Posted by News Express | 23 August 2021 | 742 times
Dr Tanko Yunusa is one of Nigeria’s courageous and versatile politicians. The pan-Nigerian activist/politician imbued with boundless spirit of a united Nigeria speaks on issues on the nation’s front burner, in this interview with Managing Editor JOHN NWOKOCHA
You are the National Chairman of National Conscience Party (NCP), Secretariat member of Save Nigeria Group. At no time is your group most relevant than a period such as where the country finds itself in uncertainties. Why is your group silent? Could you take us through what is going on with Save Nigeria Group, Sir?
Well, let me say that our national intervention over time has been preceded by certain situations that happened in the country, similar situations that we are facing now, with the rising level of insurgency, impunity in governance, lack of parity, at the same time holding the people in total disdain. At the moment what we identified truly is that apart from attempting to go into the streets challenging the establishment we think it’s best now to galvanize ourselves to seek political power. In that way we can practice what we preach. So that we would not only be seen to be always on the streets challenging the status quo when effective measures cannot be made. So, why don’t we mobilize ourselves to seek political power and then put the right peg in the right hole. That is what we are working on. And I must confess we may seem to be silent, but we are not silent. We are working very hard underground to come up with something that is acceptable to Nigerian people. And we hope that Nigerian people will give us their fervent support that we require to rescue our country from the total decay that we find ourselves at the moment.
You are a well-grounded politician having come a long way playing partisan politics. In 2019, you vied for the presidency of this country. Can you tell Nigerians what is ahead of 2023, with reference to fears over e-transmission of election results?
It seems to us that the present leadership is ready to sit on power whether it’s the will of the people or not, vis-a-vis some of the attempts that the present government has made to undermine the electoral system; for example, where the ruling party was nominating one of its strongest advocate to be a commissioner in INEC. That is to show you how desperate they are to holding on to power. Secondly, we have also seen the attempt to manipulate the amendment in the Electoral Act, which of course, majority of us have been calling on the President to hold on to accent because we do not find it very funny where we are saying that elections results should be transmitted electronically, ie, possibly both manual and electronic which INEC itself under the leadership of Professor Mahmood, has confirmed that they can, that they have the capacity to transmit these results. But here we are where the ruling party is saying no to electronic transmission of results, that some parts of this country and very shamefully too, do not have network which is very insulting to our country. You can easily google on Google net to find every part of the world being covered by internet. So, we find it very appalling when some of the legislators are saying that they cannot transmit results electronically. But be that as it may, we are ready to challenge this particular provision and we think in order to give Nigerians a fair play and trust in the system, it’s important that results should be transmitted electronically, vis-à-vis to making sure that they eliminate that cantankerous collation centres, where they manipulate figures and give Nigerians unacceptable scores presuming they have won elections. So, it was an attempt to destroy the system which will of course disrupt the whole process. And we are calling on Nigerians to resist that particular attempt as we march forward 2023.
Give us a sense of what is happening to opposition parties in Nigeria. There seems to be a tacit agreement by the political parties never to criticize this government. I ask this question against the backdrop of silence of opposition voices unlike what was witnessed before this administration came to power.
Well, I don’t think that is true, because for a very long time people like us and many others have been courageous enough to speak to Nigerian people as regards to what they think is wrong with the system and even proffering solutions as it were and where the government has done well we also give it kudos. And so the question about opposition not speaking is not true. Is just that probably, what the press may want to hear is seeing PDP only making that particular challenge as it were. You must remember and you agree with me that almost all the people in the PDP are similar to those in the APC. In fact, 50% of those in government now are product of PDP. So is just kind of disenchanted individuals who ended up looking for succor in any government that is in power that are somehow marginalizing those genuine members from the APC and that’s what we have seen over the years and that’s what you see most of the arguments or probably challenges against this government may not be cogent and factual enough. But some of us who are in the other political parties have been making our voices heard. And I believe that is the reason why some of you made reference to some of us in issues that affect our country. But be that as it may, it seems to us that people feel so comfortable, today in the morning, they are in red, in the evening they change to blue or green, which has become a very disturbing event, and Nigerian people are tired of it. And that’s why they are calling for a third alternative which we are going to provide by the Grace of God.
