Kaduna Senator Uba Sani: Conduct elections today, ‘APC will win hands down’

Channels TV Interview: Distinguished Senator Uba Sani Kaduna Central Senatorial District and Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, Programme: Political Paradigm Media Organisation: Channels Television Host: Terry Ikumi. He spoke on his accomplishments as a Senator in spite of being a first timer and his commitment to the service of Nigerians and his constituents. The unprecedented difference Mallam Nasir El- Rufai, Governor of Kaduna State, has made under 7 years, unlike the Peoples Democratic Party,that had nothing to show for the 16 years, it held sway.

Host: Distinguished Senator, it’s a pleasure having you on this programme.

 Guest: Thank you for having me. 

Question: You have been in politics, since 1999, clearly at an early age. Talk to us about your early political life,from your appointment as Special Adviser to former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

 Answer: Thank you Terry.  I was a civil rights activist for many years. Myself and my colleagues fought for the enthronement of democracy in Nigeria. I was the Deputy National Chairman of the Campaign for Democracy, headed by the late Dr. Bell Ransome Kuti, of blessed memory. We eventually decided to come together and form a single coalition of all opposition groups, which was headed by Chief Gani Fawehimi. It was known as the Joint Action Commission of Nigeria (JACON).  I was the Deputy Chairman North.  

Question: Not many people remember that you were once a member of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP)? 

Answer: I was because I worked closely with Obasanjo. I wasn’t only a member of Obasanjo’s government but I was one of the most influential members of that government. Obasanjo is a man of unquestionable patriotism and a very good leader. We all decided to stay and work closely with him. Because of him I was encouraged to remain in PDP. He is a very wonderful leader, one of the best leaders we have produced. However,  due to disagreements over the direction of the regime we were compelled to leave the party after Obasanjo left to put together a vehicle through which we can actualise our convictions about democracy and governance. Very critical was entrenching democracy.

Question: You speak so highly of former, President Olusegun Obasanjo. What do you make of the communication between him and President Muhammadu Buhari? He has written quite a number of letters to the President, some condemning and some advising. And the Presidency practically dismissed some of those letters …if not all. Do you think he’s justified writing those letters? The Buhari administration also questioned his handling of the Power sector…. 

Answer: Like I earlier mentioned, you can’t question Obasanjo’s patriotism or his detribalised nature. A country like Nigeria, needs that kind of leader, a leader who sees everyone as one. He doesn’t care about your origin….it’s immaterial to him. I know President Obasanjo, he is someone who doesn’t hide his feelings. He loves Nigeria and believes in one Nigeria. This explains why he clearly states his position on any issue; so for me, it doesn’t really matter whether most of his suggestions are considered or not. The fact remains that Nigerians appreciate him and his ability to speak up on national issues.
 By 2007,when Obasanjo left after his tenure, the economy was on a sound footing. Under his leadership Nigeria paid off its debt and he got some written off by some major countries of the world. He assembled a knowledgeable team that has been acknowledged as one of the best economic team in the history of this country.He meant well. For instance he waged a relentless war against corruption. He gave Nuhu Ribadu the free hand he needed to operate.

Question: You are full of praises for his handling of the economy. Today the economy is not doing well. We have double digit inflation, and we have the Naira falling rapidly. Where did we get it wrong? 

Answer: I think the successive government that came after Obasanjo did not really build on his gains, that was the mistake. The simple thing to do was to build on the progress of the Obasanjo administration. When you look at what he did in terms of economic achievement, they should have built on that. It was during his time, we thought of something that had to be done about the excess crude account. The economy was very sound, we had excess crude account which was kept for the rainy day but the successive government squandered everything believing that things will continue to be the way it is. 

Question: Which government are you referring to? 

Answer: You may have to go back and do your research; when you do so you will understand that was what really happened. 

Question: But if we don’t know where the problem went wrong, how do we know how to correct it? Is it from the Goodluck administration or the Yaradua’a administration, or is this from the Buhari administration? 

Answer: We can’t blame just one government but my position is clear, they should have built on Obasanjo’s achievements. We wouldn’t have been where we are today, certainly that was where the problem started. 

