Aisha Buhari And That BBC Interview By Reuben Abati

Public communication is one of the most delicate challenges that people in public life face, either in the corporate or the public sector.

Many people suddenly find themselves in high places, and they become a source of news, a potential interview subject, and they get chased around by journalists and other media figures who want a story, in fact, not just a story, but a scoop.

I used to explain in communication coaching classes and to the bosses whose media I managed, at one point or the other that they should never feel obliged to say things they do not want to say. No matter how aggressive the journalist may be, they should be careful what they say.

A journalist would make you feel at home, he or she may even reassure you that whatever you don’t want published could be edited out, and that if you don’t feel comfortable with a question, you should feel free to keep quiet. But a good journalist knows how to push you into a corner and get you, through follow up questions, to say things you may not ordinarily want to say. By the time the tape starts rolling, and you are encouraged to feel like a star, and your own tongue starts rolling, you’d be surprised the kind of emphasis, what you consider an innocent remark, would receive when it is published.

Point is: journalists, while on duty, are not working for politicians or big men and women; they are working for organizations that need stories that can sell. They want scoops that can make the headlines. That is what makes them journalists: getting the good story, the good comments, the good shots.

After reading the interview granted by First Lady Aisha Buhari on BBC Hausa Service, I was tempted to conclude that this is what may have happened. She could have said the same things in a more delicately phrased manner.

I have always held the view that anybody at all in a public position should be sent for media training (including how to deliver speeches, poise, pronunciation skills, even basic grammar lessons) before they are unleashed on a Nigerian public that has learnt to subject the lives of public officials to utmost scrutiny.

The Aisha Buhari interview also fell short in this regard. She just gave the BBC Hausa service a scoop, which in my view has done more damage to her husband’s politics than good.

Given the enormous effect that the interview has had on the public, I would have expected that by now, she would perhaps have tactically disowned it, put a spin on it somehow, and make it clear that it is not intended in any way to discredit, or criticize her husband’s administration. But nothing of such has happened. And what does that mean? That the interview was deliberate and that she is standing by every word she said.

She has been called the “good lady in the Villa.” She has been praised for being a modern wife who can speak up, and exercise her right to free speech. She has been called fearless and assertive. The only thing I have not heard from some of the hypocritical commentators is that she would be a good Presidential candidate for 2019.

I have also been told that she must have spoken out of frustration and that her public outburst about the existence of a cabal in the Villa, which determines who gets what appointment, to the disadvantage of members of the All Progressives Congress is making APC members who feel left out of the power-sharing process, very unhappy.

But her outburst is nothing but a poor understanding of power politics. There will always be cabals around the seat of power. Power is so potent the people around the corridor will never leave it alone to the President.

And if it is true that this cabal or the President has recruited non-APC members into the government, then that is a positive thing, it is also a positive thing that the President does not know many of the people he has appointed. He doesn’t need to know them personally as long as they come from all parts of Nigeria and they are competent men who can get the job done.

The First Lady seems to assume that only card-carrying members of the APC should work for the Buhari administration. On a positive note, however, she doesn’t want anybody to hijack her husband’s Presidency and she believes those who are trying to do so do not mean well. But what does that say about her husband?

The First Lady is also of the view that if the present trend continues, she cannot campaign for her husband in 2019 should he decide to seek re-election. She sounded pleased with what is being done to ensure security in the North East, but she gave the impression that she doesn’t think her husband has done enough to merit a second term in 2019.

Hear her: “What I fear is the uprising of 15.4 million people”. And consider this: “…Nobody thought it is going to be like this. But now that it is so…Sometimes when one is doing something wrong without him knowing, but when people talk to them, they should listen”. Who is that person doing something wrong and who does not listen?

Altogether, Mrs Aisha Buhari has passed the equivalent of a vote of no confidence in her husband, and the people around him. This is a kind of “home trouble” brought to the public. The biggest challenge a man can face is to have his own wife “fight” him in public. And what has happened is both unprecedented and significant considering that a Hausa-Fulani couple is involved.  It is probably the first time a lady in this position would publicly upbraid her husband and his team. Is she furious because she has been scorned, ignored, rendered powerless?

Well, even if we were not privy to other details, she was publicly scorned when her husband sent a volcanic message from Germany that she should go back to her place in the “kitchen, the living room and the other room.”

Feminists and critics of misogyny have protested over this, quite rightly too, at a time when women are leading countries and corporations, it is incorrect and insensitive to say that the best place for a First Lady is to be a cook, a living-room-soap opera-watching detainee and a bedroom object.

But given the cultural circumstances involved, this may well be the future Aso Villa fate of First Lady Aisha Buhari. She could be marked out as an ambitious woman who wants to share power with her husband, and as a threat to her husband’s politics.

See how much damage has been caused already by the President’s counter-response: The German Chancellor glared at our President when she heard that comment about “the kitchen, the living room and the other room.”  She quickly ended their press conference.

Angela Merkel is married, and she is Chancellor, but I don’t think her husband would dare tell her she is best fit for the kitchen and the other room. And imagine if Theresa May, Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, Oby Ezekwesili, Grace Alele-Williams, Omobola Johnson, Chimamanda Adichie, Joke Jacobs… had all been chained down in the “other room”.

No wonder, President Buhari’s local opponents are already making big political capital out of his un-Presidential comments, and the German public is shocked that any world leader could be so politically incorrect.

The number of jokes and memes that have been designed around this husband-wife exchange are thoroughly amusing. Mrs Buhari has also handed over to critics of this administration, speaking points that would be exploited all the way till 2019, and she may well end up not as a powerful force in the Villa but as a strong voice for women’s rights.

It is possible she may be advised soon to recruit spin-doctors to do damage control, but she may have left that rather late already.

On the other hand, there is no amount of damage control that the President’s spin-doctors can sell to anyone. Whatever happens, she is cultivating a reputation as a different kind of First Lady.

Since independence, every Nigerian Head of State or President has enjoyed the support of his wife while in office: strong, fanatical support.

Mrs Maryam Abacha was so supportive of her husband, while everybody condemned him, and long after his death, she has continued to celebrate his memory.

Before her, Mrs Maryam Babangida brought greater colour and celebrity status to the Office of the First Lady and added much value to her husband’s tenure.

Mrs Fati Abubakar was a dignified presence behind her husband, the same with Mrs Margaret Shonekan. President Olusegun Obasanjo had as First Lady, the very elegant and beautiful Stella Obasanjo who mobilized support and goodwill for her husband. Turai Yar’Adua, wife of the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was also so devoted to her husband’s cause, she was declared the head of the Aso Rock cabal. No one doubted her determination to protect her husband’s interest during those critical moments. You all know Mrs Patience Jonathan. She was as First Lady, her husband’s most vocal supporter. This brought her at loggerheads with some sections of the public who objected to her prominence and controversial statements, but not once did she or the other First Ladies before her, criticize their husbands in public.

Elsewhere, First Ladies also support their husbands. With all the reported cases of dalliance and cuckoldry during the Bill Clinton Presidency, Hillary Clinton stood by her husband.  Michelle Obama has also proven to be a very good role model in this regard.

Certain positions require careful grooming. Any form of tension in the home could distract a political leader and make him seem vulnerable in the eyes of the public.

Mrs Aisha Buhari may have spoken her mind, but she should not make a habit of assuming the role of a radical, in-house critic, throwing her husband under the wheels. She ought to be thoroughly embarrassed by all the fun being poked at her husband because of that BBC Hausa interview she granted. How this matter is resolved between their kitchen and “the other room” is a family affair into which we cannot dabble.

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VIDEO: President Buhari ‘Jokingly’ Disses Wife Over BBC Interview

President Muhammadu Buhari elicited laughter at a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel yesterday when he responding to a question about an interview granted by his wife, Aisha Buhari, to the BBC.

The president jokingly said, “I claim superior knowledge compared to [my wife] and the opposition,” mentioning his three failed campaigns for the presidency of Nigeria over a 12-year period before he won on his fourth attempt.

He said his wife belongs to the his kitchen, the living room and the other room.

The video below captures the president’s exact words.

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Buhari’s Comment On Aisha’s Interview A Mere Joke – Garba Shehu

The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu has said President Muhammadu Buhari respects women, citing the appointment of Kemi Adeosun, finance minister, as a demonstration of that.

?Reacting to the media frenzy ignited by Buhari’s statement that his wife Aisha belonged in the kitchen, Shehu said that Buhari was only joking.
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“My friends, can’t a leader get a sense humour any more? Mr President laughed before that statement was made,” he said.?

?”He was obviously throwing a banter.

“Politics sometimes should be spiced with humour. Those of us close to him know there is never a dull moment with him.