The silence by the opposition suggests that the ruling APC has done very well. Do you agree? Or what do you have to say about the view that opposition in Nigeria is dead?
I do not agree with that position. Just as I said earlier on people only want to hear about the so-called big political parties in quote to be more vociferous. But majority of us are speaking and we will continue to speak out and we will continue to mobilize. And if there’s any area of mobilization we are being found short of, we are working very hard to close that particular gap and give Nigerians the alternative that they deserve.
Nigerians would want to know if Save Nigeria Group will regroup in the face of the current hardships . . .
Unfortunately, I don’t think the Save Nigeria Group will regroup. And even if we will regroup many of us are already under the National Consultative Front. Remember one of the key leaders of the Save Nigeria Group, Pastor Tunde Bakare happened to be the former vice presidential candidate to the President Buhari. Unfortunately, he has been a little bit silent trying to get a little bit of breathing air. Just like I said majority of Nigerians are so ridiculously silent with regards to the activities of this government hoping that they will improve. But recently I have seen him coming out to make some important statements against the government of the day, especially when it comes to the issue of arrests of citizens, insurgency and economic situation of the country. But of course one would have expected that by now a lot of us would have regrouped. I think Pastor Tunde Bakare respected the President hoping there would be improvement. Then, unfortunately, also we lost Yinka Odumankin who was the Secretary of the Save Nigeria Group. Only few of us are still alive. And we are still soldiering on before God Almighty calls us, hoping in a long distance time. But as it is right now, majority of us have regrouped under different political movements. Like I am the spokesperson of National Consultative Front, we are galvanizing Nigerians towards a very strong emerging force that we think everybody will buy into so that we can rescue this country from this total disdain.
Nigeria is facing severe economic problem. Former Emir of Kano and ex-CBN governor, Lamido Sanusi said recently, all that the country gained in 35 years have been squandered in five years. Do you agree?
Well I will agree with our revered Emir, Lamido Sanusi 11, when he mentioned that gains we have made over the years even though many would have said we have some stability as regards our democracy-handing over and taking over. Let us put the records straight the gains we made in the last 35 years were not squandered by the present leadership. The people who squandered the gains we made in the area of the economy were actually the last administration who generated so much money but they didn’t manage the resource well leaving the country in such a situation where a new leadership took up a lot of challenges trying to find solutions to it. Unfortunately, they too couldn’t think out of the box, rather what they ended up doing is putting us into abject poverty with debts incurred in large numbers. We thought that probably they would have been able to think differently rather than taking so much debts and making things so difficult for Nigerians to breathe. And that has affected our economic situation so badly that to eat three square meal is hard now, even to get one square meal is becoming so difficult for Nigerians. And this is appalling, hoping that this government would have been able to galvanize Nigerians who came in their numbers to give support.
They would have been able to provide concrete ideas, economic solutions to our problems if we had worked together as a team. Rather what we saw in the government is nepotism in terms of appointments. What we are seeing is they are strangulating even the downtrodden of the people who are struggling to make ends meet in terms of the heavy taxation that’s already imposed on them. Yes they will say they are distributing Traders Money. But these monies are so meagre that the traders cannot set up the smallest business with it. So what they end up with the money is probably buying food to survive with their families rather than really investing it. So the enabling ground for business to thrive is not there. So it is difficult for people to really transfer that particular into productive use. That is the reason why one would have almost agree with the Emir that what was gained in 35 years is squandered in five years. In fact, level of corruption that is already going on is so monumental in such a way that is done secretly and when is made public is unbelievable. We couldn’t believe that any kind of corruption could take place under the present leadership. But here we are as a country.
So, we are not addressing the issue from its root meaning we need to make the lives of Nigeria people a little bit comfortable so they could help in fighting corruption rather than witch-hunting, arresting and intimidating people. And that has really affected the economy so badly.
How do you feel about NASS members’ vote against e-transmission of elections results?
