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El-Rufa’i Vs Shehu Sani: Who Blinks First

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The war of words and acrimony between Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and Senator Shehu Sani seems not to be ending anytime soon. ISAIAH BENJAMIN writes on the unending bickering between the two gladiators.

The yet to be resolved crisis between the incumbent Kaduna state Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai and the Senator representing Kaduna Central in the Senate, Senator Shehu Sani, apprently started prior to the All Progressives Congress (APC) primaries that preceded their elections in the 2015. While the El-Rufai had preferred Senator Mohammed Sani Saleh to return to the Senate to represent Kaduna Central, Sani also preferred a different aspirant to emerge as the APC candidate for the Kaduna governorship election. However, both men were disappointed or so to speak following their emergence against their respective wishes and perhaps that apparently marked the beginning of their frosty relationship. Shortly after their elections, it was expected that they would have forgotten whatever happened prior to their elections but that wasn’t to be as the Senator criticises the governor’s policies and describing them as anti-people wile the governor on his part felt that the Senator was criticising his policies because he wants to become governor of the state come 2019. This mutual suspicion perhaps characterised their relationship in the past three years. The crisis between the duo continued to make headlines in the media to a worrisome state such that the party at the national level had to intervened. This however was not after the Senator was purportedly suspended by the party at his ward level and affirmed by the state organ. The national body of the APC in its intervention however described the suspension of the Senator as invalid, null and void and not binding.

The NorthWest zonal vice chairman of the party, Alhaji Inuwa Abdulkadir, announced the nullity of the suspension at the North-West zonal office of the party in Kaduna while briefing journalists shortly after holding what could be described as a reconciliatory meeting between the national body and some stakeholders of the party in Kaduna State. According to him, the right procedure was not followed in the purported suspension of the Senator, stressing that the national body of the party is in receipt of a letter from the Senator’s ward chairman who did not only dissociate himself from the suspension but indicated that there was an inducement from some quarters to carry out such purported suspension which was turned down. “We wish to state here that the purported suspension is invalid and not binding and is of no effect, the right procedure was not followed, and the national body is in receipt of a letter from the ward chairman dissociating himself from the suspension and giving an insight into the matter.” The zonal Chairman giving an insight into the meeting with the stakeholders which held ‎behind closed doors said, “the meeting basically was to look at some challenges which are internal with party stakeholders in the state and find some lasting solutions to them.” Although he denied that there was any faction of the members of the party in the state, he stressed however that, “ as a party, we encourage dialogue and understanding among members as a way forward. “ we met and we have discussed and I am optimistic that better days awaits the party in the state” he said. In that meeting and corroborating the zonal chairman’s position, ‎the pioneer Chairman of the party in the state, Dr Akeem Baba-Ahmed who is the leader of the about 30 APC stakeholders that attended the meeting, said, there is no faction of the party in the state, but stressed the need for strict adherence to the ideology of the party which some of them stand for.

According to him then, “We are ready and willing to continue to participate in the search for peace, we are not a faction, we are loyal party members and willing to see our party deliver on its promises. “ We will continue to support our national leadership and our Governor Mal. Nasir El-Rufai to continue to do the right things and in order to achieve this, we have given our Zonal chairman some concrete suggestions that will help address the situation.” On his part, Senator Shehu Sani who was also part of the meeting said, the position of the national body of the party to disregard his purported suspension was not only a welcomed development but will further strengthen the internal democracy of the party. “ The national body has called for a cease fire and we will observe it without any violation, the supremacy‎ of the party is sacrosanct” he said. Senator Sani used the opportunity to debunk the rumour that while his suspension saga lasted, the opposition party the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) was considering wooing him to their party, saying, “I am in APC and hope to remain in APC till thy kingdom come” where his words. Sad enough, that mediation by the zonal chairman which did not yield any results allegedly caused him the demolition of his house in Kaduna by the government, the crisis between the.governor and the senator assumed a renewed dimension as the Senator accused governor el-Rufai of running the state in such a way that, “he will end up ruining all of us, which I will not be part of. He has taken some steps which have only attracted anger from the general public against him.

“He is a governor, I’m also a Senator. He is not bigger than me, neither am I bigger than him. So, as far as I’m concerned, whether El-Rufai is a governor or whatever, anything which he does that does not tally with what is supposed to be done, I will certainly tell him,” were his stands which apparently have not changed. Explaining further the basis for his anger, Senator Sani added: “He (ElRufai) is a technocrat, while I’m an activist and a revolutionary. So, my power base is the common people the masses who constitute my strength. They are the people I have lived with and fought for over the years. The way the governor is running the affairs of government in Kaduna State is the one which, if care is not taken, we will all sink. “He has to take consideration of the fact that he met people that were impoverished, that were muscled, harassed and demoralized by the government of the PDP. So, first of all, they don’t need harsh policies that will further impoverish and alienate them. We need to carry them along, taking cognisance of the situation which we find them in. I fundamentally differ with him on that issue. “Kaduna is a place I have I lived all my life and since I came out of prison in 1998, I have never been out of Kaduna for more than two weeks and I’ve never been appointed to any public office which I will live in Abuja and not know what is happening in Kaduna. So, I can tell you that within Kaduna North, Kaduna South and metropolis of Kaduna, there is hardly any street that I don’t know anybody,” Sani claimed. But the Governor in an interview he granted was quoted to have said “Sani’s history is that of an activist, of some type and it is up to you to determine the adjective. He contested the APC primaries and defeated the candidate that I supported (General Sani Saleh), and after the primaries, I brought everyone together and said we all have to win this election. I got Saleh to support him, and we supported him fully. “I think the problem is that because Shehu Sani’s mind is that of an activist, he thinks that the way to position himself, is through the media.

