti-progress and development. No amount of achievement can impress them. They are in pursuit of selfish ends. Thirdly, in the area of healthcare services, when we came in, most of our hospitals were dilapidated. We had of course, general hospitals, and few specialist hospitals, but El – Rufai insisted that in his own time, healthcare services must reach everyone. People at the grassroots must have access to quality healthcare. All the 255 wards in Kaduna State must have primary healthcare centres. As I am talking to you today, there is a health centre in every ward of Kaduna State. You don’t need to travel for more than one kilometer to reach a health centre. Right now, he has finished the 255 and he’s almost at the process of starting new ones in some wards. And that’s a major achievement for a state like Kaduna. The health centres have been fully equipped and staffed with qualified health professionals. He has also rehabilitated all the general hospitals to acceptable standard. No governor in the history of governance in Nigeria has made this type of impact in the health sector within a short time. I challenge anybody to counter it. The government has also done very well in the area of job creation. It has created a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive. Kaduna State was recently declared the best state in the Ease of Doing Business. The state has won awards on good governance, both locally and internationally, and even by the United Nations and I think the World Bank also. We’ve been able to attract a lot of investments from foreign investors. Two years ago, Mr President came to Kaduna and commissioned Olam which was a $150 million investment. And there are many other Investments that we attracted because of El – Rufai’s policy of open and accountable governance. Foreign investors are very comfortable doing business with the Kaduna State Government. The political will is there. There are clear policies, processes and procedures. Transparency and accountability are openly promoted. Conscious and deliberate efforts are made to make Kaduna the business hub of the North. Boosting local businesses is the surest route out of economic difficulties and empowerment of the people. The government has never rested on its oars to positively alter the condition of the people of Kaduna State. When I see people doubting whether El-Rufai’s mandate will be renewed in 2019, I just laugh. The people of Kaduna State are in deep love with their workaholic Governor. They will speak loudly with their votes in 2019.
You talked about your investment in infrastructure in the state. Be specific.
When you talk of infrastructure, no government in the history of Kaduna State has built infrastructure as much as El-Rufai. There is no local government you’ll go to and not see El-Rufai building roads. Kaduna metropolis has had its fair share of road construction under this administration. For me, that is what people should judge El-Rufai with, not some trivial issues. Maybe we need to deploy more efforts in the area of information dissemination in order to effectively publicise the monumental achievements of Governor El-Rufai. But we do understand the reason for negative attitude of a segment of the elite towards the administration. The Governor took some radical decisions which previous administrations refused to take in order not to ruffle political feathers. The Governor brooks no nonsense when the interest of the common people is involved. The opposition of the few self-centered elites does not bother him. Once the people are happy, he feels fulfilled. The policies and programmes of the government have impacted on the lives of the downtrodden and they have openly been celebrating the administration. They have vowed to defend the administration and renew its mandate. El-Rufai’s achievements are key selling points. He is set for a landslide victory in 2019. We have done our calculations. We are very confident.
There’s this issue that keeps reoccurring in Kaduna State: the issue of ethnic or religious crisis. What’s really responsible for the crisis?
Since 1992, Kaduna State has witnessed many ethnic and religious crisis. It is quite unfortunate. We are sad about it because Kaduna State, and Kaduna city in particular, is like a miniature Nigeria. It is a place people love so much. However, in its attraction lies its contradictions. The way it attracts lovers of development, peace and progress, it is also a place for conflict entrepreneurs. In fact the government of Nasir El-Rufai, in its wisdom, took a bold step to get to the root of the perennial conflicts that have for long been arresting the development of the state. His modest efforts have unfortunately been politicised by some people. The one that just happened recently wasn’t really a religious crisis. A misunderstanding between two people in a market was hijacked and put to murderous use. People descended on each other based on rumours and unfounded claims. That is why there are so many versions of what led to the crisis. You can see that there are people ever ready in Kaduna State to profit from crisis. Some people who may not have been given the true picture of what transpired saw a good opportunity to attack Governor El-Rufai and sow the seeds of hatred among the people of Kaduna State. People should always make extra efforts to get credible information on what is going on so that we don’t mislead the people. We have a huge responsibility as leaders and clerics. We must use temperate language and desist from actions that would put a spanner in what holds our people together. Beyond admonishing our people to tow the path of peace, the El-Rufai government is determined to end the reign of impunity as far as ethnic and religious crisis are concerned in Kaduna State. Henceforth, conflict entrepreneurs and their foot soldiers would be treated as criminals. Deployment of religious sentiments will never deter the government from discharging its responsibility to the people. All the people involved in the crisis will be prosecuted. The law must take its course.
