“It won’t work well for [Atiku]. Romancing with Chief Obasanjo would do more damage than good to him. That is my comment.”
Desmond Mgboh, Kano
Senator Rufai Hanga, a successful businessman and astute politician, was a former member of the Federal House of Representatives. He was also a former member of the Senate. He was also the former National Chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the political parties that midwifed the birth of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). At different times, he was a governorship aspirant in different parties in Kano State and presently, he has just decamped to the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), where he is set to lock horns with two former governors of Kano State, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau in landmark battle for the position of Kano Central Senatorial Zone. He spoke to Sunday Sun on his political odyssey and more and concluded that INEC as presently constituted lacked the capacity to deliver free, fair and credible election in 2019.
A few days back, you renounced your membership of the APC and moved on to the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP). What informed your position?
We moved out of the All Progressives Congress (APC) largely because of the atrocities within the party and also, we are answering the call of President Buhari that you should go and elect the right candidate. I left because of my experience. You know my people wanted me to contest for the seat of the Senate in Kano Central and then, I went to the governor, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje and asked him whether he has somebody in mind – because we have been doing things together – and he said no! He said that he had nobody in mind. He said that I was the most competent and the right person to go for the Senate and, therefore, I should go ahead. Now, suddenly the governor (Ganduje) came and told me that look, the Presidency and the national headquarters of the party have directed that the ticket be given to Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. He said that they had directed that he should be given an automatic ticket. In effect, he was asking me and others not to contest again. In fact, he did not call us to tell us. Rather, he asked somebody to tell us. That is one of the disregards, one of the disrespects and contempt that I suffered in his hand. He asked somebody to tell us that we should not even bother to buy the form for the race, that there is a directive from the Presidency and the headquarters of the party that Shekarau should be given an automatic ticket…the ticket should be given to Shekarau who was then decamping from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to our party. Now, when I spoke to my people regarding the message, they did not believe it. They felt that there was no way the Presidency could have made such an offer to Shekarau when there was nobody in this part of the country that had showered Buhari with abuses like Shekarau. That Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau used to claim to have known Buhari more than any other person. Well, I told them that I can’t fight the party and I can’t fight the government and if you insist on my contesting, at the end, they would not give me the ticket. Later on I discovered from the Presidency that it was a lie, and I personally went to the national headquarters of the party and they said that it was also a lie, that they did not give that directive to anybody. Interestingly, by the time I returned to Kano, Mallam Shekarau was already on the radio thanking us for withdrawing for him. I was told that Shekarau was on the radio thanking you, saying that you went to Abuja, you sat down together and withdrew for him. I said no, it was not true. So, I also went to the radio and said that it was all a lie. And with the multiple atrocities that the APC leadership and the government in Kano committed, the way and manner they handled the primary elections forced me to review my stand. I could not see my self going along with these people anymore. So, I went on radio to give them advice to correct some of these atrocities they did. I narrated many of them, starting from the party leadership to councilorship elections, to local government elections, chairmanship elections up to this election, I narrated them and asked them to please correct them because no human being, unless you are an animal, you can never take this kind of thing. They didn’t do any anything, they continued with their impunity and so, I decided to step aside. And my people said that after all, the president said that we should vote for the right people. Why must we waste our time with Shekarau and the others? Let us go to another party. After all since Buhari is the man and we know he is our man; let us go to another party and vote Buhari at the center; it is not only the APC that voted for Buhari. Other people in other parties also voted for him. That is why we decided to decamp with our comrades in the PPR because a lot of people from the PDP are in the PRP. A lot of people from the APC are in the PRP now, and even those that were not in party politics; when PRP re-emerged, they decided to come along. You are in Kano today and you know how strong the PRP is growing. It is actually growing by the day.
You just said that Buhari had asked you people to explore legal actions. Why didn’t you consider that before leaving the party?
If you were asked not to buy a form and you know that if you bought that form, you would waste your money because they would not let you to even contest…and if you see what is happening to others, what would you go to tell the court? That these people are committing atrocious, court please charge them! Charge them with what? Buhari is probably referring to those that actually contested.
You have had a relationship with the APC for some time now. How would you rate APC as a party under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole?
APC under Comrade Oshiomhole is a disaster. To me, it is simply disastrous. I am sorry to say this because right from the day when they announced him as a potential candidate for the chairmanship, I told some friends that this party is heading for the rocks. They asked me why and I said that Comrade Oshiomhole was not a groomed politician. He is a unionist. He is certainly a real Comrade, but he does not have the tact of a politician. He wants to impose things in certain ways that are not acceptable in politics and this is what has happened. Let me give you an example of this weakness. When Ganduje came and lied to us that he was asked to give Shekarau an automatic ticket, initially I accepted it. I even escorted them to submit Shekarau’s form to Oshiomhole’s office. We went together to submit the forms. Why I said Oshiomhole is not a politician. I was a member of the House of Representatives, I was a member of the Senate, and I was National Chairman of a party that really performed, I was part of Buhari’s legacy or empire. He should have, there and then, recognized me. If he were a politician he would have recognized me and that would have pacified me and even made me ashamed to even leave the party.
