‘El-Rufa’i Will End the Crisis in Southern Kaduna’

Uba Sani

Senator Uba Sani, who represents Kaduna Central in the upper chamber of the National Assembly is the Chairman of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions. He recently had a brief chat with some National Assembly Correspondents and spoke extensively on the efforts being made by the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i to stem the insecurity crisis in Southern Kaduna and Kaduna Central

Just one year in the Senate and you have already been ranked as one of the hardest working Senators in the country. What is the secret? What is propelling you?

I am not going to lie to you; it has not been easy. I was determined from Day One to hit the ground running. I did not have the luxury of time because my senatorial zone was lagging behind. We lacked quality representation in the 8th Senate. I am not the type that would want to dwell on the past, we have moved on. Among other things, our Senator in the 8th National Assembly openly masterminded the truncation of a major loan that was already earmarked to upgrade health, educational and other critical facilities in Kaduna State and this was for no just cause other than petty, or if you prefer, childish politics. Some persons even called that act against our people activism. Working against the genuine and overriding interest of your people is not activism. Activism is noble but I have a problem with glaring and blatant hypocrisy. Those who know me well, can attest to the fact that for most of my adult life, I have been an activist. Even today, you can freely refer to me as an activist in politics. I felt there was an urgent need to chart a different course for the progress of our people in Kaduna State as a whole. So, to answer your question, I am propelled by two critical factors: the first is that we (Kaduna Central) lost a whole lot of grounds in the 8th Senate hence the urgency to catch up fast in the 9th Senate. Secondly, I draw lots of inspiration from my boss, political associate and confidante, Mallam Nasir El- Rufa’i, the Governor of Kaduna State. If the man who mentors you does not rest, I don’t think it makes sense at all to even think of resting. I have always known that we have so much to do improve the lot of the good people of Kaduna State but getting into the Senate has brought home this fact ever so succinctly. We are truly in a hurry to make Kaduna the envy of other states in Nigeria.

Records at the National Assembly even rank you among the three Senators with the most progressive bills. These are bills that are receiving expeditious attention. You are obviously elated by this?

Yes, I am. But let me be sincere with you I am not carried away at all because there is still a lot of work to be done. Yes, I am happy that two of my bills have crossed all the requisite hurdles and have been passed into law. Like you may well be aware, the two bills are the the Bill for an Act to Establish a Federal College of Education in Giwa, which was passed into law on Wednesday July 15, 2020 and the second one, which I co-sponsored with Distinguished Senator Betty Apiafi, is the Bill for an Act to Repeal the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act 2004 and to Re-enact the Banks and Other Financial Institutions Act and Other Matters Connected Therewith 2020, which was passed into law by the Senate on Thursday, 23 July 2020. Like I have said elsewhere, my identification of education as a key priority was deliberate. Again other than the compelling need to shore up the educational sector in northern Nigeria in general and in Kaduna State in particular, my immediate push and inspiration for the conceptualization and the eventual huge work that went into the passage of the Bill into law was Governor Nasir El-Rufai’s Education Revival Programme in Kaduna State. His holistic approach to reviving education has been widely acclaimed. Kaduna State has become a model for educational reform. I will never waver in following in the footsteps of our dear Governor. I am committed to doing all that is needed to ensure a better future for our children through education. I am also confident that once the Federal College of Education, Giwa is established, it will boost the socio-economic status of Giwa and the neighbouring communities. Also very important to me is the efforts of members of my wonderful staff in actualizing the expeditious passage of these Bills into law. In particular, I remain exceedingly appreciative of the great efforts of Bello El Rufa’I, Abdul Azeez Ojelade, Yvonne Okeke, Olaitan Fajuitan, Eng. Jamilu Ahmed and of course our anchor man in our Kaduna Constituency Office, Abubakar Rabiu Abubakar. There are very many others. My office is like mini Nigeria. I appreciate all of them; they contributed immensely to my success in the Senate so far.

Are you not worried that in spite of the best efforts of the Governor, Mallam Nasir El Rufai and other well-meaning persons like you, the view of Kaduna from the outside does not seem so alluring. The Killings in southern parts of the country seem intractable and has almost become an everyday occurrence. Are you not worried that the situation in southern Kaduna could slow or blur the vision of Mallam El-Rufai in Kaduna State?

We remain focused and totally committed to our vision and mission despite the unfortunate insecurity situation in Southern Kaduna. The State Government is deeply worried and taking all necessary measures to bring the situation under control. But you will agree with me that misperceptions and misrepresentations of the intentions of the government have not helped matters. Let me tell you, in life, nothing can be as discouraging as when you are misunderstood or when you are putting in not just your best but your all, to make a situation work and you are being perpetually sabotaged. Even children in primary and secondary schools are well aware that the nation is facing a major national security crisis. It started from the North-east with Boko Haram insurgents and we flooded the northeast, particularly Borno and Yobe States with the gallant Officers and men of our armed forces as well as their equipment. My very strong belief is that hardened criminals and bandits capitalized on this over concentration of our security efforts in the Northeast, particularly these two states, to creep into other northern States. The Governor of Katsina States cries out almost everyday; we have had incidences in Benue, Nassarawa and Plateau States. And you are also aware that the Governor of Zamfara State also cries out regularly, the Governor of Kano State sometimes cries out about these criminals and bandits. But you know what, because of the peculiar history of Kaduna, when the criminals and bandits strike in Kaduna, it is immediately dubbed a religious or ethnic crisis.

