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in with prison shehu obasanjo “i editors was treason” sani for once

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“i Was Once In Prison With Obasanjo, Editors For Treason” – Shehu Sani
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Senator representing Kaduna Central Senatorial
District and President of the Civil Rights Congress of
Nigeria, Shehu Sani, speaks with LEKE BAIYEWU and
JOY MARCUS about his struggle and freedom As the Senator representing Kaduna Central
Senatorial District, what are your primary
responsibilities? My responsibilities are in two parts. The first is to
represent, present, defend, project and protect the
interest of my people as a federal legislator. and the
second is to ensure that what is meant for them is
given to them. As a politician with an activist
background, I am a freedom fighter. I will always pursue the cause and the interest of the
downtrodden in my constituency as well as their
socio-economic and political interest. I will always
defend the mandate given to me by my people. How did you manage the transition from an activist
to a politician? To transform from an activist to being a politician
and senator is a difficult task because the two
positions have different responsibilities and
principles. As an activist, I am guided by a set of
rules, principles and my conscience. As a politician,
you are under pressure to conform to the interest of a group, position of an organisation and a set of
rules which is binding on everyone. As an activist,
you don’t need any guidance when it comes to
making your point clear on socio-political national
and local issues that border on your religion,
ethnicity or country. But as a politician, you carry a mandate and the sensitivity of the people you
represent and the position you take must be in
synergy with the kind of people you represent.
Also, whatever position you take, you will be
guided by how that will be acceptable to the people
you represent. This could sometimes be contradictory to your own conscience as an
individual; what your people want you to say or do
may be in conflict with what you, as an individual,
believe is right or wrong. In what ways have you been able to impact on the
people of your constituency? For the first time, my people are able to describe
their senator. The most important thing is that I
have been able to create awareness in the minds of
our people in every possible way through my
political activism and other activities. I have been
able to create a consciousness in the minds and hearts of the people to be able to say no and stand
up against injustice. Also, to resist any attempt to
undermine their environmental rights and
democratic principles. I have aligned myself to the
downtrodden; those in the lower strata of society. I
have aligned myself with organised labour groups, as well as youth and women groups. I also stand
with mass-based organisations within my own
constituency, as against the conservative and
reactionary politics of projecting a right wing
agenda that simply protects conservatism. As an
activist, I fought for democracy in Nigeria and as a politician, I guide the people against anti-
democratic activities by people in the position of
power. I have also been able to create an
awareness that they themselves can stand and
protest against injustice and speak out. What peculiar challenges do you face as a senator? I think there are a lot of challenges but what
impresses me the most is that I see the behaviour of
senators. When issues are not controversial, you
find out that everybody wants to be heard or seen
speaking but when issues are sensitive,
controversial and may lead to confrontation with the executive (arm of government), you will find
the number almost dropping by 60 per cent. That is
something which I have always observed. Another
thing I see as challenging in the National Assembly
is that we have a society where people still cannot
differentiate between the duties and responsibilities of the executive arm of government and the
members of parliament. It is a very big problem
because they want you to construct roads for them,
build hospitals, schools and do a lot of other things
for them. Another testy point is the fact that your
close friends want you to write letters of recommendation for them so that they can get jobs
in any of the federal ministries. On the other hand,
people who write notes are accused by the society
of violating due process; so you will be caught in
between. Meanwhile, if you don’t write, you will be
criticised by your constituents as not being helpful. If you write, you will also be criticised for trying to
circumvent due process. In the National Assembly,
each time you stand to speak; you are aware that
firstly, your constituents are listening carefully.
