From Aidoghie Paulinus, Abuja
The immediate past senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Senator Shehu Sani, has revealed how President Muhammadu Buhari’s friends deceived him about the state of insecurity in the country.
Sani who spoke exclusively with Sunday Sun in Abuja, said that the deception by the president’s allies led to the current state of insecurity in the North, particularly in Kaduna State where bandits now unleash evil, kill and spill blood of innocent people.
The activist and public commentator while saying that Nigeria is moving towards a failed state, maintained that if kidnapping, banditry, farmers-herders crisis continue across the country, the nation would certainly be heading for anarchy. Excerpt:
Looking back, how would you assess your outing during the 8th Senate?
The 8th Senate has gone down in history as one of the most independent, principled, dogged, reformist and revolutional National Assembly that has performed its function without fear or favour; that has been able to hold the executive to account and gave courage and hope to Nigerians. It was a Senate that defended democracy, that defended the sanctity of the parliament and the independence of the parliament. The parliament is the bastion of democracy. Without the parliament, you simply have a dictatorship. When you have a subservient parliament, you will have the whole democratic process surrendered into the hands of one man. Man is tempted to be dictatorial, to be oppressive when given the levers of power and the National Assembly or the parliament stands as a break, as a check and also as a filter. The most dangerous thing as a nation is to have a National Assembly that is docile and dormant and one that has completely no focus other than what the president of a country wants them to do. So, as far as we are concerned, the four years of the National Assembly under the leadership of former Senate President Bukola Saraki was the full expression of democracy at its best in Nigeria.
Was that why the 8th Senate was always at loggerheads with the executive?
Well, the parliament is not a parastatal of the executive. It is also not a department or a unit of the executive. And the people in the parliament are not presidential aides or ministers. They are co-equal, elected into the government to perform the functions that are clearly stated in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In Nigeria’s political parlance, people are subservient to the president when they are in government, while the constitution is supposed to be the guiding principle. It is supposed to be the priest and the oracle of the nation that can be consulted to address the problems of the country. If the executive veers off from what the constitution mandated it to do, it is in order to be at loggerheads. I like being at loggerheads with people who are intoxicated with power and try to oppress, marginalised or subvert or undermine the constitution of the country. So, it is good for the executive to even know that we can be on collusion course, at loggerheads with them when they try anything that undermines the constitution of the country which we all belong.
What is your take on the 9th Senate?
As far as the 9th Senate is concerned, they will be judged by the people. I am not to judge them. It is the people that judge them and now, you can see that the people are the ones who are judging us whether what we did was right or wrong; whether we did well or we didn’t do well. So, it is the people that will judge you. But there are standards to which you will be judged. The first is that how do you relate with the executive and at the same time, defend and protect your independence as an organ of government? How do you relate with the executive as far as protecting and defending the constitution of the country is concerned? How do you relate with the executive, putting into standard, the interest, the wishes and aspirations of the people? When you have an executive that consistently breaches on the constitution and you don’t confront them and bring them to order, you are bound to lose your integrity, honour and dignity. If you have an executive that implements unpopular policies and have no respect for the constitution of the country or the parliament of the country and you simply fold your arms and see the nation adrift, then it is your reputation that is at stake. So, the people will judge the 9th Senate based on the standards of democracy, the independence of the parliament and the sacrosanctity of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
But can’t there be a healthy relationship between the legislative and the executive arms of government, while also maintaining their independence?
Healthy relationship is that everyone should respect the constitution. If the constitution is violated by the executive and in the interest of peace and harmony, you decided to keep quiet, then it is not healthy. It is poisonous; it is destructive to the constitution of the country and even the democracy itself.
If given another chance, are there mistakes you made while in the 8th Senate which you would like to correct?
I don’t think that there are any mistakes I have made that I think that now… I think what would only be more exact is that I would do more than I have done in the past in everything I have done.
What about the loan request by Governor Nasir el-Rufai which was to have impact on the people, which did not see the light of the day during your time in the Senate? Don’t you see that as a mistake?
It is not a mistake. It is the right thing to do and I have done it as fully as I should do it.
So, there is no regret?
I can never regret in what I have used my right senses to do. It is the right thing to do.
Your problem with el-Rufai, don’t you have any regret?
No, at all. I can never regret it.
Some people were taken aback that both of you who are intellectually inclined, were always at each other’s throat. What is your reaction to that?
I don’t think I have been on any person’s throat. And I don’t think anybody is in my throat, and if any person thinks I am in his throat, I think that is his own business. I am done with it, and I have left the Senate and he is the governor of Kaduna State and he presides over the affairs of Kaduna State and I preside over the affairs of my office and when the time of politicking comes certainly, we make our views known.
Any hope of reconciliation between you and the governor?
We are in different political parties, so which reconciliation are you talking about? I am in Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and they are in APC. So, I am not aware that there is going to be a merger between PRP and APC.
On a personal level, will you reconcile with the governor?
My problem is not personal. It is political and I’m done with it, and he is the governor and I am the former senator and I am off. I have no reason to raise issues about him. The people voted him into office and what he wants to do, he does it, and it is only when a person calls my name personally, then I have the right to make sure that before his mouth closes, I respond to it.
Have you foreclosed your going back to APC?
Well, I don’t know what could happen tomorrow. But for the moment which we are talking about now, I am in Peoples Redemption Party and the chairman of my party has just left this office and he is coming back later before you leave.