He thinks politics is being in the media all the time. Activism is different from politics. Sometimes in politics, you don’t want your name in the media, but activists’ oxygen is the media, and he thinks that the way to remain visible and prepare him for running for governor of Kaduna State in 2019 is to criticise everything I do. Even if I breathe air, he will criticise it. “I told my media team not to respond to him; we are a government of everybody including Shehu Sani. Let the party apparatchik respond to him, let people in the streets respond to him, and I also told them to let’s work, let’s produce results because we will get to the point that nobody can come and criticise us. “Because of the things he has been doing, criticising President Buhari, saying all sorts of things about me, the party disciplinary process was initiated against him, but he blames it on me. He thinks I engineered it. But frankly, I don’t care about Shehu Sani. I don’t think he is a threat to me politically or in any way. In 2018 when the whistle is blown we will see who has support on the ground in Kaduna. It is not an issue that I bother about”, the governor was quoted in that interview. Inspite of the bicker between the governor and the Senator, it was expected that the Senator would have defected from the party and at several fora, he informed that his luggages along with many others where at the departure lounge of the APC, so when names of those defecting from the APC to other parties where read out recently at the plenary if the senate, Senator Shehu Sani’s name was expected to make the list but it was conspicuously not among the.senators that defected. Following Senator Sani’s decision to stay put in APC after 14 Senator quit the party, he was quoted by an online news medium to have disclosed that it took the intervention of the national chairman of the APC , Adams Oshiomhole, a leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, and the national chairman of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and former governor of Kaduna State, Balarabe Musa to prevent him from defecting from the APC. Meanwhile, aside being a member of the APC Akida faction and Kaduna Restoration Group (KRG), which eventually dumped the APC and until the eve of the defection day, Senator Sani was among aggrieved senators who were set to dump the party but changed his mind all of a sudden apparently for reasons he adduced. Senator Sani was quoted to have said as reason for not defecting from APC, that, “My defection was stopped by Asiwaju Tinubu, Oshiomhole and Balarabe Musa. First of all, they recognised and accepted the fact that an injustice has been done to me in Kaduna. “Balarabe Musa invited me to his house, cautioned and counselled me against defection. Asiwaju did the same thing. Adams Oshiomole reminded me of my activism and the struggles. “They drew my attention to the fact that all those who defected to the PDP were once PDP members. I don’t have the pedigree of PDP. I’m an activist.

“The assurance they gave me was that everything will be sorted out.They assured me that they will intervene on issues which I raised.Because of that I could not defect.” Apart from the three, the lawmaker alluded his change of mind to interventions by popular lawyer, Femi Falana (SAN), religious leaders and his constituents. Mr Sani said he raised five issues the party leaders were to address. “The first was the fact that the governor (El-Rufai) engineered my suspension and neither the presidency nor the party have ever lend a voice about that.” “Secondly, my office was attacked five times by thugs. Thirdly, the governor tried to frame me in a murder case. Then the governor publicly incited the general public to attack me because we denied him loan. “The governor also demolished the house of the national vice chairman of the party when he tried to intervene.” Mr Sani said his decision to dump the party was upturned a night before the formal announcement on the floor of the Senate. He added that his colleagues, who later defected mounted intense pressure on him to yield. “I was under intense pressure from my colleagues who defected, to defect along with them. I explained to them that we have different political constituencies, calculations and background. On his plan ahead of 2019, Mr Sani said he would contest for the senatorial seat again.But he quickly added: “It’s still open, it depends on the decision of the party. I’m going to contest for the Senate. That is it for now.” Again, shortly after the defection by members of the national assembly, Senator Sani was among the APC lawmakers that visited President Muhammad Buhari and pledged their allegiance, his presence was very conspicuous as he had his hand raised by the President for reasons not to clear. But the governor, Malam el-Rufai in an interaction with journalists in Abuja shortly after a meeting he had with the party national chairman gave condition to forgive Senator Shehu Sani. Among the condition, he said that Senator Sani must apologize to people of the state for “sabotage”. Responding to a question during a live radio programme in Kaduna Thursday night, el-Rufai likened Sani’s offences to “political apostasy”. The governor lamented how the Senator oppossed his $350m (World Bank) loan request at the Senate and insisted that the lawmaker remained suspended from the ruling APC. “He has to repent; he has to tell Kaduna people why he sabotaged them. He has to also go back to the ward level, because as far as we are concerned he remains suspended from the party”, el-Rufai said. It can therefore be concluded, that if the position of the governor who is the leader of the APC in the state is anything to go by, then it perhaps would require the direct intervention of the President to sought out their differences but time is of the essence. As it stands now, the question remains that, will Senator Sani adhere to the conditions given by the governor or will governor el-Rufai let go of the conditions for peace to reign in the party, only time will tell.



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