Secondly, your party is listening carefully to know
what you are saying. Thirdly, the Executive is listening as well as your family and friends. For
every statement you make, you are very conscious
that it is going to be put on a scale by the different
sets of people I just mentioned. What are your aspirations? I have been able to achieve a lot by being a
senator. For the first time, I have made maximum
impact on my constituency. As a senator, I have
intervened in several areas of education. I have
constructed and facilitated the construction of
hospitals in my constituency. We have gotten jobs for people in the military, paramilitary and civil
service. We have also empowered women and
men. We have done a lot in terms of giving them
scholarships and other things. I would say that the
next step will be determined by what we have
been able to achieve. One’s ambition is a factor but also more important is whether the people you
want to govern or represent are actually at peace
with what you have been able to achieve. Other
than that, there are forces that will naturally work
against you because they see you as a threat due to
your popularity and affinity with the masses. Meanwhile, these people are usually the leading
men in power. They are always a stumbling block
between the people and those that are ready to
defend and protect their interest. What can you recall of your days as a student union
activist? In my early years as a student union activist, I made
my peers understand the direction of the struggle
and since our early years were spent under military
rule, I led the fight against military dictatorship by
mobilising people of my age to stand in defence of
freedom and democracy. We were young people who were driven by revolutionary passion to free
and unite our people against the odds of religious,
ethnic, social and cultural inefficiency. Nigeria,
being multi-religious and multi ethnic, we observed
that it had been difficult for us as a people to put up
a common front against military dictatorship. But the struggle then was mostly in the South-West
with the likes of Gani Fawehinmi (SAN), Dr. Beko
Kuti, Femi Falana (SAN), Wole Soyinka and many
others who were leading the struggle. In the
South-East, we had a few like Chima Ubani. The
struggle dislodged the military from government and I suffered a lot of persecution. Many times, I
was arrested and kept at the police station in
Kaduna. Then it graduated to taking me to prison
and then to court. I can’t remember how many
times I was detained at police stations. I have been
incarcerated at Kirikiri Prisons (Lagos), Aba prison in Abia State and Port Harcourt prison. My last
prison experience was when I was sentenced to
life imprisonment for treason in 1995. I spent four
years in gaol and came out with the advent of
democracy in Nigeria. Who were some of the people you met in prison? In my last prison stint, I was with people such as
Chris Anyanwu; the Editor of The News magazine,
Kunle Ajibade; former President Olusegun
Obasanjo, and many others. They were all brought
in for treason too. We were all tried by the military
tribunal and sentenced. After we were convicted, we were spread across various prisons in the
country. I was taken to Port Harcourt prison and
from there to Aba prison. What were some of the things you discussed with
your fellow inmates while in prison? Prison is a different world where you meet different
kinds of people; and they are not just people who
committed the same crime with you. You will meet
with people from different criminal backgrounds –
from armed robbery to murder, pick-pocketing and
several other issues. I encountered so many and it was a whole different experience. There is a lot of
pain, insult and insolence in prisons. Naturally, I
had to develop a cordial relationship with the
people for things to be easier for me. Each prison
you go in, you meet different sets of people that will
make a lasting impact on your life. They learn from you and you also learn from them. I also tried to
change some of them who were brought there for
criminal activities. What motivated you to join politics despite having
such a bitter experience? It was a difficult thing as many activists, who fought
for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria, found it
difficult to transit from activism to politics because
of the crisis that is attached to it. My decision to go into politics was propelled by my
ideas, views and ideology; to practicalise our ideas
of freedom and progress for our people. For all
those years that we struggled to free Nigeria from
military rules, many of our comrades have tried to
reform public office but it has increasingly become difficult to do so. I took it as a personal challenge to
transform our popular support and appreciation in
the hearts and minds of the masses into votes
which we contested in 2003, 2007 and 2015. We
(forces that fought for democracy) made the
mistake of our life in 1999 by not joining the political forum to capture political power and as
such, democracy was hijacked by people who
never fought or struggled. As far as I’m concerned,
our politics is driven by the principles of the
defence of the rights of the people, freedom and
justice. During your school days at the Kaduna Polytechnic,
you were the chairman of the student union. What
do you recollect from that time? In the mid-eighties, we set up the African
Democratic Guild Congress, which was a socialist
movement. The idea behind that organisation was
to see how we could spread the socialist
consciousness in the minds of our people. Despite
the fact that there was a consensus on the need to restore democracy back to Nigeria, we felt that
there was a need to have an ideological direction to
that struggle. So, that organisation was set up
together with other like minds who shared socialist
ideas. At that time, we received books and journals
from Eastern Europe and other countries. I have lectured young people in universities on the need
to struggle and mobilise a popular resistance for a
socialist society. And as a student union activist, we
carried along some of these ideas as we tried to see
how we could divert the focus of student activism
on the areas of scholarships and rights of students to how the student union from that level can be
actively involved in the revolutionary liberation of
the society and mass mobilisation of our people.
Activism in those days was different from what we
have now. Student union activists of those days
were driven by ideology, a set of principles and ideas. Then, you saw young people divided into
socialist camps, liberal camps and people who were
in support of conservative ideas. You could see the
stratification of those along ideological lines but
over the years, we have seen these values
deteriorate. Now, students leave union activism and turn to something else. It is either being wrecked
by religious crisis or ethnic issues and it has
reached such a very low level that even people
who are in the position of power don’t take threats
and protests by the student unions seriously. Many
student union activists nowadays defend personalities and policies of governments. That is
unfortunate. You see others moving from one office
to the other giving public officials’ awards. In those
days, whenever the president of the student union
government was announced, you would see how
much he was respected and adored. But now, they have been so fractionalised and incapacitated. Who are your role models? People who we share the same ideological leaning
and beliefs. I share the ideas and struggles of
people who have stood out in defence of their
ideas like Thomas Sankara, Fidel Castro, Martin
Luther King Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, Nelson Mandela,
Chris Hani and Walter Sisulu. These were people that led a life of struggle for freedom. One person
that made a profound impact on my life was Frantz
Fanon, an Algerian freedom fighter. He was
originally from Guadeloupe in the Caribbean but
was deployed in Algeria and he played a prominent
role in the struggle for the national liberation of Algeria. These were people I considered great. What is your advice for people who admire your
struggles and want to be like you? They should not be like me; they should be
themselves because I want them to lead normal
lives of being doctors, lawyers, and engineers.
