National Chairman of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Prof. Rufai Alkali, speaks on the party’s prospects ahead of the 2023 elections, insecurity, and other sundry issues in this interview with BEN ADOGA
The NNPP presidential candidate, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, beat INEC by whiskers to choose a running mate, he chose a Bishop, was it just to fulfil all righteousness, how well do you know the running mate?
The choice of a vice presidential candidate is one of the most important decisions a presidential candidate must make. Knowing the role and functions of that office, it’s not something you just make flippantly, you need to consult, you need to reach out and talk to people, therefore, by the time you make a decision, it should be a correct decision. Am not too sure what you said that we escaped by whiskers is correct, as a journalist you always want to put it dramatically, otherwise, we followed the processes, followed the INEC time table and I will want to say, even before you ask that the decision to pick Bishop Isaac Idahosa is a very good one, it had resonated well with people. The NNPP is a party that believes in inclusiveness, justice, equity, and fairness, I think that choice was a good one.
Do you think you can do battle alongside these major, big parties, you know what I mean
The challenge we have with some people is that they are already fixated, here is a dynamic political party called the NNPP, it has been there since 2001 when it was established by a well-known gentleman, a nationalist and patriot, Chief Boniface Aniebonam. Since the merger between the TNM and the NNPP on March 1st this year, the party has transformed, it has changed the dynamics, the calculations, and the popular assumption that there is no alternative way; that reality is yet to sink into the minds of some people. They may be big, but that is not the kind of party we are talking about, we are talking about the quality, look at the kind of leadership that we have, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso is somebody who has held various positions in this country, he is a person you can trust. Since we concluded our merger, we have resisted the temptation of carrying all those old baggage with troubles and problems for those political parties. When we started this journey people said they were looking for the third force, and we said we are not ‘third force, that is not our name because a third class is third class but we all know that nobody is happy with what is happening in this country today and they are all looking for an alternative.
Insecurity all over Nigeria has assumed a frightening dimension and people are living in fear. What will be your party’s strategy in tackling this menace?
Security is a huge challenge to every government in this country. The protection of life and property is the fundamental role of government. Therefore, every government should aspire to provide effective, meaningful physical security before any other kind of security like food security. We have passed the phase of blaming anybody, we are looking ahead, and nobody is happy with what is going on, I am not sure, even those who are in charge are happy with what is going on, they know that there is something fundamentally wrong, now we are heading towards elections, let Nigerians be the judge at the 2023 elections, there should be a reset of the nation, we should have the opportunity of returning to normal life, today we are living on the edge, everybody is tensed up, living in fear and uncertainty, NNPP is not saying anything new everybody knows this, when one is sick he seeks a cure, that is where we are now. We have to know what went wrong that we have generated to this level
In the just concluded Ekiti and Osun governorship elections, your party was not impressive, we are heading towards 2023, don’t you think this will give the impression that you are popular in the North and not in the South?
If anyone uses Ekiti and Osun as a parameter to measure our future performance, it will be a wrong assumption or analysis, recall that even before our merger, candidates for Ekiti and Osun were on the ground. As law-abiding citizens, we did not think it was legally right to want to change those results, we cannot abandon those who had faith in us and wanted to be governors when the party was not even popular, we have to stand by them because it required a lot of courage to indicate interest to contest in that party that was not very visible. There was a time when those parties that felt threatened by our presence started spreading a false rumour that we had been deregistered. We decided to go into the elections, even unprepared to prove them wrong and build confidence in those that believe in us and let them see that we are on the ballot. Even if it were one vote we got, we are very proud of the people of Ekiti and Osun for that, we are very happy with them, this is the beginning of better and bigger things to come, after all, Ekiti people are among the most educated people in this country, they know what they want, you cannot push the people of Osun aside in Nigerian politics. What we experienced in those elections, if Nigerian politics becomes cash and carry politics then let’s stop complaining about what we are experiencing. Let’s stop talking about insecurity, hunger, education, and all others, let victory go to the highest bidder. The media should start knocking on this issue. Anybody who thinks 2023 will be cash and carry will see the shocker of his life. They will go with their money, the people will collect it but will not vote for them. When democracy returned in 1999 Nigerians celebrated, but this is not what we bargained for. If democracy is on the east side, we are headed towards the west, in the opposite direction, we are nowhere near.
The economy is in very bad shape, how will your party rejig the economy if you get there?
Every political party has a manifesto, we have ours, very soon we will unveil it and Nigeria will know our direction. For sure, the situation now is bad, I don’t even know how to describe it, we are just moving in the darkness. There are Nigerians who are very educated across the globe, very experienced who know what to be done, let’s engage them. Today our currency is depreciated by the day, by the hour, by the minute. If we continue like this, it will get to a level where you carry your naira and it can’t but anything. Wages, pensions, and gratuity are paid in naira, therefore even when people get the pay, they will not be able to take them out of the pay centre.
The National Assembly just threatened the President with impeachment, what do you make of that?
I am not even too sure that impeachment is the solution to the problems at this moment. The question is, where they have been all this while, look at our universities, and there have been shut for over five months. Most of them are beneficiaries of the public university system, I am looking for a day when they will call an emergency session, invite stakeholders, ASUU, government officials, and the rest to examine the challenge, and come out with good resolutions to help the government. No country has ever done this, to close their universities for over five months and people go about their normal business as if nothing is happening, it doesn’t work like that. In the presidential system of government, especially in Africa and Nigeria impeachment is a very long, difficult, and tedious process. Already the system is overheated, they want to further overheat it. But if they want to do it to make a political statement fine, but I’m not sure it’s worth it. For us as a party, we don’t want anything to disrupt the process of the elections in 2023. Anything that will create a crisis that can lead to disruption of the elections in 2023, we do not welcome. Whatever is done now will be too little too late.