In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ team of Musikilu Mojeed, Bassey Udo and Lere Mohammed, Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central, speaks about speaks about federal lawmakers’ controversial jumbo pay, his disagreement with his state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and other issues.
PT: How has the transition been from activism to parliament?
Sani: The transition from activism to parliament gives me a new experience in governance. The fact that we are from a journey of struggles, that found us in the trenches, organising protests and standing up against injustice and tyranny. This is an opportunity for us with this background to make positive impact in our societ by seeing the realization of those very ideas and ideals we stand for over the years.
We have been used to throwing missiles. Now we are in the position to receive them. We have been used to criticizing. Now we are in a position to be criticized. We have all along lived our lives in the opposition. During the military era, we were in the forefront of the struggle against military rule and for the restoration of democracy.
Many of us were pushed to exiles. Others were jailed or even killed in that struggle. Now, we are in government, specifically in parliament. From my experience, I can say this is different from what we have been used to in the last decade in the history of our nation.
PT: When people like you indicated interest to run for parliament, expectation heightened. With characters like you in the National Assembly, the hope was that there was going to be some radical changes in the way our parliamentarians carry themselves. So far, there has been so much controversy. Even the way your party, APC, elected its leadership. What’s wrong? Is this the change Nigerians worked for?
Sani: The APC is not a communist party. It’s not a party with a specified ideology. It is a convergence of people from different tendencies, ideas and backgrounds. It’s also a convergence of people from different political thinking. There is the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), that was basically present in the South-West, from where most of the leading characters play the south western Nigeria politics. There is also the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change), the party that was formed around the shadows and image of President Muhammadu Buhari. You also have ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party), seen basically as a northern Nigeria party, as well as the new PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), which is a break away from the establishment.
What brought all those forces together was the common goal of evicting the Jonathan administration and bringing about the fundamental change that Nigerians so desired. With the eviction of the common enemy, the reality of the differences comes to foreplay – people with divergent thoughts coming into conflict with themselves. The individual ambitions that were inhibited, or hidden by the reality of their existence under a common enemy, came to the open.
So, it is not peculiar to the APC, or Nigeria. In post-apartheid South Africa, there were conflicts within the ANC (African National Congress). Even in the Arab Spring, after the ejection of Gadhafi, or the removal of Mubarak in Egypt, conflicts happened. This is the reality of the situation.
In the course of time, how the party is able to navigate its way through these landmines of individual interests, ambitions and personal goals would determine the survival of the party and its relevance in the Nigerian political scene.
PT: Do you think the APC has handled the crisis well so far?
Sani: The crisis that is most official is the one in the National Assembly. How did we come about this? The mistakes that were made were from the very beginning. After the party won the 2015 election, what the party ought to have done from the first week of that victory should have been to invite all the legislators – the Reps and the Senators – and sit them down and let everyone know what the party was planning to achieve, and let everyone bring his or her own idea.
If the party had put its house in order in a closed-door, there is no way we could have come out with so much rancour. But, all the Senators and Reps were allowed for a whole two months to stay at home and do nothing until two weeks to the election in the National Assembly, before they were called to come and settle our differences. The differences that had existed for almost two months was expected to be sorted out within a day or two. That became impossible because individuals, who had already shown interest in certain positions, had not only made themselves known, but had entrenched themselves. Already, a division was created, and it was so deep to a point where it became impossible for anybody to do anything about it.
There were two contenders in the race for the Senate Presidency –Ahmed Lawan and Bukola Saraki, all seasoned administrators, who have a lot to contribute to the development of the party. Each one of them had also contributed to the victory of the APC at all levels. They are persons who, under normal circumstances, could easily have been be supported by all, but, the very fact that there was no attempt to get people together, and unite them, made things difficult.
On the day of the elections, we got a text message that there would be elections in the National Assembly, as the President had given an order for proclamation. But, that morning we had another text message that the President wanted to see us at the International Conference Centre, ICC. Despite the fact I got the text message, and had also received the earlier message that we should be at the National Assembly, I thought maybe I should go to the ICC because I believed the meeting there was an attempt by the President to reconcile the differences.