“Mr President respects the place of women in our society. He believes in the abilities of women.

“One of Nigeria’s most sensitive office today is headed by a woman, Mrs Adeosun. This is an evidence of the confidence he reposes on women.?”

In an interview she granted the BBC, Aisha had alleged that the government had been hijacked.

Shealso said that she might not support her husband under the present circumstances if he seeks re-election in 2019.

Buhari was reacting to the statement when he said: “Aisha belongs to my kitchen, living room, and the other room.”

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Full Text Of Aisha Buhari’s BBC Hausa Interview

This is the full text from the interview of First Lady of Nigeria, Aisha Buhari, by BBC Hausa Service:

BBC Hausa: It has been One and a half years since President Muhammadu Buhari came into power, a lot of people are expressing their unhappiness over the way few acquaintance of the President have hijacked power while neglecting people that work for his success. Like we have promised, here is how the interview with Aisha Buhari and Naziru Maka’ilu from Abuja goes.

BBC Hausa: People have goodwill towards President Muhammadu Buhari, especially looking at the things he did before, but since coming into power things have not been working the way they should, what do you thing is the cause?

Aisha Buhari:  I am not a government official, but in my opinion as a woman, a mother, what I think is it is well known that the first 4 years are not going to be easy. Firstly, it was people that brought the government into power. More than half of those people are not appointed into the government. Some people that are not politicians, not professionals were brought into the government. They don’t even know what we said we want and what we don’t during the campaign.  They even come out and say to people we are not politicians, but they are occupying the offices meant for politicians. Some have parted with their wives, some lost their children lost, some women too have parted with their husbands because of politics, a lot happened during the time. The way things are going I too I am not happy. We are just starting, we have not finished. Some people that worked for the government have been appointed. But those heading government agencies you can find one fighting his state governor, they contested together during election one in APC while in PDP.
BBC Hausa: Who are those doing these kinds of things?

Aisha Buhari: Everybody knows them. Those people should know that people voted singly. Even Buhari too had one vote. Nobody voted 5 times.  15.429 Million People. That one that people are thinking too, he had only some 2 or 3 people. I am pleading to them to have the people at heart and embrace everybody so that we can all move together. Not even now in 2016 or 17, lot of people are creating divisions within the APC, which is our source of concern. They think they have worked for the government while those appointed some of them had no voter’s card. What I fear is uprising of 15.4 million people.

BBC Hausa: Is the President aware some people are subverting his government?

Aisha Buhari: Whether he knows or he do not, those that voted for him knows.

BBC Hausa: But you are the most closest to him, did you tell him?

Aisha Buhari: There is nothing I can tell him, he is seeing things himself. Out of the people he has appointed, take 50, 45 of them I don’t know them. Perhaps he doesn’t know them too. I have been living with him for 27 years.

BBC Hausa: Do you think there are some people that are dictating to the President things to do, not him?

Aisha Buhari: That is what I am saying, those that know they don’t have voters card, they should give chance to those that have, they are the ones that struggled and knows what we want to do. Some of them if you go to a meeting with them they will tell you, we are not politicians, if somebody is wise, they will not accept to take any political office. They didn’t even work for it. Even if you are asked to, you should say it is not my profession.  Those places not headed by politicians will cause people discontent.

BBC Hausa: One would wonder to hear you say some people have hijacked the government without him knowing, but who do you think are those people?

Aisha Buhari: I don’t know them, I don’t know them. I don’t know them

BBC Hausa: But some people are calling names, saying 2 or 3 are the ones, do you that as well?

Aisha Buhari: Yes I agree. Because of those appointed apart from Fashola, Ameachi and some others, not much, I don’t know them, most of us too don’t know them, and he too does not know them

BBC Hausa: One would wonder that Buhari is not the one charge knowing him as a person who had leadership experiences, people would not believe

Aisha Buhari: Yes it is surprising; nobody thought it is going to be like this. But now that it is so…sometimes when one is doing something wrong without him knowing, but when people talk to them, they should listen. Because in the future, whether he is going to contest or not, it is that same people that would vote for APC. We hope those people don’t come back, and everybody don’t hope so too

BBC Hausa: You said “Whether he is going to contest in the future or not”, has he disclose it to you whether he is standing or not?

Aisha Buhari: He didn’t tell me, but I have made up my mind.

Translated by www.nishadi.tv

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Buhari Replies Wife Over BBC Interview, Says She Belongs To My Kitchen

President Muhammadu Buhari has reacted to the interview his wife granted to the BBC where she made scathing remarks concerning the president’s decision in government.

Aisha Buhari had in an interview with BBC’s Naziru Mikailu, said she may not back her husband at the next election unless he shakes up his government.

She further declared that Buhari “does not know”most of the top officials he has appointed, and that the government had been hijacked by some persons deciding presidential appointments.

“The president does not know 45 out of 50, for example, of the people he appointed and I don’t know them either, despite being his wife of 27 years,” she said people adding that those who do not share the vision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) were now appointed to top posts.

“Some people are sitting down in their homes folding their arms only for them to be called to come and head an agency or a ministerial position.”

But reacting to the First Lady’s comment, Buhari who is on a three-day visit to Germany laughed off his wife’s comments about him, saying, “I don’t know which party my wife belongs to, but she belongs to my kitchen and my living room.”

His comments to reporters in Germany prompted German Chancellor Angela Merkel, standing at his side, to give him a short glare and then laugh.

In his comments to reporters, Buhari also said he hopes his wife will remember that he ran for president three times before succeeding on the fourth effort. “So I claim superior knowledge over her and the rest of the opposition, because in the end I have succeeded. It’s not easy to satisfy the whole Nigerian opposition parties or to participate in the government.”

Buhari, who was briefly a military dictator in the 1980s, was elected in his fourth run at the presidency in 2015 on the back of a coalition that includes former foes and opportunists who abandoned the former governing party of defeated President Goodluck Jonathan.

Buhari has not said whether he will run again in 2019.

“He is yet to tell me, but I have decided as his wife that if things continue like this up to 2019, I will not go out and campaign again and ask any woman to vote like I did before. I will never do it again,” Aisha Buhari said.

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Can’t Watch The Video? Here Is The Full Transcript of Tiwa Savage’s Interview

Tiwa Savage has finally addressed allegations levelled against her b he husband, Teebillz, who broke down on Instagram in a rather shocking outburst.

Tiwa during the interview with Azuka Oguijuba talked about the allegations, what promote them and the way forward.

Read Excerpts below:

“When I woke up, I thought they found him dead. My first thought was that we need to find him, he is suicidal, and we need to make sure he is alive. I didn’t even know what he had said. Someone took my phone from me, they don’t want me to see what was said online. I was just sacred for his life.

“At around 10 and 11, Banky W’s Mum and his family were praying, and we got the call that he was found in Lekki, and that he has been taken to Banky’s House.

“For the past two months, TJ and I have not been together, it was something we were working through, but I knew this marriage would not work. I haven’t spoke to TJ in about a week, and we were supposed to get some passports for my son. He was reading the messages and he wasn’t responding. I begged him to be friends, and let’s be good parents to Jamil. He didn’t respond.

“I covered up for a lot of hurt in our relationship. Just before I went to Jamaica, I found out that I was pregnant. We were just trying to find out how we were going to manage another baby so soon. I got to London, on a 10-hour flight to shoot a video with Busy Signal (Reggae Artiste). While doing my makeup, I found out I was bleeding and I passed out. I was rushed to the hospital, and we were trying to call TJ to tell him what happened. While we were sleeping at two AM a number called him saved as Edible Catering… I checked his phone, and the number was asking him if she can come to his hotel. She responded that He (TJ) knocked her out last night, that he was a great night. I confronted him, and he said he took another woman to the hotel and said they were just chilling.

“This happened the period I was in Jamaica, and I was in the hospital. I sent TJ pictures, and he was busy with another woman. I was in a hospital and you couldn’t be bothered find out what happened to me. I packed my stuff, took my son and went to my friends house, her name is Tiwa also. I stayed the night, and she asked me for the next step, I told her I was done.

“I covered up for so long because I wanted people to believe that TJ is the one that takes care of me, TJ is the head of the house…I wanted him to be the head of the house. I covered up so much. TJ has not spent one Naira, I paid for hospital bills, his flight, his accommodation, we also went shopping for TJ so that he will have new things. His excuse was that I don’t have money’. I had to pay for everything so that he can go out and hustle, and get the contracts. He didn’t have money for diapers, but he had money to have a bi-weekly haircut, had money to pay for his laundry, had money to take a woman to the hotel.