Question: Alright very well, let’s talk about you now as a first time senator, and your tenure is almost running out. You contested for the Senate first in 2011 and you lost. You didn’t contest in 2015 and in 2019, you contested and won. Why didn’t you contest in 2015, because the opportunity was there?

Answer: In 2015 for me, the important thing was to support Mallam Nasir El-rufai to win the Governorship election in Kaduna state. We are in the same team, and we unanimously agreed that El-rufai should go for it, because he was the most qualified. We all know his capacity….we all remember what he did in the FCT(Federal Capital Territory). We wanted him to go to Kaduna State and replicate what he did in the FCT and of course we know he was the best person to do that job, so we all decided to shelf our ambitions to support him and I am happy today that was achieved because Governor El-rufai, whether we like it or not, what he has achieved in Kaduna state is unprecedented in terms of infrastructural development. 

Question: Can we talk in details about his administration, what he has done or not done. Clearly, you have a close relationship with the Governor, which is why I am asking you this question. In the public space the rumor is that you are the anointed candidate of governor El-Rufai. Are you? 

Answer: No! the answer is straight forward. This is just a creation of some people. The fact remains that El-Rufai is a democrat, we are all democrats, even from my own history it should be obvious that I am a democrat. The idea of El -Rufai anointing anyone does not even arise. Like you know, I chair a critical committee on the Senate, therefore I am focused on the job at hand. 

Question: Let’s put it this way, you deny being the anointed candidate of the governor. But do you have a governorship ambition? 

Answer: I have explained why I didn’t contest during the election in 2015. For me when we get to the bridge we will cross it. The people of Kaduna are highly knowledgeable and politically sophisticated…the 2023 elections, would be based on those issues. So my main preoccupation is service delivery to my constituents,they want to see my report card.
That is why I am very happy with what I have achieved as their senator. I am not boasting, but no senator of the Kaduna Central Senatorial District since 1999 has accomplished what I have been able to do…not even ten percent of what I have done.As of today, I am the only senator in Nigeria whose bills have been assented to by Mr. President, two bills, not one and they have become laws. I look at my record with some satisfaction. Considering the record since 1999, none of them was able to sponsor a single bill, not to even mention it being passed and assented to by the President. I was shocked by that record and I kept asking myself, what were they doing? Kaduna state is a very important state in this country, we are the capital of northern Nigeria, we are cosmopolitan, with many educated people…I have changed that story. 

Question: There were doubts about your capacity, your lack of experience being a first timer but in spite of that, you have achieved so much…The APC lost the local government council elections, including the Governor’s ward. The Governor attributed this to the unpopular candidate that was forced on the party. Is this not a sign of the people being disenchanted with the All Progressives Congress? 

Answer: After the local government election, I met two Governors…sitting Governors, I won’t mention their names. They expressed their profound admiration and respect for Governor El-Rufai, for being a democrat. In every other state in this country, whether it’s a PDP or APC state, I can tell without any fear of contradiction, that the governors write local government election results ….they don’t lose. So the opposition have learnt not to waste their time contesting the local government elections. In Kaduna state, because El – Rufai is a confirmed democrat, a man who believes in justice and in the rule of law …the opposition joyfully contest, because they know if they win, it won’t be snatched from them. Before the election, the governor met with elected members of the national assembly and party leaders, and clearly told us that he would not interfere in the election. He insisted on a free and fair election. Of course some people disagreed with him, especially those that have been in politics since 1999, they wanted him to do exactly what other states are doing. They said that’s the tradition. They couldn’t understand why El – Rufai would want to change the rules. But El-Rufai made it clear that we can’t continue in the old ways.
Again to avoid any rigging, El-Rufai, introduced electronic voting machines in Kaduna state, so that nobody can rig the election. It was a conscious decision that he took in 2018 and it has kept improving.
So if we wanted to write the results like other states, we won’t be talking about PDP winning some few wards. For us it is okay that we lost, and we have no problem with our governor being an advocate of the supremacy of the will of the people. 

Question: The governor’s position is commendable and he has received commendation for doing what is right, for organising a free and fair election and not interfering. So if there is a free and fair election, the PDP might stand a chance, because it seems the APC is falling out off favour with the people.

