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SUBSIDY PROBE: REPS CAN'T BITE -HANGA

By NBF News
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Oil sector reform is one of the critical areas where the administration of President Goodluck Jonathan is expected to demonstrate its political will. Since the House of Representatives committee on petroleum subsidy fund commenced its investigation into how N1.7 trillion dispensed in 2011 by the Federal Government was managed, Nigerians have been inundated with several revelations of the rot in the sector.

But some cynics believe that the prolonged probe session is only as good as a mere talk show. Pre-empting the recommendation of the committee, Senator Rufai Hanga, in this interview, says neither the legislature nor the executive has the will to deal with the cabal in the sector. Excerpts…

The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) has initiated a move to reposition the party for the future election. What is your take on this, especially given the fact that you were once in court to challenge the legality of the present leadership?

It is not that I was in court; I am still in court. I am in court to challenge the legality of the convention they had. I am in court to challenge the so-called leadership. I don't want to go deep into that because it will be prejudicial since we are already in court. But there is a move now to rejuvenate the party through a committee headed by Nasir El-Rufai. And we are willing to work with him; we are willing to assist him to make sure the party succeeds and rejuvenated.

I believe El-Rufai is sincere and he is serious. I have had discussions with him and I believe in his intention. In fact, I have been talking to other people to really mobilize and make him succeed in his assignment. We can't just fold our arms to get the party killed by some people. They have done what they did and everybody saw it. But we wouldn't allow the party to go with the wind.

Are you now willing to withdraw your case from the court since a committee has been constituted to look into the grievances of the members?

If we withdraw the case, the same people will continue to lead the party and unleash terror on the members. We are going to get rid of them so that the party can move forward. Majority of the party members are not willing to go with the present leadership.

And that is why the party is in coma now. The moment they are out, you will see how the party will bounce back. If the opinion of people who are serious about seeing the party rejuvenated is so strong enough to make me withdraw the case, may be, I may withdraw it. We will consult with our colleague and decide on what to do. But for now, there is nothing like withdrawing. I am not thinking about withdrawing the case because it is almost over. We have had judgment and we are waiting for the final judgment.

It is like you are pre-empting the outcome of the reconciliation effort of El-Rufai-led committee by saying that you will see the back of the present leadership. Aren't you?

I am not insinuating anything. I am only telling you that people will not want to go along with this so-called leadership because of the atrocities they committed against the party and our members all over the country. It is as a result of what they did that we lost the last election all over the country. They substituted names of candidates. In fact, right now, they are being investigated by the Inspector-General of Police for forgery. They forged signatures to substitute the names of candidates.

Of course, by law, it is parties that sponsor candidates. But once a primary has been conducted and the name of the chosen candidate is forwarded to the INEC, you cannot substitute the name of such candidate without his consent. They forged the signature of a senatorial candidate after he had won the election and put the picture of another person because they couldn't get his picture. So, the thing boomeranged. They did the same thing for another House of Representatives candidate.

When the candidates discovered the fraud at the INEC office, they petitioned the Inspector-General of Police to conduct an investigation into the matter. That, they did to so many candidates. And I challenge anybody to come out to say it is not true. I pity those people who think we are being used to destabilize the party. We did not challenge them when they did what they did to us because we did not want to sabotage the party during the general elections. We kept silent over it in the hope that we would succeed in the election. But we started shouting after we had all failed. We are fighting to be understood, but some people thought we are being used.

That is what we are facing now.
They thought you are being used because your decision to challenge the leadership came at a time when your Presidential candidate, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, was in court over the dispute on the election of President Goodluck Jonathan. Isn't it so?

No, we went to court after the first judgment. And our belief is that they have already lost in the court in the first instance. So, I doubted if they could win the second judgment. What we should have won was the election but we didn't win the election. Indeed, from the outset, I had my reservations about the petition because we had only one governor in the country; we had just three senators in the whole country.