There is this issue that has been generating controversy in the past few days. It is about El-Rufai nominating a co-Muslim as his running mate. What’s your response to that as a Political Adviser?
I sincerely believe that we have reached a stage in this country where we should lay more emphasis on one’s competence and ability to deliver, not really where one comes from or the religion he or she professes. I understand why we hold on so much to issues of diversity or balancing. As far as I am concerned the fact that people believe that it is only when someone from their area is in office that they can get a fair deal is indicative of the failure of governance. A leader with a sound governance agenda/template should be able to deal with all manner of persons fairly, equitably and justly. We must move to new grounds and change the way things are done in our state and country. Governor El-Rufai is committed to inclusive governance. He will never discriminate based on certain primordial considerations. He chose Dr. Hadiza based on her competence and record of outstanding performance in the healthcare sector. Dr. Hadiza, the deputy governorship nominee has worked closely with the government. She is very competent and full of innovative ideas. She is a major asset to the Kaduna State Government and the people of Kaduna State. She comes from a family that is really a model of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Half of the family members are Muslim, while the other half are Christian. Critics should rather ask for Dr. Hadiza’s track record and judge her based on that. Harping on religious differences is a disservice to Kaduna State.
What are the chances of the APC in the forthcoming elections in Kaduna State?
We have done our homework. The government of El-Rufai has delivered. The people are happy and are yearning for more of Mallam’s meritorious services. The APC campaign machinery is ready to go on extensive and intensive campaigns. Kaduna State APC has a good product to market. Just mark it, El-Rufai will be first Governor to be declared winner in the 2019 elections. He is loved by the good people of Kaduna State. They don’t think like those people writing newspaper articles and commentaries. Mallam Nasir El-Rufai will win this election by landslide. In the last election, no governor in the North-West got as much votes as El-Rufai. If they don’t know, they should check. El-Rufai got over one million votes in the last election and I can tell you this time around he’ll still get the highest votes not only in the North West but in the whole of Northern Nigeria. Also, apart from President Buhari who had more votes than any governor in northern Nigeria in his election, only El-Rufai got over one million votes.
INN THE MIRROR:
*Sani is a former senior special assistant on public affairs to ex-president Olusegun Obasanjo and Special Adviser (Political) to the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT). He is currently a Political Adviser (Political and Intergovernmental Affairs) to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state
*Sani’s aspiration to serve the people of Kaduna Central Senatorial District as senator in 2011 on the platform of the PDP could not be realised
* Sani is a tri-sector leader. His tentacles are in business, government and civil society. He is a leading civil rights activist, development worker, social entrepreneur, philanthropist, politician and accomplished businessman of enormous economic and political goodwill
*He has built a political fortune with a reservoir of very loyal supporters. He cut his teeth in the institutions of public service when he also served with the Kaduna State Ministry of Works and Housing
*He holds the Master of Science degree in Finance from the University of Calabar, a Post-graduate Diploma in Business Administration from University of Abuja, and a Higher National Diploma in Mechanical Engineering from Kaduna Polytechnic
* Sani has played a leading role in the struggle against military rule. He created a strategic base for the pro-democracy movement in Northern Nigeria. His Movement for Freedom and Justice championed the rights of the underprivileged and offered them unfettered access to justice. He was variously the National Vice Chairman (North) of Campaign for Democracy (CD) and Deputy National Chairman (North) of the Joint Action Committee (JACON)
*He founded the El-Rufai Foundation, devoted to entrepreneurship and skills acquisition for youths, women and the underprivileged. The Foundation served as a unique window of training and job opportunities for energetic, young people in Kaduna State, thereby making the beneficiaries economically self-reliant
*He is an alumnus of the United States government’s International Visitors and Leadership Program (IVLP). The programme focuses on “Volunteerism and NGO Management”