There have been public out cry concerning some of the policies of the state government. How would you describe the style of governance in Kaduna State in the last two months?
First of all, as a Senator and as a staunch member of APC, I’m deeply concerned about the way in which governance is done in Kaduna State in particular. I’m deeply concerned because the public opinion is seriously against what is happening in this state as of now. We won the 2015 elections with the promise of change and met the people that have, for the last decade and half, been exploited and oppressed, impoverished and demoralized and been denied their basic fundamental right. We also met a people that refused to be induced, bribed, forced or even intimidated by the PDP. The people stood for us and by us and also voted for us into power.
Has anything changed?
When we came into office what any responsible and morally up right and experienced administration should do is study the situation on ground and take immediate measures that will alleviate the suffering of our common people. There are are many things one can do in office and many issues you can address or tackle-from education to health, infrastructure to empowerment and to the restoration of hope in the heart and minds of our people.
But the government of Kaduna State under Mallam Nasir El-Rufai is to first and foremost emphasis on issues that are apposed to the interest of our common people. For example we had our religious Ramadan fasting, all government in northern Nigeria and even in the Southern part of Nigeria helpED in it by providing basic feeding programmes for those who cannot afford it. Now he refused to do this. And during Sallah cerebration which is a religious festive period for our people he also refused to help our common people. And now is about two to three months we have taken over office, the civil servants in Kaduna are yet to be paid their salary. And also they have forgotten that a month ago there was a bomb blast in Zaria in which over 25-30 civil servants were killed by a suicide bomber.
All that is expected of government by now is to seat down with the family of those people and see how you can compensate them in what happen because government for a verification exercise invited them. Now with all this that is happening you don’t need to go to two, three or four local government in the state. You simply have to go to any gathering of 10 or 20 people in Kaduna and see how the public opinion has risen against APC government that is in power today. And I believe that if there is anything morally upright of a man who wishes the government and party well should do is to tell them the truth.
Now the PDP in the state came out to issued a very comical palliative statement saying “we support whoever wish to go and demolishing peoples house, anything you do is right”, and some spin doctors of the governor thought, by that kind of position they were praising him for what he has done but we know what politics is all about, they simply want him to dig his own grave and to bury himself and bury the party as whole. Kaduna of 2015 is not the Abuja of 2007. We are a ruler economy. 95 per cent of industries here have closed down, most of these people your are busy demolishing their houses were people with valid papapers given to them by previous government. What you need to do simply is firstly have a pally with these people here and let them provide evidence of papers given to them by previous government, and then from there you either compensate them or provide an alternative arrangement for them where there going to go. We have a lot of virgin land outside of Kaduna.
You can earmark a place and provides infrastructure there, and tell them to move with compensation. That is the best thing for him to do. You didn’t give enough notice and you simply move bulldozers to destroy houses where people have got papers for past 25, 30-40 years. Now, that has led to a situation whereby, today, wherever you go, as far as Kaduna is concerned, people in Kaduna, are vehemently opposed to what the governor is doing. And I have to speak against it because that is what I’ve been doing in my life-to speak against terrorist, injustice and things that are not right. I’ve spoken against Governor Makarfi since 1999; nobody has done the way I’ve done. Nobody has spoken against Namadi Sambo as a governor, late Governor Yakowa, Ramalan Yero as much as I’ve done. While I was fighting all these four years, he was in Abuja. And if not for the sensitization, conscientization and mobilisation, of the public which we have mobilized against PDP for the past 16 years, we couldn’t have been in power today in Kaduna state. So, if I speak against him, it means I’ve been used to speaking against others.
Have you met with him personally to make him tread softly on some of his harsh policies?
Now let me tell you, there is nothing like big shot, medium shot, or short-shot in Kaduna APC now, that can say he has access to him. And you don’t ask me why, go to the ward or local government offices and ask them if it’s easy for them to go to Government House and meet him. First, as a senator I don’t have his number. I think the last time I spoke to him was during the swear- in ceremony when we stayed very close to each other. I don’t have his phone number because I think he must have changed it because anybody I asked said they don’t have his number.
Have you attempted going to government house to seek audience with him and being denied access?
