In this interview, Senator Shehu Sani states that Senate President Bukola Saraki’s travails are being engineered, fanned, propelled, sponsored and sustain by forces that see him as a threat to them in 2019 or 2023.
Former governor Rotimi Amaechi was eventually screened despite protest from senators from his zone. What happened?
The senate is mandated to confirm nominees from Mr. President and people say, there is no screening in the constitution but confirmation. But names were sent to us to confirm, we confirmed if the name that is sent meet the operation morally requisite of the position he /she is going to occupy. Now the way to go about it is to carry Nigerians along by making it open. If we take a nominee into a room and come out today that we have cleared him, there will be a lot of suspicions. The nominee is not going to serve the senate or Mr. President alone, he will serve the whole country. We are representatives of the country and Nigerians that we represent deserve to know the content and character of the ministerial nominee, his capacity and ability and what he is made up for them to reach a judgment. So confirmation is about filtering a nominees whether he is fit for the position he will occupy. He is also democratic norm for the opposition to resist or oppose and that was what we have been doing in the last few years. They also have the right to raise issue and protest the nomination of anyone they have a strong view against. In this case, the PDP decided not to ask any question but that is not the end of the story, screening is one half of the story, confirmation is the other half. I suspect that they have simply kept their arsenal waiting for the period of confirmation to attack. So by not asking question during screening, it is a common sign that they have resolved and taken a common position to wait for the process of confirmation. So it is not yet uhuru before we cross the river. But as far as the APC senators are concern, we have shown that the nominees of Mr. President are eligible, but that came with a lot of expenses. Screening or confirmation should have been done on a standard that would effect and appease national interest and also people interest but we are being partisan there. You can see that the APC senators question are not hard and that has negative consequences on the credibility of the confirmation because we are more or less engaging in sweetheart questions with the nominees. And that might not be in the best interest of the nation. I might not prescribe this to future generation of Nigerians. The clear result of this is that, we have sacrificed the questions Nigerian want to ask to protect our party. And that has implications in the very fact that the cloud will still be hanging on the nominees and credibility of the nominee. To what extend is the senate screening and confirmation relevant to good governance the constitution has provided that we must confirm a nominees and if we don’t do it within 21days, the president can go ahead and confirm him. It is our responsibility to confirm a nominee and we can also refuse to confirm him If we refused to confirm him, the president knows that 109 people have resolved not to confirm the person and it can lead to loss of credibility by most people. So the nominees passed through security screening and now they came to the parliament but the difference with our screening is that, it is done in the open for Nigerians to see. When a nominee comes to us, he is being scrutinized by Nigerians to see what he can deliver, it is for Nigerians to know whether he has the ability, capacity and character to be a minister of the country. The constitution also states that, in the event that we refused to do that, the president can go ahead to avoid or prevent a situation whereby the nation might be held hostage. It is more or less scoring a credibility point and at the same time tackling what might come later.
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The fourth quarter is almost gone and nobody seems to be talking about the 2016 budget, why is the national assembly silent?
That is going to be a priority with the National assembly and the executive. We will certainly take it on. If you look at the crises in the last few months, you will know that we took off on a bumpy ride, but things are getting clearer and very soon, we will talk on that.
Nigerians were amazed when some senators escorted the Senate president to the court for his hearing on the case brought against him by Code of Conduct Bureau. Were they trying to intimidate the jury?
I have been taken to court on many occasions as an activists, even military tribunals and I have also taken some people to court. My view of a court is that, in as much as it is a legal and judicial institution, it is also a public arena. Journalists can go to court, observers can also go there. Your presence in court will in no way exonerate the accused nor your absence implicate him in his case. Appearance in court has no legal value to the judge and as the president of the senate and also chairman of the national assembly, if such a leader is taken to court for whatever reason, there is nothing wrong with people supporting him. Even if all the staff of the national assembly including the security personal go to the tribunal, they will neither add nor subtract any value to the case. It is a case between the senate president and the state. I have not been to the court myself but I will go next time to know what is happening there so that when people like you ask me questions, I will not depend on a third hand information. Solidarity has no value in the evidence before a court. You can fill up the whole court with one million people, the judge will passed judgment based on the facts on ground. That is why some court ruling usually disappoint an entire population of people. Court judgment are not based on popular feelings or moral feelings, they are based on facts, evidence and witnesses.
