The senator representing Kaduna Central in the National Assembly, Shehu Sani, has taken a swipe at the immediate past leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) led by Chief John Odigie-Oyegun.
Sani, who spoke with AIDOGHIE PAULINUS in Abuja, said Oyegun’s leadership was a transactional one that simply wanted to appease everybody and, at the end of the day, ended up displeasing everybody.
But the former party chairman countered, describing the lawmaker as an attention seeker. Oyegun said Sani’s position on his leadership of the APC were comments of a politician struggling for political survival.
“But it is important that we all realise that the challenges today, the target today, the job facing all of us is to get our president re-elected; and to get as many of our people standing for office as possible elected,” a feat which Sani also acknowledged in the first question posed to him. This is not a time for history, this is not a time for people whose political lifelines are virtually being held together by very fragile threat or who need controversy as political oxygen to constantly establish their relevance; it is no time for people like that to be drawing unnecessary hearing around the political environment.
“Let us concentrate on the job at hand and that is building on to get our president re-elected. So, I will refuse to be drawn into a controversy of this nature. Of course, the man involved is used to making outrageous statements and he has done this on virtually anybody who is anything in the current political environment,” Oyegun said.
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Oyegun further advised Sani to focus on his own case and concentrate on his survival in Kaduna State. “He should go on his own case and concentrate on his survival in Kaduna. Full stop,” Oyegun added.
Below is an excerpt of the interview with Sani.
Going by the crisis in the Kaduna State chapter of the APC, why is it difficult for you and Governor Nasir el-Rufai, to reconcile?
Well, as far as I am concerned, the interest and focus of every responsible member of the party, the APC, is to garner forces, energy and attention towards winning the 2019 general elections. This is not the best of times for internal fighting, this is not the best of time for squabbles, this is not the best of time to amplify the internal crisis, but it is the best of time for all forces of the APC to come together and win the next general elections. And that is my own focus now. I am not bothered by anybody who has any issue with me.
So, there is no hope for reconciliation?
As far as I am concerned, with reconciliation or no reconciliation, what is before us is a threat that if we don’t work together, if we don’t unite our forces, if we don’t stand as one, we may end up being consumed by a bigger force.
Where is the threat coming from? Is it from President Buhari?
Well, it is not a threat from Buhari. We have an opposition party in our state that is united, that is gathering forces, and that is working towards convincing our people that they are a better alternative. So, if you have a united opposition party and a factionalised and a fractured ruling party, then you should know that the bigger threat is the opposition and not the problems you have internally. And if we don’t put our house in order, we will end up paying a dear price for it.
Are you scared of the opposition?
I can never be scared of the opposition because I know that we have the support of our people; but the weak point of it is that if we don’t get our acts right and put our house in order, then we will pay a price for that.
Have you dropped your governorship ambition?
I am now contesting for the Senate and I have bought forms, and I filled my forms and I also submitted my forms. And I am not like those aspirants who buy two forms – a governorship and a senatorial; or presidential and a governorship. So, I only have one form which I filled and I submitted and I already made my intention very known to the president and to the chairman of the party and all the organs of the party that I am contesting for the Senate.
Why did you drop your governorship ambition because there were reports that the president was already backing you?
Well, I don’t know about that report. But I know that the president is on my side as far as my aspiration for the Senate is concerned.
What magic did you use in quashing your earlier suspension by Kaduna APC?
I don’t know the magic. They issued an illegal suspension and they withdrew it and they invited me. So, as far as I am concerned, that issue, I am done with it. I think whatever we do, if we make the constitution of the party our guiding principle and a compass, we will not have issues. But if some people are trying to use their own ego or their own pride or their own position in the party to oppress or to emasculate others, all you will do is simply destroy the goodwill of the party and undermine its support base. I live with my people and I represent my people.
The new leadership of the APC, people say, is courting more trouble for the party. As someone people believe always calls a spade a spade, what is your take on this?
The new leadership of the party is the best for the party. He is not courting trouble; he is confronting a trouble, which he met. Adams Oshiomhole is the best chairman for the party at this material moment. The party has been destroyed, undermined, subverted by the leadership which he inherited.
The last leadership was not interested in addressing the problems of the party and giving it a new focus in making it a party that is viable and that is truly progressive. The last leadership we had was a transactional leadership, one that simply wants to appease everybody and at the end of the day, end up displeasing everybody. It was weak and it was virtually not in tandem with the spirit and principles of President Muhammadu Buhari.
The crisis in the APC today, which has led to defection was a direct consequence of the failure of leadership of those whom Adams inherited. Adams is the best chairman of the party. If it is not Adams as chairman of the party, you could not have met me in the APC by this very time.
Are you saying this because he quashed your suspension?
Not at all! I have never been suspended. But I have said it very well that any executive of the party can pick a letterhead and write a suspension and give it to the media to publish. But all you need to do is to look at the constitution of the party whether that was what the party says you should do or not. But what I am confident about is that by his experience as a unionist and one who has been a two-term governor, I believe he is one who fears nobody and whose focus is the future of the party and repositioning it to win the 2019 elections.
As an activist with landmark achievements during the struggle for democracy, people were taken aback recently when you chickened out of the planned defection by the Saraki-led senators in the Senate. Don’t you think your position was an act of cowardice?
Well, I was among those who revolted against the party and we had to revolt because the party persecuted us. And the party marginalised us; the party made us lose interest in it. But now, the new leadership came with Adams Oshiomhole and he gave us all the assurances that things will change. So, that was one issue that led to my stay back. And the second issue was that there was intervention by people like Balarabe Musa, Adams Oshiomhole, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Femi Falana and the president himself which I respected and made me to stay back. The third issue is that those that we wanted to defect out of the APC, told me that they were going home and that home was PDP and it was never my home. So, I couldn’t go to the PDP because it wasn’t a home to me. That was the issue.