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[EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW]: President Muhammadu Buhari has failed – Shehu Sani

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By Oluwatobi Enitan, Fatunbi Olayinka and Sinafi Omanga

Shehu Sani is a Nigerian senator who represented Kaduna Central Senatorial District in the 8th National Assembly on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC),  in this exclusive interview with The ICIR, Sani who is also a human rights activist, shared insights into the nefarious activities of bandits and terrorists while expressing worry on the state of insecurity under President Muhammadu Buhari’s watch.

The ICIR: What do you make of a recently released video of terrorists making threat against the president and the governor of Kaduna state?

Shehu Sani: Well, what we need to understand is that the terror groups operating in the northwestern part of Nigeria are not a single organisation with a leader. They are diverse. We have the ISWAP, the Boko Haram, the Darul Islam, the Ansaru, and the bandits.

At least five notable terror groups are operating in the northern part of Nigeria.

At least five notable terror groups are operating in the northern part of Nigeria.

Now, the bandits also have different leaders located in different states. You have their leaders like Bello Turji, like Manjagara, like Baleri, now these are leaders that map out territories for themselves between Zamfara, Katsina, Kaduna and Niger states.

So, sometimes the bandits and the terror groups clash within themselves, so you can see how they occupy territories and unleash their terror activities.

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What has happened as of the attack on the Abuja-Kaduna train started from sometime last October. I happened to be a passenger on the train at that time, and I raised an alarm that the train was attacked. At that time, what they did was to plant an improvised explosive device (IED), and the train ran over it, but luckily for us, the train did not stop.

So, I raised the alarm and since then, there was no action taken on the side of the government, only saying that they have restored the track, but as of taking security measures to ensure the safety of passengers, there was virtually nothing.

So the threats you are seeing have evolved over the years. At a time, they only attacked passengers who were plying the Abuja-Kaduna road or the Kaduna-Birnin Gwari road or the Zaria-Funtua road, or the ones in Zamfara state or Katsina state but having seen that, many of the VIPs have decided to use the airlines, so they are only dealing with people whom they are not going to get much from them. So now they moved away or not away completely from attacking passengers on the road to now launching direct attacks on towns and cities.

Shehu Sani

In terms of Kaduna, almost all the settlements on the outskirts of the city are constantly under direct attack by bandits and terrorists.

They also evolved to a point where they imposed fines and taxes on villages. At a certain point in Birnin Gwari local government, villagers have to gather as much as N40 million to give to these terrorists for them to be able to go to their farms and plant their crops and also they have to pay the same amount to harvest their crops. They have succeeded in impoverishing a large number of our population apart from destroying smaller villages within the expanse of Zamfara, Kaduna and Niger states.

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What they did now was also to impoverish those that remained because constantly, people kept on selling their homes and their lands to pay ransom to these terrorists. Another unfortunate development is that people living in those rural locations are more in tune with the terrorist groups because some are direct beneficiaries of part of the ransom, and some are also doing it out of fear for their lives.

I can say that Nigeria is at war with terror groups and insurgents, and bandits. We must find solutions to these because apart from our own homegrown terror groups, it appears that the terror groups are also inviting other fighters and terrorists from other parts of West Africa and Central Africa to come into Nigeria.

it appears that the terror groups are also inviting other fighters and terrorists from other parts of West Africa and Central Africa to come into Nigeria.

And because there is a systemic failure on the side of the government, they are becoming more audacious. They sometimes even write letters to villages to announce to them that they are coming and they will come the same day, and ironically they come in and operate for an hour or two before you see the intervention of security agencies, so people thought that Abuja is a well-protected city, it is an oasis of peace, but with the fact that Niger, Kaduna, Nasarawa and parts of Kogi state are unsafe, naturally they would be a contagious effect of insecurity inside Abuja, and this is what we are seeing now.

Shehu Sani

The ICIR: Now, I will link this question now to what Sheik Gumi said in the exclusive we had with him earlier. He said President Buhari is stubborn, and he knows what the bandits actually want, but he has refused to attend to their demands. What is your thought?

Shehu Sani: Well, first of all, a terrorist is a terrorist, and there are two types of terrorist. A terrorist who has picked up arms to kill and kidnap because he wants to establish an Islamic state, nothing will appease him if not an Islamic state, a terrorist who has picked up arms to fight because he wants to collect hundreds of millions of naira as ransom, nothing will appease other than if you give him the kind of money he will get when he picks up arms.