There is this belief that the senate president trial has a lot to do with the 2019 presidential elections, do you share this view?
I don’t know of any problem between the senate president and Mr. President. Buhari is the president to Nigeria and Nigerian elected him into office. He is not wanting to be a president, he is already one. He can take his bills and budget to the National Assembly confidently because his party is the majority. Saraki’s problem is being engineered, fanned, propelled, sponsored and sustain by forces that see him as a threat to them in 2019 or 2023…
Do you also see him as a threat?
The Saraki threat is not for this government, it is for what is coming ahead. So Saraki is a guinea pig of a conflict of ambition whereby if he wasn’t a senate president, he couldn’t have been in this spot light. And if he is not a threat in the future, he wouldn’t be passing through what he is passing through now. If saraki is in contest with Buhari, I will support Buhari, but Buhari has never said Saraki is in contest with him. He has never told us that and with his philosophy of being for everybody and for nobody, it also exonerates him from the problem saraki is facing today. But there are puppeteers who felt that pinning him down to a case of corruption will discredit him, will keep him busy and make him unsellable for the future. Buhari is not talking about future office, he is already occupying the pinnacle of that office and he can get what he wants from all the chambers of the national assembly. So Saraki does not pose a threat to Buhari.
Are these forces within the party or outside?
Of course they are within the party, where else will they come from? It is just a matter of time the identity of those who are interested in Saraki’s case will become open. Right now they are in the back shooting missiles, but it is just a question of time, light will cast on their faces and their activities will come to the open.
Going back to Kaduna state, what is your relationship with the governor of Kaduna state, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai
He is the governor of Kaduna state with his office and residence based in Kaduna city and I am a senator, representing Kaduna Central where we host the office and resident of the state governor.
You have been criticising some of his policies, especially the demolition, can you tell us why you are against it?
Everybody who know me knows that I have been vocal in combating excesses of government, excesses of leaders and also excesses of all people in position of power. The only thing people find strange is that, we came from the same party and we ought to work together. A political party is not a cult organization where you are not allowed to speak, shout or air your opinion. We came to power because we saw things that were wrong and we pointed them out to Nigerians and if we can tell others the truth, why don’t we also tell ourselves? If you are a governor of a state and you are engage in activities that will further unleashed hardship and pain on my people. I must challenge you and you are also at liberty to challenge me when I do things that are antagonistic to the interest of the people I represent. So I won’t stop people from criticizing me and I won’t stop criticizing people when they are wrong. He was voted in by the common people enmass. What should be of interest to him should be things that will be of interest to the people he is governing. I think when you win election, you must embrace everybody, and you should not in any way persecute people for not voting for you or look at them with contempt or indignity. You must also not punish people because they are poor. el-Rufai’s style of governance is a governance of elites by the elites and for the elites. He is a running a government that is grounded on a very insensitive, an ideology that oppresses the poor, and create a paradise for the rich. He came into the state, having been outside for nearly two decades and came in with an Abuja mentality. Unleashing his ideas of dispossessing the poor and inflicting serious hardship on their lives and not being able to look at the situation which he finds them in. I don’t think I can share that as part of my principles. He promises to go after those who looted the treasury of the state but what we have now is that, he is simply going after the masses. He promised so many things which are still promises, and nothing has been done on the ground today. So I speak out so that we can get him to get back on track and also know that we have a party manifesto and there is nowhere the manifestos said, we should make people suffer because we won an elections.