But we sat down. At the National Assembly, members’ phones were switched off. Within an hour, we got a report that the elections had taken place in the National Assembly and Saraki had emerged.
When Saraki emerged, we moved from the ICC to the Villa to meet with Mr. President, to say this is why we have come, and this was what happened. He expressed his own displeasure that there was no reconciliation and such things took place in the National Assembly. But, a day after, as far as I am concerned, when he said the process that led to Saraki’s emergence was constitutional, and he was ready to work with him, and had no reason to fight him, I simply had to go along with what the President said.
PT: Obviously, the party dug itself into a ditch. How do you think the party can dig itself out of the hole?
Sani: Yes, the party has gotten itself into a deep hole. It’s like an arrow that got deep into a skin. You don’t pull it off by force. It was easier for members of the House of Representatives to address their problem than the Senate, for two reasons.
One, APC does not have an overwhelming majority in the Senate. The difference we have is about eight senators, or to a certain level seven, because there are some other persons in court. But, in the House of Representatives, there is an overwhelming majority of APC members.
Two, Ekweremadu is now the Deputy Senate President. It is easier to play safe than to try to remove him. The dilemma the party is in now is that that PDP Senators see Ekweremadu as their own representative in the principal officers’ cadre, and because he is there, they do not oppose any motion, bill or anything coming from the Presidency.
If Ekweremadu is removed, though I would want to see APC from beginning to the end, we must be ready to contend with a very potent and angry opposition in the Senate. In the event that we are in need of two-thirds on members to resolve certain issues, we are definitely going to have a problem.
Again, the other problem on Ekweremadu is that the issue has now taken an ethnic colouration. He is being seen as a representative of a section of the country, South East, in the power equation of Nigeria. If he is ejected, there is no way the people in that region would not be provoked to stand up against this administration.
So, those who voted for Ekweremadu to be deputy to the Senate President had gotten the party into a difficult situation.
The only way the party can find a middle way out is to see to it that, despite having eight Senators ahead, how can we work together to see to the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. There are a good number of APC Senators that are aggrieved with its leadership. With that division, if one decides now to antagonise the PDP members in the Senate, one can imagine the chaos that is likely to break out there.
PT: Would you say the President on his part has acted right so far in his handling of the crisis?
Sani: The President’s philosophy is that he is for everybody, and for nobody. Clearly, that is the best the President can do in the circumstance. He cannot do otherwise than to seek to work with the National Assembly if he is to succeed in the execution of his programmes, rather than to be bogged down by the problems in the National Assembly.
If the PDP, as the opposition, made a clear statement that they were prepared to see to the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, it’s a victory in itself. Nobody in the PDP can dare challenge good programmes that would be of benefit to the socio-economic and political dynamics in Nigeria.
PT: Let’s talk about the alleged forgery of Senate rules. You were of the view that the matter should not have been allowed to degenerate to the extent the Police were allowed to come in. Why do you think that if there was forgery that the Police should not investigate?
Sani: Anybody who decides to go to the police or the court is performing his constitutional duty as a citizen. Anyone has a right to go to court or the police. But, the question is: Would that help the process of reconciliation? Those opposed to reconciliation in the Senate would say ‘since some people have gone to court, let’s wait till the court resolves, while the status quo is maintained.
What the Senate and the National Assembly need is that people should sit down and discuss issues and find solutions to them. Involving the police is constitutionally right, but the question remains: Would it help in bringing about the much needed reconciliation at this time?
If one is living in a house as a tenant, if there is a conflict with your co-tenant, the case could be resolved in two ways – either sit down inside and resolve it, or take it to the police. If you choose one, you cannot go for the other.