With regards to the National Assembly one would have also said that’s so treasonable for them not to have instantly support the idea of electronic transmission of results. Because that would have given us the opportunity to get credible leaders. But anyway what do you expect? Considering the fact that they too are trying to hold on to power, making sure that in any way they can, they would force themselves on the people. So is an attempt to rig 2023 elections which should be resisted by every well-meaning Nigerian.
Although your party was affected by deregistration of political parties exercise by INEC, you are in talks with other parties over alliance. Tell us more about it.
Well, as far as the NCP is concerned at the moment we are in court. Our case is before Justice Mustapha Murtala. The judgment should have been passed since December, but for one reason or the other we didn’t get judgment. We are still waiting even though we have written a letter asking for speedy adjudication of our matter. That’s much we can say about the case, but there are other cases which we are expecting pronouncements to be made on them by the Supreme Court in October. We are all waiting anxiously for those cases. But we feel we have been disenfranchised from running because at the moment we cannot run in the Anambra election and all other by-elections that had taken place. But be that as it may, some of these laws that are being made have affected other political parties. Some of us who have won elections before are now finding it difficult to win election because our electioneering system has been heavily monetised and it’s making it difficult for people to run elections. Because if you want to run for LG councilor election you will need nothing less than N50 million. We are not talking about LG chairman, state house of assembly, house of Reps, senate, governor or even president, so, our elections system is heavily monetised. And so it’s making it difficult for people like us to show interest in elective positions because we don’t have such money. And the ideology is so strong that we cannot bribe or buy vote. It’s quite challenging. But I can tell you that where it’s necessary the NCP will make alliance. Where it’s necessary many of these other political parties will make alliance so that we can pull our resources - human and material – together to see if we can wrest power from these people to provide the alternative Nigerians have been asking for.
You have been a strong advocate of power shift to South east in 2023. Do still hold this position? If yes, why?
Yes, I believe in power shift to the South, but not under duress, not under intimidation but through political discourse and political maneuver. The truth about it is that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria does not in any way give that position to any zone, north, south or east. It gives room for any credible candidates to come up. Under the situation in which we find ourselves where there’s heavy suspicion from north to south, south to north, west to east, east to west, it becomes important for us to stabilize the country. Because now we need to rescue the country. And in rescuing the country we need to build trust, that way people must believe that any president from the north should be able to perform in terms of uniting the country. So also any president from the south. That is the reason why I am supporting the idea of a candidate from the south so that we can stabilize this country and believe that Nigeria is one. Yes there’s nepotism in the system. We have spoken about it, demonstrated against it, kicked against it, we have even almost like gone to court about it. But we need a leader who can come and say no to the system and provide an enabling ground for every Nigerian to feel secure. And here even if you have a southern president is a very strong appeal to whoever takes over the president that he would not do the same thing this particular government is being accused of. We want a person who will stabilize and carry everybody along. This is important for the life of our country.
Your party is relatively stable because is small and run like a one man show. Many parties are in crisis, almost experiencing implosions. Do think it’s rational to reduce political parties to a manageable size?
Well, the crisis in other parties is self-inflicted. But that’s not to say that we probably don’t have crisis in our party because is a one man show as you put it. No our party is not a one man show. You will be amazed to see the kind of challenges that I have within my party. The only thing is that we are democrats. And anytime there’s argument among ourselves we put it into vote and anybody that wins that particular vote carries the day, and all other people are expected to follows suit. That’s how democracy runs. Even though we have differences in terms of what we do, how we take decisions, we still believe in ourselves and to continue, because today it may be me, tomorrow is another person. And in our party we yield to superior argument. The arguments may be diverse but when we argue we argue on the basis of facts and figures and anybody that’s able to convince the other person carries the day. That’s how we have been able to survive. But that’s not to say we don’t have our internal crisis. It all depends on how we manage them. So, we are challenged as leaders and most of our leaders challenge us. In fact is in NCP you will have the lowest person in the party challenging you as chairman if you have done something wrong. So it’s not a one man show at all.
What do you think about groups like, IPOB, Yoruba Nation, Middle Belt, PANDEF, agitating for succession and growing regional interest?