So, I am not an advocate of acceding to terrorists’ demands as long as it is outrageous. Any terrorist who wants to lay down his arms, live in a decent society, and start a small business is different from a terrorist who wants to dictate to our nation-state.

You cannot kill and kidnap people and use it in the name of Islam or any religion it’s not acceptable.

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You cannot kill and kidnap people and use it in the name of Islam or any religion it’s not acceptable. They said they are fighting Islamic causes; you rape women, kidnap children, you extort hundreds of millions of naira as ransom, and you kill innocent people.

What kind of religion are you professing? What kind of society? Which religion?  Certainly, it is not Islam. So, acceding to the demands of terrorists if it is about them dropping their arms and coming to live in a society it’s a different thing, but we cannot be giving hundreds of millions of naira to terrorists for them to go and purchase arms and continue to fight our country.

What we need in this country is a leader, a leader that will truly be commander-in-chief and commander in action, and a commander that is [working] 24/7; that is the kind of commander we need.

What we need in this country is a leader, a leader that will truly be commander-in-chief and commander in action, and a commander that is [working] 24/7; that is the kind of commander we need. If you have security reports that bandits or terrorists are about to attack, an agency of government that has such security report, it is expected that they have an inter-agency meeting; they do, why don’t they take action over it? It is as if our agencies are virtually unserious because we have a president who is simply thinking that he has given them money, and that is all.

How do you imagine? Yes. Kuje prison was attacked, and they were also attempting to attack Law School, Bwari but we have forgotten that they have attacked Nigerian Defence Academy, kidnapped a soldier and killed a soldier, and since that time who was penalised? Who was sacked? Who resigned?

Nobody! You see, if we want to address this problem, apart from allocating resources to our Army, it is also holding the head of those agencies accountable if a military formation or a police formation is attacked without those terrorists paying a dear price for it, the head of that agency is supposed to be sacked and replaced with another one, let whoever takes the seat as a head of an agency know that his continuity on that seat is dependent on him being proactive in terms of making sure his responsibility and duties as head of an agency is well executed.

Let whoever takes the seat as a head of an agency know that his continuity on that seat is dependent on him being proactive in terms of making sure his responsibility and duties as head of an agency is well executed.

Shehu Sani

The ICIR: Would you consider that the government of President Muhammadu Buhari actually has failed the people, or is there anything we don’t know?

Shehu Sani: I believe that there are questions that we need to ask ourselves. The terrorists have been collecting money in hundreds of millions of naira. When they attacked Greenfield University Kaduna, they collected over N200 million from the parents of the students. When they attacked Bethel Baptist High School Kaduna, they collected close to two hundred million. When they attacked the school of Agric Mechanisation Kaduna, they collected hundreds of millions. When they attacked a Government Secondary School in Kankara, Government Girls Secondary School in Kebbi, Federal Government College Yauri, and then Government Science College Kagara, my Alma mater, and Islamic School in Tegina, they collected hundreds of millions.

But you ask yourself, where does this money go? Each time a bandit or terrorist is arrested, you will not see even a shirt of N2000 on his body. There is no mansion owned by terrorists, there is no fleet of expensive cars owned by terrorists, and there is nothing to show that these terrorists are the ones who are in control of these finances.

So, where does this billion go? Certainly, there are forces behind what is happening in this country today. Only based on tracing those funders and sponsors of these terrorist activities can we now have a solution to the problem. I will not say it is totally wrong, but how can this happen in a country like this?

Kaduna has the largest presence of military locations, and these bandits are only having their motorcycles and AK47s. They use the normal SIM cards and phones that we use, we have heard over one billion dollars was withdrawn from the excess crude accounts in the name of security and we are still unable to put an end to riffraff gangs of bandits with AK47s on their hands riding on Jinchen motorcycles. What explanations are we going to make?

They use the normal SIM cards and phones that we use, we have heard over one billion dollars was withdrawn from the excess crude accounts in the name of security and we are still unable to put an end to riffraff gangs of bandits with AK47s on their hands riding on Jinchen motorcycles. What explanations are we going to make?

The nation has spent over N4.2 trillion for defence and security in seven years, and today 30 motorcycles carrying two to three people on each of them with AK47s. They can operate for one to two hours, kill those they want to kill, kidnap those they want to kidnap in the place and then go. And then later, you will see trucks of military moving to the scene. What are we talking about? In the northwestern part of Nigeria, we don’t have a forest. It is a plain savannah.

