On Saturday, Shehu Sani will be seeking a re-election to represent the people of Kaduna Central in the Nigerian Senate. Unlike his 2015 outing, however, the activist will be contesting in a relatively unpopular party, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP). Ahead of the election, he discusses with PREMIUM TIMES’ Kemi Busari his expectations among other trending election issues.
PT: The much talked about election is just around the corner. What’s your view of recent politicking and what are your expectations in terms of ambition to return to the Senate?
Sani: First and foremost my kind of politics is one that is driven by my ideology, my principles, in the history of my struggled and the reality of my society i am of the political elect and I am of the progressive revolutionary class of Nigerians. I am not a politician, I am an activist, one that subscribes to the revolutionary socialist democratic ideas.
The problem of my state is that we have a governor that was imposed on us by the ruling party who has no interest of the masses at heart and who is pursuing policies and programs that not only eliminate the people and marginalise them but also consistently and systematically decimate them politically and socially and economically. And in the region (Northern region), we are dealing with a situation whereby we have a government that has been in the past, unable to address their problems and in the present, has also failed to address their needs but we also have a populace that has been unable to detach themselves from an allegiance to the government and people in the government base on the fact that they come from their region.
Many of the things that are happening in this country would not have been tolerated by many of our people if it was done by people who don’t come from our part of our country and the frustrations we face today is that the South West that has been known to be active, agile, principled in the defence of the ideas of freedom and democracy, have chosen to tolerate or accept or keep a passive presence in terms of these infractions and transgressions and breaches of democratic principle and fundamental right because we believe that in 2023, power is going to the South Western part of Nigeria and in the North, there is still this attitude of supporting government, countering to government solidarising with government as long as it comes from the people in power.
If Buhari wins the 2019 election, the power would certainly go back to the South West. What has been put in place by northern leaders and the government? What preparation has been made for what will happen after 2023?
There is no doubt that if power move to the southwest part of Nigeria, the first and the major agenda for Nigeria will be restructure. Have the nineteen other stage in Nigeria prepared themselves for that restructuring? None.
PT: Based on that, in the Saturday’s election, are you well convinced that you will win the election and represent your people once again in the senate?
Sani: Well, when we won the 2015 election, all that was said by almost many people is that people won election because they are in Buhari’s party. Their individual politics don’t matter, their record don’t matter, their commitment to the freedom and struggle of their people don’t matter. But no matter what, I feel highly comfortable that if I have one to two, to three thousand people in a rally which I would organise, it is more dignified for me knowing that they come for me, and they believe in me – than having hundred to two hundred thousand people that would be aligned to somebody.
There is no doubt about it, most of these governors in northern Nigeria are most people who are so desperate presenting themselves as Buharist are simply doing so to win political power and i know it very well that Buhari would not know his friends would not know his enemies until he is out of power.
Most of those people who are in political offices would turn their back against Buhari after they have gotten what they want from him. What do they want from him? They simply want to win the 2019 election.
And I can say it clearly that since I left the APC, I have been on aggressive campaign and you can see it from the social media and the traditional media and on the ground see how people have come to me and I would be very pleased that whoever decides to vote for me, has decided to vote for me based on integrity, based on my qualities, based on my personality, based on the principles and ideas which I stand for and not based on the fact that I hide behind the shadow of somebody which they are all doing.
Many of these people cannot even get ten people on their street if they are out of Buhari’s party.
PT: The feud between you and Mr El-Rufai has been running for a while, do you see the election as supremacy battle between you two?
Sani: Well, I would have preferred if it was a test of popularity between the two of us. If he can get out of Buhari’s party and take a party that is not Buhari. Let us now go to the public and see who the public will elect.
So, you cannot hide behind Buhari and then say you want to campaign against somebody who is in a party for which he is being judged based on his personal beliefs and personal ideas.
El-Rufai cannot exist outside of Buhari’s circle. He cannot contest election outside of Buhari’s circle. If he was denied a ticket in APC, he would not have had the courage to join any political party and contest. And I challenge him to go out of Buhari’s party and stand on his own.
Let us not forget, in 2015, he couldn’t win the primary election until Buhari came and rose his hand before primaries which made it possible for him to defeat his opponent.