That is why I am saying that the case of the House of Representatives was not addressed at the police station. With the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and the progressive governors, who have gotten themselves involved, a middle ground would be found. But, everyone is waiting now for the police report, and if we continue to wait, when would the police report and the court case be over? Meanwhile, in the Senate there are those who are waiting for the police to bring the report, how do you get them along?
PT: Perhaps, the crisis in the House of Representatives was not as complicated, but there was no case of forgery of any document. Are you saying such a criminal act under our laws should be overlooked?
Sani: I have been in prison for so many years. Nobody can tell me about the consequences of an offence. I have not just been in police station, I have been a prisoner and wore aprisoner uniform. I am telling you the fact that I believe that anyone who wants to go to a police station should go, or to the court. However, if the person goes there, the idea also of sitting down to resolve the problem in a roundtable would certainly be pushed away.
That is the option I talked about. If the police will solve the problem, well and fine. But, for me, I am for the resolution of this crisis through the contending forces of the Unity Forum and the Like Minds sitting down with our national leaders and seeing how we can work together and solve this problem.
PT: Regardless, do you believe at all there was forgery?
Sani: It is difficult for me to know whether there was forgery or not. If you say there was forgery, it means there was an original one and a fake one. When I came to the Senate as a fresher and given a document, and I know that every Senate session has its own documents, and the document I have with me is written the 8th Senate, so those who would know whether the document of the 8th Senate is forged are those who were in the 7th Senate.
PT: But those who were in the 7th Senate, like Senator Ita Enang, who was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, have spoken that the document was forged?
Sani: Yeah, it is good for them. All the people who have spoken have the knowledge. But, what I am saying is that for one to know a document is forged, one has to have the knowledge of the other one. When these senators stood up to say the Senate Rules were forged, they did so because they were in the 7th Senate and knew what they had. I do not have that privilege.
PT: But the rules of the previous Senate are available online or in the library of the National Assembly? Are you saying that it is not important enough all this while for you to take some time, in view of the controversy, to look for them and compare with what you were given?
Sani: What I am saying is this: Let us wait for the police to finish its investigation. If the choices are two, the way to go is for us to sit down and reconcile, or we go to the police. But, if going to the police will solve the problem, then we should wait for the police report.
PT: At a time the whole world was condemning popular comedian, Bill Cosby, over his alleged sexual escapades with women in the United States, here you were busy tweeting that you still loved him. Why did you do that?
Sani: Well, on a lighter mood, I don’t even know who Bill Cosby is, or what he stands for, beyond the fact that he is a popular comedian who has done a lot as a black man from our own race. I believe he has contributed a lot in his field of arts.
You are a journalist today doing your professional duty. If by tomorrow you are caught doing bad things, it would not be said that from the beginning of your life to the end that you have been a bad person.
What I was saying in that aspect was that we should appreciate the contributions he made to the field of art. But, as far as the allegations are concerned, that is his business. I only appreciate the role he has played in arts, not necessarily sharing the condemnable criminal act, which, for now, still remains mere suspicion.
I have told you, I have been an old prisoner for a very long time, and I have learnt to be very cautious in condemning people. Before I went to prison, I used to think that everybody there was a sinner. It was when I went there that I found out that what one was seeing was not the same. Since then, I have learnt not to easily reach a conclusion on an issue that remains an allegation based on suspicion. I prefer a conviction before I make a clear position.
PT: Did you say you were also a sinner when you went to prison?
Sani: Yeah, I have been a political ‘sinner’. Anybody who is taken to court, sentenced to prison and given prison uniform and number is political sinner. I was charged for treason for managing an illegal organisation and sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the government of General Sani Abacha.
PT: Let’s talk about the lawmakers’ salaries and jumbo allowances. What’s your view about the so-called jumbo pay that the lawmakers take, especially now that you are there?
Sani: The Senate is very sensitive to the position and concern of Nigerians over the ‘huge’ sums being spent on our legislators. It was because of that the Senate resolved to set up an ad hoc committee headed by James Manager to look at the issue. What the Senate President did was to make sure that the composition of that committee was made up of people who understand the issue. It was deliberate that he included Senators Dino Melaye, Ben Bruce and myself, so that we would be able to make the necessary changes that would reflect the interest and desires of Nigerians.