What we have seen in our life and what we still see
is not something we pray for our young ones to toe
the path. They should live a normal, honest life and contribute to the progress and prosperity of their
country. How do you balance your career and family life? It is so unfortunate that when you get into politics,
you naturally have to bring along your family into
it. When you are assaulted, insulted, attacked or
whatever it is; they share your pain and when you
go into politics, they see less of you because the
most part of you will be taken by the public. If your wife is on social media, whatever she sees about
you may hurt her more than it hurts you because
you are in politics. Whenever you decide to go into
politics, you have also decided to drag people who
know you into it. Also, there will be so much
expectation and demands from you because everybody wants you to do one thing or the other
for them. You have to appease the people who
elected you, know you and at the same time do
your duty as a man in public office. Most
importantly, you have to try every possible means
to see that you balance both sides. How did you meet your wives? I met my first wife when I went to visit a friend. I
approached her and we moved on from there. The
second one, I met her at an event and we moved
along that line. They are both living in peace with
each other. Was it love at first sight for you? There is nothing like love at first sight but you can
only say admiration at first sight because love takes
time to develop. You need to know the person that
you are going to love and how compatible you are
with that person; also, what chemistry exists
between you and that person. You may be attracted to that person because of the way she
looks but you may not know the manner, habits
and other issues concerning that person. It is the
invisible qualities of the person that will keep you
while the visible ones are the ones that attract you
towards that person. You can have a beautiful person with a bad character or an ugly person with
a good character; while you can also have one that
has both. What were some of the events that shaped your life
as a child? My father worked with the New Nigerian
Newspaper; so, I grew up in a ‘journalistic’
environment. We were exposed to current affairs
from as early as when we were five-year-old. It was
a time when we woke up in the morning to find
newspapers kept outside the door. We learned to read and write from newspapers. Our life was a
journey through a journalistic experience as
someone who came from that family. We were
exposed to books, journals and magazines at an
early age. So, it was not much of a problem for us to
synergise with current issues right from our childhood till this present day. What are some of your childhood memories? I think it is the simplicity of life in the past where we
didn’t have social media, phones and people
related with each other as human beings. There
was trust, love, togetherness, and belief in one
another. Nigeria used to be, in the seventies and
eighties, a country that was full of promise and people saw one another as brothers and sisters.
The communal spirit and the collectiveness
between our own existences as a people were
things which we actually missed. Unlike now, when
life is fast and people have grown to disrupt and
fight each other, in those days, Nigerians, whether Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa, Muslim or Christian, saw one
another as one. Our views were also not guided by
our sentiments like what is happening today. What schools did you attend? I studied Agricultural Engineering at the Kaduna
Polytechnic. I was doing a course in Law at the
University of London but I had to suspend it
because of politics. I hope that by the time I am out
of here, I will continue the programme. How do you relax? I relax mostly by reading books and stories from
other parts of life. Sometimes, in order for me to be
a normal human being, I choose a moment to put
off my mobile phones and visit people like we did
as children and adults in those years. Human
beings are becoming more digital. The phone has made so many things easier for us and it has also
complicated life. It has removed us away from our
humanity. The phone has killed the calendar,
camera, compass, wrist watches and personal
relationships. Those days, as children, if visitors
came to your house, you gave them your family photo album and they would ask you questions
about the pictures. These days, when visitors come
to your house, from the time they step into your
house till they leave, their attention will be on their
phones. So, you will see people together but apart.
The social media is most likely going to change the anatomy of human beings because people now
bend their heads more than they raise it. The
fingers that we only used to eat; now we use it
more to press and some people now stay indoors
more than they go out. Even our children, if you
give them an iPad, they will not look at their toys again. We can see how it has been able to destroy
their lives in that aspect and people can spend a
whole day on phone or iPad rather than going out
to do exercise. Sometimes, I decide to break this
cycle; I go out to the gym or visit friends without a
mobile phone because I want to behave like a normal person. Sometimes, I even go to the post
office to post letters just to bring those nostalgic
memories back. This is the way I like to relax. How do you like to dress? My dad was a man of suits. He wore a lot of suits
and he gave the best for himself and for us; I got
that from him. Suit is something that we love. My
best traditional dress is the Kaftan and
‘minister’ (that is the name of my cap). As for
babariga, I don’t have one now but Senator Abu Ibrahim said he will get me a babariga soon. I love
to dress smartly. I wear casuals and khaki because
of the struggle.

Source:- NaijaTap


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