Senator Shehu Sani explains his rift with Kaduna State Governor Nasir Ahmad El-Rufai, its genesis and how it has mutated and now involves Senator Hunkuyi, creating a sharp division within the ruling All Progressives Congress in the state. Sani, who was a pro-democracy and human rights activist before coming to the National Assembly, represents Kaduna Central Senatorial District and chairs the Ad hoc Committee of the Senate, which investigated former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr.Babachir Lawal, for breach of the Public Procurement Act and for abuse of his official position.
In your opinion, what precipitated the worsening of the crisis in Kaduna chapter of APC which resulted into demolition of a house of a senator aligned to your faction of the party?
The Kaduna APC crisis came in different stages- the one that began with me and the one that is continuing with Senator Hunkuyi and others. There are both ideological and political differences between me and (Governor) El-Rufai. He came from a political establishment. For the 16 years of PDP rule, he spent 13 years as a PDP man, he was never known until 1999 when he was appointed the DG of Bureau of Public Enterprises and later, Minister for FCT. This was a man who used to call Obasanjo his mentor and he used to call (Late) Umar Yar’Adua his mentor and teacher and he used to call Jonathan Goodluck his very good leader, and now, it is Buhari. What I know is that the Nasir- el Rufai that betrayed Atiku, betrayed Obasanjo, Jonathan, Atiku will also betray Buhari.
But the relationship between you and the governor seemed to have kicked off on a good note as members and aspirants on the platform of APC
A: No, I came from a social, political movement and he came from the political establishment and then we found ourselves in APC. I was not his favourite candidate for the Senate. His favourite candidate was then the incumbent candidate
But there was this information that he supported you financially with about N109 million during the campaign…
A: Oh my God! We live in a world of Google now. If you Google Nasir, you will see where he generally said that he supported General Saleh. We are not in 1960, we are not in 1950. Check the interview he granted in 2016 to Vanguard newspaper where he said he supported General Saleh. So, which one are you going to believe – what his aides say or what he said personally? And as far as I am concerned, you can check my Facebook posts, I said it very clearly, that I would not give and delegate any kobo to win election. Vote for me based on my ideas and principles and I was voted in that manner. I didn’t say that in a room or just inside my mind. I said it publicly.
The next thing I want you to understand is that the APC raised funds for its campaign, the election centrally with the support of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Bukola Saraki and other business moguls. That money was shared to all the 36 states and put in custody of the gubernatorial candidates to pay agents of the party. Did we pay the people who voted for us? No, we didn’t. Did we give them some incentives to vote for us? No, we didn’t. We differ politically and ideologically. He has a different candidate who I defeated at the primary and from then, when it comes to sharing positions of offices in the state, he gave those positions to the person I defeated. But he removed him recently from the position he gave him when he (Senator Saleh) went against him. Senator Saleh was the Senator from 2011 to 2015 and El-Rufai wanted him to be the senator from 2015 to 2019, but I defeated him. But to compensate him, El-rufai gave him the position of Chairman of Kaduna State House of Assembly Commission. But when General Saleh attended our meeting just some days ago, he sacked him. And he also sacked all political appointees that owe allegiance to Senator Hunkuyi and Saleh. Luckily for me, I don’t have one political appointee in his government, so there is nobody to sack.
Many things happened in the past three years. First of all, he induced members of my ward to issue a fictitious suspension against me, a suspension that has no constitutional value in the party, but was only done for the purpose of just announcing it to embarrass me publicly. And I also warned Senator Hunkuyi that we are heading to tyranny, but he never agreed with me until two years after when the fangs of the tyrant in Kaduna now descended on him.
After my purported suspension, first, for eleven months, then indefinite suspension and Nasir discovered that that would not give him the peace he needs because I simply kept on my activities, the next thing he did was to send his agents to start moving round the schools which I attended from primary school, secondary to the Polytechnic to even the NYSC, trying to see whether I forged my documents or not.
I have all their correspondences and letters and the contacts which they have made with my schools. That also did not work. The next thing was that my constituency office was attacked eleven times by thugs, but that was not enough. And now, they moved to organising protests, spending heavy amounts of money on radio, trying to destroy my reputation and incite people against me, but that also did not work. They went around, planting stories that I am anti-Buhari and I said I can criticise Buhari, I don’t hide my views, I am not a hypocrite nor am I a sycophant. That also did not work. The next thing that happened was that my own personal house was also attacked and the one that happened some weeks ago was the attempt to frame my own aides in a murder case. But that also has not worked.
I do not believe that people should be punished for their ideas or for dissenting, because I am a chief dissenter myself. But you cannot be in the Senate where you have the opportunity to disagree and you walk out to go and call press conference and make false allegations against people. I am not elected into the Senate to be pro or anti-Buhari. A senator has a set of rules and order to which he is duty bound to comply with. But when you tag somebody as being anti-Buhari, all you are trying to do is to whip up sentiment against that person and create a lot of issues for that person.
What led to the opening of the new APC Secretariat located in the building which has now been demolished?