With regards to those who are agitating for separate nations, let’s be frank you cannot be calling for secession and at the same time asking for president. There’s a contradiction in that. So, you either ask for president do not ask for secession. And let us be frank with regards to the issue of secession every part of this country is feeling the brunt. I find it sometimes very appalling when many of my people in the north are being accused of probably plunging this country into the situation we find ourselves. We are all part of it, we are all suffering from it. In fact the north is even suffering more than the south. If killings are committed in the north you will find out that 10 people are from the north, only one from the south. In terms of economic situation come and look at us with a large population. Eating is hard. We are not flamboyant in even of eating and drinking. What we have is even difficult to get. Going to farm is difficult. Our people are finding it difficult to meet ends meet. We are suffering in silence and we are yet again being accused of putting the country in this situation while we are suffering the most. So that’s why I find it very challenging for me to accept. But the truth is that every part of this country is suffering. So nobody should ascribe the challenges to his own part of the country that will be selfish. Because everyone of us is a victim. Most of the time we can’t sleep with our eyes closed. I have people who are close to me who are being killed. As we speak I have people who are close to me who have been attacked by robbers. I have children, toddlers who are being kidnapped in Niger state, so also in Kaduna, Maiduguri, Sokoto, Zamfara. You can attest to it as a Pressman. We have been at the receiving end. People could have thought that because the president is from the north it could have been secured. But no. even in his home town in Katsina state, I heard recently that the State governor had to come out and called people to defend themselves is that how a government should run. So, Ladies and Gentlemen the country is in deep need of collective solution. We are collectively having challenges. It cannot be ascribed to any part. So for those who are agitating for secession we know a lot of challenges they are facing sometimes you can blame the government, blame the state governors and the system in which we run. Because we have left the local government system completely alienated. No money is going to the local government councils. So people feel they are hungry and they cannot get across to the system. That’s why we give kudos to the federal government for making sure now that money is going directly to local government councils so that they can reach the people at the grassroots. Because insurgency, economic downturn and all of those things are being suffered mostly by people in the grassroots. If people cannot go to their farms and take care of their needs and send produce to the state capitals and the centre we won’t get food to eat. And of course it will affect everybody. You cannot move from point A to point B. you cannot do trading, these are some of the challenges we are facing. So for people who are calling for secession I think they should use their strength to galvanize their people to run for elections. If a Sunday Igboho could mobilise this kind of large number of people and he believes that they can make changes why don’t mobilise to run for elections so that you can put them in the right places. So also is Nnamdi Kanu. If I were Nnamdi Kanu I would have mobilized all my people to run for elections so that by now he should have been in control of five states. That’s how to do strategic thinking. But if you call people to the streets and at the end of it all they are being killed what have you gained. Take a look at anywhere in the world where they are challenges of secession, agitations, at the end of it all people are being killed innocently and the next thing they will do eventually they will call you to a round table and discuss and give six months to go and run for elections. It also comes to democratic election. So why waste our time when we have the solution in our hands and we can mobilise the people.
Youth unemployment is very high in the country. They used and dump them after elections rather than bring them into leadership training. How can the youths be brought into mainstream politics that prepares them for leadership? Don’t you think recycling of old and spent politicians is the problem of the country’s political progress?