Answer: I don’t know where you’re getting your impression that APC is losing out. We don’t have any problem with the people. In fact if the election is conducted today, the APC will win it hands down. Some people must have been misinforming you…those not resident in the state.El-Rufai’s achievements in infrastructure, health-care development and education are not debatable. Nasir El-Rufai has done more than any other governor in the history of Kaduna state, indeed of the Northern Nigeria. I stand to be challenged and I can prove it any day, any time with facts. We have 255 political wards in Kaduna state and in each of them, he rehabilitated and redeveloped the Primary Health-Care center. I will take you round Kaduna state to see real development by El- Rufai. They were also adequately equipped and staffed. We have taken healthcare to the people at the grassroots.
In some of the 23 local governments he built secondary health-care centers…..overall El- Rufai has an impressive record in the health sector. In 2015 Kaduna state had only 150 medical doctors in our public hospitals, today we have 406 medical doctors in our hospitals, I mean in the public hospitals not in the private clinics.
Kaduna State has free healthcare for women and children , from birth to seven years.
In 2015, the enrollment in our public primary schools was 1.2 million, today the enrollment has doubled to about 2.4 million pupils. You know why? Because he abolished all the levies and fees. When ElRufai came, the previous government was collecting about N3.7 billion from parents,with nothing to show for it. Some people have criticized El-Rufai for retrenching teachers, maybe because they didn’t have the facts that 21,750 teachers failed the competency test. They were rightly retrenched and more competent 25,000 teachers were employed. 

Question: The concern of many people, is that there was no compensation for them. 

Answer: The Kaduna state government isn’t callous. Have you heard of KADSTEP (Kaduna State Entrepreneurship Program) ? It’s an entrepreneurship programme that the Kaduna state government initiated, and the disengaged teachers were given the opportunity to be part of the programme. They were trained for free by the Kaduna state government and given loans to start up their own  businesses. So it’s not like they were sent out to the labor market,without preparing them. The governor had our support, because our children were suffering from the crisis in the sector.
Nigeria has about 13.4 million out of school children and about 75% are from the north, so we were concerned about that situation and had to do something. El- Rufai, is not your typical politician, he did the needful and history will be kind to him.When he retrenched the workers, some opposition elements were certain he was going to lose the election because he took the decision in his first term,before the election. But he showed he is a leader, he put the interest of the people above his own and he won. Education is a leveler and the way to give the people a future is to give them quality education. El-Rufai, being a beneficiary of education….without education,he wouldn’t have been a minister and a governor.The only way we can empower the children of the poor, for them to compete with the children of the rich is to give them quality education.

Question: In spite of the efforts of government, not many people can adjust to life after retirement, have ideas of what to do….

Answer: We understand this fact, hence we provided them the opportunity to be trained under KADSTEP. So it wasn’t about giving them loans,the government made sure they were trained,so they could make a success of their new ventures.

Question: The point I am trying to make is….before the training, what do they eat, how do they sustain themselves?

Answer:  A leader must not be weighed down by sentiments. You have to take very difficult decisions in the overall interest of the people. Today, because of the various interventions by the Kaduna state government in the educational system, Kaduna state students have started doing well for that reason. You have to look at sentiments and look at governance, you have to look at it from side to side and El- Rufai, has continued to take the difficult decisions in the overall interest of your people, because he swore on the Quran to be fair to everyone.
We are talking about the children of the poor who would be affected for life. We are talking about 2.4 million pupils in primary schools and the damage to them, by about 21,000 people. Any day, I will go with the 2.4 million children. It is a very easy decision to take. 

Question: The increase in tuition fees for tertiary institutions,…that also generated quite some reactions

Answer: The problem is that the opposition is not honest. They always hide the facts while painting the government black. The Kaduna state government is probably the only state that has a Scholarship and Loans Board. The loans are for indigent students. Before the fees were increased, the government provided a loan of N2 billion for this category of students. There is also a scholarship scheme in place for students. Last time I was in London, I had lunch with the students from Kaduna state who are on further studies studying courses like Medicine, Law and other courses. Kaduna state paid them the scholarships and they are the children of the poor but because they are brilliant indigene students and Kaduna state governor initiated that but nobody was talking about that. 