The Mavins First Lady continued that: “His cooking allegations is a lie. I am not going to say because of my career that I am not going to cook. I work long hours to put money in the house, I work to make sure that we have a roof over our house. I come back home really late, and when I make something for myself, I make some for TJ. I had to hire a cook to cook for me, him and the other people that live in the house, I don’t think that is wrong…Even if it is true, the things he puts me through will not even encourage me to ask him if he is hungry. He goes out and you come home at 7 in the morning, sometime 2pm. He comes back drunk, he comes back angry, and we don’t know what sort of mood he is in. Sometimes TJ will go out and he will not call, and he will not tell him. I am just sacred for his safety, I will be calling him frantically, to find out that he didn’t go and drink. I am even praying that he is with another woman, so that at least I know that he is alive. That’s not the person that I will ask if he has eaten.

“When I sacked him as my manager – I will never discredit or take away that TJ worked hard, hustled and believed in me. But what I will say is that at one point…. he is booking events and he will book shows. The first time I found out that there was foul play was when he booked me for a wedding in London. I have to be paid before I perform. I called one of the organisers, and said I have not been paid. He said that the show has been paid four months ago, he showed me the account were they paid him. TJ declared that the show was for 3M but they really paid 4.5M, out of the 3M he was still receiving the management fee 40%. He took money already, and collected his percentage, and he didn’t feel anything. He was stealing from his wife. I had to perform at the wedding for free. I do get to perform for free when he takes my money.

“My mum is based in the UK, and when I had Jamil she moved back to Nigeria with us. My mother is not like that (witchcraft), she is a sweet lady, and she’s very British, she doesn’t judge, she is not hung up like that. A lot of times, my mom would say ‘Tiwa you are the wife, be patient, don’t curse don’t shout, build the home.’ She has been nothing but a great support for me. I would love for him to tell me if there is something my mother has done.

Denying the Infidelity allegation, Tiwa Said: “I have never cheated on my husband. Not with Don Jazzy, Dr Sid, 2face Idibia or anybody. I have never cheated on my husband, and Tunji knows this. He knows that in his heart. (She breaks down in tears) Sometimes in the studio, one of the things that Don Jazzy and some of my other label mates say is that I am really good with interviews, with being diplomatic and knowing how to carry myself with difficult situations. This hurts. I have seen comments of what people are saying about me. It is not true.

“I know that for every human being when your father’s ways are not straight, it will bother you. Since I sacked him from my management, he has been struggling financially. He was stealing from me, so I had to save my marriage and separate business from family. TJ wants to keep up with the Joneses, he wants to live a life that is not true. He went to buy a car, a Mercedes that he knew that he didn’t have the money for it. The person kept up calling that he wants the balance. I ended up paying the balance of over 3M. When it was time to pay, I put the money in his account, so they don’t know I was the person paying for it. He also bought a Rolex, and didn’t pay the balance. They threaten to go to the press, and to protect my name, I will have to pay for it. He goes to clubs and leaves the tabs for me, and I have to pay for him. He is putting us in debt.

“What set off all off this was that he went to borrow 45 million Naira from someone and he lost it. I just found out that EFCC was investigating a case against him, and my brother called me from London and confirmed it that TJ is in deep trouble, and that some people might hurt him, that I should be careful. In my frantic mode to try and suppress this situation I went to one of my big bros who can help. A week ago I told TJ that we were running out of Jamil’s food, but he didn’t do nothing. He complains, but cuts his hair twice a week. I have been searching for N45M so that they don’t kill him, so that they EFCC does not carry him. What kind of man does that, and says I am the one taking away his manhood.

“I walked in on TJ taking cocaine in my house in 1004 (Victoria Island, Lagos). I didn’t even know he takes cocaine. I walked into the kitchen, and I saw him taking cocaine, so I screamed, and asked if that is cocaine. HE started screaming that ‘What am I doing down here, where is the cocaine?’ How can someone without money take cocaine? I called his parents and complained that I can deal with weed, but cocaine, no. So I am dealing with his alcohol problem, you come home late, infidelity, coaciane, bad debt, jealousy over my success.

“Before marriage, I don’t know of his third child in Nigeria. A lot of people warned me about him, but I am going to say I made a mistake. At the beginning everyone says you can’t leave the marriage because our culture frowns on it. I made a mistake, do I have to wait ten years, 15 years? If I am not happy. And I was scared that if I ever find somebody else to marry me? That’s the misconceptions of our society. I don’t care if I ever get married again. I care about being happy for Jamil, I care about not walking on eggshells. I do want a man that works, that will help me with my financial burden. He doesn’t have to be a millionaire or billionaire, but at least someone that helps, and won’t put me in more debt. Everyday all I hear from TJ is that ‘I created you, I took you from nothing, look at you now.

“The marriage is finally over, it’s been over for a while, and I have covered up for a while. What happened was God-sent, and he made it easier for me to walk away with what he did on social media. He got so many people angrier, he pulled so many innocent people into this. Even his family. He made it easy for me to finally up and walk away.

“I will never stop hum from seeing Jamil, never. Even today, Jamil is still saying ‘dadada’, and I was saying it with him as well, that’s his first word. I want to bring him up to be a good man.

“Even till now I don’t wish anything bad on him. As we are doing this interview, I am worried that if he sees it, it might trigger him to do something bad. I don’t want my son to grow up and know, God forbid, that his father committed suicide. Tonight, I am still gonna pray for him.

“He was getting help at one point when the whole cocaine thing came out. This has been happening for a long time. We get him help and he goes to see a doctor or a pastor, or a counsellor and he uses his own hands to ruin things again. If I didn’t care about him, I wouldn’t be covering up for a lot of things. I wouldn’t be searching for help for him. Even now I am still searching for a way to help him out of his debt, so that if he is out of this, If there is anything that maybe I overlooked, or didn’t love him enough, or made him less of a man, then I am sorry. I am absolutely sorry… Tunji I am sorry. But you know I tried everything, you know I love you so much, and I am sorry, I never wanted to divorce, and I never wanted it to get to this. I want you to get better…and I would always pray for you.”

Watch Video:

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VIDEO: President Buhari’s Much Talked About Interview With Aljazeera

President Muhammadu Buhari his visit to Qatar spoke to Aljazeera where he addressed the country’s economic crisis, especially on his insistence not to devalue the naira and how the fall in oil price has affected the economy.

He also spoke on his fight against Boko Haram and corruption.

The video interview courtesy of Aljazeera is presented below. Click to watch

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Did Buhari Really Call Nigerians Criminals? Read His Full Interview On Daily Telegraph

Nigeria’s president Muhammadu Buhari gave an exclusive interview to the Daily Telegraph last week where he allegedly referred to Nigerians as criminals.

To set the record straight, Daily Telegraph has released the ful details of the interview which has since generated controversy in the media space. Here is the full record of his remarks.

Are you willing to talk to Boko Haram about the missing Chibok schoolgirls? 

“As long as we can establish the bona fides of the leadership of Boko Haram, we are prepared as a government to discuss with them how to get the girls back. But we have not established any evidence of a credible leadership.”

Is Abubakr Shekau still the leader of Boko Haram? 

“I receive conflicting information about the status of Shekau. Some say he has been removed and replaced by a less charismatic terrorist leader.

“I think he must be on the run, because out of the 14 local government districts that Boko Haram used to call their caliphate, they now do not control any now. They are scattered around the Sambisa forest and they have resorted to attacking soft targets, people in churches, mosques and market places, and using improvised explosive devices.”

Are you seeking any further help from the West in the fight against Boko Haram? 

“I was invited by the G7 during my visit to Europe to brief them on the issue of security Boko Haram, and I did so. I subsequently sent Nigeria’s ‘shopping list’ in terms of the infrastructure destroyed. That is schools, medical facilities and other institutions, bridges blown up, and the estimates of repair.”

Did you also ask for Western military help? 

“Yes, I did, but I don’t want to give any details of that in public at present. As you know, we already have foreign military help in terms of training missions.”

And are you asking for additional military help beyond training missions? 

“I am not asking for any of that yet. I want to be briefed first on the situation from the Nigerian military and also the police.”

The previous government used mercenaries from South Africa in the fight against Boko Haram, with some success. Would you consider doing the same? 

“I personally was very disappointed that the previous government resorted to mercenaries. I was also disappointed by the recent revelations of how military allocations were also misappropriated. How is it that Nigeria’s military, which has a good record across west Africa, cannot claim back to 14 out of 774 local governorates from Boko Haram? They have to ask for mercenaries from South Africa? How the mighty has fallen!”

What is your feeling on the wider terror threats across west and north Africa at the moment, with terrorism attacks taking place in Mali and Burkina Faso? 

