Posted by News Express | 22 May 2022 | 422 times
Prof Ahmed Rufai Alkali is a four- time Commissioner in Gombe state and former National Publicity Secretary of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). Recently, he was elected the National Chairman of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), a party that prides itself as the third force with membership drawn from the PDP and the APC.
Akali speaks in an interview on the issue of zoning and rotation, women and youth participation in politics among others
The two major political parties have thrown their Presidential ticket open to all parts of the country. Will NNPP be different?
Well, I think you are mixing two issues. The two concepts came up sometimes in 1995 during the constitutional conference. These two concepts are rotation and zoning. The idea is that any political party that is in charge of government cannot continue unending. The leadership of the party and the leadership of government will keep shifting between the different zones and they simply defined it as north and south and not the six geopolitical zones. Then you have the issue of zoning which means that officials of government and the parties will not be concentrated in one part of the country, but must be distributed.
That is why no party will pick its presidential candidate and its Vice Presidential candidate from one zone and win election in Nigeria. Even when you succeed in winning election, you must also separate the appointments. There is no way you can bring all the officers of government or the National Assembly or even the party from the same state or from the same zone. Actually, every institution or organization in Nigeria has its own system of zoning. The idea is that everybody should be carried along. But the NNPP has already started a journey.
The good news is that we have a constitution review committee that will look at every aspect of the party’s. But for now we are not going to enter the controversy by the political parties who came up with the rotation and zoning and also violated them. They came up with the concept, but the two issues have not been captured in the Nigerian constitution. That is why some of them are saying zoning today and tomorrow, no zoning. NNPP is not part of this. What we know is that this party is a Nigerian political party. It is not based on ethnicity, religion or tribe.
In fact, the founder of the party is Chief Boniface Anyaegbunam who started the party about 21 years ago. He has demonstrated a lot of capacity and passion for this country. So, when Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso approached him for merger, it was to be a merger to bring the country together again. One thing is that all the known fraternities that bind Nigeria together have been broken by the same people who are the beneficiaries of the system today. What am I saying? A governor who has swore to serve his people irrespective of religion or ethnicity is seen on camera saying that he does not want a particular set of people in his own state when his own people are also in other states.
He is encouraging violence. The same applies to National Assembly members who should be national leaders and speak for the country. If they are able to protect their people at home, what about those who are not at home? All of us cannot go back to our villages and stay there. So, this party is trying to go beyond the issue of zoning and will carry everybody along so that we will have an inclusive government. If you see people fighting and you ask why, you will find out that it is because of alienation. If people are alienated and nobody is willing to listen to them, they will fight.
What happens if these people decamp to the NNPP?
The procedure for decamping is also there. There is also the issue of the guideline and whether you will be given weaver when you come here or not. There is also the issue of whether your coming here is to serve the party in various capacities or to contest election. Our door will remain open because in every political party, you have to accommodate every political tendency. But that does not mean you will be allowed to come here with excess baggage and cause trouble for us. If you come with irredentist tendencies to divide the country or divide our people, it will not be acceptable.
Since last year when we started this journey, we knew that a time will come when people will come with trouble because they have forgotten about Nigeria. They are not even bothered about what is happening now, but about power. Ask them what they intend to do with the owner when they get it. They will not be able to tell you. Our people are not happy and they are at serious risk. Even Journalists are at risk, your business is collapsing with only a few of you able to survive. The media has been working round the clock since the beginning of modern Nigeria. What can you count as your gain in 22 years of democracy in Nigeria? You have been sick for 22 years, applying the same medicine and no cure and you want to continue like that? Somebody who is supposed to negotiate with Nigerian universities teachers and they have been at home for three months and you wants to lead the country. There is no country in the world where universities are closed for a long time ad yet people are working there.
What does the NNPP has in stock for women?
We are not being patronizing. Women are the foundation of any society and in Nigeria here, we need to help the women, first through education. One of the reasons why we are having this kind of crisis especially in northern Nigerian is because this thing has been taken for granted for so long. Open the system for people to go to school and they will not. The almajirei system will be flourishing and nobody seems to care about them. Now we are taking about about 12 million out of school in northern Nigeria when the number is increasing by the day. It cannot be 12 million ten years ago and 12 million now.
Who is planning for them for the future? It is out of this kind of people that you have Boko Haram and bandits. There is no justification for anybody to take up arms, but I think getting the education will help us. But if they have made a mistake in the past, we should plan now. Everybody knows what the Leader of this party, Senator Kwankwaso did in Kano in the area of Education and what he did for women. We are concerned about education because that is the way to make the women and youth feel belong. It is not just the 35 percent of nomination that we are talking about. It is much more than that.
Women education must be encouraged. Remember that former President Jonathan brought the revival of the almajirei system of education and the schools were started and suddenly, it stopped. I think something is happening. There is a conspiracy somewhere. Somebody who does not know anything about the almajirei system wants to revive it and you who ought to know is saying you don’t like it. What is the reason? So, disempowerment of the people is also a strategy of control. I want to appeal to the women to stand up and be counted because if you don’t stand up to be counted, nobody will count you. You have to show evidence that you are serious. Let the women come to NNPP because this is their home. This is not a bus stop, but a terminus for women.
The Central Bank Governor indicated interest to contest next year’s election. What is your view on his remaining in office?
The message is that in this country, anything goes and anything can happen. That office is very sensitive. The moment his name was mentioned, if I were the one, I would have approached the President and say, they are mentioning my name about election, but I am not part of you. But if he goes to the President to say they are mention my name and I am interested, the President will tell him ok, go ahead because he will never stop anyone. It is because they all take the President for granted that they can do anything they feel like doing.
When he told them to resign, some of them don’t want to do that. Do you want to be a Minister until you finish the election and continue to collect money from the ministries to serve your purpose? The President took the right decision by asking them to resign. Now some of them don’t want to resign. The President should insist that the party should not give them their money. In fact, they should charge them for wasting the party time.
There appear to be a mass movement of people into the NNPP in Kano state….
The upsurge in NNPP is not a Kano affair. But Kano, by the size of its population and their history of politics, when they want to do something, they do it big. That is why it attracts attention more. NNPP is moving very fast across the country. Why people think we are not moving fast enough is because of the time we did the merger and became NNPP. By then, INEC had already slammed its programme on us and we had to cue into it and so, the timing was short. The merger we did was done on March 1, 2022 and by INEC guideline, we had to do our caretaker committee elections before the end of March. We took 30 days to do the caretaker and now we are faced with primaries which have to be concluded by June 3.
Kano is a model because they are very many there with 44 local governments and a leader who has been in charge of that state for a long time. He has the followership nationwide. NNPP is moving very fast and for me, I don’t care about the problem between Ganduje and Shekarau because they are both leaders in their own right. They will sort themselves out.
The 2023 election is all important to all of us. The parties must stand, the electorates must stand and civil society organizations must stand up. Even international bodies who are standing with Nigeria and don’t want the country to enter deep trouble must stand. It will be a big loss for everybody if we don’t stand and fight. The technology being deployed now for election is also changing. When it happened in 2011, those of us who did not know how it happened were too happy. It was one again in 2015 and now, people are going to be educated more on how to go about it. These are processes that we must follow. The media must also realise that what you write can also add value or add fire to the system. The media has a special role to play in this regard. (The Nation)
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