Question: You talked about governance and the impact on every part of Kaduna state. You said that the El-Rufai administration has reached every ward in the state. I don’t know if the people of southern Kaduna will agree to this …. my interview with Senator Shehu Sani, he alleged that there’s no form of government presence in Southern Kaduna? 

Answer: I didn’t watch the interview with Senator Shehu Sani. I was busy doing my work as a senator. But if Shehu Sani really said that, I will be shocked. The 255 wards I talked about, they included wards in southern Kaduna, so this repudiates Shehu Sani’s assertion. Southern Kaduna has eight local governments and every ward in Southern Kaduna had its healthcare center redeveloped and equipped.
The schools were equally renovated. When El-Rufai came in 2015, he inherited about 4200 primary schools that were completely dilapidated, they were not habitable, or conducive for learning. Shehu Sani, is only trying to score cheap political points.

 Question: So they have government presence?

Answer: It’s all politics. El- Rufai is not marginalising Southern Kaduna 

Question: But it’s the people of Southern Kaduna who are saying that. You are a senator,it follows that you are following the constitutional review …the people of Southern Kaduna want a separate state.

 Answer: Many people that are asking for their own state, not because they’re really marginalized. I am a member of the constitutional review committee and I heard their presentation. It will interest to know that the people from northern Kaduna want another state…are they also marginalized?
So there are two demands…from Northern Kaduna and Southern Kaduna they both need another state. So the clamour can’t be based on marginalisation. It’s because some people want their personal states, because it is an opportunity to be a big man there. 

Answer: There is absolutely nothing. I can tell you that we have put all these issues behind us. El-Rufai without doubt inherited crisis, I can tell you that was not his making. El-Rufai met it, he didn’t create it. But he has invested everything- time, resources etc to resolve the issues. The crisis by the way is an elite creation. Of course there are some vocal elements from that part of the state who believe otherwise. Ask those state agitators to go contest elections, their positions are not popular.

 Question: But why hasn’t Governor El-Rufai been to Southern Kaduna since the crisis? 

Answer: This is another speculation. I represent seven local governments in the National Assembly. And the Security Reports have shown consistently that my district, more than the other two, is the worst affected. The governor hasn’t visited any place in my own constituency.

 Question: There are agitations, you have disputed claims of marginalisation…but the security situation in Southern Kaduna is deteriorating…the position of the governor is that the crisis is communal, but the people insist it’s banditry attack

 Answer: Can I correct this impression. In terms of the security challenges we are having in Kaduna state, there is no governor that has been as transparent as El-Rufai in terms of facts and figures of attacks.The government issues a daily report.El- Rufai is also the only governor that created a Ministry for Internal Security in Kaduna state, headed by a vibrant young man Samuel Aruwan, in reaction to the security challenges. The recent figures conclusively show that more people died in my constituency, than those that lost their lives in Southern Kaduna. Senator Danjuma Laah can bare me witness on this fact, he was part of the briefing.
The governor, has made it a duty to brief the members of the National Assembly, every quarter. We don’t care about political party because we are talking about our country and El-Rufai briefed us on the security challenges facing the state. So don’t believe those propagandists. 

Question: Senator Sehu Sani is of the view that the governor isn’t doing enough In terms of the security situation in Kaduna State. Specifically, that the governor isn’t paying much attention to the welfare of the security agencies in the state even though he doesn’t control the agencies. That he should seek for financial donations to acquire operational vehicles or equipment that the security agencies need to tackle the situation. 

Answer: I don’t know the last time Shehu had a discussion with the commissioner of police but I constantly engage with the Commissioner of police, and all the other heads of relevant security agencies. I can tell you Governor El-Rufai has bought vehicles equipped with the necessary gadgets and donated same to the police, to the army and even to the air force. So I know this for a fact. The governor has been very supportive of the police, army and all the security agencies working in Kaduna state. 

Question: So why has the Kidnapping situation in Kaduna State persisted? 

