Senator Kabiru Marafa is the chairman of the Senate Committee on Petroleum Resources (Downstream). He represents Zamfara Central in the Senate. In this exclusive interview by FRED ITUA in Abuja, the lawmaker came hard on the chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Adams Oshiomhole and accused him of masterminding the crisis in the party. He also spoke on his fight with his state governor, Abdulaziz Yari and President of the Senate Bukola Saraki. He equally opened up on the insecurity in Zamfara, among other issues. However, Oshiomhole speaking through his media aide, Simon Ebegbulem declined to respond, saying there was no need for that, stressing that they would speak after the publication if the need arises.
You’re on your way out of the Senate. What would you consider as your highest and lowest moments?
By nature, I run my life on the basis of checks and balances. I don’t know what to call my high and low moment. For me, the cherished moment happened in this outgoing Senate. I don’t want to classify one moment as being more important than another. The eight years have counted for me here.
Since you didn’t get the governorship seat you wanted, what’s next for you after your time here?
Life is dynamic. They say man proposes and God does otherwise. My proposition (governorship ambition) wasn’t in tandem with what God wanted for me. I wanted to be the governor of my state, but that didn’t work out. But at the moment, I am preparing for retirement and I am looking forward to it. I am prepared for any eventuality that will happen after my time here.
Political actors consider your face off with your state governor as a personal fight. At what point did you fall out with him?
We have been good friends. It was a marriage of convenience between the two of us. We don’t share the same political ideology. We don’t see things from the same perspective. However, circumstances brought the two of us to work together in 2011. I have a guiding principle in life. If I have an agreement with somebody, I always respect it. In 2011, certain conditions forced them to look for me and also forced me to look for them. We agreed that time to abide by what we had. That agreement was that we will work within our sphere of influence. We worked well together in the first four years until 2015. After that, things started taking different dimensions. There is nothing personal about our fight.
We disagree fundamentally about his style of governance as it relates to insecurity in the state. This problem started in 2011. The way and manner things were handled caused the problem. I was of the view that the issues should be brought to national level. For me, it was not a sign of failure on the part of the governor, but he viewed it from that perspective. The issues are so grave and weighty and I know that the state government can’t handle it.
As a representative of the people, I can’t wait here and not talk about it. But the governor felt insulted. I am first and foremost responsible to my God. How can I sit down and watch my colleagues talk about the problems of their people and my people are being killed and I won’t talk about it. I can’t blame the federal government if I don’t bring the issue here first to seek for a solution. But the state governor started taking it personal and political too. He felt I was stripping him naked in the market place.
Some of the boys of the state governor were not comfortable with my approach and the state chapter of APC had to invite me. It turned out that they got their fingers burnt. Everybody saw reasons with me. That was why the state rallied round me and insisted that I was doing the right thing. This was the beginning of our fight.
After that, the congress of the party, APC in the state came. That was the final straw that broke the camel’s back. What people don’t know about me is that, I don’t look for trouble. It’s against my religion, but when you bring trouble to my doorstep, I will never turn back or run away from it. I will face it frontally and do the needful. Even if you kill me, let it be so. When all these things were happening, words were traded to such an extent that one of the aides to the governor said they will retire me politically.
When the time for congresses came, the governor deviated from the guidelines of the party. That was when I knew something was happening. Whether you like me or not, I am a stakeholder in this issue. I am a senator. He appointed a 7-man committee and the chairman happened to be my main enemy. The same person became my enemy because of the governor. It was obvious that he was ready for trouble. The second issue was that, I was not informed about the formation of the committee. That was the beginning of our open confrontation.
While these issues lasted, did the party or President Buhari intervene?
The President is not a lawbreaker and he guides his rights jealously. By nature, he doesn’t dabble into people’s rights. The President saw it as a party issue. He always directed the party to intervene. Whenever I complained, he referred it to the party chairman. I was okay with that. The President didn’t stop me from fighting for my rights.
People have alleged that illegal miners in your state, Zamfara are behind the killings and banditry. As a stakeholder from the state, do you hold that view?
I can’t say. I can’t pass a judgment until I have all the facts. I am not a security person. I can only talk as a citizen. But there are some issues that will make you believe in some things you hear about the big players in the mining industry. To start with, this issue of insecurity is a business. I have said it before. It’s about poverty. They kidnap to collect money. It is a collapse of everything in the north. There is nothing happening there.
Then, there is another category of people or bandits who just go to villages and kill hundreds of people for no reason and without collecting anything. In the midst of that, you now see some people carrying out mining activities in these same villages where people are being killed. These miners, some of who are expatriates, live in these villages. They have clean water and not for one day have they been kidnapped. People are now asking why the miners have never been kidnapped or killed. Not even one person has been killed in the bush.
Then they compare it with what is happening in Congo and in other places where people mine. People started thinking that there was a grand design to chase away natives to allow them mine unhindered. Others said they want to keep the villagers busy so they can do their business. These are some of the things linked to the activities of mining. You can’t completely ignore the nexus between these allegations and the things happening on ground.
At the beginning of the Eight Senate, you were one of those opposed to the emergence of Bukola Saraki as President of the Senate. Suddenly, you switched camp and everything fizzled out. What happened?
For the last time, let me respond to the issue. One, the fight between me and Saraki was never personal. Throughout the Seventh Assembly, Saraki and I enjoyed the best of relationships. I want that to be noted. What happened that time was because of my loyalty to APC, which is treating me unfairly now. I am wiser now. I fought Saraki because of my obedience to my party.
Before we came to the Eight Assembly, there was a common resolve between senators from Zamfara, Sokoto and Kebbi. There was a resolve that we were going to support Saraki to emerge as President of the Senate. I was even his coordinator. Suddenly, there was an instruction from the party that this should be the direction. Whether we like it or not, the party is supposed to be supreme. The party is the platform upon which we came here. As soon as the instruction came, I met with Saraki that the party has asked us to support Lawan. I brought him and Lawan to the same room. Anyway, that’s history.
I don’t know the noise about me getting a juicy committee. Beside, first time senators got very good committees. Are people saying that I shouldn’t have gotten a good committee because I was supporting my party? I came here to represent people. This was what happened. When the party intervened, Saraki was asked to give some positions to us. He declined and the fight escalated. Later, there was a ceasefire. Lawan was made Leader and four of us got good committees. Do people want me to be fighting like a dog? I have to have a reason to fight. Even enemies settle. After all the fight, see what the party is doing to us. The party chairman is taking sides.
We are seeing a repeat of what happened in 2015. If APC doesn’t put its house in order, do you see a repeat of what happened then when the PDP decided who emerged?
I said I don’t like looking for trouble. I am not a returning senator. I wish the National Assembly well and want them to wax stronger. I can’t wish the National Assembly evil. I am not a member.
Even at that, do you foresee any possible crisis?
There is a serious problem and it was caused by the party. This is the truth. If Adams Oshiomhole continues to run APC like a labour union, these issues will continue. You don’t treat a Parliament like that. There is one thing parliamentarians are known for all over the world and that is independence. You don’t gather lawmakers about 90 days to election of presiding officers and tell them who to vote for. You don’t do that. It’s wrong. I wish them well. We are talking to our colleagues.
We should be wiser. We have had this experience before. We knew what it took from us. We lost the position of the Deputy President of the Senate. We lost good committees because of this crisis. The returning senators are in agreement. The party needs to put its house in order. There is a difference between 2015 and now. In 2015, we benefited nothing after the fight. We lost everything. We spent a lot of money then. I believe there are people in the party who are not labour leaders who will reason well. You don’t treat lawmakers the way Oshiomhole has done.