By Comfort Obi
Nigeria may lose the contributions of one of its celebrated Senators when a new National Assembly wil be, all things being equal, inaugurated in June 2019.
Senator Shehu Sani, Kaduna Central, has resigned his membership of the All Progressives Congress, APC.
Pint-sized, but lion-hearted, Sani is, without a doubt, one of the most courageous and effective Senators in the current NASS. He does not suffer fools gladly. He has the right words for every situation. He is not one of the deaf and dumb Senators. He is not one of the absentee Senators. He is not one of the bench-warmers. He is not one of those who sleep through debates and discussions. He is a robust participant. His criticisms cut across partisan lines. He does no cover-ups. If there is any Senator whose carriage and contributions to National issues compare, almost, to what we watch Senators do in the United States of America, USA, then it is Senator Shehu Sani. He is not only charismatic, he has the language, and he speaks truth to power. It was the Shehu-Sani led Senate panel which saw the powerful former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, David Babachir Lawal, out of office. And it was Shehu Sani who told us that the Federal Government uses deodorant on their political friends and insecticide on their political enemies when both commit the same offence. Sani has a way of playing with words. But it is this courageous Senator that we are likely to lose come 2019.
Like many Nigerians, I knew Shehu Sani long before I met him physically. A well known civil rights activist, his reputation goes before his name, and speaks for him. So, I have been a long time admirer of the Senator. My admiration of him doubled during the Sani Abacha regime when he was, like many innocent Nigerians, sent to jail. But I met him physically for the first time in 2008.
President Olusegun Obasanjo had nominated both of us, and five others, to the Board of the Police Service Commission, PSC. Led by the no-nonsense DIG (rtd) Parry Osayande, who was nominated as the Chairman, we had appeared before the Senate Committee on Police Affairs for screening, Its Chairman, then, was the suave Senator David Mark. The committee members invited each nominee, one after the other, for screening. And Sani and I were the last to be invited. He went in before me. The screening seemed smooth from what our other colleagues who went in before us told us. But I began to worry about the length of time Sani was spending with the Senators. He came out after, almost, 90 minutes and, even though he was smiling, he told us he was not sure he would be recommended to the whole Senate for confirmation. Reason: “Mostly likely because of my comments as an activist”, he quipped. He was still explaining what went on behind closed doors when I was called in. Like Sani, I was also kept for a long time – about an hour – but I had fun talking with them. Our other colleagues spent less than 15 minutes each. Even Osayande, the Chairman- nominee, was with the committee for just about 45 minutes. So, when a worried Osayande and our other colleagues, based on what Sani had told them, asked me how I fared, I simply said: Well, I had fun talking with them. It is now their prerogative to recommend me for confirmation or not. But having stayed with the Committee members for, almost, as long as Sani, I was not quite sure of my own fate. But it turned out I was luckier than him. I was recommended, along with others to the whole Senate for confirmation. Sani was not. Unperturbed, he was to say:”I told you people so.” I was sad.
I was looking forward to his rich contribution at the PSC even though his replacement, Dr. Otive Igbuzor, was as good as the best. So, you can imagine my joy when Sani was, a couple of years later, elected to the Senate of the Federal Republic. I said to myself: This is the irony of life. So Sani will now be of the same status and, addressed as distinguished like those who had rejected him as a member of the PSC. And boy! From day one at the Senate, he shone like a million stars. The brightest was during the Babachir Lawal incident.
But we may likely miss this brilliant mind come June 2019. On Saturday, October 20, Shehu Sani resigned his membership of his party, the APC.
In a letter he addressed to the APC Chairman, Ward 6, Tudun Wada North, Kaduna state, Sani wrote: “I present to you my highest compliments and wish, by this communication to formally offer you my resignation from the APC.
“I had joined the APC and remained with it against all odds in the belief that it will constitute a veritable platform for the realisation of those democratic ideals which I hold very dear.
“I joined in the belief that honour and integrity will be the ultimate ethos of the party, and most importantly, that internal democracy will always be the norm.
“Only posterity can affirm the extent to which the APC has committed to, and reflected these values.
“As I exit the APC at this point in time, I wish to formally thank the party for availing me the platform upon which I am currently serving the country.”
The questions are: How did a street-wise Senator, like Sani, descend to this unfortunate level? How did he allow himself to be swallowed by a python? How did he leave things until they became, well, late?
Sani’s problems with his state governor, a once good friend of his, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, are well documented. Both have contempt for each other. They abuse each other, publicly, to an obscene level. It got to a point the Kaduna state Police Command invited the Senator for interrogation over a case of alleged murder. Once, he was also suspended by the Kaduna APC. The national body rescued him. Sani, along with the other two Kaduna Senators see El-Rufai as a dictator, and Sani, in particular, does not think the governor has any human feelings. It could be an ego problem between the two of them, but the situation kept deteriorating. It was the three Senators – Sani Suleiman Hunkuyi and Danjuma Laah – who, at the Senate, shot down a World Bank loan for Kaduna state which El-Rufai said his state badly needed. So, he declared the Senators enemies of Kaduna people. He bulldozed, without a thought, Senator Hunkuyi’s house in Kaduna GRA. He had threatened them that they would never go back to the Senate. Everybody knew only a miracle could give Sani and Hunkayi tickets to go back to the Senate under the APC banner. Nigeria is a country like no other. Governors call the shots. Power is in their hands, not in the hands of the people. The only exception is Lagos state where power resides in the hands of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a former governor, not in the hands of an incumbent governor, or anybody else. Ask Governor Akinwunmi Ambode who has been thrown into the desert, and now weilds no power at all. A couple of days ago, amidst rumours that Ambode would be impeached, the Speaker of the Lagos House of Assembly, Mudashuri Obasa, said, in a condescending manner, that Ambode’s impeachment or non impeachment would depend on how he, (Ambode) behaves himself! But I digress.
