By Dirisu Yakubu
As bigwigs of the ruling All Progresives Congress, APC, intensify consultations in their quest to lead the party preparatory to the 2023 general elections; counsels are rife on the need to tread the path of caution.
Squaring up yet again against the main opposition, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, without Muhammadu Buhari on the ballot underscores the significance of carefully settling for a leader whose work ethic, competence and experience have been tested over time.
For the lawmaker representing Niger East in the 9th Senate, Senator Sani Musa; leading the APC to war in 2023 is neither a task for weather-beaten politicians nor a job for political greenhorns. In a parley with newsmen recently, Musa advanced reasons for jumping in the ring this way: “I want to bring a new vision, a new direction in the running of the APC so as to build the most acceptable platform that will continue to foster democratic tenets for constructive development and governance.”
For political pundits, that brief but illuminating vision statement gives the lawmaker away as a political strategist whose eyes are fixed on the horizon, beyond the sprint to the 2023 elections.
Up against A-lister politicians and former governors like Ali Modu Sheriff (Borno), Kashim Shettima (Borno) Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Abdullahi Adamu (Nasarawa) among others, Senator Musa didn’t just jump into the fray but took out time to consult with relevant stakeholders and leaders of the party.
“I have the backing of relevant stakeholders in the state (Niger). I have the support of majority of the members of National Assembly, especially the Senators and many APC governors. With their support, I will emerge the next national chairman of the APC,” he said.
A few years ago, Musa got more than he bargained for when he arrow-headed a bill to sanitize the social media space of hate, bile and outright falsehood. Tagged “The Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill 2019,” the ace lawmaker had argued that the internet must and should be leveraged upon to advance the cause of the society. Shrinking the world into a hamlet, the internet, Senator posited, must not become a platform to amplify the nation’s religious differences, a fault line that has done more harm than good.
His words: “One of the disadvantages of the internet is the spread of falsehood and manipulation of unsuspecting users. Today, motivated by geo-political interest and identity politics, state and non-state actors use the internet to discredit government, misinform people and turn one group against the other.”
Driving home the crux of his argument, the Senator reminded Nigerians to pause for a second and reflect on the lessons from the needless falsehood peddled about the person of President Muhammadu Buhari at the height of his ailment a few years ago.
“The hoax about the demise of President Muhammadu Buhari in London and his purported replacement by one Jubril from Sudan, among others, are things that threaten the peace, security and harmony of our people,” he stressed.
Only recently, Musa was voted Senator of the Year by the Politics Today, a frontline online news tabloid. The newspaper settled for Senator Musa after the lawmaker beat five other nominees to the top prize in a highly competitive poll.
According to the publisher, Mallam Nasir Dambatta, Musa, aside his integrity and vibrancy as a grassroots politician, has sponsored 26 bills in the red chamber, the highest among the 109 lawmakers in the 9th Senate, hence the award of “Senator of the Year.”
Receiving the award, the lawmaker said recent events in the country have vindicated his call for the regulation of social media in the country. Appreciating the organisers of the event for the honour, Senator Musa said he was encouraged by the award to continue to pursue his convictions which include the conclusive legislation on social media regulation in the country, people’s empowerment, women and youth inclusiveness in the governance architecture of the country as well as job creation.
His words: “I dedicate the award to my constituency. They discovered me and sent me here. If not for them, I won’t be here doing my best and contributing my quota in terms of lawmaking to the good governance and betterment of our dear nation.
“In his speech, the publisher mentioned integrity as one of the reasons I’m being honoured today. I appreciate the fact that some people are sincerely watching us and taking notes of our efforts and the patriotism and sound principles that govern our activities on the floor of the Senate. This is because money can’t give integrity. It is my words and deeds that earned me this award and I’m grateful.
“The murky nature of our politics has made people to lose confidence in it. But I’m not losing confidence in the fact that I’m in the right place and our country is in safe hands under this administration. Our country has all it takes to be far greater than this. We have the resources, the people and the brains. We in government are doing our best. But our best appears not to be enough sometimes. But we will get there.
“This is a shared responsibility. We need the Press to do better for the country to be greater than this. The Press cannot blame us alone for what is happening now because they are the 4th Estate of the realm. When we suggested the regulation of social media, the mainstream media didn’t support us. But from the events of EndSARS up to the ongoing crises across the country, are we not vindicated?
He continued: “I still stand on my social media regulation bill as the best thing for Nigeria at the moment if we must manage our unity in diversity, and live in peace with one another. If we continue to leave the social media like this, to operate without any check or regulation, the country may go up in flames.
“Look at the EndSARS. The social media was used to mobilize people to join the destruction. I spend all my time on social media and I know what goes on there some of which are positive. But the negative things can set the country on fire if we don’t regulate it. Like what they do in Dubai and other organized societies, we can regulate the social media in such a way that if you post bad, false, toxic or unhealthy contents, you either receive a warning to remove it or you are made to remove it or it is removed by a regulatory authority.
“The social media regulation bill that was rejected, is it not being practiced now with the solid agreement the Federal Government got from Twitter after the ban? Twitter will now have an office here, pay tax and submit itself to the grand norm here. That is the beginning of social media regulation that we proposed. We are getting there gradually,” he said.
According to the proposed bill, for individuals who post false information on the internet, the “penalty for defaulters goes up to N300,000 for individuals and up to N10 million for corporate organisations and imprisonment of up to three years, or both.”
Not one to keep sealed lips in moments of crisis, Sani has since put President Buhari on the spot, reminding him of the imperative of ridding the country of banditry and terrorism, even as he aligned his voice with his colleagues at the Senate that designating killers in the land as terrorists would fast track military onslaught against them, thus quickening the process of bringing to end the more decade-old violent campaign.
“Unless and until we tag these criminals as terrorists, our security agencies will not have the unfettered power to treat them the way they should be treated,” he added.
The race to the national chairmanship of the ruling party pitches veteran politicians against one another but Sani argues that fresh political oil is what the APC needs to lubricate its engine preparatory for the big test. His blueprint of running a self-sustaining party capable of picking its bill without resort to go begging, cap in hand, has reportedly won the hearts of party stakeholders including a good number of serving governors, ex-governors, Ministers and heads of government agencies, many of whom, have since endorsed his aspiration.
As it were, the party would so well to scale down the number of hurdles in the race to 2023 by ensuring that those with pending cases before the anti-graft commissions are excused out of its chairmanship seat, at least for now.
•Yakubu, a political analyst, writes from Kaduna