Now let me tell you, there are three senators in Kaduna, two are APC including me, and one PDP. First of all, let’s begin with PDP senator. Even if his not from APC, he comes from the Southern Christian part of Kaduna, and he deserves some respect, and need to he invited and engaged by us as a stakeholder in the state. Now his own case is a closed one because he his nowhere close to issues of governance in the Kaduna state. As for me, the governor in office has taken it upon himself to declare war on my people and me. Not even one person that identify with me has ever been given any position or any appointment in this government. Rather, what he did was perhaps to give appointment to other senators and also to the one, which I defeated at the primary election. Let me be very frank with you, during the primary election I had no gubernatorial candidate.
I simply stood up on my own. Two to three contested for the governorship and El-Rufai has his own preferred choice of a senator and other governorship candidate also has their preferred choice of senatorial candidate. So, I simply won as an independent candidate. And what I know very well, go to all APC exco in Kaduna state and ask them whether Senator Shehu Sani gave anybody one naira to vote for him. But you will hear a lot of stories from them.
So as far as I’m concerned, I don’t have any of his contact and I don’t known where to see him. Before going to a person’s house you have to call him and arrange, and I don’t even know whom to hold because I’ve no contact with him. But I believe that by my critical positions on issues now he knew that a massage is being sent to him. And I’ve nothing wrong against him. I’m not abusing him or insulting him even though he has been insulting me and saying that governance is not about having an Afro hair but about having brain and I know he has brains according to what he said. I don’t know how a man who has so much brain as big as Kilimanjaro Mountain will start demolishing houses belonging to people without proper notice and compensation thereby drawing public anger against himself and everybody within the APC.
What’s your view a about the issue of banning of street begging?
Look at it, and ask yourself, when you were coming to this house did’t you see beggars and hawkers outside?. That is because the law didn’t work. It wasn’t working. Begging and hawking to some extent are social problems that can be addressed with social incentives. You need to provide alternative means for beggars and hawkers in order for them to stop begging and hawking. You simply come out with a decree and said you have stop begging and hawking. And since you stop it, beggars are hungry so they cannot be control because is not something you can enforce or stop. We are not in a military dictatorship. We are in democracy and whatever you say or do, your actions must be within the ambit of that democratic principle. What we faced with in Kaduna is a menace of Abuja real estate leaders who has taken charge in Kaduna here as a government, and Kaduna has become a United Nation whereby you bring people from all states and give them appointment, ie good. But the issue is this, have our people here got enough or your simply doing it to impress people outside the state and also give semblance of nationalism and patriotism?. Or are you also doing it because your setting up a structures for a bigger position in 2019 so that you will be seen to be someone who is embraced in all parts of the country. So, as far as I’m concerned I can tell you in clear terms that as long as he is going to govern this state on a pedestal like this, opposed to our people, I will continue to speak against him. And if he has a phone number, which I can use to reach out to him and then from there perhaps I will not be able to talk to him publicly.
From what you have said so far, it seems things have falling party as far as Kaduna APC is concerned, don’t you foresee a great danger for your party in 2019?
Well, PDP and APC were in the market, open to win the heart and soul of the masses of our people. I don’t know if engage in policies and programmes that subvert their interest, and is against their own wish, and you will be able to win their hearts and minds. Let me be very frank with you, I see him as an ultra-conservative reactionary devoid of any progressive tendencies. All his political thinking, strategy and policies were to the right and about appeasing the right conservative politically. And we differ ideologically from that point of view. I derived my support and solidarity from the common people, the downtrodden, oppressed, the homeless, and they are the forces behind our success and victory in the party. So, whether the APC is divided or not what I am trying to do is to rescue the party from an ultra- active conservative who is implementing policies that is eliminating, marginalizing, oppressing, impoverishing our people and making them to stand up against us which is very wrong.
There are allegations by some of El-Rufai aides that you sponsored some protest particularly that of beggars in order to get the sentiment of people against him?
In Kaduna here, I don’t need to sponsor any protest. Our people here are highly enlightened. We have some of the most educated people you can find in northern part of Nigeria. People here listen to radios, watch televisions and at their level of political discourse even on the street, to a certain level, are sophisticated comparatively to other parts of Nigeria. And if there is anybody that taught them how people should protest, itis the APC. We told them to protest against justice done to APC during PDP time, and that virus is within them. So, we can’t deceive them anymore, even the beggars can come out and protest because it is their fundamental right. There is noting like sponsoring there, any Nigeria who feel aggrieved can come out, it’s within his democratic right to organize protest as long as it is peaceful. So the protest by beggars was there independent and their personal decision to do. I don’t sponsor protest but lead protests and I’m a natural protester. I’ve 30-35 years record of protest. So, I lead protest even when he and his aides were in Abuja. So, as far as I’m concerned I see that allegation as simply from spin-doctors who are simply justifying their pay in Government House.
