In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES, Uba Sani, a former presidential adviser during the Olusegun Obasanjo administration and presently the political adviser to the governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, explains why he believes the All Progressive Congress, APC will win the 2019 election in the state. He also speaks on the cracks in the party including issues of appointment to key positions in the state, his senatorial ambition, and the state’s educational sector challenges.
PT: The APC in Kaduna state is divided into three: the APC which you belong to, the APC Akida and the APC Restoration. As the political adviser to the governor, does that mean you are failing as a party?
Uba: The issue about the problems in the party, as far as I am concerned as a political adviser to the governor, I don’t think it is as bad as it has been put out by some people. I believe that in politics, there are bad times.
I also believe that the APC in Kaduna state is united despite the fact that the party faced rigorous elections where some won and others lost. Some people felt they were not carried along at the beginning of the government; that is normal. But as time goes, they will be carried along; it all depends on one’s expertise and most especially the fact that our governor does not believe in ‘friendship’ in government but the quality of governance delivered to the people.
PT: Are you not scared of that division in the party since 2019 is almost around the corner?
Uba: Not at all. We believe we are doing our work to make the party even stronger than the way it was. Like I said, we do not have issues with any party member and that is our stand.
El-Rufai was voted into power by the people who believe he has what it takes to make a difference in the state which had to do with removing the decay in the level of education, the terrible state of the health care systems, in short, improving the infrastructural development in the state which was in a bad shape compared to other states that where created long after Kaduna State was created. We are confident that they are still with us and supporting us.
PT: Many politicians in the state accuse the governor of side-lining them after working rigorously for the success of the party in 2015. They also accused him of appointing strangers that where not part of the campaign. How would you react to this?
Uba: The governor has appointed people that worked for him in the last elections. Many were appointed into positions that people did not even know. However, the governor also brought in some strange faces to work with because they have the educational background to deliver good governance to more than 10 million people of Kaduna state.
Although he tried to bring in known faces by asking the candidates who won election and those they felt they had the qualification to do so especially those at the forefront of the campaign but most of the names he got are those that were not qualified to occupy the most critical positions in the government. This situation forced the governor to look elsewhere for the qualified candidates for the positions.
We cannot compromise the most critical positions in this government all in the name of friendship. We have to be fair to the people, most especially in providing good governance by employing the most qualified people into the government.
The governor said he rather employ people who were never part of the campaign but had the educational qualifications to occupy the critical positions in the government than bring in friends who would cause more problems.
PT: Do you think the governor is on the right track based on these?
Uba: I have no doubt in my mind that he (governor) is on the right track and I will tell you why.
This is the first time people in the rural areas of Kaduna state are experiencing development at their doorsteps. Going to the press to appreciate the good works of the governor is not the issue. The villagers who appreciate the works of the governor cannot afford the money to go to the press which is why you may not hear them talk.
PT: What will you say on the recent call by the NLC not to retrench 20,000 primary school teachers for not passing basic tests as set by the government?
Uba: I think people have allowed sentiments to rule their judgments which is not right.
Yes, 20,000 teachers are unqualified and unable to pass the examinations given to them. What I understand about this issue is that a class 6 teacher was given an examination of class 4 and was unable to pass. This totally means that the teacher was never qualified to teach.
This made the Kaduna State governor very angry and he threatened to retrench them because it’s not about building schools or providing teaching materials but impacting sound knowledge impartation to the children.
Let me explain something to you. When we came into governance, the educational sector was in a very bad shape and the governor rushed into repairing this.
He started by fixing classrooms that were in bad shape, building new ones so that there could be more and also devising ways of increasing the number of children attending schools which worked because two years ago, the number of children in school before we came into power was 1.2 million but after encouraging them by removing tuition fees, bringing feeding into the schooling system, the number increased to 2.3 million and after all these NLC never complained.
Now that we said we want to remove the unqualified teachers and replace them with the qualified ones, NLC is now complaining.
The wisdom the governor is trying to apply here is that he is not ready to bring in politics in this situation whereby he would retrain the unqualified teachers and also employ more qualified ones. He is just trying to employ qualified teachers to teach the children out of the abundance who are roaming the streets of Kaduna State.
What people fail to realise is that this government has done a lot in turning the sorry state of the education system of the state into a better shape. Before we came into power, the budgeted amount the educational sector had was only 10 per cent and the rest goes into recurrent expenditures but now we increased the budgeted amount to more than 20 per cent and also we increased the amount for the health sector of the state.
PT: Why do you think the governor demolished a party chieftain’s house in Kaduna?
Uba: You see, people also fail to realise that there are no sentiments attached to the demolition of the house of that particular party leader.
What happened was that the KASUPDA (Kaduna State Urban Planning and Development Agency)people brought a list to the governor showing him the houses which were built without the permission of the government including those owned by some top shots in the state. The governor simply did the right thing by removing the building which was not supposed to be there in the first place without exception; and moreover, this is not the first instance the governor is demolishing a house or houses in the state. The same thing was done in Zaria and other parts of the state. The KASUPDA did not choose who to demolish his house or not. They do the right at all instances for the good of the people and the state in general.
The governor believes if he has wronged the victim through KASUPDA, the party leader can sue them (government) to court because as far as he is concerned doing the right thing is all that matters.
PT: Do you think you have any chance of winning the next election in Kaduna State?
Uba: Absolutely! Because over 80 per cent of the rural dwellers are really happy with our government; because what matters to the common man is that the government is able to provide his/her basic amenities not politics. Another assurance we have is that in politics, what matters is the number of followers and respect a particular group has, nothing more, and to the best of my knowledge, the governor has both.
PT: Some people are accusing the governor of misusing the Paris Club fund?
Uba: El-Rufai is a man that is used to persecution. If you remember when he left government 2005, he was persecuted for 6 years and nothing was found against him. Anybody who has anything against him should take it up. We are not scared because our hands are clean.
PT: Are you planning to contest for the Senate in the upcoming elections now that your posters are all over the streets of Kaduna?
Uba: For now, I will not say yes or no. My main concern right now is how to help the government of Nasir El-Rufai to succeed. When the time comes, I will make my intention clear.
PT: People say the state government is antagonising Senator Shehu Sani because you want that seat, how true is that?
Uba: Just like I told you earlier, I have not said I am going to contest for the seat of the Kaduna central senatorial district. When the time comes, I will announce my next move.