….Asks President to Release Kanu, IPOB Leader in Interest of National Healing
A former senator who represented Kaduna Central at the National Assembly, and radical human right activist, Shehu Sani, has cautioned President Bola Ahmed Tinubu against making compensating politicians who claimed to have helped him into power the focus of his government now. Senator Sani, a member of the 8th Senate, noted that for now, the country had spent so much time, and wasted so much resources in the last two decades compensating politicians with appointments, “and this is where it has landed us”. Rather, he suggested that appointments should be based on competence and ability to help him realize his vision for Nigeria. Sani said the president has a choice between “appeasing and pleasing entitled persons”, or “being a statesman who wants to leave a mark as a president in the last 23 years that has done things differently in this country”. The controversial former senator also expressed concern over the manner President Tinubu is handling election of principal officers of the National Assembly, fearing that if by next week the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC did not put its house in order, the favoured candidate for senate president, Godswill Akpabio, might lose to Senator Abdul’aziz Yari especially if voting is done by secret balloting. He said he ought to have consulted first the senators-elect from his party before coming out with his position. Speaking on Channels Television current affairs programme, ‘Politics Today’ Thursday night, Sani also advised President Tinubu to accede to the demand by governors of the South East for the release of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB on the grounds of respect for the rule of law and national healing. He believed the president should leave a footprint, the most important being “strengthening the unity of this country because we can’t pretend that we don’t have a problem”. Satisfied that the president had started on a “good footing”, proving to be a president that is “accessible” and with “listening ear”, Senator Sani suggested he must make security and the economy his immediate priority, and take lessons from what happened in the last eight years by assembling a team that would do things differently to achieve the goals of his administration. He lamented that in the last eight years, “almost over $20 billion dollars had been spent on defence and security and terrorists are still killing people in this country”. On how to deal with pressures from those waiting to cash their political IOUs, Senator Sani said President Tinubu must be wary of their “fake” loyalty, stating that “Many people, over 90% make claims that they supported Bola Tinubu for patriotic reasons. His members, former northern governors, said for equity, fairness, and keeping the principle of rotation of power, we supported Bola Tinubu. The G5 governors too used the issue of patriotism, unity, peace, and all those kinds of platitudes, they supported Tinubu. And many people too hide behind patriotism and nationalism to support Tinubu on the ground that power needed to be rotated, and also that he has the competence and capacity to move this country forward. “But behind those masks, you will see that they are people who are now waiting for appointments based on the fact that they have planted a seed they need to harvest. And there is nothing wrong with a president, who has taken over power; who was supported by some people get into office, to “compensate” them. But the choice is his; whether he will head a government that will spend so much time on appeasing and pleasing entitled persons, or he would do things differently in order to move this country forward. “Does he want to be an appeaser and a pleaser? Does he want to be a party man who wants to be a great politician? Or does he want to be a statesman who wants to leave a mark as a president in the last 23 years that has done things differently in this country? And the choice is his. “If you pander to people who want to become entitled, many of them have nothing to do other than their fake loyalty and their claim that they have supported him… So, to me, if Bola Tinubu, the president of Nigeria must do things differently, and in all these sectors – if it’s agriculture, look for someone who is competent in agriculture, appoint him as agric minister. If it is transport, if it is health, if it is education, do that for now. “For now, the country has spent so much time; we have wasted so much resources in the last two decades compensating politicians with appointments, and this is where it has landed us. So, two things – whoever is going to take over the economic aspect of Nigeria, either as a team, or as an individual, would be the one that is versed in the field, and one that would do things differently. “In the aspect of security, we have seen how this country has moved from one security challenge to another; and despite money being pumped-in, a solution has still not been found. Terrorists are still killing people; kidnapping is still going on, and banditry everywhere. Presently, I’ve heard crisis between Tivs and Jukuns in some parts of the country; in Benue, Plateau, southern part of Kaduna, killings are still going on. So, how do you solve these problems? He is only going to be judged by the result that comes from his government and not by people whom he has settled and appointed as politicians. Let him be mindful of the fact that if his government succeeds, the buck stops on his table; if it fails, it is to him. So, compensating politicians should not be the focus of the government now”. Emphasising what should immediately engage the attention of the president, Sani said “As far as Nigeria is concerned, the first is security, and the second is economy; and you can also say economy and security, but these two are very important. And taking lessons from what has happened in the last eight years, if you talk about the economy, you need to get people who are well-versed on the economy; people who have the experience, the ideas, and the vision; that would do things differently, and that would help his government succeed and help the country succeed. “According to him, “In the past, we had an economic team and economic council, and nobody hears of them, nobody knows what they are doing; nobody can pinpoint this is what they have done. This has to be done differently. And on security, we have seen what has happened to this country in the last 10 years – terrorism, banditry, secessionist agitation, herdsmen/farmers crisis, bloodshed and conflicts in almost all the six geopolitical zones. So now, having security chiefs, security advisers, security helmsmen who have the requisite knowledge, experience and whose counseling and action would apply in