•On blocked $350m loan: Kaduna dissident senators will fall
•On Muslim-Muslim guber ticket: Half of the family of gov’s running mate are Christians
•Speaks on his senatorial bid
By Olalekan Bilesanmi
Uba Sani is the senatorial candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for Kaduna Central ahead of the 2019 polls and the Political Adviser to Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. In this interview, Sani speaks on his ambition and the administration he has been part of in the last three and a half years.
You’ve been going round your senatorial district, seeking the people’s support for your ambition to be a senator in 2019; share with us your experience so far—before and after the primary election where you emerged as the APC candidate.
It has so far been a very intensive and extensive campaign. But what really gladdens my heart is the fact that the All Progressives Congress (APC) executive in my senatorial zone has taken complete ownership of the campaign and has been vigorously canvassing for support for me. This is quite comforting after the long drawn battle for the ticket. The process was attended by confusion and uncertainty. As you are aware, we adopted indirect primaries. In the Constitution of the APC, there are three modes of primaries: Direct, indirect and consensus.
The National Working Committee accepted the resolution of the Executive Committee of our state chapter that indirect primary should be the mode of election for the tickets into elective positions in Kaduna for security reason and the fact that we do not have updated membership register. The primaries were conducted despite some challenges. A day before the senatorial primary, we were told that out of five aspirants, only one was cleared. This was an affront to the people of Kaduna Central. My co-aspirants were also not ready to accept the ill-conceived alteration of the delegates’ list. The four of us came together and rejected the list. The party eventually cleared all of us and we went through a very transparent, free and fair election and I emerged the winner. I believe the primary in Kaduna Central was the most transparent primary and the committee sent by the NWC to conduct the exercise testified to that fact.
So far, what has been the response of the electorate – in your effort to convince them to support your aspiration?
The response has been overwhelming. Kaduna Central is a political fortress of the APC. The people are unwavering in their support for us. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been struggling to make inroads into the zone, to no avail. What we have been doing is to consolidate on the peoples’ support by assuring them of a brighter future. We are determined to change the face of the zone through quality and effective representation. This is important because for some time now the people have been victims of poor representation.
What reigned supreme was grandstanding and the denigration of leaders who are selflessly working to change the condition of the people of Kaduna State and Nigeria. They did not stop at that. They sabotaged the state government’s efforts to attract investments and get loans for the development of critical infrastructure. A clear example of what really happened was when the state government wanted to borrow $350 million from the World Bank to rehabilitate and build new hospitals in Kaduna, to rehabilitate and build new schools in Kaduna; and to also build roads. The people were livid with rage. Kaduna was the only state that was denied the opportunity to access the loan simply because those people in the Senate decided to look at their personal interest instead of the overall interest of our people. The loan is not about Governor Nasir El – Rufai, it’s about the nine million people of Kaduna State and that is what really made people to come out openly to support my aspiration. They believe I am better equipped and positioned to restore the glory of Kaduna Central.
If you win the election what are you going to do —differently from what the current senators are doing?
Our senatorial zone is populated by APC. And if you are a member of the Senate representing a particular constituency, the first thing you need to do is to work closely with the APC government at the national level, work with your governor, and find a way to lobby on how you can bring infrastructural support to your own people. It’s about serving the people, not the advancement of our personal interest. So, what I will do differently is to work closely with my party to attract development to my senatorial district. And this is only possible if I work closely with my party leadership, the leadership of the Senate, my governor and the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Apart from being a senatorial candidate of a party, you are also the Political Adviser to the Governor of Kaduna State and you just said you were very convinced that El – Rufai will win his election and Buhari will win his election. But that appears to contradict the opinion of some people who believe that APC has not done anything in the last three years to deserve re-election.
Most of the people thinking that way are either naive, mischievous or unwilling to tell the truth. Some of us worked with the previous government, we know where we are coming from- and I can tell you clearly that when President Muhammadu Buhari was elected, we know the state of the economy of this country. The country was down in terms of the economic situation. Our international image was in tatters. Investors had taken flight. Corruption had become a way of life. Insecurity had enveloped the country. Boko Haram had taken over many local governments in the North-East and hoisted their flag. In major cities of Nigeria, rumours of possible terrorist attack remained the daily staple. Life in Nigeria had become sheer nightmare.
Many people were already predicting the possibility of Nigeria becoming a failed state. That was the situation Buhari inherited. But since he assumed office, he has been working to clear the mess left by the previous administration. He has degraded Boko Haram, arrested the drift in the economy, restored investors’ confidence and is implementing a well-conceived social investment scheme geared towards giving succor to the underprivileged. Restoring security remains one of the President’s biggest achievements. But challenges remain.
Terrorism is a scourge which must be fought continuously until it is defeated. Other security problems are also being addressed with all the force the government can muster. Progress has also been made in the area of fighting corruption. EFCC has been reinvigorated. Investigations, arrests and prosecutions have been stepped up. Campaigns also being carried out to create awareness among the populace on the need for zero tolerance against corruption. We must root out corruption if our country must make progress. Before now, corruption and the need to tackle it received little or no attention.
Let’s go back to Kaduna. What will Governor Nasir El-Rufai be campaigning on in the forthcoming elections?
I have worked for three and a half years as Political Adviser to Governor El-Rufai. I am conversant with the vision and mission of the government. I know its programmes/projects and the level of implementation. I know where challenges lie. So I am in a good position to tell you what is on ground and the shape of things to come. Sometimes when I read some stories or comments on the state government in the conventional and social media, I just laugh. Either the writers are ignorant or misinformed of the situation of things, or they are down-rightly mischievous. Let me state without fear of contradiction that El-Rufai’s achievements in the last three and a half years are unprecedented. He has invested heavily and achieved so much in critical areas like education and health. In the area of education, when El -Rufai came, we had about 4,000 primary and secondary schools. We realized that more than 70 percent of our schools had been completely abandoned, some of them were not even habitable.