With the number of people we have in the state Houses of assembly, in the federal House of Representatives and the Senate, how can you dream of winning a presidential election in the whole country? We lost the presidency right from the election. We missed it because of the atrocities they committed. The followership was there, the committment was there. But we were rigged out because those who supposed to protect their votes refused to vote due to the atrocities of their leaders.

Now, with the reconciliation committee, do you see the party bouncing back before the next election?

I assure you, with the right people at the leadership positions, the party will bounce back stronger than before. It will bounce back stronger because the people need the party now more than before. We need a change and that change is needed now more than ever. The hardship those at the helm of affairs are inflicting on the people requires an urgent change. And I am sure the change will come very soon. With the level of insecurity now in the country, people have lost confidence in the present leadership of the country. So, I assure you, CPC will come out stronger and it will bounce back.

What and what are you expecting the committee to do to assuage the feeling of those party members who have been wronged by the leadership?

What I expect the committee to do is to consult. Two, we must have a change of leadership. Let us get credible people to lead the party. The present set of leaders must go. Because we want to remain in the party, we will keep on proffering solutions to the problem arising from bad leadership. So, we expect the committee to be fair and allow people to select their leaders.

Once people are allowed to choose their leaders, I think we will succeed. Leadership problem is the number one issue that impacted negatively on the party. For example, in Kano, despite the fact that I was the pioneer national chairman and I brought the party to where it was, yet, they insisted on not recognizing the leadership that came through me. They insisted on imposing the leadership but they did not succeed. That was what they did in several states. They did it in Kano and Kaduna. This time, I will advise the committee not to allow the imposition of leadership on anybody. If they allow people to select their leaders, the party will move forward.

Were these alleged impositions done with the knowledge and endorsement of the national leadership or they are peculiar state problems?

Nobody in the state can impose anybody; it is done by the national leadership. It is a clique. Of course, there is a Board of Trustee which initially consisted of five people but later on enlarged unofficially to include several people. Having committed all the atrocities at the state level, they brought everything to the BOT and they approved. It came to a point when members of the BOT were just two people.

And their decision was final. They even became more powerful than the EXCO. I was the National chairman, but so many things happened without my knowledge. And I couldn't protest because if I did, my overall leader (Gen Muhammadu Buhari) would shout at me. I respect him so much that I don't always like to argue with him. If I knew he was not part of these things, I would have protested. It was later on that I knew he was innocent but he was being used.

Who are those two powerful people calling the shot in the party?

Buba Galadima and Sule Ahanma. They were the chief beneficiaries of all the atrocities committed in the party. They are the main architect of all the crisis the party is facing today. When two of the officers in the headquarters went to testify at the police station that they forged signatures of some candidates, they sacked them. They are trying to suppress the case but we wouldn't allow it. No Nigerian factor will work on this; we must investigate it. Even though it is INEC's case, we wouldn't allow it to go with the wind. We must expose these people so that it will not happen again. These people are not happy with El-Rufai as the Chairman of the committee because they know him as a no-nonsense man. But I am willing to assist him because I know he will succeed.

During the last election, there was supposed to be an agreement between the CPC and the ACN to confront the PDP. But along the line, it broke down. Why didn't the agreement work?

It broke down because these same people didn't want it to work. But for me, there is no other option than the ACN. CPC and ACN have the same ideology. We are birds of the same feather. We are all progressives; we are all yearning for a change. In fact, there is no marriage that can be more convenient than the marriage of the CPC and ACN. If I had my way, we would have long had it. But they pushed me out of the negotiation. I had already had discussions with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and I had made up my mind that we were going into the agreement. But they schemed and pushed me out.

They said they had formed a committee to lead the discussion and that whatever the committee comes up with, the BOT Chairman will take a final decision. Asiwaju was willing to allow the General to contest. He even gave us three people to choose from as the Vice President. But simply because these people were working for some interests, they refused to accept the terms of the agreement.