In the 21st century, it is impossible for you to hide anywhere in the northern part of Nigeria. We don’t have rocky mountains where a guerrilla can hide, we don’t have such a thick forest as you have in the mangrove forest in the southern part of Nigeria in the Niger-Delta area. We don’t have them.

How can a group of terrorists kidnap over 300 students from Islamiyya School in Tegina and hide for three months in Niger state? Kidnap over one hundred students from the school of Agric mechanisation, Mando and hide until the ransom was paid for them too.

When you talk to Nigerian security agents, they will tell you that we know where they are, we monitor their conversations, and we know/monitor their movement. What stops you from taking an action on it?

We have to reach a point in this country where we have to learn to storm kidnappers’ den and camps, those who will survive should survive because even if you don’t storm it, they are still going to kill people

We have to reach a point in this country where we have to learn to storm kidnappers’ dens and camps. Those who will survive should survive because even if you don’t storm it, they are still going to kill people. What is stopping Nigeria from setting up a drone station in Suleja in Abuja, where all that the drones do is move every day to launch attacks on terrorists?

The technology of the 21st century has made it possible for our own communication agencies to monitor every call, every movement either during the day or at night. So, we cannot monitor the movement of three to four hundred motorcycles in the Northern part of Nigeria?

Then why are we employing security agencies? Why are we funding them? President Muhammadu Buhari has failed; he came into office with a promise to restore order and security in Nigeria. Insecurity was one of the major issues that were used to bring down Jonathan’s administration.

Insecurity was one of the major issues that were used to bring down Jonathan’s administration.

In those days, even the insecurity was limited to cities where bombs were planted, but today, neither those in the cities nor those in reserve, it is all becoming a terror-infested terrain that is what Nigeria is becoming today.

The ICIR: Many attribute our problems to the northern elites. They accuse the northern elites of failing to address poverty, and now it has become a situation where they have lost control. How do you respond to that?

Shehu Sani: Well, let me tell you, you see, we talk too much. Poverty is not an excuse for terrorism, even though when you compare northerners and southerners, you will say there is more poverty in the north than in the south, but northern Nigerians are richer than the people of Niger, and there is no terrorism in Niger and banditry, people of northern Nigeria are richer than people of Sudan, people of northern Nigeria are richer than people of Chad, people of northern Nigeria are richer than people of northern Cameroon, people of northern Nigeria are richer than people of Burkina Faso, people of northern Nigeria are richer than people of Guinea Bissau, and Guinea Conakry, they are richer than people of Togo, they are richer than people of  Cote’D Ivoire.

So if those people are poorer than people in Northern Nigeria, why is it that there is no terrorism there it is only in the northern part of Nigeria? The answers are simple; the government has failed all the security agencies in Nigeria are headed by northerners.

So if those people are poorer than people in Northern Nigeria, why is it that there is no terrorism there it is only in the northern part of Nigeria? The answers are simple; the government has failed all the security agencies in Nigeria are headed by northerners. I was one of the very few in the early days of this administration.

I constantly stood up in the national assembly to speak on terrorism in the north, there is no insult that I have not received from many of our people in the north. Each time I stood to speak about insecurity in Kaduna, in Zamfara, in Niger, in Sokoto, in Katsina, the people today who are crying about insecurity were the same people who were insulting me as being anti-Buhari or anti-north or pro-south or trying to destroy northern Nigeria or destroy Buhari’s government.

Now, where are the friends of Buhari? All those people defending Buhari and telling him lies about the security situation in the north, where are they today? Hiding, that’s it.

The ICIR: So, the call for the impeachment of President Buhari, do you think this will see the light of day?

Shehu Sani: Well, I just see that as a stunt by the opposition because to impeach a president is not that easy, especially when you don’t have the numbers, and who is going to initiate the impeachment process? The Senate President Ahmed Lawan? Because he is the one who will naturally be able to facilitate and coordinate activities of the impeachment, and Gbajamiala, the speaker of the House of Representatives. If those two people are not in tune with the impeachment, that’s one. If the majority of the senators from the ruling party, if you can remember, some few months ago, many of them wanted to decamp, but they went to the president and sat down and said they were not decamping again, they are going to stay with him.