At the committee, these issues were tabled and it was generally agreed that we should cut down our salaries to reflect the current state of the country’s economy. We decided to do away with the controversial wardrobe allowance and reduce our pay by 40 or 50 percent.
The report was tabled before the Senate and it was debated in closed session. But the issue raised were not that the Senate dismissed the report completely, but that the Senate cannot take a decision on itself without due consultation with the House of Representatives. If the Senate wanted to cut the salary of its members, they needed to harmonise it with members of House of Representatives, to see how that would reflect generally on all the legislators.
We also needed to consult with people working in the National Assembly that are not politicians, who are simply civil servants. These consultations are very necessary. If the Senate would wake up and say it was cutting its budget by 50 percent, including the staffs of the National Assembly, that would be unfair.
Therefore, the idea was to sit down and harmonise the issues. The last has not been heard yet of the issue, because the Senate is certainly going to come out with a position on the salary that would not in any way impinge on the right of the staff of the National Assembly, and also would be in harmony with what members of the House of Representatives want.
It was generally agreed that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Committee (RMAFC), who are the ones who fix these salaries and allowances, should make open all entitlements due to a Senator or Members of the House of Representatives.
PT: Did your committee also discuss the illegal allowances that lawmakers take every quarter, which for Senators come to more than N40million?
Sani: No, No No! There is no quarterly allowance any more. It has since been stopped.
PT: When did they stop it?
Sani: In the 7th Senate, there were more resources in the Senate than now. That is why the payments could come in quarters. Now, with the economic situation the country is facing, it was resolved generally that the Senators be paid monthly. Many of the last legislative aides of the 7th Assembly are yet to be paid their entitlements. The agreement we had now was that since the proposed budget was N150 billion, it was cut down to N120 billion. But, now it is also said that it should not simply be a block cutting, but the RMAFC should make it open for all to know those items that would be spent on. It was also generally agreed that those who should speak on the issue, to avoid conflicting positions and versions, should be either Senator James Manager, who is the Chairman of the Committee, or the Chairman of the Information Committee of the Senate, Dino Melaye. We all generally agreed on that. And that is why these two persons were authorised to speak on the issues that have to do with the allowances and the finance of the Senate and public complaint on these issues.
PT: What I can get from your explanation is that it is not as if the allowances were stopped, but that rather than taking the money quarterly, the Senate has now cleverly split the illegal allowances into monthly?
Sani: There is nothing illegal that would happen under President Muhammadu Buhari that he would keep quiet about. There is no way any illegal funds could be paid and the government would simply close his eyes to them. If any payment is made, it must be that it is legitimate. The new order in the country is not one where illegality would be going on without any action being taken.
PT: You said the Senators resolved that their pay be cut. Was it the salary that was cut or allowance?
Sani: What I am saying is that the debate in the committee ended abruptly, because even the issue of allowance could not be thrashed for the fact that somebody brought a point of order that the Senate could not go ahead without a joint sitting with the House of Representatives. By name, a Senator has bigger portfolio than a member of the House of Representatives. But if one looks at it closely, the Senators have five aides, like the House of Representatives. The difference is in what grade level the RMAFC gives to a Senator and member of the House of Representatives, which is less than five percent.
One would be able to speak authoritatively after the harmonization of the issues. For now, only those two persons were authorised to speak on the issue.
PT: You are now talking like a politician, now that you are on the other side. As an activist, you once agreed that these allowances were illegal. What has really changed?
Sani: No, when you say an illegality is happening, you are indicting the government that an illegality is happening and nothing is being done. And if you say an activist, who was once one of you, if I am one of you, you would not be asking me questions now. You are asking me a question about an issue you do not know, and I am answering you. If you have the question and the answer, then you do not need to ask. What I told you is a narrative and not simply an opinion.