solving our security challenges, I think it’s very necessary. And it has to do with the leadership structure or the architectural structure of Nigeria, and who are going to lead our service chiefs; who is going to be the National Security Adviser, who are going to head all the various security agencies in the country. What will happen to the police; who is going to head the police. These are very important”. Underscoring the importance of having a National Security with character and competence, Senator Sani warned that if the president did not get right whoever becomes the National Security Adviser, service chiefs, and heads of security agencies, “we will still be where we are”. Sani however clarified that “It’s not simply about discord and hostility and inter-agency rivalry that had been the problem in the last eight years, but how as a president, he can learn from the mistakes of the past and use it to guide his own government. First of all, in the last eight years, almost over $20 billion dollars had been spent on defence and security and terrorists are still killing people in this country. “And secondly, we’ve had a system where service chiefs were retained in office and their tenures were illegally extended, while killings went on in the country. And the third aspect of it is that there wasn’t harmony in the security apparatus themselves, and almost everyone is competing against each other, or trying to outdo each other. So, how his government would do things differently will be how it learns from these mistakes”. Giving tips on how President Tinubu could go about this, Senator Sani suggested that “First of all, there must be accountability in the way security funds are being spent. It’s not simply about service chiefs coming with files to the president, and he signs, and then you go and collect money; it doesn’t function that way. Secondly, each and every person that is appointed to head any security agency must know that his survival, his continuity, and his relevance in that office is dependent on how much he has performed; that is important. Thirdly, and that is where the National Security Adviser comes in. A security adviser should first of all be one that has the confidence and loyalty of the president, and the most important one is the competence and capacity to harmonise activities of all security agencies for the aim of achieving the goal of ensuring that security challenges are being addressed. This is very important. Whoever you are going to appoint as the National Security Adviser must have respect of all the agencies”. Sani, with benefit of hindsight, foresees danger in the manner the president is handling the election of principal officers of the National Assembly, warning that the 2015 scenario whereby the then president, Muhammadu Buhari did not consult the senators-elect when it came to issue of his candidate, might be re-enacted. “Tinubu, being a former senator; and he was also in 2015 when Saraki (Bukola) and Lawan (Ahmad) had issues, part of the circle. I thought that by now, the first thing he needs to do, knowing that his party has the majority is to first of all go into a room with members of his party, talk to Orji Uzor Kalu, talk to Yari, talk to them and say this is the person that I want you to support; they will agree with you but that was not done. “The danger of what is happening in the National Assembly now is that there are basically two candidates – Akpabio and Yari. Akpabio is the anointed of the president, while Yari is the rebel leader. I have no doubt, from now to Monday, if there is no serious consultation, and appeasement, and horse-trading, it will go the wrong way of the president. And one thing I know very well is that if the APC goes to the floor without putting its house in order, then the 2015 scenario would reenact itself, especially if there is secret voting. If there is some open voting, and the president is sitting down to watch every senator while he votes, Akpabio will win. But if it’s going to be a secret ballot where nobody knows how anybody votes, certainly, it’s going to be Yari”. Defending his position on Kanu’s release, the human right activist said “First of all, I am not from the south eastern part of Nigeria; I am from the north western part of Nigeria. And secondly, I am a human right activist. And thirdly, I have been a prisoner in many prisons; I was also a victim of human right abuse. And as a prisoner who was once jailed, and who had stayed so long in prison, there is no way a person like me would support an open breach of the constitution, and open violation of fundamental human right. “A court of jurisdiction in Nigeria has given an order for the release of Nnamdi Kanu. And if we are a law-abiding country, one that is committed to rule of law, and one that is being run according to the constitution of this country, we should respect the law. But that is from the human right and the constitutional side. But from the side of national healing, here we have a president who has started on a good footing. And one of the problems we face as a country today is the separatist agitation from the south eastern part of Nigeria. “And if you go to the background of all those separatists, you will see that there was a time in their history that they were people who believed in the indivisibility and unity of Nigeria. Then something must have happened somewhere along the way that changed their own vision and say they want to pull out. If we don’t want to further add fuel to fire, it’s important that those segments of people in the south eastern part of Nigeria that believe in the unity of this country, they shouldn’t be disappointed. A plea was made by governors of the region, and they are offering guarantee; there is no reason why the government should not accede to it. To me, “President Bola Tinubu, being one that has come from the trenches, even though when we were in jail, he was in exile, I believe that he should leave a footprint; the most important one is strengthening the unity of this country because we can’t pretend that we don’t have a problem. The marginalisation and alienation of the people of south eastern part of Nigeria and their stigmatization because of civil war is a reality. And if we have a president here who wants to do things differently, he should listen to them. “If you have a few who believe that they should move out of Nigeria, and many who believe in the unity of Nigeria, we should be able to win the hearts of those who believe in secession back to those who believe in the unity of this country and we shouldn’t shy away from it. Nnamadi Kanu was also someone who was like Ken Saro Wiwa and other ones who fought in the past and we shouldn’t say that we should simply use law and solve all problems. Unity, consensus, consultation is very important”.