OLUGBENGA SALAMI writes on the continued rumpus in Kaduna APC, caused by Governor Nasir el-Rufai and Senator Shehu Sani with a call on the party leadership to resolve it before 2019 general elections.
Since the inauguration of the All Progressives Congress, APC administration in Kaduna State, it became clear that the party which won majority of the seats contested for, going by the conduct of its members was heading towards a major crisis.
The puzzle, however, is that no one expects that the battle between two poltical gladiators, incumbent governor of the state, Malam Nasir El-Rufai and the senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Comrade Shehu Sani, will lock horns for this long. Surprisingly, the ‘war’ has refused to end, though party leaders at the national and state levels have not done enough to reconcile the two top politicians.
The battle between Governor El-Rufai, a quantity surveyor by profession and one time no-nonsense Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT and Senator Sani, an archetype human rights activist, was said to have been drawn in the heat of preparations to the 2015 general elections. Both were eyeing the Hashim Kashim Government House in Kaduna, but APC leaders settled for El-Rufai as the governor and compensated Sani with a senatorial seat ticket.
Unfortunately, having won their respective elections, the rancour that developed in the heat of the preparations, is yet to abate. Political observers have blamed Governor El-Rufai for shutting out Senator Sani in the appointments into the state executive council as commissioners and other government positions.
“After we had won the election and it came to sharing positions, he sidelined me and gave the power to the man I defeated in the election, who was his preferred choice. By so doing, he has clearly appointed someone who he is grooming to fight me.
We have ideological differences. He is from the political right and I am from the political left. He is a core conservative capitalist, who believes in capitalism and I believe in the progressive, welfarist, leftist and idealistic system. So, that is where we differ”, Senator Sani once explained.
According to a Kaduna-based politician, who does not want his name in print, “Everybody in the state had expected Malam Nasir El-Rufai as the governor to carry Senator Shehu Sani along in the running of state affairs, going by what happened before the last general elections”.
“As a loyal party member, Shehu Sani agreed with the leaders when they made El-Rufai as their anointed governorship candidate, even when Sani was the most preferred candidate by majority of Kaduna people. Senator Shehu Sani deserves respect from the governor, not only because of his popularity among the people, but he is representing a senatorial district that is one-third of the entire Kaduna State”, he stressed.
The APC chieftain further informed that immediately Senator Sani observed that none of his associates was given any worthy appointment, he called the governor’s attention to this, but nothing was done to it.
Worse still, Senator Sani, a renowned public affairs critic would not hesitate in criticising some of Governor El-Rufai’s policies and programmes which he believes were anti-people, especially in the face of present economic situation in the country. Some of the governor’s actions condemned by the senator included flushing of hawkers and beggars out of the streets in urban centres, and demolition of houses in some areas in the state.
Senator Sani had explained in an interview that it was inhuman for the governor to remove beggars and hawkers from the streets of Kaduna without making alternative arrangements for them.
“It is this criticism and other means of speaking the truth to the authority in the state that made Senator Sani to cross swords with the governor. And to many of us, the governor needs these kind of critics to succeed in office. So, instead of seeing Shehu Sani as an enemy, he should be seen as a compatriot, especially due to his background as a fearless social critic”, another politician, Mrs. Helen Usman said.
But the governor’s camp seems not to see things this way. Rather, such criticism has continued to fuel the war between the two politicians with party members and supporters taking sides.
The political war between the duo, however, took another dimension on December 27, 2015 when Senator Sani was allegedly suspended from APC for 11 months by the Tudun Wada Ward 6 of APC in Kaduna South local government area of the state. Ward executive committee of the party, said it took the action to suspend Sani because the senator had made statements that allegedly violate the rules of engagement of the party, factionalised the party, and allegedly engaged in anti party activities by criticizing the policies of Governor El-Rufai.
They alleged, “Hardly does a week passes that his group will not be on air criticizing and challenging the enduring legacies of Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, that his statement on national issues is not in conformity with that of the state government and government of Kaduna State”.
As members of the ward executives of the party struggled to explain their action with little success, APC chairman in the ward, Alhaji Abbas Ani, who alongside his executive, reportedly sacked the federal lawmaker, last week wrote the leadership of the party, alleging that the signatures in the letter, suspending Senator Sani, from the party, were forged.