Now, I and Senator Hunkuyi agreed that, this party is not working because he too becomes a victim of the man he has been working with. And then, we said we should open our own APC office because what Nasir did after he won the 2015 election was to appoint 18 of the 26 members of the Kaduna APC into his cabinet, leaving the party empty. And by the constitution of the party, those persons appointed into political offices have virtually lost their seats in the party. And now, having seen that the party is empty, he started appointing people to various positions within it which is against what the constitution of the party says. There must be a mini convention or a consensus before that can be done. But he also handed over the party office to his political adviser, so that it got to a point that you don’t even have a party.
As a journalist, if I asked you, please, show me any clip, on radio, TV, audio or newspaper of the acting chairman of Kaduna APC, you would not have any. The person that is supposed to be the chairman of the party now is Danladi Wada who is on our own side. But he brought somebody called Shuaibu Laoje. The only thing he does at APC meeting is opening prayer and closing prayer. Apart from that, he doesn’t know anything.
So, when it comes to the point of going to the media, the governor will hide Shuaibu Laoje and will bring an acting Secretary or the acting publicity secretary to speak on behalf of the party. That is what they have been doing.The chairman of the party became the deputy governor of the state, so the party now is only having a deputy chairman who happens to be Danladi who is on our side. But Nasir said he cannot be the chairman because he is our candidate. He brought Laoje and for the past two and a half years, you journalists have never seen him because the man cannot express himself. He is simply a decoy. If we say this is our deputy chairman and you say this is your own deputy chairman, that’s okay, but please, let’s bring them together and let’s see who is better.
But the argument was that the move by your faction to set up the new APC Secretariat and even the purported suspension of Governor El-Rufai done before then was because the President set up a committee headed by Asiwaju Tinubu to reconcile party chapters where there are crises across the states. The claim was that your group hurriedly set up the secretariat to gain an advantage in the reconciliation process…?
If Nasir thinks we are irrelevant, why did he move bulldozer there? If you think and believe that the masses of Kaduna State are with you and these people are simply rabble rousers, why move the bulldozer there? So, what he did was to simply engineer his own faction to suspend me for two and a half years. He used his own party to suspend Senator Hunkuyi and the two groups that were set up – the Akida and the Restoration Group. He even expelled them from the party. But when his own suspension came for six months, he lost his senses, rationality, sense of reasoning and moved a bulldozer against our office. But what we are telling him is that the message has been sent. Nasir in Kaduna is fighting a lot of people – he is fighting traditional rulers, Muslim religious leaders, Christian religious leaders, labour market women, the political class- almost everybody. So, with that kind of person, how do we win the 2019 election?
Will this infighting not affect the chances of APC in the 2019 general elections?
Yes, Kaduna State is the only state with a PDP Senator in North West. Ten local governments out of 23 are effectively under the control of PDP. So, what becomes of the other local governments that are under APC, but are not united? So, if this disunity continues, it is going to affect us. If he (El-Rufai) believes in Tinubu, why is he moving a bulldozer? We are saying that nobody could have addressed the problems of APC except the President himself because the governors are party to the crisis, the Senators, Reps are party to the crisis, the party itself is also a part of the crisis.
How far can Tinubu or the three-man committee led by former Governor Segun Oni go in solving the crisis afflicting Kaduna APC?
I can tell you when you are talking of reconciliation and peace in APC, there are some fires that Tinubu can extinguish with a cup of water and there are some fires he has to use a bucket of water and there are some fires, he has to pipe an ocean in order to extinguish. There are areas Tinubu can have some achievements. But he can only make that achievement if the parties are prepared to make peace. If one party is prepared for peace and the other party is not, there cannot be peace. But it is better late than never- this reconciliation ought to have been done since last year, but it appears that even Tinubu himself is aggrieved and has been sidelined in the affairs of the government. But now, inviting him to tackle this problem, I believe that if he succeeds, he will bring the APC family together and they will be stronger.
In the event that the reconciliation fails in Kaduna APC, are you thinking of jumping ship to another party, because there are even speculations that you are preparing to contest the governorship on the platform of another party?
A: I can tell you that if Tinubu fails, there is going to be mass defection from APC.
Is it true that you have your eyes on the governorship of Kaduna State?
I have the constitutional rights to contest if I want to. But as things are now, we need to put our ambitions in our pockets and allow the process of reconciliation to continue because reconciliation cannot go on with ambitions and bulldozers. Even, before you have peace in war situations, you must have a ceasefire. For now, we are giving a grace of time for Tinubu to succeed. If he succeeds, the outcome of the deliberations will form the roadmap for the future of the party and if he fails, we will simply apply our senses.
It is always good to look at the messenger and the message. Governor El-Rufai is the chief architect of that committee because he wants political relevance. How can an APC that promised restructuring only think of restructuring when it is a year to an election? Documents of that committee is more or less a campaign document for 2018. There will be no restructuring, you can quote me.
*Excerpted from TheNEWS Magazine