“I think we should be very worried because with technology, Boko Haram and other terrorists have become very mobile in all continents, not only in Africa but also in Europe, America and Asia.

“For Africa and the Sahel, the demise of Gaddafi’s regime led to a lot of armed and trained people, especially those from the Sahel, being dispersed. Fighting is the only thing they know, and they are available at a fee. The danger is there, and I am pleased that Europe has realised it too.”

There have been reports that Nigerians have been fighting for Isil in the Libyan city of Sirte. Is that true? 

“I haven’t seen confirmed reports about that, but I know that it is not only in Sirte – there are also Nigerians finding their way to Syria too. I don’t know which side, but they may be fighing for Isil. How many, I have no idea.”

Have you ever had reports of people from the Nigerian diaspora in the UK being involved in Boko Haram in any way? 

“No, but if I do, I will immediately raise the issue.”

A number of Nigerians use the migrant routes to come to the UK to claim asylum, saying their lives are at risk from Boko Haram. Is is legitimate for them to do so? 

“Some Nigerians claim is that life is too difficult back home, but then again some Nigerians have also made it difficult for Europeans and Americans to accept them because of the number of Nigerians in different prisons all over the world accused of drug trafficking or human trafficking. I don’t think Nigerians have anybody to blame. They can remain at home. Their services are required to rebuild the country. If their countrymen misbehaved, the best thing for them is to stay at home and encourage the credibility of the nation.”

Do you think that Nigerians have an image problem abroad? 

“Certainly. But we are on our way to salvage that. We will encourage our countrymen to stay at home, work hard and make a respectable living at home.”

Your government has launched a major corruption probe over claims that billions of dollars of oil cash went missing during the previous administration. Some suspects have been arrested in the UK. Are you satisfied with the co-operation you are getting from the UK authorities? 

“One of the biggest suspects is in Britain now, although I am not going to name that person. But Britain has earned our respect in the way it deals with these matters. Our only problem is that it seems to be too thorough and it takes too much time. If there are obvious cases, like bank accounts, infrastructure houses and hotels, I would hope they could do it quicker, so that we can claim these things back promptly.”

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Tinubu Did Not Grant Any Interview on Buhari, PDP Defectors – Media office

Once again, a claque of fiction and fantasy writers work to commit severe fraud against the body politic. The fiction factory, posing as newsroom, now thrives. In an article published in Post Nigeria online  dated 14 and titled “I am afraid PDP will stop Buhari in 2009 – Tinubu,” the writer, Amako Nneji, concocted the latest work of political deceit. No sane reporter would dare put their true name to this screed; it is pure libel. If the disciple of this libel truly believes in this account, we challenge him to visit Tinubu’s office or to announce where he can be found. Tinubu’s attorney will serve the writer with a complaint for libel. The writer will then have a chance to defend and explain himself in open court and before the public. If he is so sure of the fidelity of his tale, let him speak openly before us as to what he wants us to belief is the truth instead slinking about writing lies in the anonymous dark.

The falsity of the article is patently clear in that it does not even comport with the minimal standards of journalism. The writer fails to divulge the date or the place the alleged statement. This omission is willful. The writer does not state these basic facts because the meeting never happened; to give such information would make it even easier to prove his work is a lie.  The writer has not seen Tinubu and has no idea where Tinubu was on any given day.

Worse, the writer says Tinubu was speaking to newsmen. If so, why have no other newspapers carried this story? The answer is simple. There was no such meeting between Tinubu and several newsmen. Because the story is the figment of one awfully wounded.

The story contains a long quote supposedly from Tinubu.  There is no way a true journalist would have tried to transcribe this by hand. He would have taped it. We dare this journalist to produce the tape.

The story falls in the genre of the hitman tactics of the politically desperate. Clearly, the schemers behind this are minions of the collapsing PDP. Their party is falling apart before our eyes, with multiple defections by the day.  They fabricated this story to discourage further defections and to sow discord in the APC. However, the discord will remain where it belongs: the PDP.

Tinubu has never publicly commented on the defections of people from the PDP, much less making derogatory remarks about the phenomenon. In fact, if you check, he has welcomed many former PDP members into the APC. Tinubu is a democrat and a progressive. He believes that the APC is and shall always be opened to those who share its progressive beliefs and who are committed to a better Nigeria. The more people of like minds gather, the stronger the party and the more likely it is to achieve the objective of building Nigeria anew.

The writer of this fable tries to bring discord between Tinubu and Buhari regarding 2019 election and the budget. The attempt will fail. President Buhari was elected less than a year ago. The challenges he inherited are many. We must all seek to help him do the great things he envisions. 2019 is such a long, far road away. Let 2019 take care of itself. Today presents enough challenges of its own. Those who want Nigeria to succeed should be more concerned with tackling the difficulties of today and not stirring up trouble based on what might happen tomorrow.

For the record, Tinubu supports the government’s expansionary budget and has no qualms with its objectives and programs. For the writer to say Tinubu complained about the figures is to pile lie upon lie.

Whosoever wrote the story is serpentine. But their venom will not hurt Tinubu, Buhari or the APC. They are like the mad snake that mediated its own demise by biting itself.

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“She Is Lying”, Emir Sanusi Responds To Diezani Madueke’s Interview With Dele Momodu

Barely 24 hours after former Nigeria’s minister of petroleum, resources Diezani Alison-Madueke’s interview with Ovation International publisher, Dele Momodu hit the airwaves, rebuttal to her claims? has started pouring out.

Diezani, who is now battling cancer had told Dele Momodu in the said interview that no money was missing under her watch especially the much publicised $20billion, which Sanusi as CBN governor had told the country had developed legs and disappeared from the country’s coffers.

She also said Sanusi may have erroneously believed that it was she who blocked him ambition to become the president of the African Development Bank (AfDB), saying that it was Jonathan’s men that stopped from seeing him.

However, Sanusi is his rebuttal said that Diezani is not telling the truth, that in deed she knows that monies running into billions of dollars were missing from her Ministry.

“The question that remains for Diezani to answer is: Was there $6bn said to have been remitted to NPDC which they denied? As for that denial, who is holding that money? What happened to the inflated N6 per litre kerosene subsidy?
Where is the money said to be paid to that effect? All these questions formed the basis upon which I was suspended and denied the AfDB job,” he stated.
? ?
He reminded the former minister that what he did was neither a personal war nor was it targeted at anybody. He declared that if anybody feels affected by the revelation, he or she should come forward and clear their name.

“Certainly, there is nothing personal. It is our nation’s money we are talking about. One cannot take away the treasury and expect to go scot-free. He must answer the basic questions. Everyone is aware that I was punished by former President Jonathan for exposing the missing $20bn.”

The Emir said he was denied Nigeria’s backing for the AfDB job because of the $20bn allegation adding that it was on record that a week after he exposed the matter, Jonathan wrote a letter withdrawing his nomination as Nigeria’s candidate and replaced him with then Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Akinwunmi Adesina.

Sanusi said it was not a hidden fact he expressed interest in the AfDB job when the position became vacant. He noted that while he expressed lack of interest in a second term as CBN Governor, he wrote a letter to Jonathan and the Senate and also discussed his AfDB ambition extensively with the Ministers of Finance, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala, and the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mohammed Adobe.

The monarch further explained that his meeting with Jonathan on the AfDB job was witnessed by the former President’s Principal Private Secretary, Hassan Tukur. Sanusi recalled that Jonathan even directed Hassan to start campaigning for him among African leaders, which the aide did by writing a letter to one of them.

“It is not something that is hidden that anybody who is seeking that job must get the support of his country. Knowing fully that I went to the President with my intention and before I made the exposure of the $20bn oil deal, Jonathan clearly indicated his support for me. He even directed Hassan Tukur, his Principal Private Secretary to write to African heads of state. So, what is Diezani saying? One can now see that she is lying.

“My suspension came a week after I made the disclosure of the missing monies, precisely on February 20, 2014. As at that time, I was the only candidate from Nigeria gunning for the AfDB job, but you know one cannot have it when he is suspended. My passports were all confiscated. Jonathan in trying to punish me denied me of the job and replaced me with Akin Adesina, who is my personal friend.”

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‘Sometimes I Ask Why I Am Still Alive!’: Alamieyeseigha Last Interview Before His Death

Former governor of Bayelsa State, Diepreye Alamieyeseigha died on Saturday after suffering cardiac arrest.

He was said to have gone into coma two days earlier and was placed on life support at the University of Port Harcourt Teaching Hospital before his eventual death.

In his last interview with Vanguard, the fugitive ex-governor who was pardoned? by former president Jonathan is said to have asked rhetorically why ?he is still alive.