The chairman wrote the national secretariat of the APC, disclaiming the suspension letter. Anni, in the letter dated December 31, 2015, urged the APC National Chairman, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, to ignore the alleged letter of suspension because it did not emanate from his ward.
Specifically, the APC chief alleged that the authors of the letter actually forged his signature and those of other party leaders in the ward and immediately circulated the “forged document” in the media to mislead members of the public.
Anni’s letter reads in part, “Our attention has been drawn to a document being circulated on the suspension of Senator Shehu Sani. We wish to state categorically that the letter did not emanate from Ward Six as claimed.
“The conception of the idea that led to the action was mustered by an official of the state government (names withheld), who summoned a meeting of my executive and induced them with N500, 000 to suspend Senator Sani, which they rejected.
“We issued a statement which was widely published in some national dailies and broadcast on some local radio and television stations in Kaduna State, to refute and distance ourselves from the said document. It is on this premise that we are calling on the party to dismiss and disregard such document as it was not duly signed by the party executive in ward six at any time”.
The party chairman expressed the confidence of his executive in Sani as the senator representing Kaduna-Central in the National Assembly and therefore urged troublemakers to desist from acts capable of causing chaos not only in the ward, but the state in general.
Another major issue between the governor and senator is the authenticity of the state executive council of the party. To Sani, the state presently has no authentic executives while the governor has thrown his weight behind those in office. No wonder when the ward chapter of the party suspended the senator, the state chapter quickly endorsed the action.
In a statement signed by the acting publicity secretary, Salisu Tanko Wusono, it said it was left with no option but to endorse the suspension in order to restore discipline to the party. But barely 24 hours after that, another party member, Alhaji Danladi Wada; came out to rubbish the authenticity of the state exco claiming chairmanship of the party.
Wada in a statement said he contested for the office of the deputy state chairman and was duly elected and presented with a certificate of return in July 2014 but that rather than allow him function as deputy chairman, one Shuaibu Idris was brought in and ‘imposed on the party as deputy chairman.’
He insisted that since the state chairman of the party has resigned his position and has since assumed position as deputy governor of the state, he should have been made the acting chairman. “This impunity must stop in APC Kaduna State and allow legitimate elected officials operate their statutory functions as state executives of the party”, Wada stated.
However, Senator Sani has said that those who claimed to have suspended him from APC are ignorant of the laws of the party. He said though it is clear from the letter that the people are out to stop him from voicing out his views about what he considers as the anti people policies of the El-Rufai administration, he will not stop from expressing his views when he feels the policies are not for the good of the people of the state.
The senator, who spoke through his political aide, Mr. Suleiman Ahmed said, “They are toeing the line of the state secretariat of the party, so our reaction is that those that wrote this letter are ignorant of the party constitution and they are dancing to the tune of the state executive of the party and Governor Nasir El-Rufai”.
Meanwhile, some APC elders in the state, including Hakeem Baba-Ahmed, Mataimaki John Miyashi, Ambassador Sule Buba, Alhaji Kabir Umar and Alhaji Ibrahim Yaro, among others, have asked the ward party executives to withdraw any suspension letter that might have been issued to the senator in order to save the party from total disintegration in the state.
In a statement released in Kaduna, the elders said, “The purported suspension of Senator Shehu Sani is one example of the result of the degeneration which is bound to occur as a result of the hijack of the remnants of our party by a clique that believes it owes its loyalty only to the governor”.
“The questionable legality of the suspension and the childish reasons given for it demands that responsible members of the party speak up and demand a stop to the embarrassing melodrama that is unfolding”, they added.
There is no denying the fact that Senator Sani has always been a voice for the voiceless. He has paid dearly for this in the past, especially under the military regime of late General Sani Abacha when he was sentenced to life imprisonment for alleged phantom coup of 1995, before he was released in 1999.
It has become imperative for the APC as a party that produced the two politicians to wade into the crisis with a view to keep one and united family, especially towards the 2019 general election if it must forge strength and unity from this crisis in the state.