Defection: What I told Shehu Sani – Balarabe Musa

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A former Kaduna State governor, Balarabe Musa, has provided details of his discussion with Shehu Sani, which reportedly contributed to the latter not defecting from Nigeria’s ruling party, APC.

Mr Sani had told PREMIUM TIMES that Mr Musa, APC national Chairman Adams Oshiomhole and party leader, Bola Tinubu, were among those who persuaded him not to leave the APC for the main opposition party, PDP.

“I told him not to decamp from the party if he is only going to the PDP,” Mr Musa, Kaduna governor between 1979 and 1981, told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone Sunday morning. “I did not ask him not to leave the APC. I only said that he should not defect to the Peoples Democratic Party.”

Mr Sani was amongst those expected to join a wave of discussion that hit the APC last week, having made several categorical statement that suggested the move was imminent.

At least 14 senators and 37 House of Representatives announced their exit from the APC at the parliament on Tuesday. While most of those who severed ties with the ruling party joined the PDP, Nigeria’s main opposition entity, at least one senator and four House members moved to other political parties, especially the African Democratic Congress.

While several other senators who were expected to decamp also failed to do so on Tuesday, it was Mr Sani’s non-defection that drew the most insinuations from Nigerians.

Furthermore, as political observers were still digesting and speculating what they saw as possible reasons for Mr Sani’s continued stay in APC, the lawmaker joined 38 other senators who visited President Muhammadu Buhari to pledge their allegiance to his leadership of the party.

The senator then came under a barrage of criticisms online, with many saying his decision to remain in the APC was not only hypocritical but also buttressed claims of his critics that he had little choice but to remain in APC because he had no personal political value of his own.

Mr Sani’s confrontation with his state governor, Nasir El-Rufai, remained one of the most vicious supremacy battles in contemporary Nigerian politics. The politicians, both part of the APC’s unprecedented fortune at the 2015 general elections, snapped at each other shortly after settling own in their respective offices.

Their political tussle, like similar ones in Kano, Kogi and other states in the country, sometimes turned violent. At some point, the state chapter of the party was factionalised, a division that reached its peak with the demolition of Mr Sani’s faction office earlier this year.

Messrs Sani and El-Rufai spent the most part of this year castigating one another. The crisis worsened in April when Mr Sani was identified by the police as a potential accomplice in a homicide investigation, a development that eventually led the senator to announce last month that he was all but out of the APC — alleging a persecution the proportion of which almost equaled the biblical experience of the Israelite,

On Friday, Mr Sani, a long-time rights activist widely seen as a newbie when he unveiled his political plan in the run up to the 2015 elections, moved to disabuse the public on the claims being peddled his critics, saying he was compelled to remain in the APC by those whose intervention he found difficult to resist.

“My defection was stopped by Asiwaju Tinubu, Oshiomhole and Balarabe Musa. First of all, they recognised and accepted the fact that an injustice has been done to me in Kaduna,” Mr Sani said. Balarabe Musa invited me to his house, cautioned and counselled me against defection. Asiwaju did the same thing. Adams Oshiomole reminded me of my activism and the struggles.

The senator said he was reminded of the gulf between his personal values and what the PDP represents, saying the leaders also promised to resolve the concerns he raised.

“They drew my attention to the fact that all those who defected to the PDP were once PDP members. I don’t have the pedigree of PDP. I’m an activist,” he said. “The assurance they gave me was that everything will be sorted out. They assured me that they will intervene on issues which I raised. Because of that I could not defect.”

Mr Tinubu was previously assigned the sole role of reconciling APC members in states beset by bitter rivalries. After a few months of effort, it became clear that he might not be able to resolve the crisis.

The party proceeded to hold a national convention, amidst fears that doing so could leave it irreparably fractured before 2019 elections. Mr El-Rufai’s faction conducted the congresses and participated at the party’s convention in Abuja last month, relegating Mr Sani and Suleiman Hunkuyi, another APC senator at loggerheads with the governor.

Although Mr El-Rufai did not expressly kick against Mr Sani’s reintegration into the party’s mainstream, he demanded that it must be done with an apology.

The governor said Mr Sani’s alleged role in thwarting Kaduna State appeal for loan approval at the Senate constituted a “political apostasy,” saying he would remain suspended from the party until he apologised.

Further clarifying what he told Mr Sani in an exchange with PREMIUM TIMES, Mr Musa said he asked the senator to join his Peoples Redemption Party (PRP).

“I told him not to decamp from the party if he is only going to the PDP,” Mr Balarabe said. “If he is going to PDP, I don’t advise him to decamp from the APC. I left him to decide where he goes, but if he leaves the APC he should not go to the PDP.

“In other words, I told him that if he would leave the APC he should come to PRP. If he wants to leave APC, let him come to PRP where he belongs to,” he added. “He would be going from one thing to even worse” if he moved from APC to PDP.

Mr Sani, who said he would seek re-election to the Senate in 2019, did not immediately return PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments.

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