And again, he supported two senatorial candidates against me and I defeated them. In 2015, he was not able to stop Shehu Sani but now he is in the APC. He cannot claim that the crowd with him are his.
Any vote which El-Rufai will earn will be because of Buhari. Any vote I get will be given because of myself. Why hide under somebody’s shadow and then say you want to fight somebody?
PT: In terms of preparation, are you confident that INEC is ready and will conduct a free and fair election?
Sani: 2019 election will verify and scrutinize the integrity of President Buhari and his government because integrity is not simply about fighting corruption, it is about a leader and his leadership being able to observe and respect democratic principles and also comply with it.
The INEC has no option than to conduct free and fair election. But there are areas beyond the control of INEC. The executive controls the army, the police, the machinery and apparatus of the state. Just as the apparatus of the state can be used against the masses and political opponents, it can also be used against INEC.
For example, INEC cannot deliver election materials without being escorted. If the executive disallow the escort, it cannot happen. We cannot have a free, fair election simply by INEC results; the government must be responsible. If the election is credible, government will share the glory. If it is rigged, government will share the blame.
PT: A lot of people have criticised you base on the back and forth that led to your defection from APC. In some quarters, they say you are pained for the ticket denial and have become a fiercer critic of the party you left. How do you react to this?
Sani: Even when I was in APC, have you ever read me as a supporter? When things are right, I will say they are right. I am not in the APC today but there are some good things that the president has done.
Completion of projects, payment of pensions, there are good things that has happened. The minimum wage bill is good, the disability bill is good. So is it because I criticise the president whenever I see things that are wrong that I won’t state what is right.
The president has done a commendable thing. Even when I’m in APC, I will also say it. but if anybody expect that when I’m in APC, I should be supporting government, I don’t think what is right should be said and what is wrong should be hidden, I cant.
And what did I do? I simply moved. And my battle with El-Rufai started two, three weeks after we assumed office and is still on. So, nothing has changed. What I said when I was in APC is still what I’m saying now.
I have said this in APC and I’m still saying it the government anti-corruption fight is using insecticide and when I’m out, I keep criticising the government. My position hasn’t changed irrespective of party.
PT: There’s a school of thought that says most Nigerian politicians and parties are devoid of ideologies. That they pitch their tents where their interest lie. Do you subscribe to this?
Sani: I think they are not far from the truth. Most of those who are said to have destroyed Nigeria are very much alive and present in the APC and their attitude, the character has not changed.
When President Buhari is criticising president Obasanjo for wasting 16 billion power project and for embarking on a failed third term project, all I said is very clear: that it is the same people who were part of the government that destroyed Nigeria and wasted 16 billion power project are also the same people who are in APC.
The people who worked for third term, who were the engineers and technicians of third term are already very much among the supporters of President Buhari. It is impossible to send OBJ to jail without his fellow culprits and people who have worked in his government.
If you accuse Atiku of selling off public enterprise as an auction, as the chairman of National Council of Privitasation, who is the DG of that company? It is not Nasir-El-Rufai.
Ninety percent of the APC are from the PDP. The APC is party founded on grievances. Founded by people who just wanted to remove the PDP and Jonathan from power.
And many people who supported not because they saw the failures of the PDP, but because they have been schemed out of the power game.
PT: 2019 electioneering has witnessed some applauded developments, one of which is the emergence of underdogs who have persisted in campaigns. Do you think Nigeria is ripe for a third force option?
Sani: If we don’t create a third force that will be able to stand up against the two goliaths, we will continue to be the hostages and people are finding it difficult for smaller political parties because their own idea of politics is not about the pursuit of common goal for the good of the society but rather to profit from it.
Nigerian political space is still being dictated and manipulated by money and monetary considerations that is why people like to listen to presidential candidates of small political parties but they don’t like to join them or vote term into office. That is why I see courage, conviction and I see Nigerians defile the convention and join smaller parties founded on higher goals.
That is why you see people defecting. People who defect to the APC are in three categories: some to run away from the law, some to run away from the poverty of being in the opposition and some are defecting because they cannot survive outside of the circle.
I can tell you that if Buhari wins the 2019 elections, the PDP is finished. So many people will leave to join Buhari. If Buhari loses the 2019 elections, the APC is finished because many people will leave APC and join PDP.
