We Must Restructure and Redesign Nigeria – Shehu Sani
Distinguished Senator Shehu Sani, represents Kaduna Central Senatorial zone .In this interview with Kaduna journalists, he speaks on Biafra agitations ,quit notice to Igos and other issues including those of Kaduna .John Femi Adi captured the session:
Recently some northern youth issued quit notice to the Igbos in Northern Nigeria and has generated lots of tension, threatening the unity of this country. As a lawmaker of the federal republic of Nigeria ,what do you think should be done to douse this tension threatening unity of the country ?
The moral calling of all men of conscience is to champion the cause of unity and peace. And for people like me, this is my area of calling.Biafran agitators are persons who have forgotten the lessons of history, the country is bigger than individuals, we are one and we should remain one.The Igbo Ethnic Groups have since been able to build themselves economically, and present themselves as Nigerians. Igbos can clearly be found in all the nooks and crannies of this country, and I believe we should be able to separate the few, who want seccession from millions, who live among us as Nigerians.
Any Southerner in the North is in the north because he believes in one Nigeria, if he dose not believe in one Nigeria, he could have gone back to Southeast.And we should look at it this way, it is great that we are called giant of Africa because of our size, our population and because of the promise we hold for West Africa and the black race. (Seccession is not an option) those who want to divide this country should be condemned in totality and I can understand the anger by some of our people in Northern part of Nigeria, but we should not play to the gallery.The secessionist should not determine our collective decision or distract what our response should be. If they are for seccession, we are for unity. We must protect Igbos that is living in the Northern part of Nigeria because they are here to live with us; they are here because they leave as one Nigeria.But Nnamdi Kanu and his Biafran forces are doomed to fail ,because Nigeria will remain one. But this is the time for political office holders, leaders of thought, traditional rulers and religious and community leaders in the southeast to be seen taking a definite position against this secessionist.
Sitting on the fence, burying your heads in the sand and pretending that you are neither here nor there will not help matters. This is the time for each and every Nigerian to take position. Nigeria will not and should not be Soviet Union;Nigeria will not be and must not be Yugoslavia ,Nigerian should and must not be Sudan.There are issues we need to address. This is an opportunity for us to restructure and redesign our country. We should come out with a new master plan that will address the social, economic and political crises that gave birth to some of these agitations. And we should also use the opportunity to reach out, to strengthen our unity and form a coalition against separatists ,who come from the southeast and ultra-nationalist and anarchist who come from northern part of Nigeria.This is a time to challenge them, combat and nip them in the bud. It is the time in history of this country, that we must speak out; and I will also say a Nation united by force is vulnerable, a Nation united by justice is inseparable, that must be our goal.Individuals have the right to express their opinions, we have the right to express our opinions, but not to the very level that you will have the whole country thrown into quagmire and create a dangerous situation for the West African sub region.Nigeria is the most influential country in the West Africa sub region, and must not be allowed to burn into pieces.
You have been in the Senate for over two years now, how would you describe your participation, especially in the areas of lawmaking and projects attracted to your constituency ?
As a Senator representing Kaduna Central, I can say there are projects and issues that are related to me, and there are projects and issues that are related to the National Assembly . But ,I have been able to sponsor a number of bills, I have raised motions on issues that are germane, that are about interest and concern to my constituency. I have been able to raise bills on National Commission for Peace, Foreign Service Commission.Others are National Endorsement for literature and Art, for Whistle blowers, on Poverty Alleviation, and I have been able to raise a bill on issues that has to do with our Security Agencies; that is a bill for a foundation supporting our service men.
I have also been able to raise a number of motions on need to revive our industry, motions on employment, motions that has to do with educations, healthcare, motions that has to do with infrastructure.In the last two years, I have also been able to chair the committee on Northeast on Humanitarian crisis in the Northeast and we have submitted our report.In the senate, I am also the Chairman, Senate Committee on local and foreign debt, I am also the Vice Chairman of Senate Committee on Foreign Affairs. Am also member of Independent National Electoral Commission Senate Committee.Within that period I have also been able to intervene in my constituency on development projects. We have been able to give thousands of people scholarship; I have also been able to empower over 4,000 women and give them capital to startup their businesses.
We provided transformers and solar panels, education material to schools, we have also been able to purchase properties and hand them over to groups and non governmental organizations to use, as their offices, or for trade or for any thing that will be beneficial to the society. We have also been able to secure employment for our teaming youth in the Nigeria Air Force, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Police, Immigration, Prison Service, within this period I have also been able to get nothing less than One Hundred and Twenty persons into different areas, in the Federal and Civil Service.And I have not relented, because, right now, there are employment opportunities that are still going on, and whichever vacancy we are able to see, we try to get our constituency members to be engaged . In a nutshell, these are my progress in the last two years.
You are passionately concerned about the unity of Nigeria , are you not worried in your constituency, Christians live in one place and Muslims live in another place; what are you doing as a senator representing the state to resolve this ?
