Uba Sani is political adviser to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State and a former senior special assistant, public affairs to ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo. In this interview with PETER EKELE AGBO, Sani, who is senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Kaduna Central ahead of 2019 polls, speaks on some critical issues about Kaduna State.
In the last few months, you’ve been going around your senatorial district, seeking their support towards your senatorial ambition; share with us your experience so far—before and after the primaries
It has been an intensive and extensive campaign. But what really gladdens my heart is the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) executive in my senatorial zone has taken complete ownership of the campaign and has been vigorously canvassing for support for me. Ours is a very inclusive and participatory campaign. This is quite comforting after the long drawn battle for the ticket. I believe the primaries in the Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone was the most transparent, free and fair primaries and the committee sent by the national working committee to conduct the primaries testified to that.
So far, what has been the response of the electorate in your effort to convince them to support your aspiration?
The response has been overwhelming and humbling. Kaduna Central is a political fortress of the APC. The people are unwavering in their support for us. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been struggling to make inroads into the zone, to no avail. What we have been doing is to consolidate on the people’s support by assuring them of a brighter future. We are determined to change the face of the zone through quality and effective representation. This is important because for some time now the people have been victims of poor, ineffective and unresponsive representation. From a senatorial zone that was the envy of all, it became a reference point for how not to represent a people. People of the zone saw the diminishing of opportunities which hitherto were taken for granted. What reigned supreme was grandstanding and the abuse or denigration of leaders who are selflessly working to positively change the condition of the people of Kaduna State and Nigeria.
They did not stop at that. They deliberately sabotaged the Kaduna State Government’s efforts at attracting investments and getting loans for the development of critical infrastructure. A clear example of what really happened was when the state government wanted to borrow $350 million from the World Bank to rehabilitate and build new hospitals in Kaduna, to rehabilitate and build new schools-both primary and secondary schools – in Kaduna; and to also build some infrastructure, I mean roads and other amenities for the common man and woman. The people were livid with rage. Kaduna State is the only state that was denied the opportunity to access the loan simply because those people in the Senate decided to look at their personal interest instead of the overall interest of our people in Kaduna State. The loan is not about Mallam Nasir el – Rufai, it’s about the nine million people of Kaduna State, and for me, that was what really made people to come out openly to support my aspiration. They believe I am better equipped and positioned to restore the glory of Kaduna Central Senatorial Zone.
If you win the election what are you going to do differently from what the current senators are doing?
Our senatorial zone is populated by APC and everybody knows that – it’s a fact. And if you are a member of Senate representing a particular constituency which you are also aware that over 80 to 90 percent of the people belong to APC, surely the first thing you need to do is to work closely with the APC government at the national level. Some of us worked in the past at the national level: I worked with former President Obasanjo, and we know how government is run. If you are a member of the Senate and you are lucky that your party is the ruling party, and you are also lucky that your governor is from your own party, what you need to do is to work closely with the president, work with your governor, and find a way to lobby on how you can bring infrastructural support to your own people. It’s about serving the people, not the advancement of our personal interest. So for me, what I will do differently is to work closely with my party to attract development to my senatorial district. And this is only possible if I work closely with my party leadership, the leadership of the Senate, my Governor and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. I will know when to lobby vigorously.
Apart from being a senatorial candidate of a party, you are also the political adviser to the Governor of Kaduna State and you just said you were very convinced that el – Rufai and Buhari will be re-elected. But that appears to contradict the opinion of some people who believe that APC has not done anything in the last three years to deserve re-election…
Most of the people thinking that way are either naive, mischievous or probably they are unwilling to tell the truth. We are all in this country; some of us as I said earlier had worked with the previous government in the past, we know where we are coming from- and I can tell you clearly that when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected, we know the state of the economy of this country — the country was almost going down completely, in terms of the economic situation. Our international image was in tatters. Investors had taken flight. Corruption had become a way of life in governmental circles. Insecurity had enveloped the country. The Boko Haram took over many local governments in the North East and hoisted their flags. In major cities of Nigeria, rumours of possible terrorist attack remained the daily staple. Life in Nigeria had become sheer nightmare. Many people were already predicting the possibility of Nigeria becoming a failed state. That was the situation President Buhari inherited. Since assumption of office he has been working assiduously to clear the mess left by the previous administration. He has degraded Boko Haram, arrested the drift in the economy, restored investors’ confidence and is implementing a well-conceived social investment scheme geared towards giving succor to the underprivileged in Nigeria.