He also spoke about former Presidents Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan in the interview.

Excerpts:

Let’s start by asking what informed your choice of former President Jonathan as your deputy governor in 1999.

One is that I came from Southern Ijaw Local Government, the largest in the Bayelsa State and may be in the whole country. My political calculation was to pick somebody from the Ogbia axis, that is the Eastern part of the state to balance the political equation. So, I needed Ogbia votes. Number two, I wanted a deputy governor who had high level of intelligence and stable character like Jonathan.

I also needed an establishment person and somebody who was not too ambitious that if I was out, he could stand in for me and could run the state. I needed somebody, who would not attempt to cause trouble if I travelled out of the state so that I could sleep well. It was a combination of these factors that made me to choose Jonathan as my deputy then. I set out an objective criteria on the qualities I needed and when the late Chief judge of Bayelsa State recommended him, (I did not know him before), I readily accepted him. In fact, I had to drive in my car to his residence and asked him to resign from the then OMPADEC, where he was working at the time.

Within the period Jonathan worked under you, did you at any point imagine that he would one day become a vice president or president and what were those leadership qualities you identified in him?

Leadership comes from above. No matter how you try, if God almighty does not destine you to lead, you will not be a leader. For Goodluck, I knew that he was going to be vice president of Nigeria as far back as August 25, 2005. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo had once told me that since his former vice, Atiku Abubakar and I wanted to take his job that it would be over his dead body and that unless he died, Atiku would not be president of Nigeria. He told me that since Atiku had picked me as his running mate, he would disgrace us. He said that he was going to use my deputy to rubbish me before everybody. So, I knew.

But some say, like Balarabe Musa observed recently, that Jonathan was not prepared for leadership and that accounted for the loss of power by the South.

It is not right because Jonathan is more experienced than any president that has ruled this country in the past. How can you say that somebody who has been in office for 16 years is not qualified? If I may ask, which former president of this country was in power for 16 years? He was in office as deputy governor and was overseeing administration of local governments and was very conversant with the administration of local governments at that level. He was also performing the role of a deputy governor. He became a governor and is also familiar with governance at that level. He became a vice president and later acting president and a president. Which Nigerian has that pedigree? None. So, Balarabe Musa goofed. I am not aware of any special school that people go to become president. Academically, he is more qualified than any of them, and in our local environment at the University of Port Harcourt, he has street knowledge because he is locally bred.

Not everybody will like his style but I can tell you that if you sit down and catalogue what he has done for this country, no other president has done that. But it is his life style; he is a very quiet man, unassuming but with very high intellectual content. If Goodluck believes in something, the house can collapse but he will do what he believes in. He has a very strong character. It depends on who is looking at him and from which angle. From the beginning, people’s mindset were fixed for him to fail and to manage that perception was another problem. But he did well. All these things that the APC is claiming to have done in 100 days are just claims; you cannot fix the refinery in three months. Somebody must have done very serious work before. To do turnaround maintenance takes 18 months and not three months.

Some argue that Jonathan’s defeat in the election and the role played by the elite may create bad blood in Nigerian politics. Do you agree and what do you see in the future for Nigeria?

I have very radical views about that and I do not want to share them now. We are watching out what will play out at the national level. Will Nigeria or the ruling party still take us as part of Nigeria? Of course, they know that we are still feeding this nation. So, I think that they are conscious of that and they should also know that even the British could not conquer the Ijaw people.

We have the capacity to defend what belongs to us. So far, so good, the appointments that they have made, none has come to Bayelsa. The Special Adviser to the President on the Amnesty Programme, Brig-Gen. Boroh, is just coordinating the programme and I do not consider that as an appointment. Is that what we deserve? The Amnesty programme, we do not know whether it will end in December. We are watching.

Let’s take you to former President Obasanjo under whose leadership you were impeached as governor. Have you have forgiven him?

Let me make it clear here that I have forgiven all the people who worked against me. It is not only Obasanjo but everybody. This is because everything that happened, who did what, I know? I cannot be living in the past because it does not help. It pains quite well but again, if it was not permitted by God, it would not have happened. And for me to be alive, I thank God. Sometimes when I reflect on where I am coming from, I even at times ask why I am still alive, having passed through what I have passed through. It reminds me of Psalm 23, somebody passing through the valley of the shadow of death. I passed through it several times. For me to be alive, I do not need to have anything in mind.

Have you interacted with Obasanjo since that saga and what was the closest you have been with him since then?

I have been at a very close quarters with Obasanjo twice. The first encounter was at the Katsina Airport during the wedding of the daughter of late President Yar’Adua. I did not even know that he was in the VIP lounge. I wanted to use the rest room and here was Obasanjo directly sitting inside. I was even scared because he almost passed out.

I held his hand and he said DSP what have I done to deserve a handshake from you? There were other people; Kenny Martins and one of his political friends present. I said I was shaking him for two reasons. One was because of the Almighty God who created us. Number two is that tradition demands that we should welcome our visitors. Then Kenny got up and said, great leader, great leader and he came to hug me. The second encounter was when I was going to Dubai and if Obasanjo had known that I was in that aircraft, he would not have entered but I was already seated. We were very few in the aircraft. Because of fear, Obasanjo saw me and hysterically called me Fayose, Fayose and I told him that I was not Fayose. I said former president, Olusegun Matheew Kikiola Aremu Obasanjo, you are a devil incarnate. I said when we were small, our lesson teachers always talked about this devil and this devil and I never knew that the devil is a human being. I told him that you are a direct descendant of the devil. I told him that if you talk, I will throw you out of this aircraft.

I knew of truth that he did not sleep throughout the flight. The only thing he said was DSP, is it only you that entered prison. I too entered prison. He said you entered prison and I entered prison. He kept quiet and I left. But I have forgiven him and I can even go to Otta. He is an elder. One thing I know of Obasanjo is that you can say anything against Obasanjo but he is a leader. If he says he is going to do this, he will do it. You can call Obasanjo any time of the day or night and he will pick the phone himself. He will be ready to sit down with you to solve any problem even though he will not allow you to talk. He has invited you to seek your opinion on how to solve the problem but he would not allow you to talk and at the end of the day, you begin to wonder why he called you when he already had the solution to the issue. That is the type of character that he is.

I know him. For me to say he is devil incarnate, he is.

What do you think that Jonathan did well and did not do well?

Well, I was not in government and cannot say what he did well and didn’t do well. As far as I am concerned I didn’t lift oil, I did not have oil wells and I didn’t get any contract from anybody.
But you must have received some presidential gifts like cash and other tangible things more valuable than contracts and oil blocks?

Yes, I had unlimited access to Jonathan and I used to have free access to his home. If I met him eating, I would join him and so on. Jonathan has no money. So, if Buhari is looking to extract money from him, he won’t find.

What if the money is hidden somewhere offshore?

That cannot happen anymore in this world.
Are you saying he is a poor man?

No, he is a quiet and highly contented Nigerian but not a rich man.

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INTERVIEW: Why I’m Fighting Governor El-Rufai — Shehu Sani

In this interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ team of Musikilu Mojeed, Bassey Udo and Lere Mohammed, Shehu Sani, the senator representing Kaduna Central, speaks about speaks about federal lawmakers’ controversial jumbo pay, his disagreement with his state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and other issues.

PT: How has the transition been from activism to parliament?

Sani: The transition from activism to parliament gives me a new experience in governance. The fact that we are from a journey of struggles, that found us in the trenches, organising protests and standing up against injustice and tyranny. This is an opportunity for us with this background to make positive impact in our societ by seeing the realization of those very ideas and ideals we stand for over the years.

We have been used to throwing missiles. Now we are in the position to receive them. We have been used to criticizing. Now we are in a position to be criticized. We have all along lived our lives in the opposition. During the military era, we were in the forefront of the struggle against military rule and for the restoration of democracy.

Many of us were pushed to exiles. Others were jailed or even killed in that struggle. Now, we are in government, specifically in parliament. From my experience, I can say this is different from what we have been used to in the last decade in the history of our nation.

PT: When people like you indicated interest to run for parliament, expectation heightened. With characters like you in the National Assembly, the hope was that there was going to be some radical changes in the way our parliamentarians carry themselves. So far, there has been so much controversy. Even the way your party, APC, elected its leadership. What’s wrong? Is this the change Nigerians worked for?

Sani: The APC is not a communist party. It’s not a party with a specified ideology. It is a convergence of people from different tendencies, ideas and backgrounds. It’s also a convergence of people from different political thinking. There is the ACN (Action Congress of Nigeria), that was basically present in the South-West, from where most of the leading characters play the south western Nigeria politics. There is also the CPC (Congress for Progressive Change), the party that was formed around the shadows and image of President Muhammadu Buhari. You also have ANPP (All Nigeria Peoples Party), seen basically as a northern Nigeria party, as well as the new PDP (Peoples Democratic Party), which is a break away from the establishment.