PT: So, how much do you earn as a Senator?
Sani: What I earn as a Senator is there in the National Assembly – only N1.2 or N1.3 million.
PT: Does this include allowances?
Sani: That is the salary. If you are talking about the allowances, the chart given by the RMAFC is the fact of what it is. If the RMAFC gives you N20 to pay rent, the only item you cannot present a receipt for is the salary.
PT: The Senate is on holidays again. Why are you people always on holidays? Is there no work to do? Committees are not even in place?
Sani: If I was not in the Senate, these are issues I would have mobilised the people to the National Assembly to protest. Why our Senators should be earning such jumbo salaries and simply going on recess. But, now, since I came into the Senate I was provided with a legislative calendar, which is statutory. There are periods the legislators can work and times they can go on recess. Except we will jettison that legislative calendar, there is nothing anyone can do. The legislative calendar is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is normal for every parliament around the world. When they say Senators have gone on recess, it is the plenary; sitting in the Chamber and raising motions and passing bills. Going on recess does not mean that the committee work would stop, or the processes of the motions and bills that were put forward. All the offices are always open, and Senators who were appointed into committees are still there working. It is not that the whole National Assembly is shut down for the next six weeks.
PT: But, how can you reconcile your explanation that the Senators continue to work while on recess, with the reality that there are no committees in place and no public hearings?
Sani: Well, I expect journalists to speak in a more informed position than I do. There are few committees in place – on aviation, works, information, power, which will keep the Senators busy within this period of recess. We must understand that the standing committees will be in place by the time the Senators are back.
PT: In your constituency and home state, you seem to have some friction with your governor and friend, El Rufai. What is really happening?
Sani: What is going on in Kaduna State is not personal, but more ideological, particularly the way our people are treated and governance is going on. I wanted to contest the governorship of the state in 2015. I opened offices in the three senatorial zones of the state. Later, there were pressures on me to step down by people who said there was a preferred candidate, who was Nasir El Rufai. I listened to them and stepped down. I went on to contest for the Senate. But, there was incumbent Senator, that contested the primaries, and I ejected him, by winning the ticket.
Nasir did not contest against an APC governor. He contested with others who were also not governors and won. Nasir and Isa Ashiru were the two major contenders out of the five that contested the primaries with Nasir. Nasir got about 1,600 votes in the primaries from the three senatorial zones. I got over 920 votes from one senatorial district. If I had contested the governorship, he could not have beaten me.
I contested the Senatorial election and won. And the two gubernatorial candidates all have their preferred senatorial candidates. Nasir had his own preferred senatorial candidate, who was the incumbent, General Sani, whom I removed.
The other candidate also had another preferred candidate, Sani Suleiman, the former local government chairman. One can see that the two gubernatorial candidates had their own senators they want to work with. And I combined both Nasir and his opponent and thrashed all of them in the election.
I told them that I was going to win this seat without giving anybody any kobo. I challenge any politician in Kaduna under APC to come and say that he did not give people money to win elections in the state.
Having won the primaries and general elections, we decided to say let’s work together for the success of the party. I won my senate elections before Nasir won his gubernatorial elections. After the victory, Nasir set up a transition committee and put all the other senators, and even the senatorial candidate who lost the elections, without my name there. I had to draw his attention to that omission. As a sitting senator, there is no way a transition committee would be set up without my name there.
He said it was an oversight and assured me that my name would be included. During his inauguration and swearing in, I was there. We went round during the campaigns. After he won, it came to the point of sharing positions, he asked me to send the list of my people for appointment, which I did. But he threw the list away and decided to allocate some Commissioners to the other senator representing zone 1, and from my zone, he gave it to the person I defeated in the primaries. Even my local government, no appointment, not even a councillor was considered.
Will Nasir El-Rufai be happy for the President to giving appointment to the person he defeated in primary elections without consulting him? Will he be happy for the President of our country to be asking his opponent to give the list of ministerial and Board appointments, only for it to be thrown away?