I feel so sad when it comes to the issue of youth unemployment in Nigeria. It’s so bad now. It’s so very disheartening. People will struggle to finish from the university and they find it very difficult to get jobs. It’s unacceptable because the government is not thinking out of the box. They are not being creative in thinking. And if they are creative in thinking that would have helped us. We would have had opportunities to get employments for Nigerian youths in areas of communications, agriculture, electricity, transportation, arts development and what have you. They can create jobs for Nigerian people. But they are not thinking in that regards only depend on civil service. And there are people in Nigeria who are strategic thinkers who can help. But this government is not appointing people into the right place who can help in building the system that can create jobs for young Nigerians. And I give kudos to the Nigerian people who have been able to create wealth for themselves through music, using drama, Noolywood and the rest of them, even though one would have expected that the government would have divert in attention into creative technology. But one still hopes they will be able to do so. But we need the government to be strategic in thinking to be able to provide the enabling ground. I must say with the ENDSARS situation what we saw shows that Nigerian youths have the capacity to mobilise themselves. And this is where I think I have to make this clarion call the INEC has provided a very good enabling ground for now, people should go out and register. Do not sit at home thinking that manna will fall from Heaven. Please I have been to Kano I am making advocacy around the country as regards the issue of voters registration and I am calling on Nigerian youths from 18 years old go to your local government or INEC registration centres and register as a voter. There’s no queue now, so don’t wait for that particular mad rush. You can also register online. That’s the beginning once we can get the Nigerian youth population registered, we have a chance of getting youthful people running for election. And if you look at the statistics in 2019 we had only 88milion people registered voters. But at the end of it all only about 30milion people voted and the president won with 15milion. So imagine if the 55milion registered Nigerian voters voted against this particular government that means the 55milion would have won the election. And we are expecting that there will be more registration this year so we can now add to the numbers and win elections. And with regards to age, yes age is good, we are thinking within the age of 50, 55, 45, 60, 65, yes they can run for election. Because we are thinking that people who have the energy and of course who are relatively medically fit because this country needs somebody who is mobile. Not somebody who is docile in one room he can’t be moved from one place because of health challenge. We have to think about that so that we have people who have the required energy to move across the country. And for crying out loud people at 33, 40s are ruling countries. So we should be able to come out now and say yes at the moment we have young boys and girls running for elections. So the age limit should not be more than within 35 to 65 should be considered for president. And this is because we need energetic individuals. It is quit unfortunate that most of our old leaders have refused to quit the stage. And that’s because there is nothing else for them to do. The system has not provided for their retirement. In other countries the retirement benefits are so encouraging and enticing so that when people leave the seat of power they are eager to go and sit back and enjoy their lives quietly. I know President Obama is still a Lawyer and still practicing. I know President Clinton is still a Lawyer and practicing. I know the older presidents of the United States some of them have retired back to their farms and they are doing well. And so we need to create that same enabling ground for our leaders so that they will not come in to destroy the system but rather give concrete advice as to how systems are being run. So we need to have a system that’s acceptable and comforting to our leaders.
I don’t think the Anambra election is turning out to be a one party affair. I have seen strong candidates from other parties like APGA, PDP, ADC. So it’s going to be a huge battle if INEC can get its act together. And at the same time there’s security to protect the lives and property of INEC staff so that they can be able to perform their duties without fear. That way there will be parity and the transmission of results will not be manipulated in any way, this will help us to get a very good result from Anambra almost similar to what we saw in Ondo and Edo.
What do you have to say about the PIB Act just assented to by President Buhari?
And with regards to PIA I give kudos to the President for assenting to the Bill. What it simply means is that NNPC will be balkanized within the next six months; meaning that NNPC will stand on its own like a private company with all the laws governing any private company. That means every shareholder has a right to discuss the life of NNPC. And if there was lack of transparency in the past there will be transparency now because as long as you are running a private company you are under the CAMA law you will be audited, you will come out with your income and expenditure, everybody will know how much revenue is coming in and it will help to build a strong economic hub at the moment now for the Nigerian people. Also, yes there are some argument regarding the 3 per cent to the host communities, let’s even start with the three per cent for the first time the communities will be getting the money directly to themselves. And so all the accusations and all what not the Ogoni land will be completely reformed. People will now know who and who is getting X amount of money and what it’s meant for. Before now we don’t know. It was probably only state governors and chiefs and stakeholders and they will manipulate everybody. But now money will go directly to the communities. And that will help to take care of our people in the creeks. And gradually it can gravitate because the more the company makes money the more the shareholders will get. Also there are issues as regard the 30 per cent upfront Derivation fund that will be used for generating other oil activities. Yes is a company even if it is spending the money is still within the company. And if we are able to get oil in Sokoto or Alkaleri in Bauchi or any part of this country is added value to the company. So there’s no money going anywhere. Even though there’s a percentage given to government, the government also has a way of sharing the money to its people. So is a welcome development and I hope that the right managers will be in place so that the people can feel the impact of survival of this company than for it to be a one man show.
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