Since you are someone who loves the masses, why didn’t you throw away ego and defer to el-Rufai for the good of the people?
If you know my history, my history did not begin from the APC. I have always been an activist and I have always expressed my opinion in the last 35 years in the struggle. So, when I expressed my opinion, it is part of my conviction, it is part of my principle and part of my ideology. I have always expressed my opinion before being a senator and I am known to be an activist and well as a senator, I have also expressed my independent opinion and after being a senator, I am still expressing my opinion. So, my world did not begin and end with the ruling party, the APC or any person who is part of that political party.
Banditry, kidnapping, farmers-herders crisis are ravaging the country and Kaduna is at the receiving end also. How can this be nipped in the bud in the state?
Seriously, in Kaduna, we need help. Bandits are unleashing evil, killing people and spilling blood of innocent people in our state. Many parts of our rural areas are under the control of bandits. Even people living at the outskirts of the city itself, they are not safe. Families have been displaced in millions; millions of naira have been paid as ransom and there is an atmosphere of fear and intimidation. Bandits have become a state within a state. Today, there are local governments in my state where the people there are suffering and they are paying heavy price for this banditry. These bandits kill people, extort ransom, rape women, raze villages, and make it impossible for farmers to go to their farms. We are virtually under siege and Kaduna is one of the top five states in the North today that are under the siege of these bandits. And it is important that the Federal Government, the security agencies, stand up to their responsibility and protect our people from this disaster and tragedy.
How did Kaduna find itself in this situation?
I think President Muhammdu Buhari has been made to believe that we were his enemies in the last Senate when we were raising issues of banditry, kidnapping, bloodletting and violence. Time and again, I stood on the floor of the Senate to bring to the attention of the president and the conscience of the country, the killings in Kaduna, in Zamfara, in parts of Katsina State and Niger State. But many of the ppresident’s friends dismissed what we have said as either exaggeration or outright lies or we were simply trying to tarnish or rubbish the image of the government. And as such, Buhari’s friends gave Buhari wrong information about the state of security in northern Nigeria and he was made to believe that things are well and he is doing good and that it is not as tragic as we are portraying it to be. Today, the cart has become a monster. Our country is now beleaguered and bewailed because of the activities of these bandits. Kaduna happens to be surrounded by states that are deeply into this banditry – Niger, to Zamfara, to Katsina State. So, we are almost at the epicentre of it. And the banditry used to be in Birnin Gwari Local Government, but now, it has moved to Chikun, to Kajuru, to Igabi Local Governments and even bandits now storm houses in Zaria and pick professors and take them to the bush. This is how banditry has become. As for the Southern Kaduna, it is a different case. Herdsmen and bandits sneak around to kill people and if we don’t do anything about it, this is seriously not only about the havoc it is creating in rural communities, but it is also threatening the peace, order, stability and unity of Nigeria.
Where do you situate the problem of Southern Kaduna?
The problem of Southern Kaduna is both historic and also political. First of all, that part of the state is treated as a minority part of the state and it is the Christian part of the state. And the issues of marginalisation against the people of that part of the state are true. Many people in that state don’t consider them as full-blood indigenes and citizens of that state and they have been treated with contempt and treated as if they are second class citizens of the state. And because of that, it created a feeling of hostility which now metamorphosed into conflicts. When we were young, when we were children, we grew up in a society where those of us from northern part and those from southern part, we attended the same class and we prayed together. They are Christians and we are Moslems and during Christmas time, they take food to us and during Sallah time, we take food to them. Many of the primary schools in Kaduna were built by the Catholics, the Baptists, and the ECWAs for generations and were all living together. But in the last 40 years, there were ethno-religious conflicts that dragged on to the 21st Century. And politically, you can see how they have also been marginalised. The chances of someone from Southern Kaduna becoming or holding any serious position as far as things are concerned now are very low. So, there is an institutionalised injustice and political injustice perpetrated against those people which need to be corrected.
But do you see the kidnapping, banditry, farmers-herders crisis and the Southern Kaduna crisis abating soon?
Nothing has been done seriously now to say that it is abating because people are still being killed, people are still being kidnapped and the bandits are moving in group of hundreds, two hundreds on motorcycles, wielding AK-47 and you can even see that recently, they even attacked a military garrison in Katsina State. And they are becoming so audacious and fierce and more violent than they have ever been. So, it is time I think we should use technology to deal with them.
Where do you think all these issues are leading us to?
If we want to keep this country one, if we want to protect and preserve our dignity as a people, we must take the security challenge very seriously. You can see how the herdsmen violence in the Southwest has now threatened the political solidarity and the unity that exists between the North and the South. If these killings continue certainly, we would be heading for anarchy. Bandits, herdsmen and terrorists have become a state within a state and our security apparatus has failed consistently in exploiting, in using technology to gather information and deal with these bandits. What are the symptoms of a failing state? One of the symptoms of a failing state is the loss of control of the government and its inability to use state apparatus to enforce law and protect and defend territories and also ensure that impunity does not have a breathing space. So, if you look at it, we are heading towards a failed state. It is incumbent on a president of a country to stand up, to protect this country, to defend this country because that was the promise they made for which Nigerians voted them in 2015.
What is your next political move?
My next political move will be evident by God’s grace as the time goes by. For now, we will watch events. And I come from a very small political party, but we are still having some of our members in the parliament. So, whatever may happen tomorrow will be left for the realities of tomorrow.