So, what he was doing was simply gathering opposition and empowering people who are determined to fight me. He never knew that I am an old fighter. He said he is stubborn, but he cannot be more stubborn than a person who spent so many years in jail. I believe Nasir’s men came to the political scene in 1999, whereas I have been in the trenches even before anybody heard of Nasir’s name. You go back to Abacha and Babangida eras and see how we stood up against military dictatorship and tyranny.
Kaduna is a place I was born, live and won my election. I never lived in Abuja. All my family are in Kaduna. There is no street in Kaduna that I don’t know people and people do not know me. Since 1998, when we came out of prison, I have never stepped out of Kaduna for more than one week. So, one can see how entrenched I am there. That is why I said I will win election without giving anybody any kobo. And people never believed. But, by God’s grace it happened. I did.
With all these appointments Nasir did, he had simply drawn a line for the first issue. The second issue is the way he is running Kaduna State since he took over. First, he appointed about seven party executives into his government, namely the state Chairman of the party, who is now the deputy governor; State secretary, who is a Commissioner; the auditor, also a Commissioner; assistant Legal Adviser, now also a Commissioner; Financial Secretary, organising Secretary, now the Chairman, Publicity Secretary, Auditor, ex-officio members are all Chairmen of local government councils.
You don’t do things like that and expect people to keep quiet. You must separate the party from the government. Effectively today, in Kaduna there is no APC executive, because all members of the executive are in Nasir’s cabinet.
Three, on the issue of demolitions, I could not have said anything if Nasir said he was recovering lands from hospitals, schools, and the affected persons have been given alternative lands or where to go. When you see a house, one is talking about the entire family, consisting husband, wife, children, grandchildren and livelihood tied to the family.
Nasir simply gave them two weeks to vacate before sending bulldozers to pull down everything. Abuja of 2007 is definitely not the same thing as Kaduna 2015. In a democracy, whatever you want to do people must be carried along.
Now, Nasir sent bulldozers to demolish houses belonging to families, rendering them homeless, particularly women and children, who were scattered everywhere. Nasir does not know Kaduna, because he has spent so much time in Abuja to the point that he does not know what Kaduna is about. He does not know the sensitivity of those places, and the problem that action is going to generate.
Most of these people were given their land papers by the previous administration. Nasir says he has brain. But, all animals that have brains have hearts. But only human beings have a human heart. You met a people that were impoverished , destroyed, exploited and demoralised by the PDP in the last 16 years, and at one go, out of all the policies and programmes in the whole world on health, education, jobs and empowerment, for Nasir, what is priority is demolition of houses belonging to the people. I told him that that is not going to work in Kaduna. You demolish in Abuja and get away with it, where you have rich and power people, who most of them must have built their houses from questionable means, but not in Kaduna, a rural state where people are struggling to survive. Here people are prepared to die for their family land.
After he did that in Zaria, he has not been able to do the same in Kaduna, because people rose up to resist it.
On the hawkers, students of political science and political economy would know that whatever policy direction is taking place, one must decide which side one belongs. Nasir belongs to the ultra-conservative rightist reactionary group. They are for privatization, elite, bourgeois and bourgeois reforms and capitalist ideas. They see people as statistics for GNP (gross national product) and GDP (gross domestic product). Nasir is a man, who, all his life, has espoused capitalist ideas and conservative rightist philosophy. I am from the political left, rooted with the masses. In all our ideas, we are concerned about how we can carry the people along.
The hawkers we see on the roads are the by-products of an exploitative and repressive socio-economic system to which the likes of Nasir El Rufai have propagated all the years. You don’t address the problem of beggars by packing them in a vehicle and sending them to their state of origin. The same people in the North who cried that Lagos, Port Harcourt and other states in South were throwing away beggars are the ones now doing same in Kaduna.
