■ Sees more trouble lurking in Kano
Kano State, like its counterpart in Lagos, has had more than its fair share of the Coronavirus disease. In this interview with Daily Sun, Senator Rufai Hanga warned that more trouble might be lurking, if the administration of Governor Abdullahi Ganduje continues to lie low in its containment effort.
It appears that things are gradually returning to normal in Kano following the recent ravaging effect of Coronavirus disease in the state. Doesn’t it?
Yes, in my opinion, things may be gradually subsiding, but the reason is that there is no proper testing. The testing is not adequate. If they do proper testing, they will find out that so many people are carrying the disease. The testing is not adequate enough for us to say it is okay. A lot of infected persons have gone round the city and they have spread the virus. That is my belief, anyway! The testing is not adequate enough to confirm that things are okay.
And in spite of all, Governor Abdullahi Ganduje went ahead to give approval for Eid-Fitr prayer after the Ramadan fasting. Is that not another looming danger?
He gave the order so that we can pray, but there was no obedience to the rule of social distancing, and the majority did not put on mask. On Friday too, he gave a go ahead order for congregational prayer even though the Federal Government had directed that they should close mosques for more weeks, but he didn’t follow the directive.
That possibly implies that there may still be fire on the mountain?
Yes, there is still fire on the mountain. The way things are happening now, I am sure they are spreading it. As I understand the nature of the pandemic, the virus continues to spread by the day. It is very unfortunate. I am sure we are not witnessing a terrible situation now because there is no adequate testing. The governor is too careless.
Recall that COVID Organics produced by Madagascar as a cure for the virus has been delivered to the President. So far, what is your own assessment of the government’s attitude to the use of traditional medicine as alternative treatment?
The government has said that it must go through the approval of the appropriate authorities before it can be administered on infected persons. That is the right thing to do. This is not to say that traditional herbal cannot cure it. Before the orthodox medicine, traditional herbals had been used to cure so many diseases. But there is always conspiracy by the international bodies like WHO against Africa. I think it is high time government began to look inward for solution to the pandemic.
Kano State is not alone in this instance. Some other states are also not following the directives of the NCDC on the measures to control the spread of the pandemic. They prefer to do things in their own way. What do you think the Federal Government can do to make them fall in line?
Can that happen under former President Olusegun Obasanjo? Did you see it happen under Goodluck Jonathan and Yar’Adua? I won’t say anything more than that. At least, you know that if there is conflict between federal and state laws, the federal takes precedence.
By and large, the pandemic has revealed the decay in the nation’s health institutions. The SGF admitted this much in his recent public statement when he said that he did not know the extent of the rot in the health sector until the outbreak of the pandemic. What’s the way forward?
The way forward is for the government to give priority attention to the health sector. Now that we know how bad our health institutions are, we have to work on how to improve the quality of healthcare service delivery. But honestly, no nation can claim to have prepared for the pandemic. Even the US did not prepare for it. And for me, this is one of the positives of the pandemic. The world now knows that many things have been done wrongly. For example, there has been concern over the climate change. Experts have said it that there has been depletion of the ozone layer in the last 50 years as a result of climate change. And if the ozone is completely depleted, it can wipe out the entire human race. With this pandemic, I read a report that within the period of the lockdown enforced by many nations when there was no emission from cars and other things, ozone layer has fully recovered back to normal. This is one of the positives of the pandemic. That would not have been possible without the pandemic. Even religious wise, there are certain things people were doing before which they may not go back to again when the virus is defeated.
What is your take on the Executive Order 10 recently signed into law by the President?
It is military in nature. But I don’t care because if he doesn’t do that, state judiciary and legislature will remain under the control of the governors. We all know how legislature and judiciary always run to the governors for money. If the order is enforced, it will give independence to state legislature and the judiciary.
Do you expect the same to be replicated at the federal level?
The National Assembly and the judiciary have been enjoying their independence for long. That is why the House of Representatives and the Senate are doing what they are doing.
But some critics still refer to the National Assembly as rubber stamp of the executive.
(Cuts in)…It is because of the way the leadership emerged. The emergence of the leadership was not based on the popular choice of the lawmakers. The process of election of leadership is always manipulated.
Another economic recession is looming. Already, the 2020 budget estimates at both state and the federal level have been thrown off the balance. What do you think can be done to mitigate the effects of the pandemic?
The looming economic recession is already here with us. The reality is that this COVID-19 is going to be with us for a long time, we only need to learn to live with it. What the government can do now is to enforce the rules of social distancing, use of face masks, environmental hygiene and other measures that can limit the spread of the virus. They have to go back to the drawing board and come up with a plan to reopen the economy because we cannot continue the lockdown perpetually. It is obvious that the virus is not going to go away anytime soon.
Would you support the planned rationalization of ministries, departments and agencies (MDAs)?
What is rationalization without downsizing? What will be the impact of the merger of ministries and agencies without downsizing? At the end of it all, only one or two heads will go and the work force will still remain. Of what effect will that be? If rationalization is to have meaning, it must be accompanied by downsizing.
What do you expect to be the fate of the people who would lose their jobs amidst the pandemic?
What will be the benefits of keeping a work force that cannot be sustained by income? Already, some workers are being owned up to four months of salaries. I learnt that some people have just been paid part of the arrears of their salaries. ASUU, for instance, is being owned some months of salaries. Rationalisation without downsizing will be of no effect.
Going into power politics, you must have been following the perceived crisis of confidence among the principal aides of the President. What do you make of this?
I am aware of it; I read it in the newspaper. But you see, fish rots from the head. Another thing is that the Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Ibrahim Isah Pantami, is very pompous. He started his pomposity since he was a DG. He doesn’t respect people because he has some godfathers within the government circle. He is a cleric, but my shock is that a cleric could behave like that. It is unfortunate. I blame him for the rancour between him and the Chairman of the Diaspora Commission, Abike Dabiri. I read what he did to the Diaspora commission, it is wrong. He feels that Nigeria belongs to him that is why he is behaving that way. It is unfortunate. On the side of the Secretary to the Federal Government, the Chief of Staff cannot unilaterally sack somebody without the presidential order, after all, it is already out there that the late Chief of Staff, Abba Kyari, made a lot of approvals without the presidential nod. So, naturally, this one cannot afford to do same. This time around, the SGF should know that the new man, Prof Ibrahim Gambari, cannot do that.
They have no regard for the President because we all know that the President lacks capacity. He doesn’t know what is happening. He is caged; he doesn’t know a lot of things that are happening because he doesn’t have sincere people around him. No one is honest enough to tell him what is happening. The Buhari I know would not have tolerated a lot of things that are happening now, if he had sincere people around him. That is my take on it.
But both the SGF and the CoS are close enough to him to draw his attention to some of these abnormalities?
(Cuts in)…The CoS is closer to him than the SGF. The SGF is not as close as you think. In fact, the CoS is the defacto President. Abba Kyari was the defacto president. I know Buhari very well, I am close to him. He always wants somebody who can do things for him and Abba Kyari was doing everything for him even without consulting him. I don’t think this new man will do that. He will advise him, consult him before he does things. He will get his nod before he does anything. The SGF is a political appointment. They removed somebody from his state and brought him in to replace the position to balance political appointments. Most of the things the SGF is supposed to do are being done by the Chief of Staff.
What will be the implication of all this on the legitimacy of the action of government, if these intrigues continue?
It will continue because Buhari doesn’t check his people. He will keep mute, while things are happening. If he cannot check the rancour between his wife and other distance family members, then what else do you expect?