A one-time member of House of Representatives, representing Plateau North and Bassa local government area constituencies of Plateau state, businessman and frontline member of the PDP, Alhaji Sale Shehu Hassan, in this interview argues that President Goodluck Jonathan was only elected once and that the President has outstanding records of achievement to his credit, covering the country in general and the North in particular. He bares his mind on the use of religion to score political gains and how to move the nation away from politics of religion and regional sentiments. He also accused the opposition of lowing the nation’s security problems out of proportion, among other topical national issues. He spoke to NASIR DAMBATTA
Sir, it is either your name is popular or your surname is of one of the prominent figure in the north…
Thank you, my name is neither popular nor is it prominent. But my father, Shehu Hassan is a popular and prominent name in the north. Shehu Hassan is my father. He is a renowned politician in the north, a one-time Plateau State chairman of the defunct National Party of Nigeria, NPN, former stalwart of NRC, one-time National Chairman of DPN and now a retired politician and an elder statesman. Coming back to myself, I was a member of House of Representatives, representing Plateau North and Bassa Local Government constituencies of Plateau State.
What have you been doing between 2007 to date?
Until last year I engaged in businesses, I run my printing press and also engaged in trading commodities. Early last year, I decided to go back to politics again.
I learnt that you are heading an organisation which is all out in the north campaigning for re-election of President Goodluck Jonathan…
Initially we had a group called PDP Repositioning Advocacy Group which I’m the leader of the group because it still exists.
Do you have any reason for advancing Jonathan cause of re-election?
Well, we have three good reasons. I have to state the fact that despite security problems and other problems, he has succeeded in keeping Nigeria united. There is also an unprecedented economic success under his administration. You know Nigeria is ranked the first in Africa, we hope by 2020 to rank among the top twenty in the world. He has also recorded a lot of successes in all other sectors.
Most importantly, we have to shed away politics of tribalism and nepotism or ethnicity. There is nothing wrong for anybody to support anyone he wishes to support. Remember this is politics and we must come to terms with the fact that every section of this country needs the other section to progress and develop.
You are concerned about convincing Nigerians to vote for President Jonathan. What can you say are his achievements especially here in the north?
Well, if we take educational sector, most of the federal universities established under this administration are in the north. Under Almajiri Education Scheme, President Jonathan initiated the taking off the street of many almajiris in the north. About four hundred schools were established for that purpose. Nigeria will soon become the net exporter of rice. I even read a report this week which is credited to minister of agriculture, stating that north benefitted more with the agricultural empowerment scheme of this administration. Fertiliser has never been available to the peasant farmers than as it is now. There are special agricultural grants to northern states, rice mills were established in some states in the north. Most important is the transport sector. He has rehabilitated railway system. He has nearly completed the eastern lane. I think it has reached Bauchi and very soon it will reach Gombe by next year.
Look at the huge amount of money this administration spent in dredging River Niger. Lokoja Terminal near completion and already light ships started moving. This will definitely boost the northern economy.
Insecurity is a factor which the opposition parties and other concerned people are using as an example of Jonathan failure. What has this administration been doing to tame this monster?
Let us all agree that President Jonathan administration inherited this insecurity situation. He is doing his best and because terrorism is a Trans-border crime which, to curtail it, he has to seek international co-operation. Nevertheless, he has done a lot. He has taken immediate action to equip the army. He has established Terrorism Trust Fund to assist the displaced people.
I think if you allow a new person to come, he will come without any idea and because he does not have good knowledge of the problem in the country, we will be risking the territorial integrity of our nation. Let us allow Jonathan to continue to secure our future.
How powerful is PDP in the north? Some are saying APC dominates the north. Do you agree?
Of course I don’t agree. PDP is a national political party. It is even more in the north than anywhere in this county. We have about 15 local governments under PDP in the north.
Recently some individuals ran to court to stop Jonathan from seeking re-election. How do you think the outcome of the court ruling will be?
I don’t know because I’m not a lawyer. But as a former federal legislator, I know that Jonathan was elected once. So, he is eligible to contest for the second term.
What is your hope for the PDP as far as 2015 election is concerned?
We have our problems as like other parties, but I think because of the diversity in the party, we are likely to resolve our differences.
Your party has already given the mandate of presidential flag bearer to Goodluck Jonathan. Between Buhari, Atiku and Kwankwaso, who will be easy and difficult to beat by Jonathan?
They are all very easy to beat. The two gladiators were beaten by Jonathan before. Kwankwaso does not even have half of their chances. None of them is not a threat. In 2011, Jonathan got four times in the north than what Buhari got in the south, which means there is national acceptability.
How does Nigeria rid its politics of issues like religion and tribal sentiments?
It is for people to be open-minded. For me, I have already decided to be guided by my own conscience. Power comes from God. Let us not use religion in politics. It is our actions as Muslims and Christians that would determine our religiousness and closeness to God.