For me, before one takes an action there must be an alternative. For those he demolished their houses, he never gave them an option. For the beggars he sent out of the streets, he never gave them an alternative means of livelihood, by giving them capital to start their business. All the three attempts he has made have failed. The beggars are back in the streets. The hawkers are back to business. His demolition cannot proceed. This is to show you that if that policy was actually in the best interest of the people, they could have been effective.
You cannot have dirty underwear and lock it up in a cupboard and say you have solved the problem. You are deceiving yourself. You have to wash it.
PT: The concern really has to do with reports that the beggars have allowed themselves to be used by insurgents throwing bombs and causing security concerns.
Sani: The insurgents do not use beggars and hawkers. A man who is determined to kill himself uses suicide bombers, not beggars. If you say a leper, cripple or blind man is a suicide bomber, I think you are being unfair to the person.
But, the truth is that Nasir had since apologised to the people for calling them that. He said he did not mean it. He ate his words. If he takes them to the rehabilitation centre, is he going to feed them? And where is the rehabilitation centre in Kaduna? There is nowhere in Kaduna that I do not know. He can talk about Wuse, Apo, Nyanya, Games Village and other places in Abuja. But Kaduna is our city, nobody can deceive us. We are the sons of the soil. If you come to Kaduna, you must respect the sensitivity of people’s life.
PT: But, if government does not offend the people, how can it carry out reforms and effect the desired change?
Sani: You can achieve that. I want him to succeed. I am not being personal about it. It pains me to see people in Kaduna praising the former governor of the state. Many PDP people that we defeated and ought not to be moving round, are the ones that are being hailed in mosques in Zaria.
PT: If you were a governor, what would you have done differently on the issue?
Sani: If I were governor, I would recognise that the problem is systemic, as a result of an oppressive, repressive and exploitative socio-economic system. What should I do to remove the people from this system? If you are a hawker, I will know that you have interest in trade, I will find out how I can move you from being a hawker to being a trader and shop owner, rather than clearing you from the streets. I will take statistics of those affected and see how the government can assist them with capital for them to grow.
What Nasir is doing is what a typical elitist reactionary bourgeois would do – to clear those by-products of the system from the streets and give a semblance of normalcy, development and growth. He is simply hiding the problem, rather than solving it. Anybody who comes to Kaduna and sees no beggars and traders on the streets would go away with the false impression that everybody is comfortable. That is not my interpretation of solving the problem. You can get the beggars out of the streets by helping them to grow their businesses. It is because his approach is wrong that the people are resisting.
PT: You sound as if he had integrated you in his government or asked you to ‘come and chop’, this crisis would not have been?
Sani: I don’t know whether his government is that of chopping. But, for now I can say that I am not interested in any of my men joining his cabinet. The philosophy he has and the road he has taken is not the one I will, for now, want to take. I thought from the beginning he will take cognizance of the fact that we won this election after a hard fought battle, because Kaduna is not 100 percent APC. We have only two senators from APC, and the one from southern Kaduna from PDP. So any attempt by anyone to joke with this balance is going to be catastrophic. So, that is why I am speaking out for the underprivileged and the down trodden.
PT: Recently, you were reported to have bought Army Recruitment forms for about 190 youths from your constituency, and some people said you were quietly building your own army for the future. How do you react to this?
Sani: This is something he (Nasir) should have done and not necessarily me. Part of my programmes is to assist young people. If forms are being sold for anything, I have resolved to use what I have to buy forms for them.
PT: But, why did you not buy JAMB forms for admission into universities for them?
Sani: I bought so many JAMB forms for them. The moment it is made open, I will certainly buy for them. In the next four years, any form that is available, as far as it is employment, I will buy. My role is to facilitate the process and not for any other purpose than that.
PT: On what condition can reconciliation be achieved between you and Nasir?
Sani: I do not need to sit on the same table with him. If he starts doing things right, which our people will be comfortable with, I will never speak a word again against him. But, I don’t believe that when he says because we are from the same party that I should not talk. We are not a secret society. I should be able to speak my mind.