The crisis of confidence and the cold war that exist between different Faiths in this state resulted from the violence in the earlier part of this millennium and what happened in the last 20 years.We are yet to have peaceful Kaduna, because people are still living separately. We grew up in Kaduna ,where Muslims and Christians live together, eat together, sleep together, share their pains, joys and worries .We grew up in a society that each person is his brothers keeper, but now Kaduna is literally a divided land between Muslims and Christians. As a Senator, I represent the Central Senatorial zone with five local governments that are predominately Muslims and two that are predominately Christians, so my own version of justice and peace is a very clear one, I embraced churches with the same passion as I embraced mosque and I brought in my support for religious organizations and non governmental organizations that promote unity and peace in both sides of the divide.
And I defend the interest of Christians as much as I do for Muslims. I speak out for people of both faith, and I also do everything possible to provide confidence and serve as a bridge and a unifying symbol for the two Faith that are in the state. But there are number of things that needed to be done from an executive position. There is need for a peace price to Muslims, who live in Christians areas and Christians who live in Muslims areas. We must encourage that it is only encouraging that, that we are actually going to have peace in the state.
If Muslims live in one part of the city and Christians live in another part of the city, it is not peace, it is called cold war, and it is cold war that is here now. But I think, there are two institutions that have done a good job, the traditional institution in Kaduna State have done a good job, the District heads and chiefs, in promoting peace and unity. Religious leaders, both Christians and Muslims have also done a lot. So those that need to be carried along are politicians who exploit the religious differences of people. And we can see that every government in this state should have a programme .It is not simply about sponsoring some people to Jerusalem and some to Mecca, it is not simply about having an inter-religious Bureau, but about consistent encouragement between Christians and Muslims. So if there is anything I have done, it is to encourage peace and unity in this state, I have provided a representation to both faiths, to the very point that they will be able to judge whether Shehu Sani is a bigot or not .
You talked about the contributions of the traditional rulers as agents of peace, yet in Kaduna State presently about 4,766 Chiefs and District Heads have been sacked by governor Nasir El-Rufai. What do you think will be the repercussions of this action?
I am opposed to the dropping of these 4,766 district heads,for the very fact that they are a very strong instruments of peace and unity. I call on the governor to reverse his decision. There is enough money to pay them.
In a situation whereby we have a government in Kaduna State that is issuing out contracts to advisers, members of the State House of Assembly and the people in the position of authority, which is contrary to ethics of civil service, in that sense, you know that it is very disgusting to accuse the PDP, the Ramalan Yero, Makarfi, Late Yakowa’s government of corruption in Kaduna State, and right here in the state, you have public office holders submit companies to be awarded contracts.We should understand that it is not just about N3 billion Contract scam, but there are ethics issues concerned, a civil servant is not allowed to be a contractor. It is an act of nepotism to send your son, your wife, to do contract directly under your office, it is against the code of conduct, code of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for an elected public civil servant, office holder to engage in contract, that is very wrong.The only person who are immune to face investigation is the governor and deputy governor of all this persons involved. And the governor of the state should follow it up and set up investigation panel to fish out the bad eggs within his government and deal with them. If Buhari can drop Babachir as a Secretary to the government of the federation for giving his own company contracts, Governor Nasir El- Rufai should tow the line by sacking his aides that have exploited their positions in office, and have turned themselves into contractors.
What is your take on the sale of government house in Kaduna ?
With all honesty and fairness, apart from the governor of the state, all other persons here are local politicians who are not beyond Kaduna State. Today, so many former governors are on trial for issues of awarding one contract or the other. Orji Uzo Kalu is on trial for something similar, Jonah Jang is also on trial for the same thing. More than 55 former governors are on trial in Nigeria, for issuing out contracts without due process. If you have a governor that protect you today because you are his adviser, or you are a commissioner, member of the house, tomorrow that person may not be there in office, and you are going to be brought to book.We should understand the implication of this and I am highly disappointed in Kaduna Journalists to have seen Sahara reporters publish the story.And am very sorry to say, Kaduna Journalists, you are under siege, today you can only publish things that are pro to the government, a journalist must be balanced. Seven of your collegues or thereabout have been sent to prisons in the year of the lord 2015, 2016, 2017, one day, Shehu Sani will not be a Senator, governor El-Rufai will not be governor, one day we will not be there, but you have your conscience to ask about responsibility when your colleagues are in prisons, what was your role. Kaduna should be the inspiration of journalism in Nigeria, people should look up to you, and I believe you should serve as beacons; if you are going to be denied for your objectivity so be it, but question the authority when they go wrong. If Shehu Sani is wrong, he is wrong, if the governor is wrong, he is wrong, get your story balanced .
The sale of two thousand housing units in Kaduna, am very much opposed to it. In the sense that the way others do it in their state is to give the civil servants the opportunity of owner occupier system ,but it will be unfair to ask a civil servant who receives N40–N50,000 to pay N30–N40Million. Most of us at one time or the other, our parents were civil servants, if those houses should be sold, I think we should not sell it to rich people, sell it to civil servants and if you have problem with running cost, make it possible for civil servants to buy. No civil servant in Nigeria can afford to buy a house .Two hundred million naira, if it is not a contractor. And nobody gets contracts today if you are not in public office or connected to those in public office.So I think these should be redressed, the decision for the sale of those properties. I know it may not be listened to, but I want to put on record, because the next government in Kaduna will reverse most of these policies.
There is suppose to be cordial relationship between governor El-Rufai and all the three senators in the state but from every indication this is not so, why?
My relationship with the other two senators is cordial, however El- Rufai aides created gaps between us and the government.