In this interview with Senator Shehu Sani, he explained why he called on President Muhammadu Buhari to invite stakeholders from the North to proffer solutions to the crises raging in the region. TUNDE OGUNTOLA reports.
You recently called on President Muhammadu Buhari to involve critical stakeholders in tackling the crises in the region, can you elaborate on that?
The fact is the bloodshed and violence in the northern part of the country have been raging for so long and President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration came with the promises and pledge to bring an end to it if voted into office. The Northeast is under the siege of Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists despite the efforts made to drive them out of the cities where they were throwing bombs. But no one should be in doubt that or deceive himself, the Boko Haram and ISWAP are still killing people and in the northwest banditry and kidnapping and almost getting to the stage of insurgency. A chunk of states like Sokoto, Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna, and Niger are all virtually under the control of bandits that do come with motorbikes, kill people, and extort money from villagers and they cannot go to their farms.
You cannot also safely travel through roads like Birnin Gwari to Lagos and Abuja to Kaduna State without fear of being kidnapped and we recently received the report that Niger East is under the control of bandits. In the north central, Tiv/Jukum crisis still surges, in Jos, ethnic/religious crisis still holds sway while terrorist and bandit attacks persist in Southern Kaduna.
But attacks after attacks all we read in the news are meetings between the President and the Service Chiefs. Sadly, it has reached a point where Nigerians are calling for the sack of the Service Chiefs and replacing them with people with fresh ideas. Our concern is that blood is shed daily. The unity, stability, and peace of the country are under serious threat by this evil acts. What is needed is to set aside partisan interest; the President should be a father to all and be more concerned about his legacy and stewardship while still in office. If the President leaves office in 2023 without resolving the security situation in the country with the current trend, none of his achievements will matter.
What I suggested is that some leaders in the North are apolitical. The President should therefore invite them. We have General Abdulsalam Abubakar, Yakubu Gowon, Martins Agwai, Col. Dangiwa Umar (rtd), Senator Makarfi, and Audu Ogbeh. They should be invited by the President for them to reach out to all the stakeholders in crisis-prone regions and see how the violence can end. It is unbelievable that the President, Senate president, service chiefs hail from the North. But the fact is nobody has a monopoly of ideas.
Perhaps their ideas are exhausted. Why can’t the President invite the leaders of Southern Kaduna and have a heart-to-heart discussion with them on modalities to end the scourge, they have traditional leaders, they have youths, trade union leaders, women, civil groups, and even tribal associations. What is wrong if the president invites them to proffer solutions to the menace? Or is it because they did not vote for the ruling party, so they are being seen not be in tune with the government of the day, same as the fact that they did not vote for the governor of the state.
But why Kaduna’s case is serious is that the President believes in the governor of the state to brief him about happenings in Southern Kaduna and the people of the area and the governor are at war with each other. How can the problem be solved? The President must cross party lines, interest lines and reach out to concerned people who can solve the problem in Kaduna State, some respected people can help the President end the Southern Kaduna crisis either by counselling, strategy, or even advice because they have been with them for a long time. The former governor of the state, Senator Ahmed Markarfi has been able to entrench himself in the heart of the people of Southern Kaduna and others like Abubakar Umar, Col. Jafaru Isa (rtd); I feel the governor can also invite former governors of the state and sit down with them to proffer solutions to ending the crisis in Southern Kaduna. If we continue under this current formula of opposition politics, it will not take us anywhere and that is why we are here. The President should look beyond strategising with his loyalists.
Is Governor Nasir el-Rufai doing enough to end the Southern Kaduna crisis?
As far as I am concerned there is no significant progress made in ending in the crisis in Southern Kaduna and my reasons are very simple. Already there is bad blood with him and the people of Southern Kaduna, this is the first time in the history of the state that there is a governor that is a Muslim and a deputy that is also a Muslim, not a Christian. Second, some of the utterances coming out from people in government are not helping matters; right now it is not only Christian that are killed, Muslims in Igabi local government area of the state are killed, also Muslims in Birnin Gwari and Giwa local government areas are being killed by bandits and in some territories like Birnin Yero to Mando to Buruku and Birnin Gwari, people are killed too and nothing seems to be done, perhaps those that ought to bring the issue to the fore prefer to hide it to safe or protect the image of the state government.
So, if the senator and the member of the House of Representatives from Southern Kaduna can stand up and say their people are killed and those on the other side kept mute, the world will only hear of the killings in the reported area. The best way to entrench peace in a country is that there should be equity and justice. Kaduna is a multi-religious and multi-ethnic state and it is incumbent that whosoever is in the position of authority or power to ensure that all ethnic groups and religions are treated with equity, fairness, and justice. Right now, the people of Southern Kaduna are living like the people under apartheid rule, I mean the Blacks in South Africa as far as Kaduna State is concerned because they are being considered as a second class citizens, which is not what we grew up to know. We grew up in a state where we live side-by-side with Christians; we go to the same school and market but, over the years, the city, not even the village, has been divided by a river, people live in areas where the residents share the same faith with them. This is how we live in Southern Kaduna today. So, as far as I am concerned nothing much has been done to bring an end to the menace in the state.
What is your position on fuel price increment?
Well, I think there are a lot of lessons to be learned from this. The voters are learning their lessons too; that nobody has a magic wand to solving the problem of Nigeria and the leaders of the country are also learning their lessons that they have either exaggerated their capacity and ability or they have now seen that the problem is far deeper than the way they viewed it. This current administration came into office with a lot of promises, and it was on that basis that the last government was rejected. There was a promise to revive the refineries which has not been fulfilled for five years now, if you ask any one of them today, they will tell you that Dangote is building a refinery, is Dangote refinery a government refinery? The subsidy that was said to be a conduit pipe for corruption before now we have seen otherwise in the subsidy regime. Unfortunately, when the price of crude oil in the global market drops, we are supposed to have a drop in petrol prices too but, the reverse is the case and this is what we are battling with. Any increase in the price of petroleum products during this period is condemnable.
Unfortunately, there seems to be the dearth of the culture of protest, those who have been on the street protesting against the administration of former President Goodluck Jonathan have simply decided to abandon the moral justification of the action. It is quite unfortunate; this is one of the dangers you have when you have a parliament that is ready to do the bidding of the executive. We are deeply concerned, we are critical about President Muhammadu Buhari’s government but not interested in his failure because if he fails the whole nation fails too. Sometime, I wonder because he was a personality who was open to everyone, who was accommodating, whose house was a mini Mecca. As far as I am concerned, the increase in fuel price is a serious problem amidst the effect of the COVID-19 pandemic when governments across the world are thinking of how to ease the hardship of its populace.