Are you suspecting outside influence?
Yes, there was outside influence to the whole thing. Buhari would have wanted the alliance, but they overwhelmed him. They went and fed him with lies and he trusted them. But I warned him. And that was why they insisted that I must resign as the chairman when I said I wanted to contest the election. I spent my time, money and everything to spread the party across the country. But maybe they gave money to the media, the media was always talking of Muhammed Abacha.

There was no primary in Kano. Yet, you hear the press saying Abacha was denied the governorship ticket. The primary was inconclusive. It was all of us that were denied the ticket because there was no primary. I was the pioneer national chairman; they denied me ticket despite all I did for the party. But look at how we ended it; we got less than 10 per cent vote in Kano which was the strongest hold of the CPC. Up till now, CPC is the party to beat in Kano.

And do you still have the intention of going for the ticket in the next election?

I don't know yet, but I may not go. What I intend doing is to rebuild the party. I am still holding the state headquarters of the party. From ward level to the state level, the leadership is ours. And we are still working and maintaining our structure.

How do you see the revelations coming out of the ongoing probe of management of fuel subsidy fund by the National Assembly?

I am not surprised with all these revelations. This is not the first time we are having such revelations and nothing happened. We had several revelations on NNPC which were all true; yet, nothing happed. This time around, I have heard and I am still hearing more. Some are even being suppressed. But I don't think anything will happen. However, a time will come when all these things will boomerang. I am sorry to say this, I doubt, if the National Assembly can do anything.

They are toothless bulldog; they can't bite. And it will be shameful if they only bark but cannot bite. I will even advise them not to mention it because if they do and nothing happens, they will destroy their integrity. They may not know they are destroying themselves but record will tell, posterity will tell.

Farouk Lawan is saying they would get to the root of the matter.

(Cuts in). If they get to the root, what happens? Getting to the root is different from doing something about it. Mark my words, they can only bark but not bite. Something must happen if really they can bite. They either prosecute those that have been found to have done one wrong thing or the other or impeach the president if he fails to act right. That is the only thing that can make people respect them. They have to do something to reverse the trend.

Why do you think they can only bark but not bite?
Some of them are beneficiaries of these things. When I say the National Assembly, I certainly don't mean all of them. There are a minority of them who have good record. But you know, democracy is a game of number. The minority can have their say but cannot have their way. There may be a few minorities who may want something to be done but they don't have the majority to do it. More so, most members are from the PDP.

Can't executive also do something to deal with the cabal?

Who are the cabal? They are the cabal. They are even skeptical of people willing to help them because they don't trust anybody. There are those who are close to the president but they are not after his interest. Even when he gives instruction, they don't carry it out. They do what is best for them not for him. So, there are people who are certainly not helping the president.

Even those close to him are not for him. Yet, he trusts South-South people than anybody. But they are not for him; otherwise, he would not be having the problem he has in his state.

Many people have been talking about revolution. Do you see a revolution happening in Nigeria?

There are many types of revolution. A change through the ballot is a revolution. A change of attitude is a revolution. A violent change of government is a revolution. So, which type of revolution are you talking about?

Which one do you think can happen?
I think the revolution that can happen is a revolution through the ballot. Like I said before, in 2015, a whole different group will take over the country through the ballot. That is what I believe in. I believe CPC, ACN with other group will take over through the ballot. That is the kind of revolution I anticipate. What happened in the Arab world that caused the Arab spring has happened in Nigeria ten folds. The problem we have in Nigeria is leadership.

For instance, the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) betrayed Nigerians. In the last strike organized to protest the hike in the price of petroleum, they were compromised. Nobody can convince me that they were not compromised. If we had continued the struggle for one more week, we would have gotten what we wanted. The government would have reversed the pump price. And once we get that, when at any time people come out for something, they will always have their ways.

When the strike initially started, I said I hope this is not an arrangement. And, of course, there is no leadership in NGOs. In all strata, we don't have leaders. Leaders we have are volunteers. If there will be revolution at all in this country, it will start from down up not from up down. In other countries, it was up down. Already, the down are grumbling. They have lost confidence in the leadership.

