By ADEBAYO OBAJEMU
Comrade Shehu Sani is an oddity, an almost curiosity shop in the part of the country where he comes from, a part traditionally not used to questioning authorities, and almost alien to radical ideas and hostile to disruptions of traditional status quo.
It is precisely upturning and questioning received authorities, traditional values that validate subjugation of women, class oppression, injustice and other ills of the society that Sani stands against and for which he has devoted his entire career, first as a student Union leader, a civil rights activist, a senator, a polemicist, agitator, author and a philosopher for justice, fighting in a bid to bring about social justice.
So when recently he upped his game by declaring his gubernatorial bid to govern his home state of Kaduna come 2023, a whole hell was let loose by those that benefit from the status quo.
Former senator representing Kaduna central, Shehu Sani, made his gubernatorial ambition known last Tuesday. Sani served as senator from 2015 to 2019. Speaking in an interview on a radio programme weekend, Sani said he would contest the governorship election on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, vowing that when voted into power, he would “clean all the dirt they brought in the state in the name of development. We sat with my loyalists and supporters and they wanted me to contest the governorship of Kaduna state which I will do to remove APC, God willing.
He had boasted that “with or without money, I’ll be next governor of Kaduna. To remove anointed candidate of the state governor and to enter government house where comrade will be sworn in as the next governor that will bring changes that will clean all the dirt they brought in the state in the name of development.
“I will bring security. This is what my supporters wanted and I trust them. So, I will contest the governorship seat under the PDP. Therefore, I call on the people of Kaduna to support and collaborate with me. I also solicit for their prayers; I need the prayers of religious leaders, marketers, physically challenged, women and youths. You voted for Mallam as governor what remains now is to have a comrade as a governor so as to see the difference between us.
“You must reject the anointed candidate of those who demolished your houses. Support us to see how we form a government that respects the will of the poor in the state.”
As a civil rights activist with plenty of political enemies, it was not long before verbal vitriol came in volleys, some impugning his integrity, a veiled reference to his EFCC case which allegedly borders on defrauding a business man by tricks, a case widely believed to be contrived and politically motivated.
The All Progressives Congress in Kaduna State last Monday, threw the first salvo by tackling the former Senator representing the Kaduna Central Senatorial District.
The APC told the former lawmaker that governance was a serious business that required serious minds like that of the incumbent governor, Nasir El-Rufai, and not for “idle bloggers”.
Last Monday, Salisu Wusono, the Publicity Secretary-elect, APC Kaduna State, lambasted Sani.
Wusono stated in that statement titled, ‘Kaduna people will not allow nonentities to set them back’.
The APC spokesman added that governing the state which recorded serious development over the years under governor El-Rufai was “not for idle bloggers that think that decades of scavenging off the woes of people qualify them for leadership.”
According to him, the APC has changed the democratic game in the state, making politics and governance an arena for “the serious and the accomplished.”
He added that considering the development strides of the APC government in the state, “2023 will further confirm that Kaduna State is not an arena for those who have never run anything, who do not have any understanding of development or any appreciation of governance as a serious undertaking.”
The statement read in part, “The APC has observed that with the next general elections approaching, all sorts of characters are trying to disrespect the people of Kaduna State by treating the contest for the next governorship of the state as if it is a grand comedy.
But many spoken to by Business Hallmark say Sani is more than qualified and has what it takes to govern Kaduna better than the present occupant of the seat, with many saying he has better chance of winning in a free and fair election.
Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist told Business Hallmark that “Sani is very popular, the masses of Kaduna who constitute the electorate Know what he stands for and that he identifies with their aspirations and yearnings, and they would vote for him in a free and fair election.”
He further stated that Sani has for years stood by the people of the state as a civil rights activist long before he ever dreamt of political ambition.
Dr. Timothy Bonnet Josiah, a southern Kaduna intellectual told this medium that “If Sani secures PDP ticket in a free and fair poll, he will win the election, he is popular and I can tell you the political, cultural and religious divides trust him in the state.
Before his several incarcerations, Sani co-founded the Movement for Unity and Progress and teamed up with other northern progressives such as Abubakar Dangiwa Umar, Bala Usman, James Bawa and Balarabe Musa, to fight for the actualization of 12 June annulled presidential election and other causes.
Sani is renowned6for providing human rights campaign support to the poor and the disadvantage and in the process had clashed with security agents and other state power-wielders.
During the religious riots in Kaduna in 2000, he was the only human right activist in Kaduna that came out in the heat of the violence to condemn the massacre. In 2005, he was appointed to reshape the civil society in the national conference. Traditional rulers in the conference asked that Shehu Sani be barred from further speaking when he asked for their dissolution because of their pliant support for military dictators in the past. The chairman of the commission, Justice Niki Tobi turned down the call. During the riot in Kaduna, he pioneered the distribution of relief materials and initiated the visit to the “war zone” at the time when it was the most suicidal thing to contemplate.
From Kaduna Polytechnic, Sani plunged into national activism. He was introduced into the Campaign for Democracy (CD), Nigeria’s umbrella pro-democracy group by activists like Femi Falana and Beko Ransome-Kuti and thereafter served as the Northern Coordinator and National Vice-Chairman of the group.
He was first detained in July 1993 under the regime of General Babagida. His offence then was that he advocated for the revalidation of the result of 12 June 1993 Presidential election polls won by the late Chief M. K. O. Abiola. Sani was charged at a magistrate court, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna, for sedition. During the interim government of Earnest Shonekan, Sani was arrested and detained for two weeks and later charged to court for sedition again. During General Sani Abacha’s regime, he was implicated in the 1995 phantom coup and subsequently jailed for life and later commuted to 15 years by the Patrick Aziza Special Military Tribunal that convicted the likes of General Olusegun Obasanjo (later President), Col. Lawan Gwadabe (rtd) and Chris Anyanwu and other journalists; his charges were: “Accessory to the fact of treason and managing an unlawful society (the Campaign for Democracy)”. He was detained in various prisons: Kirikiri, Kaduna, Port-Harcourt, Enugu and Aba.
His background prepared him for his radical streak.
During his schooldays at Kaduna Polytechnic, he was a student union activist. He was Chairman, Central Mobilization Committee of PAN-African Student Organization and President African Democratic Youth Congress. He served as social Director Kaduna State Students Union. Sani came from a Nigerian middle-class family. His father was a production manager. He trained in the UK and Germany, and worked with the pro-Northern New Nigerian Newspaper for 30 years. Before that he worked as a printer with the Kano-based Daily Mail. He was also the government printer for Sokoto State from 1976 to 1979.
His father had a well-stocked library where Sani advanced his studies through literary knowledge and was especially influenced on books propounding the ideals of socialism and politics of the left; this being a period of massive inflow of literature from Eastern Europe.
The exposure to books helped shaped his thoughts and leftist perception of life, as well as exposing him to the reality and decadence brought to the society by military dictatorship. Sani was equally influenced by his mother, who was a community women’s leader; and the likes of Aminu Kano and the Northern Elements Progressive Union (NEPU) and PRP (Peoples Redemption party) radical politics.
Sani was born on 29 October 1967 in Tudun Wada, Kaduna.