He dropped you and didn’t even recognize you?
No recognition! That is why I said that Oshiomhole is not a politician. If he were, he would have said a few kind words to me and that probably would have done the magic.
How do you assess the politics of Atiku and Buhari in Northern Nigeria? Objectively, do you see Northerners looking Atiku’s way in the coming elections?
I think Atiku would give Buhari a good fight in the North. I tell you this because I am a grassrooter and I know that he will. The only thing is that Atiku is not doing it the way I thought he should do it and Buhari’s people have woken up now. They were actually dosing before now, but they have awoken now and things are moving at double speed. I am being objective.
What are those things Atiku would have done which he is not doing the way you had thought?
No, no! I am not employed to be his consultant and so I would not say it.
We have recognized that Atiku would give Buhari a good fight, but what are the challenges that he would face?
Buhari is the challenge. Buhari has a name. Buhari has a strong stature and the people here believe in him and I think I am sorry to say… I am not condemning the way he (Atiku) is doing things, but I think that he is not seeing it the way he should see it. He is seeing it the way he is seeing it, but he is not seeing it the way he should see.
Are you recommending what?
I am not recommending anything because I am not in his party.
I have heard a number of people say that his appointment of Senator Kwankwaso as the Northwest Coordinator of his campaign is a minus, that Senator Kwankwaso certainly has his own bag of liabilities to discharge. What is your view?
That is a fact. I agree with this statement. He (Kwankwaso) has a bag of political liabilities. And I don’t think he can do anything for Atiku in the North. This is the truth.
Because he has bags of liabilities.
You know he is not the kind of person people think he is right now and he has made so many blunders. He is more of a unionist than a politician. The way he is behaving now. He has group and not everybody wants to believe in that Movement, Kwankwassiyya Movement. If he had come out to be a politician, I think his followers would have been more than what they are now. And I have spoken with some people from Katsina, who told me that they were with Kwankwaso because they thought the man was this and that, but they see things differently now, I don’t have to say all that. That is why I say that I don’t think he is the right person to do what some people think he would do in the North West. People blow him beyond …he is over-hyped by those that are not from this side of the country.
Are you saying that the way he is seen outside the Northwest is far bigger than his political worth?
That is why I said that he is over-hyped.
One issue that President Buhari pledged to Nigerians before his election was to stop insecurity and to check the wave of corruption in the land. How would you rate him on these issues three and half years after he assumed office?
Though I am not a security expert, I would say that he has done his best. I live in this area, this area where we are now (Kano) and you are from Kano and your Church is just behind my compound. I am a neighbor to your Church (St Louis Catholic Church). It was not easy for you to go Church then. During the other regime, there was a day I came out to find 14 corpses outside my house. There was a time I had to lock up my house as early as 4 O’clock in the morning because there were gunmen shooting anybody they see here. This is very terrible. They killed policemen, they killed people, and they killed my people in front of my house. That happened the other time. It does not happen anymore. I am sure you go to your Church freely now. You are more comfortable going out to your friends and relatives that you relate with. I am more comfortable relating with them now than then. This is my answer to the security situation in the country. You should know whether it is better now than then. To me, it is better now.
What about corruption?
It is endemic, it is all over. A lot of corruption is going on and everybody confesses to that. Even yesterday, I saw one of the closest people to the government confessing to the fact that there is corruption now in Nigeria. There is corruption all over. But you see the mistake people are making is that they are always abusing politicians, saying politicians are corrupt. But I think the corrupt people are the civil servants. The most corrupt people are the civil servants. Nearly a third of Abuja is owned by civil servants – directors, deputy directors, assistant directors, permanent secretaries. I have a group of friends and we are making assessment and we are gathering data and so on.
Doesn’t it worry you that sometimes very close allies of the government are accused of corruption and yet somehow, the president is silent; not all the accusations have attracted his reaction. What is your take?
I think Buhari over believes in things, that when there is a system, he wants the system to work out itself. For example, we have the EFCC. They should do their jobs and he would not want to say anything about it. The ICPC is there, they should do their job. He is the kind of person who once he gives you a responsibility, he always gives you an authority. That is his nature. Once he does that, he relaxes and watches things happen. That is why some people are abusing the thing.
President Buhari has been making efforts to win the hearts of the Southeast a few years after he had treated them less than they deserved. How do you see this overture?
You see as a politician, either the Southeast is not sincere with Buhari or the Southwest is not sincere with Buhari because the two, I am afraid, can never go the same way. They are intelligent in what they are doing and I am sure that one of them is playing games. That is my belief.
Play games with Buhari or Buhari is playing games with them?
No, no! Buhari doesn’t play games. Buhari is innocent. What he believes is what he believes in. He doesn’t look back. What he believes is what he believes. He is innocent.
