By Emmanuel Aziken
IT is perhaps reflective of his radicalism that Senator Dahiru Awaisu Kuta has rarely stayed on a job for more than two years since he commenced his working career in 1971. His tenure at the Senate may indeed be his longest stay in any one office in his working life.
With a radical disposition forged in the lecture theatre of the famous Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences (FASS) of the Ahmadu Bello University in the early seventies, Kuta yet carries on as a comrade with vituperations against the bourgeoisie class. Despite signs of comfort here and there like the air-conditioning in his office which he said is for his visitors, Comrade Senator Kuta nevertheless remained one of the voices of the masses in the Senate.
In this interview with Vanguard, Kuta narrated his experience in the Senate, the war against corruption and the persistent disagreement between the GovernorÂ of Niger State Babangida Aliyu and his predecessor, Abdullahi Kure. Excerpts:
How would you assess this Senate after two years?
I am happy that we have been in the Senate for two years and this period has been very exciting. It has been a rewarding experience and the Senate has been very stable and it is a Senate that has been responsive to the yearnings and aspirations of the people of this country.
It is a Senate that is committed to the improvement of the quality of life of the people of this country and it is a Senate that is making laws for good governance and peace and order of this country. I think so far, so good. The leadership of the Senate has done everything possible to keep the Senate together and I think the atmosphere we have had so far is an atmosphere that has provided an enabling environment for us to operate.
As vice-chairman of the Senate committee on Drugs, Narcotics and Anti-Corruption what is your assessment of the war against corruption?
Frankly speaking the battle against corruption in this country started some years ago. I know it was started earlier than we have actually envisaged. In the actual sense when the EFCC Act came into being in 2004Â with Ribadu as its first chairman, the real battle against corruption actually picked momentum.
Before then, we had theÂ ICPC Act of 2000 that hadÂ also been used toÂ start the fight against corruption. Ribadu laid a very solid foundation for the fight against corruption and when Farida Waziri came, she made concerted efforts to ensure that she built strongly on the solid foundation laid by Ribadu and from what we have seen so far, within a short time by the grace of God, the battle would be won.
But because Nigeria has experienced serious problem with corruption which has gone into the main fabric of society, it has not been easy for us to see on the surface what the two commissions and other agencies have achieved in the war against corruption.
So your committee does not share the view that the war against corruption has collapsed?
Frankly speaking, the committee is satisfied with the direction and the efforts of the new leadership and in order to appreciate further what the new leadership is doing, that is why the committee through the chairman has put in place some amendments so that it would give a lot of bite and add more powers to the commission to ensure that they fight corruption the way it should be fought.
Many people would think that the war against corruption has slowed down. No it has not slowed down and one of the problems we have had is that many people have to be prosecuted and before they are prosecuted due process has to be followed and those who have to be prosecuted have their fundamental human rights and that has to be looked into.
That is why it takes a lot of time before you get conviction against those engaged in corrupt practices. I think that with the way we have started, if there are courts that are going to be dedicated to try cases of corruption, I think the two agencies will secure convictions faster than th
ey are doing now.
You are often described as a Comrade or former Comrade. What is your relationship with the masses to deserve such designation?
The Senate President is finding it very difficult to reconcile my position as a comrade and being in the Senate. The issue is that being a Senator does not make you forget your approach to life and I have not allowed any position to enter my head orÂ influence my approach to life. I have remained the way I have been.
I have always been concerned with the feelings of the people. I have not only been ready to fight injustice, but to share with the next person who doesnâ€™t have whatever I have.
What are your battle marks in the struggle for the people?
Today, I am twenty seven years in politics and because my struggle has always been for the emancipation of the people and because I have always been fighting the existing order when things are not being properly done, I have always been in the opposition.
I was in the opposition in the Niger StateÂ House of Assembly. I was a member ofÂ the House of RepresentativesÂ from Niger State and was the only person elected on the platform of the opposition party into the House of Representatives at that time.Â So, when you are clamped into detention with armed robbers and youÂ experience whatÂ happensÂ in prison, when you come out you will realize that you are fighting the cause of the people.
So when you come on board and are given the opportunity you will definitely fight on the side of the people to ensure that the quality of life of the people is improved. So what will make you agree that I am a comrade is that I have never felt that I should just enjoy and forget about the people.
The way you can fight for the peo
ple is to fight the existing order and you cannot fight the existing order unless you are in the opposition. I have been in opposition and I have always won my election on the side of the opposition.
What efforts are you making as a Senator to calm the political tension in Niger State especially that between the former Governor and the serving Governor?
If you are talking about tension, I want to say that we are going to get over it by the grace of God. I do not believe that the Governor and the former Governor will ever reconcile. We have put in every effort to reconcile the two and anytime we attempt any reconciliation at the end it appears as if we are aggravating it.
As this matter has reached the stage it is now I donâ€™t believe that there is anyway anybody can reconcile the former Governor and the present Governor. I donâ€™t think it is possible.
So, from your perspective what is responsible for the crisis?
I think thatÂ right from the beginning, we allowed a communication gap to existÂ between the two and it gave the hangers on to go in between them and since then things have never been the same again. We feel that if they had not been too far apart from each other, the crack wouldnâ€™t have been sustained.
But now the crack has become bigger. So frankly speaking, it would be difficult for them to reconcile. But that is not to say that we are not going to continue to try. Those people that matter in Niger State who are stakeholders would also try to do something.
We in the middle level will also do our best, but my only concern is that even among the elders there are people who are still gaining from this crisis and they may not be giving full support to the reconciliation moves. Some of the elders are committed to the reconciliation but unfortunately things have actually reached a stage that it would be very difficult for us to achieve any meaningful reconciliation between the Governor and the former Governor.
What is your opinion of the quest by Nigerian workers for an increase in the national minimum wage?
If they make reasonable demand, there is nothing bad in them looking for an increase. My only problem in this country is that whenever there is increase in salary you will see increase in inflation. You take it from N7,500 today and make it N10,000 the market women are waiting for you and they will also increase the price of their foodstuff. I believe that N7,500 as the minimum wage is actually on the low side and I recommend at least N15,000.