Buhari is held hostage, says Gana

Alhaji Umar Ahmed Gana began politics in the Second Republic and during the Babangida Transition, he ran for the governorship position in Kaduna State on the platform of the National Republican Convention (NRC). Gana was also the Kaduna State Chairman of the Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) during the Sani Abacha Transition Programme. Similarly, he was the Kaduna State Chairman of the Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s Presidential Campaign in 1999. In this interview with IBRAHEEM MUSA, he explains why Governor Nasir El Rufai wrote President Muhammadu Buhari the controversial memo in September last year, which was leaked last week

Why did Governor Nasir El Rufai choose to criticize President Muhammadu Buhari instead of making his views known to him privately, given how close the two of them are?

First and foremost, let me correct the impression that Governor Nasir El Rufai criticized the President. What the governor did was given honest advice from a mentee to a mentor. El Rufai made this clear in the memo. And from my findings, the governor actually sought audience with the President in order to discuss pressing national issues but he was unable to get the chance to meet him.

So, when he was given the appointment, it was clear to El Rufai that he will not get quality time with the President as he will want to. So, he went to see him with a memo, highlighting all that he wanted to discuss with Buhari. When it was time to see the President, as usual, the President was busy, so they just talked about the general issues that he wanted to discuss with Buhari and El Rufai submitted the memo and left. That was in September, like you saw on the date of the memo.

Then how did the memo become public?

Well, I think you should better ask Sahara Reporters which first published the memo. But my guess is that it was leaked by the very cabal that surrounds the President. Don’t forget, some of them are former journalists like you.

What proof do you have that it was leaked by some people in the Villa and what could have been the motive?

Well, if you look at the timing you will agree with me that the leak came from the Villa. The memo was leaked after Buhari returned from his medical checkup abroad and there were a lot of celebrations across the North over his return. So, the architects decided to leak the memo in order to portray El Rufai as anti-Buhari but they have failed. If anything, the leak has shown to the world that El Rufai is so concerned about the President that he is ready to tell him the truth no matter the consequences to his own political career.

Senator Shehu Sani has pointed out that El Rufai is always quick to take offence when he is criticized but here he is criticizing the President over governance and policy issues. Don’t you see a contradiction between El Rufai as governor and critic?

There is no contradiction. Remember what Shehu Sani said. He criticized the President’s anti corruption crusade that it was being selectively waged. He made the comment when Senate President Bukola Saraki was arraigned at the Court of Conduct Tribunal. Now, for an APC senator who got elected on the popularity of President Buhari to come and say exactly what the opposition is saying about the President’s war on corruption, is the height of betrayal. On the other hand, El Rufai wrote a memo where he highlighted the concerns of Nigerians and party men to the President. In its wisdom, the cabal chose to leak it to the press. So, you can see that the two are different.

And talking about El Rufai taking offence when he is criticized, I don’t think that is true. If you listen to him whenever he goes for his Town Hall meetings, he used to tell the people not to praise him but to criticize him and tell him areas where his government is not doing well so that they can make amends. He has said it several times and on various platforms. Go and find out.

Shehu Sani also said that El Rufai should be punished by APC for leaking the memo to the media. What is your take on this?

Look, this interview is not about Shehu Sani! Don’t let us digress. The interview is about the memo which El Rufai wrote to the President and whether it was justified or not. Having said that, in my view I think the memo is quite justified. First and foremost, the relationship that exists between El Rufai and Buhari is like that of father and son.

The two are inseparable as the cabal found out, that is why they leaked the memo. Remember, it was El Rufai that persuaded Buhari to run for the presidency again in 2015, after he said that he wouldn’t run again, following the 2011 election. Similarly, it was Buhari that asked El Rufai to run for the governorship of Kaduna.

If you can remember, El Rufai was the only gubernatorial aspirant that Buhari publicly endorsed, by raising his hand when El Rufai flagged off his campaign. So, instead of looking at things the way they are going, El Rufai decided to tell Buhari the truth about the state of the nation. I think most people are not saying that what El Rufai said is the truth. Some people are only questioning his motive for doing so. Well, as far as I am concerned, the motive is to bring the government back to the people-oriented ideals that made APC to defeat a ruling party.

The cabal is derailing the party from that path; that is why the governor wrote that memo. What is it that El Rufai said that is wrong? Two thirds of the heads of Ministries Departments and Agencies of government are PDP appointees. What is difficult in replacing them two years after the election? A few people who did not run for election or campaign for APC are excluding governors and critical elements that brought this victory, from the affairs of the government. Sure, there is cause for alarm and El Rufai merely sounded the alarm.

But don’t you think that the President should be blamed for not making these appointments, instead of blaming the so called cabal?

On the surface of it, you may blame the President but if you know the extent to which these people have held Buhari hostage, you will pity him. These people even determine who the president should see and who not to see. In fact, if not for the special relationship that El Rufai enjoys with the President, they would have blocked him from seeing Buhari completely.

You speak so authoritatively on the politics of the Villa, how do you know such much about what is happening when you are not in government?

Given my political experience, I have contacts at every level of government and in every part of the country. I started politics during the Second Republic. I was in the National Party of Nigeria (NPN). During the Babangida Transition Programme, I ran for the governorship position in Kaduna State on the platform of National Republican Convention(NRC). I was also the Kaduna State Chairman of Democratic Party of Nigeria (DPN) during the Abacha Transition Programme.

I was also the Chairman of Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s Presidential Campaign in 1999. So, I am one of the most experienced politicians in Kaduna State. In fact, no active politician in Kaduna State has my experience as a field worker, contestant and having played politics at the national level. So, this rich experience has enabled me to know what the motive behind the leak is and who are even behind it.

But people may say that you are defending El Rufai because you want to get something from him. What will you say to that kind of allegation?

Well, whatever you say or do, people will read meaning into it. So, I am not bothered with such allegations. Like El Rufai, I’m only concerned about how our party and government is being ruined by a cabal who does not mean well for the president and the country. In any case, l will stand to get more ‘’something’’ like you said, by supporting the cabal instead of siding with the governor. But my decision to speak out is not motivated by any personal favour.

By the grace of God, I have been comfortable since I was 30 years of age. I am now approaching 60. So, people who think that I am looking for something should think whatever they like. The truth will always prevail.

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