What I am saying is that he has suddenly began to love the Southeast because he wants their votes or he is afraid that Atiku would sweep the polls in the region? What maybe the motivation?
As a politician aspiring to clinch power, to go back to his seat, if I were him I would do the same. He is doing his best to make sure he gets the Southeast because he knows that Atiku is very strong there. Certainly, if he relaxes and say Atiku carry go, Atiku would go to Southeast, he would go to Southwest and if he continues like that, he (Buhari) would end up having nothing.
You were a key member of the APC and fought against Jonathan in his transition hours. How would you assess some of his claims in his recent publication, entitled My Transition Hours?
Anyway, like Buhari I have high respect for former President Goodluck Jonathan. Even Buhari said that he has high respect for him. He was well behaved. The way he behaved was very presidential. He is a statesman in what he did. But I have not read the book, I saw some quotes. And some of the quotes that I saw I have no quarrel with them. But I heard some people talking against other things in the book that I have not seen or read anyway. This is what I will say. I respect Jonathan because of what he did. He behaved like a statesman, he behaved very presidential and he set a record for Africa and Africans because I think that he is among the very few Africans that have behaved the way he did. It is only Mandela and him that have really proved to be statesmen; you know somebody losing an election when he would have clung on to it and nothing would happen. He gave up. That is very presidential. That is statesmanship.
How do you rate PRP in Kano State? What is the selling point of this new baby?
The selling point is its ideology. I believe its ideology is its selling point and the party has come at the best of time when all the two leading political parties have lost the confidence of Nigerians. They have proved themselves not worthy of being emulated, not worthy of being called parties. APC and PDP in Kano are goners as far as I am concerned. The ideology of PRP is what we are clinching to – equal rights, recognition of the peoples efforts, allowing people to have their ways and not the ways of the leaders and those that are in power.
Don’t you think that PRP would go the way of the others? APC took off with the same kind of promise, but along the line, it lost it. Quickly related to this question is the issue of finance. Everybody feels the moneybags are not yet in the party. How are you going to succeed against an incumbent governor?
You see, if votes were being bought, then PRP would not go anywhere. I don’t believe we are going to buy votes anyway. If it is money that drives politics in Kano State, defunct ANPP would not have won the elections then. If it was money, APC too would not have won elections in Kano because we had no money in APC and most of the candidates came from nowhere with nothing and yet we won elections in the state. During my contest years ago in APC we had no money, yet we won. And APC was all over then. PDP was the incumbent in the state and there was not a single seat in ANPP, but we won all the seats then. That is the nature of Kano politics. People are tired of this system and let me tell you, the atrocities committed by PDP then is nothing compared to what has happened now in APC. So that is why I believe that money or no money, people are tired; money or no money people would change; money or no money, people would vote for the PRP in Kano.
Three proxy actors are at war in Kano. They are the faces of the late Mallam Aminu Kano, Buhari and Kwankwaso. They are the poster faces of different candidates. How do you assess their individual level of influence on electoral outcome come 2019?
Kwankwaso cannot influence anybody. I am telling you this because even Kwankwso’s people are not happy with him. There are some strong Kwankwaso’s lieutenants that had been with him all along, that went to jail or were incarcerated because of their belief in Kwankwaso. They did everything for the Movement, but at the end of the day, he came and anointed his son-in-law for the governorship race. Not only did he anoint him, he also made some remarks that seriously derogated them, that they were not competent. He said that the guy was more competent and they are not happy. Not only them, the people around are suspicious of his intention – there is a feeling that he anointed this boy because he wants to use him, he wants to rule by proxy and that is going deep, deep into the mindset of many people. And that is why I said that Kwankwaso may not have any significant influence on the voters of Kano. What Aminu Kano did in Kano would never be forgotten by the people of Kano. Aminu Kano was never a governor or a president, but Aminu Kano was the reason that nobody’s son is somebody today, why nobody’s son became somebody. That is why Aminu Kano is still revered in the state. The people are still praying for him. And Buhari too, it is not only in Kano, but all over the country, Buhari is influential because of his integrity and so on, the people want to identify with him. People are identifying with him. But Kwankwaso! Who would want to identify with him? He contested for the presidency twice. He has no history of inheritance – whether his dad or somewhere he inherited money. He came from nowhere and no Kobo and became a governor and contested for presidency. Where did he get the money? Who gave him the money? So people know that and people are talking about that.
Alhaji Atiku has been repeatedly advised to be wary of Chief Obasanjo. They say their present romance may not be of any good. What is your take?
I totally agree with them on this. It won’t work well for him. Romancing with Chief Obasanjo would do more damage than good to him. That is my comment.
What may have informed your thought on this?
Well, in this part of the country, they know Obasanjo too well, they believe that he is one of those that had done damage to the North, that he is one of the people that have seriously injured us and anybody that is related to him, naturally the people might go against such a politician.