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Can El Rufai ever forgive Shehu Sani?

By Ben Agande, KADUNA.

The National Assembly recently witnessed a wave of defection from members of the All Progressive Congress to the Peoples Democratic in a move that many believe could affect the political calculation of the APC as the nation moves towards the 2019 elections.

Indeed, the action of majority of members of the ruling party that left for the opposition PDP did not come as a surprise to many pundits. It was long in coming.

But what came as a surprise to many people was the decision of the senator representing Kaduna Central in the Senate, Senator Shehu Sani, who contrary to many expectations, defied even his own pronouncements and remained in the APC when more than ten of his colleagues announced their resignation from the APC.

And to show that his decision to remain in APC was not a temporary measure, Shehu Sani on the night of the mass defection of many members of the national assembly Sani joined the APC caucus to pay a solidarity visit to President Muhammadu Buhari at the presidential Villa. He has since followed it up with similar high profile visits like the one he paid to the president in Daura where the president had gone to celebrate his Sallah holiday.

And in a dizzying turn of events, Senator Sani who had been under suspension from his state chapter of the party for   almost three years for various alleged anti party activities, including open criticism of the president suddenly became a darling of the party at the national level. To demonstrate their new found love for senator Sani, the national leadership of the party announced a unilateral lifting of the suspension of Senator Shehu Sani from the party. It was a decision that was widely celebrated by the Shehu Sani camp but drew sharp flack from the camp of the governor of Kaduna state, Nasir El Rufai whose relationship with the vocal senator from Kaduna state appears irretrievably broken down.

But despite the celebration by the national headquarters of the APC that the decision by senator Sani not to join the bandwagon of defection from the party was a plus for the party, indications in the state clearly indicate that bearing the deep seated animosity between the governor and the senator, it is almost impossible for the governor who has a firm grip on the state apparatus of the party to provide the platform for Senator Sani to go back to the national assembly.

According to a senior aide of the governor who spoke with Vanguard on the matter, the governor and members of the state executive council of the party “will never forgive Shehu Sani for the irredeemable damage he has done to their relationship and the party in the state. At best, we may lift his suspension but he can never utilize the platform of the party for any elective position from the state again. Not when El Rufai remains the governor of Kaduna state”, the aide, who spoke on the condition of anonymity emphasized.

Although the ‘sins’ of Senator Sani against the state and the governor are known to them, the state governor feels that for standing against the state’s decision to access a world Bank loan of $350 Million, using his position as the chairman of the senator committee on Loans, Senator Sani’s sin was too grave to be forgiven.

At a recent outing in the state, Governor El Rufai pointedly told his audience that Shehu sani can never be the choice of the party for the next election.

“In politics, it is impossible to hide your choice. Government officials have their choices but the government does not have a candidate. Whoever you selected, is the choice of God. “But as you all know, I have my candidate here. You may recall that we voted for somebody named Shehu Sani in the last election. When he went to Abuja and drank Abuja water, he started misbehaving, abusing the president and this government and sabotaging the party.

“For this, I personally asked Uba Sani to contest against him. So Uba Sani is my candidate.

“As you all know, Shehu Sani is among the senators who denied Kaduna State access to loan. Since he has shown the people of Kaduna State this enmity, you must pay him back in his own coin at the primary election. I therefore, seek your favour in the primary election to support Uba Sani.

“We are surprised that Shehu Sani has not left the party. We thought he would commit political apostasy like others, but he remained in the party making efforts to correct his sins. We are waiting for him. As I have said, we have no grouse about him but his character. If he repents, we will listen to him. But if he refuses to secure that $350million loan for Kaduna State, we will not listen to him. Those close to him should tell him: wherever he goes (for lobbying), we will not listen to him if he did not bring $350million to Kaduna” the governor said.

Beyond this, Vanguard gathered that the state government has compiled a two hundred page compendium on the ‘sins’ of Shehu Sani to present to both the national leadership of the party as well as President Muhammadu Buhari on the dangers of presenting Senator Sani as the party’s candidate in the forth coming elections.

According to the Kaduna state government official who spoke to Vanguard earlier, “five minutes photo opportunities for the senator with the president in Abuja and Daura cannot save him. He is a goner. The national headquarters of our party acted in error and we have compiled the sins of this senator and by the time we present the dossier to both the party leadership and the president, they will have no choice but to drop him and avoid him like a pariah”.

Among other things, Senator Sani was accused of deliberately frustrating the policies and actions of the state government as well as working with opposition elements in the state to destabilize the state government. For instance, when the state government banned street begging, Senator Shehu Sani openly opposed the policy, saying it was unnecessary and was alleged to have organized beggars in the state to oppose the policy. In fact it was alleged by the state government that it was Senator Shehu Sani that financed the beggars who took their opposition a notch higher by suing the state government.

Similarly, when the governor introduced a bill to the state house of Assembly to regulate the activities of Christian and Muslim religious preachers, the state government alleged that Senator Shehu Sani galvanized the religious leaders from both divide to oppose the policy. Like the ban on begging, the policy on the regulation of religious leaders is comatose as a result of the opposition of the senator.

Several attempts to get the senator to respond to some of the allegations leveled against him by the state government failed as he did not honour appointment that he had scheduled with this reporter as at the time of this report.

But for a man known to be a dogged fighter, it is expected that Senator Sani will not take this fight lightly. His frequent meetings with president Buhari and the leadership of the party may be part of his strategy to get the two power bases to prevail on the governor. But for an El Rufai that is not known to fight half way, it will be a herculean fight.

At the end of the day, it is highly unlikely that the national leadership of the APC and president Buhari, who had himself been the butt of Senator Sani’s acerbic criticism, will sacrifice Governor Nasir El Rufai for Senator Shehu Sani. Or can something be worked out along the line? It appears difficult but as they say, “never say never.”


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