I was talking about Shehu Sani & Co. So, it is not like Sani was unaware of his vulnerable situation. Of the two APC Kaduna Senators, and all the aggrieved Senators in N-APC, Sani was the most vocal in his criticism of both el-Rufai and the APC. He was the one giving updates on their likely exit from the APC. When the loquacious Adams Oshiomhole was endorsed as the APC National Chairman, and began reconciliatory moves, it was Sani who told Nigerians that the move was a little too late in the day to change their minds. Once, he said they would make their next move public within two weeks. At another time, he said it was a matter of days before they would leave the APC. He was the spokesperson so to say and, he never hid it. People were expectant.
But Sani was just talking. He never believed in what he was saying. He just led others on with his “hot” words and threats. It was a bark without a bite. When his colleague – APC Senator in Kaduna quit the party, Sani sat tight. When the others from the N-APC, including Senate President Bukola Saraki quit, Sani sat tight in the APC, and became a regular at the Villa. When the President invites APC NASS members to a meeting, Sani would be the star attraction. And, not a few people wondered.
If he didn’t want to leave, they asked, why was he the most vocal? Why was he the spokesperson? Why was he the face of the rebellion? Why was he leading others on? Truth is: Nobody, but Sani, knows what happened; or what promises the APC made to him; what assurances they gave him to stop him from walking the talk. What was known, however, is that El-Rufai was out to humiliate him out of the Senate.
To achieve that, the governor asked his Political Adviser, Uba Sani, to confront Shehu Sani for the Kaduna Central Senatorial ticket and backed him with all his gubernatorial might. But, it turned out that one of the promises the leadership of the APC made to Sani was an automatic ticket to the Senate. He was given, or so it seemed. And Sani relaxed. Big mistake. He didn’t factor in the El-Rufai power in the APC, especially, in the Villa. The guy weilds plenty of power. So, while the leadership of the APC gave Sani this automatic ticket, El-Rufai dismissed it as null and void. He pulled his weight, and pulled at strings, and soon, a date was set for the primary of Kaduna Central Senatorial district. Shehu Sani, flaunting an empty automatic ticket, refused to take part in the primary. And Uba Sani effortlessly won.
When Shehu Sani complained, and went to the APC Appeals Panel, the party calmed him down, and told him not to worry, that his name would be submitted to the INEC. Even the Appeal panel sustained his petition. But that was high-wired politics at its climax. They played him around. When INEC published the names of APC Senatorial candidates , Shehu Sani was missing. His name was never submitted. In his place, conspicuously displayed, was Uba Sani’s name. And they had a good laugh at Shehu Sani.
That was when it dawned on him that he has been out-smarted; that he has been used as a pawn in a game of chess; that activism is different from politics. That was when he resigned. When it was a little too late. And his former APC colleagues are laughing at him. They say he wanted to be clever by half; that he wanted to play the good boy. Unfortunately, there is no good boy in politics. It is a dangerous game of dog eats dog. It is a shark infested river. And it can be brutal, very brutal. Mercifully, none of them has publicly accused him of betrayal. They are diplomatically avoiding that word, betrayal. But they chuckle.
And I am sad for him. He has joined the PRP. I don’t know how much clout the PRP has in Kaduna Central. It touts itself as the party of the Talakwas – the common man, the down-trodden. But I bet El-Rufai would throw in everything to make him lose. How Shehu Sani thought that the APC would prefer him to El-Rufai, a sitting governor that controls a budget, controls the grassroot, that not a few people think has the ears of the President, is baffling. How Shehu Sani thought that the APC would forget a few of the things he had said about the President and the party, give him the ticket, and hurt El-Rufai in the process, is the height of naivity.
What the APC gave him is the Aisha Alhassan Treatment. As the Minister for Women Affairs, you remember, Alhassan had said he would support the Presidency of Atiku Abubakar instead of that of his boss, President Buhari, in 2019, if Atiku declared interest. She said she would quit and follow Atiku. Like Sani, Alhassan did not walk the talk when Atiku showed interest in the Presidency. She developed cold feet. Surprisingly, the President left her in his cabinet, and never said a word. He just bidded his time. And it presented itself when Alhassan said she wanted to contest for the Taraba Governorship seat under the APC. The President, patient old fellow, gave her his blessings. I don’t know if he had a good laugh behind her back. Perhaps.
But when Alhassan appeared before the screening committee, the rug was pulled from under her feet. She was disqualified, and dismissed as a disloyal party member, short of saying she is not to be trusted . She was humiliated. With no choice left, she quit from the President’s cabinet and resigned her membership of the APC. She found solace in one of those other parties with her loyalist. The President who gave her his blessings raised no finger. Instead, he quickly accepted her resignation letter from his cabinet. Good riddance to bad rubbish, he must have said to himself. But, hell hath no fury than a woman scorned, wrote William Shakespear. So, Alhassan sent her supporters to the Taraba APC headquarters which she used her money to furnish, and stripped the place bare. Not even the carpet was spared.
I don’t know what Shehu Sani would strip the Kaduna APC of. Truth, however, is that nobody is shedding a tear for him. The chorus, instead, from everywhere is: Serves him right. Next time, he will not lead others, and abandon them mid-way. That’s what they are saying. But I am reluctant to write him off. His greatest weapon is the people. He may just have the last laugh if he goes ahead to win the Kaduna Central Senatorial election in 2019 under the PRP. That will be the day