Auwal Ibrahim Musa popularly known as Rafsanjani is the Executive Director, Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC), Head of Transparency International and Trustee Chair, Amnesty International (Nigeria). This Political Scientist from Bayero University Kano, in this interview with Stellamaries Amuwa, speaks on how he works to support the sincere effort of government to make sure that looted assets are identified and returned back to Nigeria among other issues.
Tell us a little about your family
I am from Kano City, my parents, grandparents; great grandparents up to 6 generations are from Kano city. I am a true son of Kano, I had my primary, secondary schools in Kano, we were the first set of the 6,3,3,4 system of education in Nigeria. I studied at the Bayero University Kano and I have 3 children, one boy, and two girls and then my wife. I also have brothers, a sister and my mother. All my family members are based in Kano.
What inspired you to establish CISLAC?
During my days at Bayero University Kano, I was a student leader both at university and also at national level. I served as Executive Members in Bayero University Student Union before I was elected as Assistant Secretary General of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) in 1991-1992. As a student activist, I was involved with pro-democracy and human rights movements like the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Committee for the Defence of Human Rights (CDHR), Women in Nigeria (WIN) and other democratic student organisations.
After my graduation, I was offered to work with Community Action for Popular Participation (CAPP) as Program Officer dealing with issues affecting human rights and democratic governance. Again, I was invited to join Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), an international organization with west Africa perspective focusing on issues around democracy and development where I worked on projects with diverse areas including legislative advocacy, local democracy, good governance, as well as constitutionalism and development.
In 2005, having studied the gap existed in the area of civil society’s engagement with the legislature, I reflected on the deficit in policy and legislative engagement. I felt there was a need to focus more attention on the legislature towards strengthening the civil society intervention. I left CDD and conceptualized the formation of the Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) and then reached out to my senior colleagues in different civil society groups to share the new perspective.
What does CISLAC stand for?
Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC) is non-governmental, non-profit legislative advocacy, information sharing and research organization, arising from the felt need to address defects in the legislative advocacy work of civil society and open the window through which legislators can also access civil society groups. It aims to strengthen the work of Civil Society on Legislative Advocacy and bridge the gap between legislators and the Civil Society.
How do you balance work and family?
As the executive director of CISLAC, and head of other organizations, it has not been easy to balance work both here in Nigeria and our global offices in New York, United Kingdom because CISLAC is already registered in those places and family demand as well as addressing needs of some individuals who come to me for assistance. There is little or no time for personal relaxation but it is worth doing because I’m happy that people are giving feedback on how happy they are with some of the interventions we are doing in our various organization be it Transparency International, Amnesty International or CISLAC, so I am excited that we are contributing our quota towards addressing some of the challenges within our means and capability.
We dialogue with government to make sure they work for the interest of the citizens and we some time engage in regional intervention advocacy to ensure that Nigerians and Africans are able to get the necessary policy framework that will uplift them from poverty. Recently we have been working in the area of asset recovery because there are so much Nigerian asset stolen by wicked public office holders, we work to support the sincere effort of government to make sure that those assets are identified and returned back to Nigeria. We also advocate for beneficial ownership registered that will complement the effort of asset recovery because you cannot engage in asset recovery without knowing who owns what.
We want Nigerian government to adhered to Global Framework of Asset Recovery Principle that there must be transparency and accountability and civil society participation in the management of assets recovery in Nigeria so that we do not recover asset from one looter and another looter re-loot the asset again. We want to ensure that there is a legal framework that will manage the asset in Nigeria since there are so many agencies managing the asset and no central registered agency to know what asset has been recovered and how it has been utilized.
We have been advocating that there must be integrated trust fund that would manage these recovered assets for the benefit of the citizens. We have also been advocating and giving information to government on how to block leakages and strengthen our institutions so that there will not be room to connive and loot resources that is meant to develop our country. We also working on the implementation of the SDGs, we believe that if you implement SDGs you would have been able to bring development closer to the people and address issues of hunger, sanitation, water, corruption in the system and you would be able to strengthen our institutions. There are so many areas that if Nigerian government should prioritize we would be able so close the gap in development. We also advocate for electoral reform processes in Nigeria that will guaranty and ensure electoral transparency in our system.
In the area of human rights, we are concerned that the continues violation of rights of citizens is on the increase and therefore the shrinking of civil space and attack on freedom of expression is on the high side, we demand civil space and respect for human rights and in particular we support press freedom because the constitution clearly spelt out the responsibility of the media to be able to expose corruption and therefore, the kind of intolerance we see by some government over zealous security and officials is part of the reason we demand for civil space.
Advice for young Nigerians
For young Nigerians, I advise you get educated because if you are not educated you will not be able to play any meaningful role other than the role of political thug, electoral violence, religious and ethnic violence and other vices in the society like kidnapping, robbery and others but when you are educated, you behave responsible and patriotic and will not allow yourself to be used by any politician. I also appeal to young Nigerians to use their time productively and do not engage in Yahoo, Yahoo or vices that will destroy their lives.
What has been the major challenge in achieving the goals of CISLAC?
The major challenges we face is that we are dealing with people who do not want reforms, we are also dealing with people who deliberately and consciously want to continue to engage in corruption. We are dealing with institutions that have collapsed. We are also dealing with people who do not have political will to respond positively to some of the issues we are raising, and of course we are dealing with the fact that we have limited human and financial resources to be able to carry out the work. So it is a great challenge though we have made some progress even within some government agencies because we have some willing people but in the legislature, executive and in the judiciary as well as able Nigerians who are happy to join the effort of sanitizing governance in Nigeria.
What does fashion and style mean to you?
I love to wear my local Hausa traditional outfit because that is one of the ways I identify where I come from whenever I travel outside the shores of Nigeria. I always like to look like and African especially like a Nigerian that I am, you get more respect from foreigners when you hold your culture high. I love my Nigerian made clothes.
What genre of music do you listen to?
I look for Nigerian music even when I travel so that I do not get disconnected from the unique Nigeria music. I love Nigeria music and God has given talents to young Nigerians to be what they are today by uplifting them from poverty and under development. I am proud of our Nigerian musicians who do not rely on government to become who they are today.
Auwal has gained considerable experience on training programmes at the international level and has also written many articles, as well as being a regular public commentator on TV – Al-Jazeera, CNN, BBC, NTA, AIT, TVC, Channels TV; Radio – BBC, VOA, Radio Germany, Radio France and Radio Iran both in Hausa and English languages; and has been featured widely in the Newspapers.