What brought all those forces together was the common goal of evicting the Jonathan administration and bringing about the fundamental change that Nigerians so desired. With the eviction of the common enemy, the reality of the differences comes to foreplay – people with divergent thoughts coming into conflict with themselves. The individual ambitions that were inhibited, or hidden by the reality of their existence under a common enemy, came to the open.

So, it is not peculiar to the APC, or Nigeria. In post-apartheid South Africa, there were conflicts within the ANC (African National Congress). Even in the Arab Spring, after the ejection of Gadhafi, or the removal of Mubarak in Egypt, conflicts happened. This is the reality of the situation.

In the course of time, how the party is able to navigate its way through these landmines of individual interests, ambitions and personal goals would determine the survival of the party and its relevance in the Nigerian political scene.

PT: Do you think the APC has handled the crisis well so far?

Sani: The crisis that is most official is the one in the National Assembly. How did we come about this? The mistakes that were made were from the very beginning. After the party won the 2015 election, what the party ought to have done from the first week of that victory should have been to invite all the legislators – the Reps and the Senators – and sit them down and let everyone know what the party was planning to achieve, and let everyone bring his or her own idea.

If the party had put its house in order in a closed-door, there is no way we could have come out with so much rancour. But, all the Senators and Reps were allowed for a whole two months to stay at home and do nothing until two weeks to the election in the National Assembly, before they were called to come and settle our differences. The differences that had existed for almost two months was expected to be sorted out within a day or two. That became impossible because individuals, who had already shown interest in certain positions, had not only made themselves known, but had entrenched themselves. Already, a division was created, and it was so deep to a point where it became impossible for anybody to do anything about it.

There were two contenders in the race for the Senate Presidency –Ahmed Lawan and Bukola Saraki, all seasoned administrators, who have a lot to contribute to the development of the party. Each one of them had also contributed to the victory of the APC at all levels. They are persons who, under normal circumstances, could easily have been be supported by all, but, the very fact that there was no attempt to get people together, and unite them, made things difficult.

On the day of the elections, we got a text message that there would be elections in the National Assembly, as the President had given an order for proclamation. But, that morning we had another text message that the President wanted to see us at the International Conference Centre, ICC. Despite the fact I got the text message, and had also received the earlier message that we should be at the National Assembly, I thought maybe I should go to the ICC because I believed the meeting there was an attempt by the President to reconcile the differences.

But we sat down. At the National Assembly, members’ phones were switched off. Within an hour, we got a report that the elections had taken place in the National Assembly and Saraki had emerged.

When Saraki emerged, we moved from the ICC to the Villa to meet with Mr. President, to say this is why we have come, and this was what happened. He expressed his own displeasure that there was no reconciliation and such things took place in the National Assembly. But, a day after, as far as I am concerned, when he said the process that led to Saraki’s emergence was constitutional, and he was ready to work with him, and had no reason to fight him, I simply had to go along with what the President said.

PT: Obviously, the party dug itself into a ditch. How do you think the party can dig itself out of the hole?

Sani: Yes, the party has gotten itself into a deep hole. It’s like an arrow that got deep into a skin. You don’t pull it off by force. It was easier for members of the House of Representatives to address their problem than the Senate, for two reasons.

One, APC does not have an overwhelming majority in the Senate. The difference we have is about eight senators, or to a certain level seven, because there are some other persons in court. But, in the House of Representatives, there is an overwhelming majority of APC members.

Two, Ekweremadu is now the Deputy Senate President. It is easier to play safe than to try to remove him. The dilemma the party is in now is that that PDP Senators see Ekweremadu as their own representative in the principal officers’ cadre, and because he is there, they do not oppose any motion, bill or anything coming from the Presidency.

If Ekweremadu is removed, though I would want to see APC from beginning to the end, we must be ready to contend with a very potent and angry opposition in the Senate. In the event that we are in need of two-thirds on members to resolve certain issues, we are definitely going to have a problem.

Again, the other problem on Ekweremadu is that the issue has now taken an ethnic colouration. He is being seen as a representative of a section of the country, South East, in the power equation of Nigeria. If he is ejected, there is no way the people in that region would not be provoked to stand up against this administration.

So, those who voted for Ekweremadu to be deputy to the Senate President had gotten the party into a difficult situation.

The only way the party can find a middle way out is to see to it that, despite having eight Senators ahead, how can we work together to see to the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. There are a good number of APC Senators that are aggrieved with its leadership. With that division, if one decides now to antagonise the PDP members in the Senate, one can imagine the chaos that is likely to break out there.

PT: Would you say the President on his part has acted right so far in his handling of the crisis?

Sani: The President’s philosophy is that he is for everybody, and for nobody. Clearly, that is the best the President can do in the circumstance. He cannot do otherwise than to seek to work with the National Assembly if he is to succeed in the execution of his programmes, rather than to be bogged down by the problems in the National Assembly.

If the PDP, as the opposition, made a clear statement that they were prepared to see to the success of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, it’s a victory in itself. Nobody in the PDP can dare challenge good programmes that would be of benefit to the socio-economic and political dynamics in Nigeria.

PT: Let’s talk about the alleged forgery of Senate rules. You were of the view that the matter should not have been allowed to degenerate to the extent the Police were allowed to come in. Why do you think that if there was forgery that the Police should not investigate?

Sani: Anybody who decides to go to the police or the court is performing his constitutional duty as a citizen. Anyone has a right to go to court or the police. But, the question is: Would that help the process of reconciliation? Those opposed to reconciliation in the Senate would say ‘since some people have gone to court, let’s wait till the court resolves, while the status quo is maintained.

What the Senate and the National Assembly need is that people should sit down and discuss issues and find solutions to them. Involving the police is constitutionally right, but the question remains: Would it help in bringing about the much needed reconciliation at this time?

If one is living in a house as a tenant, if there is a conflict with your co-tenant, the case could be resolved in two ways – either sit down inside and resolve it, or take it to the police. If you choose one, you cannot go for the other.

That is why I am saying that the case of the House of Representatives was not addressed at the police station. With the intervention of well-meaning Nigerians and the progressive governors, who have gotten themselves involved, a middle ground would be found. But, everyone is waiting now for the police report, and if we continue to wait, when would the police report and the court case be over? Meanwhile, in the Senate there are those who are waiting for the police to bring the report, how do you get them along?

PT: Perhaps, the crisis in the House of Representatives was not as complicated, but there was no case of forgery of any document. Are you saying such a criminal act under our laws should be overlooked?

Sani: I have been in prison for so many years. Nobody can tell me about the consequences of an offence. I have not just been in police station, I have been a prisoner and wore aprisoner uniform. I am telling you the fact that I believe that anyone who wants to go to a police station should go, or to the court. However, if the person goes there, the idea also of sitting down to resolve the problem in a roundtable would certainly be pushed away.

That is the option I talked about. If the police will solve the problem, well and fine. But, for me, I am for the resolution of this crisis through the contending forces of the Unity Forum and the Like Minds sitting down with our national leaders and seeing how we can work together and solve this problem.

PT: Regardless, do you believe at all there was forgery?

Sani: It is difficult for me to know whether there was forgery or not. If you say there was forgery, it means there was an original one and a fake one.  When I came to the Senate as a fresher and given a document, and I know that every Senate session has its own documents, and the document I have with me is written the 8th Senate, so those who would know whether the document of the 8th Senate is forged are those who were in the 7th Senate.

PT: But those who were in the 7th Senate, like Senator Ita Enang, who was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Rules and Business, have spoken that the document was forged?

Sani: Yeah, it is good for them. All the people who have spoken have the knowledge. But, what I am saying is that for one to know a document is forged, one has to have the knowledge of the other one. When these senators stood up to say the Senate Rules were forged, they did so because they were in the 7th Senate and knew what they had. I do not have that privilege.

PT: But the rules of the previous Senate are available online or in the library of the National Assembly? Are you saying that it is not important enough all this while for you to take some time, in view of the controversy, to look for them and compare with what you were given?

Sani: What I am saying is this: Let us wait for the police to finish its investigation. If the choices are two, the way to go is for us to sit down and reconcile, or we go to the police. But, if going to the police will solve the problem, then we should wait for the police report.

PT: At a time the whole world was condemning popular comedian, Bill Cosby, over his alleged sexual escapades with women in the United States, here you were busy tweeting that you still loved him. Why did you do that?