FG is contemplating reopening negotiations with Boko Haram.As someone who has being involved with past governments to do the same, do you see the recent move as the alternative to end insurgency in the northeast?
The insurgency in the north has been raging for almost seven years now, consuming and destroying lives and livelihood, and threatening our freedom, peace, national unity and our very existence as a people. Now the alternative for our government, in fact any country that is been faced with insurgence, can either take the line of force or peace. It is possible to defeat insurgency by the use of military force. It has happened in Algeria in the 90s, it has also happened in Sir Lanka with the Tamin Tigers. It is also possible to end insurgency using the dialogue option which happened between the British government and IRA, and now talks are going on between the a terrorist and Colombia government in Southern America. It is possible to negotiate the release of hostages. You heard the USA was talking with the Taliban in Qatar and the result of that was exchange of prisoners between the Taliban and American government. We have seen a state can even seat down and talk with the terrorist group.
Israeli had a dialogue with Harmas, which led to the release of Israelis’ soldiers and Harmas militants. Now the options before Nigeria is to take stick and carrot approach. The stick approach entails the need to arm our military, boost their moral, fund them and give them all tools they need to contain and crush the insurgency and from that point, you can also keep a window open for dialogue. We have to cover up with over two hundreds Chibok girls now in captivity. What do we do with them, do we bomb their camps and fire them? Nigerians want these girls to be back home alive. And during my visit to Borno state with ex-President Obasanjo some years ago, we made progress but it was sabotaged. If we are going to take the dialogue option under President Muhammad Buhari administration there are number of things that needs to be done.
Firstly, the insurgence group must be willing and ready for dialogue, secondly, the channel of dialogue and arbitrage must be credible. Thirdly, the government must be ready to make concessions and fourthly, there must be an arbiter who must see to the implementation of the terms of the agreement. The problem we had under Jonathan administration is that there wasn’t a clear signal that insurgence were ready for dialogue. Again the arrangement was fraudulent and government ended up loading hundreds of million to scams of dialogue forces. Thirdly there was no one to stand as an arbiter to over see the terms of agreement. So, under Buhari regime, I’m glad that the president has also opened a window for dialogue and negotiation. With this in place what next need to be done, if my intervention is requested, I’m prepare to intervene. Because this is not something you jump into.
A law is in place now that criminalized any attempt to communicate or relate in anyway with insurgence group as a terror organization. So, whoever is going to facilitate any meaningful dialogue that will produce result must be given this waiver. So, a team of credible Nigerians to reach out to insurgence and device dialogue to seek the release of the Chibok girls and all those who have been held in captivity by the insurgence group. When that is done we can later address the broader issues of ceasefire to end the insurgence. Do you thing with the military force in place, the insurgents will fully be willing to come out for dialogue or negotiate?
Well, you must negotiate from the point of strength; insurgence will be wiling to negotiate when its clear to them that they win militarily. If you look at the metamorphosis of the insurgency first in the earlier days it was only suicide bombing, and the minute they take territorials hosting and unleashing their version of autocratic group, before they were dislodged from their strong hold, they returned to bombing within the cities. So, in this aspect, government can better negotiate if they prove to the insurgents that they cannot win military. So, I’m fully in support of a campaign that will boost the moral our military and that will send a message to the insurgence that the only way out for them is to take the dialogue option.
Is the three months deadline given by President Buhari to the military to end insurgency possible?
As far I’m concerned I don’t know the strength and confidence that has led to that order but I believe our president will not in anyway make a statement without backing it up with facts on ground. I think where we need to be cautious is that you cannot easily crush an insurgency especially the one that has taken the role of guerrilla warfare within a specific period of time. And I think we should be very careful, the experience we had in the past is one which date were set but were not met. But we can understand that there is a different government. So in as much as we are confident and our moral is boosted Nigerians can become hopeful that the leader who can protect and defend them and setting date to end the insurgency should be supported. But we should be mindful of the fact that our credibility will be on the line.