Senator, are you saying that the crisis in southern parts of Kaduna has no ethnic or religious undertone?

I am fully on ground in Kaduna State. I speak with my Governor everyday; I speak with community and religious leaders everyday, especially given that part of my constituency is affected by the unfortunate and totally unnecessary crisis. Now, the criminals would strike at communities in Kaduna, the way they strike in communities in Katsina, Nassarawa, Zamfara and other States in northern Nigeria and the next thing you witness in Kaduna is that persons who have been profiting from ethno-religious crisis would start capitalizing on the misfortune of our brothers and sisters and they will begin to instigate different religious adherents against each other just as they would instigate ethnic groups against each other. The right thing that ought to happen in these circumstances is for everyone to join hands with the State Governor and the nation’s security forces to chase these bandits out of our homelands. It is very dangerous to play politics with security. Kaduna State has suffered enough. The good news is that Governor El-Rufai has totally decentralized critical security meetings and briefings in Kaduna State. We now hold Zoom meetings that have all senior public and political office holders, irrespective of party, religion or location, participating. We just had one on Saturday, 15th August 2020. Everybody from Assistant Director cadre in either the Federal or State Civil Service; all political office holders – elected or appointed, we all brainstormed. The Governor was emphatic that he was ready to welcome criticism, no matter how harsh, in any area anyone felt he had defaulted in the Southern Kaduna issue. All the persons who attended the Zoom meeting were shocked to find out the truth. In fact, I just pity Mallam Nasir El Rufai. I have not seen a more misunderstood Nigerian leader. Mallam Nasir El Rufai’s closest and most trusted aides are mostly Christians either from southern part of the country or Southern Kaduna. In fact, more than 15 per cent of members of Governor El-Rufai’s cabinet are not even from Kaduna State. The Governor is being wrongly portrayed; totally misunderstood and I think this is unfair.

But why is that?

Maybe it is his destiny or people just want to see or perceive what they want to perceive. However, I think Mallam Nasir El- Rufa’i, is way ahead of his time. He sees today, what most people would eventually see, maybe four years later or more. Remember when he was the Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, the reforms he effected, especially the restoration of the Abuja Master Plan, was deemed tortious and even controversial. But that is the hallmark of great and transformational leaders: they take hard decisions for the greater good of all, no matter whose ox is gored. Was it not rumoured at some point that El-Rufai was nursing presidential ambition? But when he stepped out and said that it is the turn of the South to produce the President of Nigeria after President Buhari’s tenure in office, some people retorted: “what kind of a man is this? He is confusing us.” The truth is that Governor Nasir El-Rufai is not just a man of strong conviction but a very fair minded person. It is not because he is my close associate, I dare say that under Mallam Nasir El-Rufa’i, Kaduna State is currently the best governed State in Nigeria. Only recently, the National Deposit Insurance Corporation (NDIC) organized a retreat in Kaduna for members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, which I chair, by the grace of God. The Senators were shocked by the massive developmental strides they saw in Kaduna. Massive road projects, state-of-the-art educational and health institutions. Not to talk of reforms in such critical areas as taxation and general ease of doing business. Kaduna had long perfected its ease of doing business protocols before the Federal Government even began thinking about it. The Senators were shocked to find out that Kaduna State has become the agro-allied hub of not just Nigeria but the West African sub-region as a whole. Further, many of the Senators were shocked when they heard the true story of the Southern Kaduna crisis from the Governor and several other sources during the visit. They were taken aback by how it has been politicised by some crises profiteers.

In your reckoning, are the security forces, especially the Armed Forces doing enough to help stem the ugly situation in Southern Kaduna?

You know, being a Senator places you at a vantage position. I have a lot of privileged information at my disposal. When I was not a senator my answer to your question would have been different. But I know better now. In actual fact our security forces are overstretched. They are engaged in several internal battles across the country. We must continue to encourage them; those of us in the National Assembly must seek ways and means to appropriate more funds for training and equipping of our Armed Forces. They also need lots of training in unconventional warfare. For example, in Borno, Yobe, Nassarawa and even in Kaduna, the insurgents and bandits they are battling with operate in very terrible terrains. We have to retrain our security and Armed forces in unconventional warfare. However, in Kaduna State, thank God for the long-drawn discussions between Mr. President, our Governor and Chieftains of our Armed forces, President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the deployment of Special Forces from the Nigeria Air Force to join the efforts to curb the banditry in Southern Kaduna. The Nigerian Air Force’s Special Forces arrived Kaduna after their Nigerian Army counterparts arrived Kafanchan much earlier. So, to answer your question, our security forces are doing their best in spite of the constraints I listed earlier. However, the problem in Southern Kaduna is not going to be resolved completely through physical warfare. The crisis also has elements of destructive politics laced with religion. A very dangerous combination, if you know what I mean. That is exactly what Governor El Rufa’i is determined to redress. He has held and still holding meetings with highly respected Christian and Islamic leaders. The Governor has been meeting with both the State and National leaderships of the Christian Association of Nigeria, as well as notable Islamic scholars and teachers. The Southern Kaduna problem is surmountable once we are able to stop some petty politicians and crises profiteers from manipulating our people. We have no other State to call our own. Insecurity is a disincentive to progress and development. We must collectively resolve to give peace a chance.