The opposition in the National Assembly doesn’t have the numbers to impeach a president but serving him a notice, at least there would be some morale booster on Nigerians that somebody needs to pay a price for what he has done, even if that is not being achieved but the possibility of impeachment is not possible.

They have given him six weeks, and you look at six weeks, they are going on recess, by the time they are back from recess, they are on campaigns. I that have been in the National Assembly, when a Senator or group of Senators speak, I’ll be able to know what is a fact and what is a fiction.

So I simply want Nigerians to think of other means and not impeaching President Muhammadu Buhari because, if it is possible, let it be done, but it is technically impossible as we have it on the ground now.

The ICIR: 2023 is around the corner, Atiku, Obi, Tinubu. Who do you think is the one that will salvage this situation?

Shehu Sani: Well, it is only God that knows who is going to win this election but we will now make our own projections and then expectations on Nigerians. There are basically two main political parties in Nigeria, the All Progressive Congress and the People’s Democratic Party, and their candidates will be the ones at the forefront.

Peter Obi has built a strong followership among young people but mostly from his own part of the country.  As a fact of the matter, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso is strong in Kano State, which is an important and populous state in the northern part of Nigeria.

Well, this election is about APC versus the rest; if the opposition is united, they can take over power from the APC. If they are disunited, the APC will return back to power.

Well, this election is about APC versus the rest; if the opposition is united, they can take over power from the APC. If they are disunited, the APC will return back to power. If they are united behind the leader of the main opposition, Atiku Abubakar, they will take over the government in Nigeria.

So, the divisions that exist, Kwankwaso being on the side, Peter Obi being on the side, and Atiku being on the side, is only going to help Tinubu. The ruling party is making calculations on how they are going to win, and any opposition that is not going to go into the election as a united force will only serve the interest of the ruling party, but what is a good omen for Nigeria is that every one of the four candidates can take us better from where we are today.

What is a good omen for Nigeria is that every one of the four candidates can take us better from where we are today.

Starting from Kwankwaso, we can see how Kwankwaso was able to transform Kano. He has his track record, he has performed, he has secured Kano, he has developed Kano, and he has changed the face of Kano state that is his track record. Peter Obi has proven to be one of the soundest economists, one that will know what to do from day one when he’s in the office about Nigeria’s economy, which is a basic issue in Nigeria. As a capitalist –  the irony of it is that he is running on a Labour party that is supposed to be a Marxist or communist or socialist party, or workers party that’s the irony of it -.

But now, the weakness of Kwankwaso is that Kwankwaso, apart from Kano, Kaduna and a few states in the north cannot be seen in other parts of the country, but as for Peter Obi the bulk of his supporters still remains those within the southeastern part of Nigeria and your region is not enough for you to be president of Nigeria.  As for Atiku, he is experienced he has been an old war horse in this game, and he is also the presidential flag bearer of the main opposition in the country because they have the structures, they have the governors, and they have also the spread in all parts of Nigeria. So, he is the one who is closer to power.

But for Asiwaju also, you can see, he has made his strong contributions in Lagos he has transformed Lagos he has raised the standard of Lagos to where it is, and he has also achieved and he’s one of those who fought for democracy, one of those who were at the trenches of democracy and also one of those who saved the country on a number of occasions.

So now the weakness of Atiku will be that there are governors who are still angry and who still feel shortchanged after the primaries they thought power should go to the south, but now Atiku took it over, so they are thinking of what to do. So we have that problem, and for the Asiwaju issue of religion has become a major issue that is being used, and then with Christian Association of Nigeria making their own position and other things, this is what we have.

So in the general sense, whoever is going to be president of the country out of these four people, Nigeria will be better than where it is today

So in the general sense, whoever is going to be president of the country out of these four people, Nigeria will be better than where it is today because they know the yearnings, the aspirations and the crisis we are facing, especially  this two; security and economy.

Shehu Sani

The ICIR: Lastly, I would like your take on corruption and what the president has done compared to what has been done in the previous years.

Shehu Sani: Well, I don’t know what he has done about corruption. I actually don’t know because all I know is that he has said so much about the former government of Nigeria about corruption, this and that. But if you look at what is happening today, it was a child’s play of what happened those days. Man is keeping ministers for eight years, even those that have not performed well.

It has reached a point where people have finished their services ahead of agencies. They are extending their services. To even appoint a Minister that will replace another Minister,  takes him ages to do it.

So, what are we talking about?

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