Sani: Well, on a lighter mood, I don’t even know who Bill Cosby is, or what he stands for, beyond the fact that he is a popular comedian who has done a lot as a black man from our own race. I believe he has contributed a lot in his field of arts.

You are a journalist today doing your professional duty. If by tomorrow you are caught doing bad things, it would not be said that from the beginning of your life to the end that you have been a bad person.

What I was saying in that aspect was that we should appreciate the contributions he made to the field of art. But, as far as the allegations are concerned, that is his business. I only appreciate the role he has played in arts, not necessarily sharing the condemnable criminal act, which, for now, still remains mere suspicion.

I have told you, I have been an old prisoner for a very long time, and I have learnt to be very cautious in condemning people. Before I went to prison, I used to think that everybody there was a sinner. It was when I went there that I found out that what one was seeing was not the same. Since then, I have learnt not to easily reach a conclusion on an issue that remains an allegation based on suspicion. I prefer a conviction before I make a clear position.

PT: Did you say you were also a sinner when you went to prison?           

Sani: Yeah, I have been a political ‘sinner’. Anybody who is taken to court, sentenced to prison and given prison uniform and number is political sinner. I was charged for treason for managing an illegal organisation and sentenced to life imprisonment for attempting to overthrow the government of General Sani Abacha.

PT: Let’s talk about the lawmakers’ salaries and jumbo allowances. What’s your view about the so-called jumbo pay that the lawmakers take, especially now that you are there?

Sani: The Senate is very sensitive to the position and concern of Nigerians over the ‘huge’ sums being spent on our legislators. It was because of that the Senate resolved to set up an ad hoc committee headed by James Manager to look at the issue. What the Senate President did was to make sure that the composition of that committee was made up of people who understand the issue. It was deliberate that he included Senators Dino Melaye, Ben Bruce and myself, so that we would be able to make the necessary changes that would reflect the interest and desires of Nigerians.

At the committee, these issues were tabled and it was generally agreed that we should cut down our salaries to reflect the current state of the country’s economy. We decided to do away with the controversial wardrobe allowance and reduce our pay by 40 or 50 percent.

The report was tabled before the Senate and it was debated in closed session. But the issue raised were not that the Senate dismissed the report completely, but that the Senate cannot take a decision on itself without due consultation with the House of Representatives. If the Senate wanted to cut the salary of its members, they needed to harmonise it with members of House of Representatives, to see how that would reflect generally on all the legislators.

We also needed to consult with people working in the National Assembly that are not politicians, who are simply civil servants. These consultations are very necessary. If the Senate would wake up and say it was cutting its budget by 50 percent, including the staffs of the National Assembly, that would be unfair.

Therefore, the idea was to sit down and harmonise the issues. The last has not been heard yet of the issue, because the Senate is certainly going to come out with a position on the salary that would not in any way impinge on the right of the staff of the National Assembly, and also would be in harmony with what members of the House of Representatives want.

It was generally agreed that the Revenue Mobilization, Allocation and Fiscal Committee (RMAFC), who are the ones who fix these salaries and allowances, should make open all entitlements due to a Senator or Members of the House of Representatives.

PT: Did your committee also discuss the illegal allowances that lawmakers take every quarter, which for Senators come to more than N40million?       

Sani: No, No No! There is no quarterly allowance any more. It has since been stopped.

PT: When did they stop it?

Sani: In the 7th Senate, there were more resources in the Senate than now. That is why the payments could come in quarters. Now, with the economic situation the country is facing, it was resolved generally that the Senators be paid monthly. Many of the last legislative aides of the 7th Assembly are yet to be paid their entitlements. The agreement we had now was that since the proposed budget was N150 billion, it was cut down to N120 billion. But, now it is also said that it should not simply be a block cutting, but the RMAFC should make it open for all to know those items that would be spent on. It was also generally agreed that those who should speak on the issue, to avoid conflicting positions and versions, should be either Senator James Manager, who is the Chairman of the Committee, or the Chairman of the Information Committee of the Senate, Dino Melaye. We all generally agreed on that. And that is why these two persons were authorised to speak on the issues that have to do with the allowances and the finance of the Senate and public complaint on these issues.

PT: What I can get from your explanation is that it is not as if the allowances were stopped, but that rather than taking the money quarterly, the Senate has now cleverly split the illegal allowances into monthly?

Sani: There is nothing illegal that would happen under President Muhammadu Buhari that he would keep quiet about. There is no way any illegal funds could be paid and the government would simply close his eyes to them. If any payment is made, it must be that it is legitimate. The new order in the country is not one where illegality would be going on without any action being taken.

PT: You said the Senators resolved that their pay be cut. Was it the salary that was cut or allowance?

Sani: What I am saying is that the debate in the committee ended abruptly, because even the issue of allowance could not be thrashed for the fact that somebody brought a point of order that the Senate could not go ahead without a joint sitting with the House of Representatives. By name, a Senator has bigger portfolio than a member of the House of Representatives. But if one looks at it closely, the Senators have five aides, like the House of Representatives. The difference is in what grade level the RMAFC gives to a Senator and member of the House of Representatives, which is less than five percent.

One would be able to speak authoritatively after the harmonization of the issues. For now, only those two persons were authorised to speak on the issue.

PT: You are now talking like a politician, now that you are on the other side. As an activist, you once agreed that these allowances were illegal. What has really changed?

Sani: No, when you say an illegality is happening, you are indicting the government that an illegality is happening and nothing is being done. And if you say an activist, who was once one of you, if I am one of you, you would not be asking me questions now. You are asking me a question about an issue you do not know, and I am answering you.  If you have the question and the answer, then you do not need to ask. What I told you is a narrative and not simply an opinion.

PT: So, how much do you earn as a Senator?

Sani: What I earn as a Senator is there in the National Assembly – only N1.2 or N1.3 million.

PT: Does this include allowances?

Sani: That is the salary. If you are talking about the allowances, the chart given by the RMAFC is the fact of what it is. If the RMAFC gives you N20 to pay rent, the only item you cannot present a receipt for is the salary.

PT: The Senate is on holidays again. Why are you people always on holidays? Is there no work to do? Committees are not even in place?

Sani: If I was not in the Senate, these are issues I would have mobilised the people to the National Assembly to protest. Why our Senators should be earning such jumbo salaries and simply going on recess. But, now, since I came into the Senate I was provided with a legislative calendar, which is statutory. There are periods the legislators can work and times they can go on recess. Except we will jettison that legislative calendar, there is nothing anyone can do. The legislative calendar is not peculiar to Nigeria. It is normal for every parliament around the world. When they say Senators have gone on recess, it is the plenary; sitting in the Chamber and raising motions and passing bills. Going on recess does not mean that the committee work would stop, or the processes of the motions and bills that were put forward. All the offices are always open, and Senators who were appointed into committees are still there working. It is not that the whole National Assembly is shut down for the next six weeks.

PT: But, how can you reconcile your explanation that the Senators continue to work while on recess, with the reality that there are no committees in place and no public hearings?     

Sani: Well, I expect journalists to speak in a more informed position than I do. There are few committees in place –  on aviation, works, information, power, which will keep the Senators busy within this period of recess. We must understand that the standing committees will be in place by the time the Senators are back.

PT: In your constituency and home state, you seem to have some friction with your governor and friend, El Rufai. What is really happening?

Sani: What is going on in Kaduna State is not personal, but more ideological, particularly the way our people are treated and governance is going on. I wanted to contest the governorship of the state in 2015. I opened offices in the three senatorial zones of the state. Later, there were pressures on me to step down by people who said there was a preferred candidate, who was Nasir El Rufai. I listened to them and stepped down. I went on to contest for the Senate. But, there was incumbent Senator, that contested the primaries, and I ejected him, by winning the ticket.

Nasir did not contest against an APC governor. He contested with others who were also not governors and won. Nasir and Isa Ashiru were the two major contenders out of the five that contested the primaries with Nasir.  Nasir got about 1,600 votes in the primaries from the three senatorial zones. I got over 920 votes from one senatorial district. If I had contested the governorship, he could not have beaten me.

I contested the Senatorial election and won. And the two gubernatorial candidates all have their preferred senatorial candidates.  Nasir had his own preferred senatorial candidate, who was the incumbent, General Sani, whom I removed.

The other candidate also had another preferred candidate, Sani Suleiman, the former local government chairman. One can see that the two gubernatorial candidates had their own senators they want to work with. And I combined both Nasir and his opponent and thrashed all of them in the election.

I told them that I was going to win this seat without giving anybody any kobo. I challenge any politician in Kaduna under APC to come and say that he did not give people money to win elections in the state.