The first step the governor took in his first year was to rehabilitate the schools. After that we took a look at the quality of students and teachers. We wanted the best for our children and we were prepared to take all necessary measures to achieve our goal. In the face of sustained opposition to the government’s decision to weed out unqualified teachers from the system, El-Rufai stood to be counted. We subjected the school teachers to a test and we realized that over 75 percent of them were not qualified to teach. Probably that’s the reason people say the North is backward in terms of education because the foundation was really terrible. After assessments, we found that over 22,000 teachers could not even teach in primary schools. So we decided to fire the teachers and, as I am talking, 25,000 teachers have been employed to replace them.
Those that have been hired are not only qualified but are also competent. When we came into office, the enrolment of our primary school students was less than one million yearly but, now, every year in the last two years, the enrollment is about 2.3 million. The secondary school enrollment is even better. Why is that happening? Because, when El – Rufai says “I am going to give free education to our people,” he meant every word of that. He abhors a situation where you mouth “free education” and go behind to impose all sorts of levies. Free education must be total. Previous governments were merely deceiving the people. It is El-Rufai’s government that is offering free education in its totality. He has abolished all levies. Previous governments were collecting over N3.5 billion as levies from the children of the poor who go to primary school. School uniforms are now free. The government also started the school feeding programme even before the Federal Government in order to encourage indigent parents to send their children to school.
So, when some people talk about Kaduna, we just laugh because they are naive and they are just misinforming the public. Thirdly, in the area of healthcare services, when we came in, most of our hospitals were dilapidated. We had, of course, general hospitals, and few specialist hospitals, but El – Rufai insisted that, in his own time, healthcare services must reach the unreached. People at the grassroots must have access to quality healthcare. All the 255 wards in Kaduna State must have primary healthcare centres. Today, there is a health centre in every ward of Kaduna State. And what does that mean? You don’t need to travel more than one kilometer to reach a health centre. Right now, he has finished the 255 and he’s almost in the process of starting new ones in some wards. And that’s a major achievement for a state like Kaduna.
The health centres have been fully equipped and staffed with qualified health professionals. He has also rehabilitated all the general hospitals to acceptable standards. No governor in the history of governance in Nigeria has made this type of impact in the health sector within a short time. I challenge anybody to counter it. The government has also done very well in the area of job creation. It has created a conducive atmosphere for businesses to thrive. Kaduna was recently declared the best state in the Ease of Doing Business. The state has won awards on good governance, both locally and internationally, and even by the United Nations and I think the World Bank also. We’ve been able to attract a lot of investments from foreign investors.
You are also aware that two years ago, Mr President came to Kaduna and commissioned Olam which was a $150 million investment. And there are many other Investments that we attracted because of El – Rufai’s policy of open and accountable governance. Foreign investors are very comfortable doing business with the Kaduna State Government. The political will is there. There are clear policies, processes and procedures. Transparency and accountability are openly promoted. Conscious and deliberate efforts are made to make Kaduna the business hub of the North. Boosting local businesses is the surest route out of economic difficulties and empowerment of the people. So the government has never rested on its oars to positively alter the condition of the people of Kaduna State. So, when I see people doubting whether El-Rufai’s will be renewed in 2019, I just laugh. The people of Kaduna State are in deep love with their workaholic Governor. They will speak loudly with their votes in 2019.
There is this issue that has been generating controversy in the past few days — it is about El-Rufai nominating a co-Muslim as his running mate.
We have reached a stage in this country where we should lay more emphasis on one’s competence and ability to deliver, not really where one comes from or the religion he or she professes. I understand why we hold on so much to issues of diversity or balancing. As far as I am concerned, the fact that people believe that it is only when someone from their area is in office that they can get a fair deal is indicative of the failure of governance. A leader with a sound governance agenda/template should be able to deal with all manner of persons fairly, equitably and justly. We must move to new grounds and change the way things are done in our state and country. Governor El-Rufai is committed to inclusive governance.
He will never discriminate based on primordial considerations. He chose Dr. Hadiza based on her competence and record of outstanding performance in the healthcare sector. Dr. Hadiza, the deputy governorship nominee, has worked closely with the government. She is very competent and full of innovative ideas. She is a major asset to the state government. She comes from a family that is really a model of religious tolerance and peaceful co-existence. Half of the family are Muslim, while half are Christian. Critics should rather ask for Dr. Hadiza’s track record and judge her based on that. Harping on religious differences is a disservice to Kaduna.
What are the chances of APC in the forthcoming elections in Kaduna?
We have done our homework. The government of El-Rufai has delivered. The people are happy and are yearning for more of Mallam’s meritorious services. The APC campaign machinery is ready to go on extensive and intensive campaigns. Kaduna APC has a good product to market. Just mark it, El-Rufai will be first governor to be declared winner in the 2019 elections. He is one of the most outstanding governors in Nigeria. He is loved by the good people of Kaduna. They don’t think like those people writing newspaper articles and commentaries. El-Rufai will win this election by a landslide. In the last election, no governor in the North-West got as much votes as El-Rufai. If they don’t know, they should check. El-Rufai got over one million votes in the last election and I can tell you that, this time around, he’ll still get the highest votes not only in the North West but also in the whole of northern Nigeria. Also, apart from President Buhari, who had more votes than any governor in northern Nigeria in his election, only El-Rufai got over a million.