Answer: It will persist for so many reasons. The reasons are very simple,state governors are supposed to be the Chief Security Officer of their states, but they have absolutely no control over the security agencies operating in their states. Unfortunately,that’s the constitutional provision.
Apart from Senator Ike Ekweremadu, the former Deputy Senate President, I have sponsored four bills for the creation of state police in Nigeria. I am for state police. There are some people who for political reasons grandstand on the issue, and it’s simply because they don’t want the crisis resolved.
It might interest you to know that I equally sponsored an amendment of the fire arms act, which has been passed by the senate, It is my bill. The law was obsolete, so I worked on it…. We were elected to make Laws, amend outdated laws,  and as check on the Executive.The fire arms act was obsolete and not in line with global best practices. I was shocked with the report of the United Nation Regional Center for Africa, that there are about five hundred million illicit fire arms in circulation and in the hands of the wrong people in the West African sub-region and about three hundred and fifty million in Nigeria. This was frightening,I invited the Chief of Army Staff, invited the Chief of Air Staff, I invited the Chief of Naval Staff, I invited the Controller of Custom, the Controller of Immigration, Inspector General of Police, the  Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation. They made very informed submissions and we came out with this important intervention in the war against terrorism. I must thank my colleagues in the Senate and especially the Senate President. It has been passed by the Senate, waiting for the House of Representatives to pass it. And I know that President Buhari will not hesitate to assent to it. 

Question: The Fire Arms Act? 

Answer: Yes! The Fire Arms Act . First we found out that the penalties and the sanctions are outdated and the chiefs confessed as much. With the amendment, local vigilantes working under the supervision of the security agencies …as a source of intelligence, are not armed, can now carry arms. They are important in the war against the terrorists. We equally increased the penalty for possession of illegal weapons. 

Question: While you are hopeful that the President would sign the Fire Arms Act, your State Police Commission Bill before the Senate seems to be in jeopardy, going by Mr. Presidents position during an interview with Channels Television. Clearly the president is opposed to it, how does that make you feel? 

Answer: In democracy, we disagree to agree.Today that could be Mr. President’s position, tomorrow it can change. I can assure you about this. It’s about superior argument. I believe in state police and I know that it is the only solution, because security is local. One of the reasons Mr. President gave is that the vigilantes are not allowed to bear arms. And if they don’t how can they confront the heavily armed bandits moving around with AK47 and other other sophisticated weapons?Community policing, can help in intelligence gathering, and the traditional rulers, can equally help in intelligence gathering. They can help in intelligence because they know everyone that comes into their community. Recently a governor asked people to defend themselves. We are not yet there.. we have not exhausted our laws. We can do better than that. We don’t want to increase the arms in circulation…that’s the implication if you ask people to apply for license to own fire arms…the governor must have forgotten that the law is there and you need to amend that law. That is why we are at the National Assembly look at laws and help give them currency.

Question: There is some opposition to the issue of state police. The fear of state government weaponizing the police against their political opponents…, how can we check that? 

Answer: Some of us have been in this struggle for decades, for instance the 1999 Constitution is not perfect. You may want to recall that Chief Gani Fawehmi made efforts up to the Supreme Court to amend Section 308 which gave governors immunity. We made a very strong presentation on the issue. The Supreme Court ruled against us and in any case today we are talking about state police. So governors already have immunity, so what other powers do you want to give to the governor again? They already have enough power.My position is that we need the state police and we can’t because of fear of misuse refuse to do the right thing. Is it okay for the bandits to continue to kill our people, because we fear that the governors,will use them against their opponents? That’s not right. We have taken notice of those concerns. So we have inserted clauses that will guide against such misuse. And even in the relationship between the State and the Federal Police force, that the federal police force will override the state police, this is the situation in many countries. So what are they afraid of? The fact remains that what we have today is not working, so why can’t we try something new? Anybody who is afraid of state police, doesn’t appreciate the problem we have on our hands.
The state governors have no powers over the security agencies in their states. They can’t command the commissioner of police and they can’t instruct any military personnel working there. You saw the recent encounter between the Lagos State Governor and the police officer. The officer was right…that’s the constitutional provision.

Question: Senator you and your colleagues approved the loan request of governor El-Rufai, which the last assembly had rejected. Senators Shehu Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi, championed the rejection of the 350 million dollars loan request. Senator Shehu Sani’s argument was that the detail of what the loans would be used for and the repayment plan was not made available, were these documents made available to you before your approval? 