We can say that the way forward for Nigeria’s political space is to demonetise and reject the politics of money.
PT: One of the key issues that have shaped campaign discussion is restructiuring but it has come in different strands. While some clamour for political restructuring, some other favour fiscal and geographical. How do you want Nigeria to be restructured?
Sani: The government of today mentioned restructuring as part of its campaign promises I 2015 but they deceived the people and never made it a major issues until when election came closer and then in August, a funny committee was set up to be chaired by the governor of Kaduna State.
We shouldn’t deceive ourselves. The body language, the statement and the thinking of President Muhammadu Buhari is not for restructuring. Its never for restructuring but I believe that restructuring will be a major agenda when power shifts to the South West and as for the North, there doesn’t appear to be any plan or programme in place for the region to adjust itself to the reality of restructuring.
When you have a south-westerner as a president, I foresee a serious battle between the South West and the North on what restructuring should be. When the South West gets control of it’s executive presidency, the North will depend on the National Assembly and the judiciary for protection but unfortunately, these are the institutions now, that has been desecrated.
Restructuring cannot happen under President Muhammadu Buhari. It is not possible because he is not in tune with it.
All the talks about fighting corruption will remain superficial and partisan without restructuring politically, socially and economically and attacking the problem from it’s root and from it’s base.
PT: In the 9th senate, what are your aspirations in terms of aspirations if elected?
Sani: The 9th senate will be different from the 8th senate but there’s going to be a turbulence in the beginning as it was in the 8th senate because the executive will say to have learnt their lesson with emergence of Saraki and now what the president and the presidency and the party will do, is try to impose and dictate the leadership of the national assembly.
They will aspire to have a rubber stamp National Assembly. One that will approve coal-tar and submit and become subservient for the executive but from my own little experience in national assembly, no national assembly leader whether in the senate or the house of Reps, can survive if he turns himself into the tool of the executive.
No senate president or speaker or any leader in the senate can survive if he doesn’t have the majority of support and do the bidding of his own colleagues and not that of the executive.
So, even if you have a larky or a stooge as a president or senate president or a speaker of the house of representative, he is not going to last and the image and reputation of that assembly will be tarnished.
If there is something which this National Assembly will be noted for is its determination and doggedness in maintaining the independence of the national assembly and taking on the executive step by step. But president Mohammadu Buhari has in all his tenure in the office, been forced to fight the battle of others and not of himself. Saraki and Dogara were not the enemies of Buhari but were the enemies of people who are close to Buhari and now Buhari was politically forced to make the enemies of his friends as his own enemies and that was the kind of trouble, the kind of battle which he created for himself.
And right now, it is the ruling APC that has given birth to the forces against it as it is now. All those in the front line today, working towards bringing down president Buhari and bringing down the APC are from the APC. From Atiku Abubakar to Saraki and many others in the front line without those who decamped from APC to PDP.
PDP would have been history but PDP was given life by the internal conflict and contradiction of the APC. It was given life by the cries and defectors from APC.
Kwakwanso, Atiku, Saraki, Dogara and many leaders of the APC who are now in the PDP would have been in the close cycle of president Muhammadu Buhari, but he was forced to turn them into his enemies which none of them could have been any of his enemy.
PT: Do you have governorship ambition in nearest future?
Sani: For now I’m aspiring for the senate and I will first concentrate on that. Many years ago, I was criticising a governor he said is because I want to be a governor and now I have never filled a (governorship) form even when I was in the APC.
PT: How do you react to the ‘body bag’ statement?
Sani: My position is very clear, if El-Rufai or the government that is supporting him, feel body bags is such a good object, they should include it in the logo of their party. The international community must sanction him, the must ban and penalise him.
This is hate speech. It is an incitement against people and I have said it, this government and the ruling party is a beneficiary of the international community. Without the international community monitoring and observing the election, President Buhari would not have been in power.
And it is ironic for a party and a government that rose to World Bank, IMF and other western financial institution and China to collect money, you’re saying you don’t want foreign interference.
As far as I’m concerned, if inciting the people to murder, international observers is nationalism and patriotism, I don’t want to be recognised and categorised as a nationalist or as a patriot. I want to belong to the community of humanity. One whose compass and whose principles is founded on justice, freedom, democracy and global peace.
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