One may say you are one of the survivors of the recent Boko Haram incidents in Kano because you saw it all losing two of your relations. What would you say is the cause all this?

One, I think that there is nothing like Boko Haram. Boko Haram is a creation of the press. Two, for me, the problem is more than meets the eye. I don't believe it is this group that is perpetrating all these evils because the sophistication is more than what this group can do. Besides, one can also blame Ali Modu Sherif and the late President Umaru Musa Yar'Adua for the escalation of the activities of the group.

They claimed that he arrested and killed their members without trial. It was shown on Al-Jazeera. Innocent people were shot. Even though the people that carried out the extra judicial killing were arrested, nothing happened. If the government had done something about the people, may be, this would not have been happening. But when they started to react to what Ali Modu Sherif did to them, people were trying to give it ethnic and religious connotations.

It is a lie; after all, they are killing Muslims in Borno. Some are even saying they want to Islamise Nigeria because it is one of the Islamic sects. It is not true. The truth of the matter is that there is a group that wants Nigeria to disintegrate. There is a group which doesn't want peace in Nigeria. Perhaps, some of these are disgruntled elements that wanted the presidency of this country but didn't get it or some secessionists. Again, there might be external connection to whole crisis.

We have seen how some foreign interest destabilised other countries for their own interest. They make you kill yourselves so that you don't have the right mindset to do things yourselves. But many people wrongly believe that this is a religious or tribal thing. No, it is not sectional. If it were sectional, they wouldn't have concentrated their attack on the north.

You said it is not sectional but in most of the bomb attacks in the recent past, majority of the victims were Igbo. Isn't that enough for them to feel that they are being targeted?

No, it is a mistake. Of course, there were instances in the time past when in the course of some problems, the miscreants would attack the Igbo and loot their shops because they are rich. But the then governor usually gave an order of shoot on sight because they regarded them as armed robbers. Many of them were tried and imprisoned for looting. It is normal for a calamity like this to affect everybody whenever it happens. I was in Kano when it happened, 99.9 percent of those affected were indigenes.

The same thing happened in Borno, 99.9 percent of those affected were indigenes. In fact, there was a particular incident here in Abuja when some people went and detonated a bomb in the church. But in the course of investigation, they were discovered to be Christians. It happened in Adamawa, it happened in Kano. It is all propaganda. The point is that some people are bent on seeing Nigeria crumbled. And they are using all means, including bombing of churches and Islamic schools to achieve that end.

Has the government been proactive enough in dealing with this problem?

If the government had nipped it in the bud, these things would not have happened. If the government had tried those that carried out extra judicial killing of members of this sect, the crisis wouldn't have escalated to this level that it is today. But instead of doing that, they continued to arrest everybody that has link with the group. That is why they are fighting back now.

Is there a way to dialogue with this group?
They have said it severally that they want those that killed their members to be tried publicly. The government can stop it but they need to act right. It is just a matter of taking the right decision and doing the right thing; it will stop. American government dialogued with Taliban, they dialogued with the Shiites and the Sunni of Iraq. Who are we not to dialogue with any group here? We dialogued with the Niger Delta people and gave them amnesty. They even appointed Asari Dokubo, a leader of militant group, as security consultant. What is the difference?

But Boko Haram has no identifiable grievances like the militants in the Niger Delta who claimed to be fighting against degradation of their environment and other injustices.

(Cuts in). It is a lie; they said it openly. They said their members were killed unjustly without trial and nothing happened. Were they not killed? They said their people were being arrested. Are they not being arrested? Are these not injustices? Whether it has to do with pollution of environment or not, injustice is an injustice. Whosoever says he cannot identify their grievance is telling a lie.

In Kano, they attacked a police station, gave gun to their members detained in the cell and shared money with non-members and freed them to go. A survivor of the incident narrated this account in a radio interview. He said they gave him N10, 000 for transport and gave gun to their members to follow them.