Answer: It’s important to stress that a World Bank loan, is not the same thing as a loan from Zenith Bank. By the Grace of God, as the Chairman of Senate Committee on Banking, I know, Mr. Terry that the World Bank condition, is much more stringent than that of Zenith bank. Zenith Bank will definitely not give you a loan, if you do not meet the requirements and they are not sure of your capacity to repay. You can begin to imagine getting a loan from the World Bank. The condition and the process is very transparent, there is no politics with the World Bank, it’s you are qualified or you are not.
It’s not only Kaduna State that applied for that loan, that’s a fact they are not disclosing, many other states applied. The World Bank turned them down, because they didn’t meet the requirements, in terms of reforms, ability to repay.Kaduna State government made strong points and the bank approved it.Mind you it went up to the level of the World Bank board. Please don’t listen to those who try to misinform the people. I have absolutely no regret supporting the governor to obtain the loan. The results are there for everyone to see. …the unprecedented infrastructural development. I repeat no state governor has accomplished what El- Rufai has accomplished.

Question: As the Chairman Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, your thought on the VAT controversy between States and Federal. Where do you stand on this? 

Answer: I can tell you the issue of VAT is not really part of the assignment of my committee. The finance committee is in a better position to give you the accurate answer because I don’t want to speculate.  Question: As Chairman Senate Committee on banking…you do interact with the financial sector. How true is it that prominent Nigerians hamper the debt recoveries? Answer: As the Chairman, Senate Committee on Banking, Insurance and other Financial Institutions, the committee has oversight of  the activities of the Asset Management Corporation of Nigeria(AMCON). In 2019, I invited all agencies under my committee with a view of helping achieve their goals. Ahmed Kuru, the MD, came with his team. They presented their position to me. I was really shocked at the poor recoveries by the agency. Because Ahmed Kuru was appointed in 2015 , I asked him for his four years recovery. And he was very honest that the recovery in the last five years was nothing to write home about. I and members of my committee were shocked. I had to ask, because over N4 trillion of Nigerians money was used to bail out these banks. This was why the agency was created. It’s good we stopped the banks from failing, but now we need those involved to pay up.
Before Ahmed Kuru, there was Mr. Mustapha Obi. The bottom line is that not much progress was made. When I realized that there was’nt  any progress, I had to swing into action. It’s a scandal that only about 21 or 22 Nigerians are responsible for over N2 trillion debt and another 350 are responsible for about 80 percent of the N4.7 trillion debt. It’s a shame that they were still flying private jets while owing the banks.Without making noise, we looked at the act and saw there was the need to effect amendments to give the law,more bite.
AMCON, ought to have finished its assignment, but because they haven’t, every five years we have to extend, by way of resolution, the life of AMCON. We had several conversations and Kuru clearly made it obvious that they needed more than 15 years to recover….the loans, I was naturally alarmed. It was obvious they needed our swift intervention and by just inserting 3 clauses we have made a difference.
One clause, has given AMCON the power to trace assets. Many people borrowed money using properties in their villages as collateral. They know fully well that these houses…massive houses can’t be sold. So now AMCON has taken over the loans, but nobody will go to Zaria, my hometown and buy a house N1 billion house, but if the property is in Abuja, the property can easily be sold. So we have given them the power for assets tracing. So if you used a property in your village as a collateral, if AMCON trances any property belonging to you in Abuja, Lagos, Port Harcourt, it takes it over using that clause.
The second clauseI also had a meeting with the CBN Governor and I realized that the Banking and Other Financial Institutions Act was obsolete, it hadn’t been updated since 1991. We also amended the Act and President Buhari has graciously assented to it and it is now a law.
The other clause, that we inserted in the AMCON law is the Credit Tribunal. The agency has the discretion to either approach normal court or the tribunal because the courts have been frustrating them. Some cases have been at the courts for seven years. 
So these are the two major clauses I added in the AMCON act and it was passed and President Buhari assented it on the 12th of November last year.

Host: Distinguished Senator Uba Sani, thank you very much for granting this interview. 

Guest: Thank you too.