Restoring security remains one of the President’s biggest achievements. I can tell you that for some of us who travelled from Kaduna to Abuja by road during that difficult period, it took us three to four hours to get to Abuja because of multiple checkpoints created by the deadly activities of Boko Haram. People could not even go to mosques and churches to worship God. Going to the market or any crowded area was like a death sentence. Nobody knew where the next bomb would go off. It was a horrible situation. But today we can all heave a sigh of relief. Normalcy has been restored. But challenges remain. Terrorism is a scourge which must be fought continuously until it is rooted out. Other security problems are also being addressed or tackled with all the force the government can muster. Progress has also been made in the area of fighting corruption. EFCC has been reinvigorated. Investigations, arrests and prosecutions have been stepped up.
Let’s go back to Kaduna where you are from: what will Governor Nasir el-Rufai be campaigning on in the forthcoming elections?
I have worked for three and half years as the political adviser to Governor el-Rufai. I am conversant with the vision and mission of the government. I know its programmes/projects and the level of implementation. I know where challenges lie. I am close to the people at the grassroots and I have interacted with them. So I am in a good position to tell you what is on ground and the shape of things to come. Sometimes when I read some stories or comments on the Kaduns State Government in the conventional and social media, I just laugh. Either the writers are ignorant or misinformed of the situation of things, or they are downrightly mischievous. Let me state without fear of contradiction that Governor el-Rufai’s achievements in the last three and half years are unprecedented. He has invested heavily and achieved so much in critical areas like education and health. In the area of education, when el-Rufai came, we had about 4,000 primary and secondary schools. We realised that more than 70 percent of our schools were completely abandoned, some of them were not even habitable. In the rainy season the students cannot even sit in the classrooms because of the condition of the schools. The first step the Governor took in his first year was to rehabilitate the schools. After that we took a look at the quality of students and the teachers. This is because you may have beautifully designed and constructed schools, but if you continue to churn out half – baked pupils and students, it amounts to a waste of scarce resources, time and energy. We wanted the best for our children and we were prepared to take all necessary measures to achieve our goal. In the face of sustained opposition to the government’s decision to weed out unqualified teachers from the system, Governor el-Rufai stood up to be counted. That’s the mark of leadership. Good leaders are known for taking hard and difficult decisions. We subjected the school teachers to a test and we realised that over 75 percent of our teachers were not even qualified to teach our students. Probably that’s the reason why people keep saying the North is backward in terms of education.
There is this issue that has been generating controversy in the past few days — it is about el-Rufai nominating a co-Muslim as his running mate. What’s your response to that as his political adviser?
I sincerely believe that we have reached a stage in this country where we should lay more emphasis on one’s competence and ability to deliver, not really where one comes from or the religion he or she professes. I understand why we hold on so much to issues of diversity or balancing. As far as I am concerned the fact that people believe that it is only when someone from their area is in office that they can get a fair deal is indicative of the failure of governance. A leader with a sound governance agenda/template should be able to deal with all manner of persons fairly, equitably and justly. We must move to new grounds and change the way things are done in our state and country. Governor el-Rufai is committed to inclusive governance. He will never discriminate based on certain primordial considerations. He chose Dr. Hadiza based on her competence and record of outstanding performance in the healthcare sector. Dr. Hadiza, the deputy governorship nominee has worked closely with the government. She is very competent and full of innovative ideas. She is a major asset to the Kaduna State Government and the people of Kaduna State. She comes from a family that is really a model of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Half of the family are Muslim, while half are Christian. Critics should rather ask for Dr. Hadiza’s track record and judge her based on that. Harping on religious differences is a disservice to Kaduna State.
What are the chances of APC in the forthcoming elections in Kaduna State?
We have done our homework. The government of el-Rufai has delivered. The people are happy and are yearning for more of Mallam’s meritorious services. The APC campaign machinery is ready to go on extensive and intensive campaigns. Kaduna State APC has a good product to market. Just mark it, el-Rufai will be first Governor to be declared winner in the 2019 elections. He is one of the most governors in Nigeria. He is loved by the good people of Kaduna State. They don’t think like those people writing newspaper articles and commentaries. Mallam Nasir el-Rufai will win this election by landslide. In the last election, no governor in the North-West got as much votes as el-Rufai. If they don’t know, they should check. el-Rufai got over one million votes in the last election and I can tell you this time around he’ll still get the highest votes not only in the North-west but in the whole of Northern Nigeria. Also, apart from President Buhari who had more votes than any governor in Northern Nigeria in his election, only el-Rufai got over a million votes.