Having won the primaries and general elections, we decided to say let’s work together for the success of the party. I won my senate elections before Nasir won his gubernatorial elections. After the victory, Nasir set up a transition committee and put all the other senators, and even the senatorial candidate who lost the elections, without my name there.  I had to draw his attention to that omission. As a sitting senator, there is no way a transition committee would be set up without my name there.

He said it was an oversight and assured me that my name would be included. During his inauguration and swearing in, I was there.  We went round during the campaigns. After he won, it came to the point of sharing positions, he asked me to send the list of my people for appointment, which I did. But he threw the list away and decided to allocate some Commissioners to the other senator representing zone 1, and from my zone, he gave it to the person I defeated in the primaries. Even my local government, no appointment, not even a councillor was considered.

Will Nasir El-Rufai be happy for the President to giving appointment to the person he defeated in primary elections without consulting him? Will he be happy for the President of our country to be asking his opponent to give the list of ministerial and Board appointments, only for it to be thrown away?

So, what he was doing was simply gathering opposition and empowering people who are determined to fight me.  He never knew that I am an old fighter. He said he is stubborn, but he cannot be more stubborn than a person who spent so many years in jail. I believe Nasir’s men came to the political scene in 1999, whereas I have been in the trenches even before anybody heard of Nasir’s name. You go back to Abacha and Babangida eras and see how we stood up against military dictatorship and tyranny.

Kaduna is a place I was born, live and won my election. I never lived in Abuja. All my family are in Kaduna. There is no street in Kaduna that I don’t know people and people do not know me. Since 1998, when we came out of prison, I have never stepped out of Kaduna for more than one week. So, one can see how entrenched I am there. That is why I said I will win election without giving anybody any kobo. And people never believed. But, by God’s grace it happened. I did.

With all these appointments Nasir did, he had simply drawn a line for the first issue. The second issue is the way he is running Kaduna State since he took over. First, he appointed about seven party executives into his government, namely the state Chairman of the party, who is now the deputy governor; State secretary, who is a Commissioner; the auditor, also a Commissioner; assistant Legal Adviser, now also a Commissioner; Financial Secretary, organising Secretary, now the Chairman, Publicity Secretary, Auditor, ex-officio members are all Chairmen of local government councils.

You don’t do things like that and expect people to keep quiet. You must separate the party from the government. Effectively today, in Kaduna there is no APC executive, because all members of the executive are in Nasir’s cabinet.

Three, on the issue of demolitions, I could not have said anything if Nasir said he was recovering lands from hospitals, schools, and the affected persons have been given alternative lands or where to go. When you see a house, one is talking about the entire family, consisting husband, wife, children, grandchildren and livelihood tied to the family.

Nasir simply gave them two weeks to vacate before sending bulldozers to pull down everything. Abuja of 2007 is definitely not the same thing as Kaduna 2015. In a democracy, whatever you want to do people must be carried along.

Now, Nasir sent bulldozers to demolish houses belonging to families, rendering them homeless, particularly women and children, who were scattered everywhere. Nasir does not know Kaduna, because he has spent so much time in Abuja to the point that he does not know what Kaduna is about. He does not know the sensitivity of those places, and the problem that action is going to generate.

Most of these people were given their land papers by the previous administration. Nasir says he has brain. But, all animals that have brains have hearts. But only human beings have a human heart. You met a people that were impoverished , destroyed, exploited and demoralised by the PDP in the last 16 years, and at one go, out of all the policies and programmes in the whole world on health, education, jobs  and empowerment, for Nasir, what is priority is demolition of houses belonging to the people. I told him that that is not going to work in Kaduna. You demolish in Abuja and get away with it, where you have rich and power people, who most of them must have built their houses from questionable means, but not in Kaduna, a rural state where people are struggling to survive. Here people are prepared to die for their family land.

After he did that in Zaria, he has not been able to do the same in Kaduna, because people rose up to resist it.

On the hawkers, students of political science and political economy would know that whatever policy direction is taking place, one must decide which side one belongs. Nasir belongs to the ultra-conservative rightist reactionary group. They are for privatization, elite, bourgeois and bourgeois reforms and capitalist ideas. They see people as statistics for GNP (gross national product) and GDP (gross domestic product). Nasir is a man, who, all his life, has espoused capitalist ideas and conservative rightist philosophy. I am from the political left, rooted with the masses. In all our ideas, we are concerned about how we can carry the people along.

The hawkers we see on the roads are the by-products of an exploitative and repressive socio-economic system to which the likes of Nasir El Rufai have propagated all the years. You don’t address the problem of beggars by packing them in a vehicle and sending them to their state of origin. The same people in the North who cried that Lagos, Port Harcourt and other states in South were throwing away beggars are the ones now doing same in Kaduna.

For me, before one takes an action there must be an alternative. For those he demolished their houses, he never gave them an option. For the beggars he sent out of the streets, he never gave them an alternative means of livelihood, by giving them capital to start their business. All the three attempts he has made have failed.  The beggars are back in the streets. The hawkers are back to business. His demolition cannot proceed. This is to show you that if that policy was actually in the best interest of the people, they could have been effective.

You cannot have dirty underwear and lock it up in a cupboard and say you have solved the problem. You are deceiving yourself. You have to wash it.

PT: The concern really has to do with reports that the beggars have allowed themselves to be used by insurgents throwing bombs and causing security concerns.

Sani: The insurgents do not use beggars and hawkers. A man who is determined to kill himself uses suicide bombers, not beggars. If you say a leper, cripple or blind man is a suicide bomber, I think you are being unfair to the person.

But, the truth is that Nasir had since apologised to the people for calling them that. He said he did not mean it. He ate his words. If he takes them to the rehabilitation centre, is he going to feed them? And where is the rehabilitation centre in Kaduna? There is nowhere in Kaduna that I do not know. He can talk about Wuse, Apo, Nyanya, Games Village and other places in Abuja. But Kaduna is our city, nobody can deceive us. We are the sons of the soil. If you come to Kaduna, you must respect the sensitivity of people’s life.

PT: But, if government does not offend the people, how can it carry out reforms and effect the desired change?

Sani: You can achieve that. I want him to succeed. I am not being personal about it. It pains me to see people in Kaduna praising the former governor of the state. Many PDP people that we defeated and ought not to be moving round, are the ones that are being hailed in mosques in Zaria.

PT: If you were a governor, what would you have done differently on the issue?

Sani: If I were governor, I would recognise that the problem is systemic, as a result of an oppressive, repressive and exploitative socio-economic system. What should I do to remove the people from this system? If you are a hawker, I will know that you have interest in trade, I will find out how I can move you from being a hawker to being a trader and shop owner, rather than clearing you from the streets. I will take statistics of those affected and see how the government can assist them with capital for them to grow.

What Nasir is doing is what a typical elitist reactionary bourgeois would do – to clear those by-products of the system from the streets and give a semblance of normalcy, development and growth. He is simply hiding the problem, rather than solving it. Anybody who comes to Kaduna and sees no beggars and traders on the streets would go away with the false impression that everybody is comfortable. That is not my interpretation of solving the problem. You can get the beggars out of the streets by helping them to grow their businesses. It is because his approach is wrong that the people are resisting.

PT: You sound as if he had integrated you in his government or asked you to ‘come and chop’, this crisis would not have been?

Sani: I don’t know whether his government is that of chopping. But, for now I can say that I am not interested in any of my men joining his cabinet. The philosophy he has and the road he has taken is not the one I will, for now, want to take. I thought from the beginning he will take cognizance of the fact that we won this election after a hard fought battle, because Kaduna is not 100 percent APC. We have only two senators from APC, and the one from southern Kaduna from PDP. So any attempt by anyone to joke with this balance is going to be catastrophic. So, that is why I am speaking out for the underprivileged and the down trodden.

PT: Recently, you were reported to have bought Army Recruitment forms for about 190 youths from your constituency, and some people said you were quietly building your own army for the future. How do you react to this?

Sani: This is something he (Nasir) should have done and not necessarily me. Part of my programmes is to assist young people. If forms are being sold for anything, I have resolved to use what I have to buy forms for them.

PT: But, why did you not buy JAMB forms for admission into universities for them?

Sani: I bought so many JAMB forms for them. The moment it is made open, I will certainly buy for them. In the next four years, any form that is available, as far as it is employment, I will buy. My role is to facilitate the process and not for any other purpose than that.

PT: On what condition can reconciliation be achieved between you and Nasir?

Sani: I do not need to sit on the same table with him. If he starts doing things right, which our people will be comfortable with, I will never speak a word again against him. But, I don’t believe that when he says because we are from the same party that I should not talk. We are not a secret society. I should be able to speak my mind.

Source: Premium Times

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