Notable Human rights activist turned politician, Senator Shehu Sani from Kaduna State has morphed into a respected national political voice. In this encounter with Correspondent JIBRIN MIACHI, he opens up on a number of topical issues – his prison years, cold relationship with Governor Nasir el-Rufai, 2019, President Buhari and more. It’s no secret that your activism got you jailed severally. Who did you share your prison stints with?
I was in prison with the likes of General Olusegun Obasanjo, who later became President in 199, Col Lawan Gwadabe (rtd), Chris Anyanwu and other journalists. And just as I have said, I was detained in various prisons; Kirikiri, Lagos, Kaduna, Port-Harcourt, Enugu and Aba.
Would you say your prison experience gave you upper hand among politicians of your contemporary?
The experience of prison is good for a political career because it will prepare you for the tough challenges ahead. It will prepare you for the crisis, for the problems, for the battles that you may likely fight along the way. You can see how politicians, the roads, prisons, they passed through – people like the Nelson Mandelas, Walter Sisulus, Mbekis, and other politicians who have all struggled for freedom and apartheid colonialism. You can see how they were able to lay a solid foundation for their country. I am well prepared to fight every battle, because I have gone through battles, and the battle that is being fought now cannot be compared to that under military regimes.
Under military rules, I organised protests and it had to be underground. We had to go off radar and we also have to prepare to be shot. But in the present day, you can see most protests that are organised in Abuja. You see the protesters holding handsets and laptops, and sometimes even sipping juices while they are protesting.
Nowadays, people can post anything, criticise anybody, write any article and publish but that was not the case under military rule. Many journalists were sent to prison, many workers, members of trade union were sent to prison, many leaders of democratic organisation were pushed to prison, many were killed by hired assassins, some were shot during protest, many were forced into exile, and many were incapacitated. This was the prize which we paid, and which prepared a person like me to withstand the battles we are fighting as politicians.
2019 election is around the corner. How would you predict Kaduna State election for the governorship, Senatorial seats, House of Representatives as well as the State House of Assembly?
Of all the states in the north, Kaduna is the most strategic place for politics. In the first place, Kaduna State is the only State in the North with a PDP Senator. And from public opinion, if you go to Sokoto, Kebbi or Zamfara, it is easier for you to sail through the ruling party. But in Kaduna State, a good number of factors will certainly affect the fortunes of the party in power and also affect the possibility of a smooth election that is coming ahead.
First of all, there is in-fighting and fact ionization within the ruling party in the State. The chairman of APC that is recognised by the national secretariat of the party is different from the one which the state governor monopolises and so, there are factions that exist now, which without the closure of ranks or finding solution to this problem; we are heading towards serious crisis. The fortunate thing has to do with the fact that the opposition party is factionalised at the top but it doesn’t appear to be factionalised at the state level.
So even if APC has popular support, there are number of things that could affect it. Things need to be put into proper perspective before we go for election, if not, certainly there will be a lot of surprises by 2019 in Kaduna State politics.
Recently there was the meeting of APC AKIDA, the splinter group, as well as government side of APC, so to say. What was the outcome of the meeting of the splinter group where we believed you attended?
Well, the meeting I attended was our own APC, the one organised by the State along Tafawa Balewa Way. I learnt that Government House APC organised their own in another hotel. I can see that in our own, we are so categorically clear that we own the party in the State because the chairman that is recognised by the national secretariat is the one who our allegiance is to. The Government House APC is operating with a chairman that is recognised by the State governor. So this is the situation of the party in the State. They have made their own resolution, and pretended that there was no crisis but we have made our own resolution affirming that, certainly, there are issues on the ground. It is on the ground that the national secretariat set up a reconciliation committee headed by the governor of Katsina State, Aminu Bello Masari, where he was mandated to reconcile all factions, and we have made our own submissions to him, but he couldn’t get serious cooperation from Government House of Kaduna State. So as far as we are concerned, we are the party and they are the rebel group of the party.
Why do you call it Government House APC?
It is because you cannot differentiate between the party in the State and the executive arm of the State. In our own group, there are no people holding executive position. When you call a party meeting, and fill it up with commissioners, advisers, special assistants, then it means that it is a government house party, while our own here is made up of politicians who are founding members of the APC in Kaduna State. The other side is the ones on the record of suspending me for criticising the governor of the state. They suspended me about 13 times for criticising the governor of the State.
So I don’t know, now that he has criticised the President, what will happen. I recommended that the suspension that was given to me should also be given to him because he was the brain behind such suspension. He felt that people should not criticise others, but he has found himself doing that, so he too should be very much criticised and suspended as much as I was suspended from the party.
The last time you came face to face with Governor El-rufai was when he paid you condolence visit over the death of your mother. One thought you should have used that occasion to bury the hatchet because, your mother pleaded with you before she died to mend fence with Governor El-Rufai. Why won’t you obey your mother?
I don’t think she had ever said such kind of a thing to me. She was not a politician, she only prayed for me, and she knew me very well as a man of principle. And she had stood by me all through my struggles. So please, just keep her out of Kaduna politics. But actually, Governor El-rufai came to condole me when my mother died and I was very grateful for that. But just some three days after he condoled with me, he was on TVC television attacking me. It was a television interview on TVC where he attacked me, unprovoked attack. Two days after he came, either him or his people were sponsoring persons to go to the radio and attack me and attacking me on radio is not free, you have to pay, and so this is what they have been doing. In that aspect, I cannot simply hold my arms because you came to condole me, you shake my hand with one hand and on the other hand, you try to stab me.
Governor El-rufai was quoted to have said that you are not happy with him because he did not give appointments to candidates you nominated for commissionership, etc. What is your reaction to this?
I think you need to go to his memo which he has written, complaining that governors were not consulted when political appointments were given. Did he consult me in the state or is it okay for President Buhari to give El-rufai appointment at the federal government and it is not okay for El-rufai to give Shehu Sani appointment in his own government. I think he is just a hypocrite, he stands against all that he is saying, and all that he has written in the memo, he is also guilty of it.
If he said Buhari has a cabal, he has a cabal in Kaduna. If he said Buhari is incompetent, he is more incompetent than Buhari. If he said Buhari doesn’t listen to advice, he also doesn’t listen to advice. If he said Buhri is not giving appointment to the people who contributed to the success of the party, he too is not giving appointment to the people who contributed to the party in the State.
Various contestants will be looking forward to Buhari to endorse them by raising up their hands as it was the case during 2015 campaigns. What is your advice to Buhari?
This time around, I am calling on Buhari not to raise up anybody’s hand, not to campaign for anybody, not to advocate for anybody and not to ask anybody to vote for anybody. I think he should continue with his own philosophy of he belongs to nobody, and he should belong to nobody. His idea, the strategy of raising people’s hands has turned out to be acidic to many people. And sometimes he would think that he has raised up the hands of a Saint but he never knew that it is the hand of a devil that he has raised.