‘I’m Going To The Senate To Realise Ideas We Have Been Fighting For’
Leader of the Northern Civil Society Coalition and All Progressives Congress (APC) senator-elect, Mallam Shehu Sani, spoke on his victory at the polls, why the National Assembly should go through filtration process, why President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, cannot afford to be dictatorial, as well as why President Goodluck Jonathan was defeat at the polls, among other issues.
What would your participation in the National Assembly offer Nigerians? Well, I am moving from a history of struggle, protest, resistance against injustice, dictatorship, bad governance and bad system, particularly the parliament. It is a transition from a tradition and culture of protest to one of legislative activities and advocacy.
My presence in the senate is to represent my people and to defend their interests.
I am going to the senate to realise those ideas, which we have been fighting for decades. I come from a civil rights movement that struggled to dislodge the military from government. A movement that fought for democracy, and which has been on the sideline for the last 16 years.
It was a big mistake we made in 1999 when the military exited by leaving the political scene for a new set of people, who have not fought for democracy and even collaborated with the military. Sixteen years of our democratic experience was a disappointing and harrowing one to our country and our people.
The goodwill a civilian government under PDP (the Peoples Democratic Party) in 1999 was over a decade and half wasted. Our people languished, their dreams were extinguished, our country slipped from hope to hopelessness
. Within the last 16 years, we have seen the progressive decline of our country, the widening gap between the rich and the poor and the inability of the political elite to utilise the resources of the country for the betterment of the lives of our people.
On the legislative side, we have seen how the senate, that very important institution of democracy, turned into a theatre of choristers, of supporters, and a refuge for ex-governors and corrupt leaders. In the last 16 years, the senate became a boring and sleeping platform for political pensioners and spent forces.
The senate is the most important institution of democracy. In a dictatorship, we still have courts and so on, but they don’t have the parliament.
So, my presence in the senate is to make a clear deference between what supposed to be and what has been in the last 16 years. We have seen how the senate, and the National Assembly in general, attracted to themselves all types of titles, like rubber stamp.
Now, with my presence in the senate and the presence so many other patriotic Nigerians, with credible track records, the 8th Senate is not going to be a rubber stamp senate. We are going to filter every bill passing through us, and it doesn’t matter whether we are the majority party.
We will hold the government accountable, as parliamentarians with history and with conscience. We have a duty to our country to partner with the executive for the collective progress and prosperity of our nation. As men of honour, conscience and integrity, we have a duty to our people and posterity to hold this incoming government to account.
Some Nigerians fear that the President-elect, Muhammadu Buhari, being a former military ruler, may exhibit those traits of high-handedness he was known for? Can the National Assembly check such excesses, if they appear? The principles and spirit of our constitution and the structure of our democracy would not make it possible for Buhari or any person for that matter to operate a full-blown dictatorship.
I understand the fears of people in the sense that he was formerly a military ruler, but being a military ruler does not in any way criminalise your rights to vie for public office. Nigerians had a choice between Jonathan, who is a civilian and with a civilian background, and a former military ruler. If we had seen anything good in Jonathan, we could have opted for him.
But the very fact that people decided to vote for Buhari is an affirmation that between the two choices, Buhari provides a better alternative for our people and for our future.
Buhari has to operate within the ambit of democracy. It is not going to be a 1983 to 1985 former government, where his words become the law.
Whatever he is going to do today, it has to pass through the scrutiny of democratic filtration processes. It is also has to be subjected to the requirements of our democratic rules. So, it is not possible for Buhari to be a dictator at this material time.
He cannot appoint ministers without the approval of the senate. He cannot spend money without the senate approving it.
He cannot in anyway send anybody to jail without passing through the courts and also giving such a person the right to defend him/herself. However, people can raise insinuations or fears about him, but that is natural for anybody to do.
All he has to do now is to lead the country within the ambit of democratic principles, rather than rule the country the way he did between 1983 and 1985. What do you think was responsible for Jonathan’s failure at the poll? There are issues, matters and factors that led to Jonathan’s downfall.
The most important one is that he has failed, as a leader, to address the historical challenges of our time. When he came to power in 2010 after the death of President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, you should remember that there were thousands of people that protested and he rode onto power on the horse of the goodwill of Nigerians. And Nigerians from all part of the country were in support of him.
He wasted his goodwill and moved from a leader that was enthroned by Nigerians to a sectional leader, who is preoccupied with channeling resources and addressing the problems of Ijaw people.
Jonathan moved away as a Nigerian President to an Ijaw President. Policies, programmes and budgetary allocations were all favourable to the South-South, and particularly to the Ijaw.
Many things also happened that made people to do a rethink of the kind of person in power. Jonathan was caught in between addressing the needs and challenges of his people and those of Nigerians in general.
Again, the insurgency in the Northeastern Nigeria has seriously dented the image and integrity of Jonathan’s administration, and this led to his (political) downfall.
The very fact that thousands of innocent Nigerians were killed and his government appeared helpless and incapable of addressing the challenges made him to lose friends and created more enemies to himself, within and even outside Nigeria.
The third aspect of his failure is the pervasive level of corruption under his government in the last six years.