Salihu Tanko Yakasai, handsome, talented and well-bred, is the standard bearer of the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) for the 2023 governorship election in Kano State.
Apart from being the son of a renowned and veteran Nigerian politician, Tanko Yakasai, Salihu is quite famous for his biting criticisms of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration, despite serving then as a Special Adviser to the Abdullahi Ganduje-led APC government in Kano State.
In this interview with Sunday Sun, he spoke about his vision for Kano State, the reasons he criticizes President Buhari, the squandered chances of Rabiu Kwankwaso’s NNPP in Kano State and in Nigeria, lack of ideology and principle in Nigeria’s politics, insecurity in the North, moneybag politics and his effort to carve a niche for himself, away from that of his father’s towering personality. Excerpt:
May we, for a start, know a little bit about you in terms of your background and your recent political history?
My name is Salihu Tanko Yakasai and I am the governorship candidate of the Peoples Redemption Party in the 2023 elections in Kano State. As you already know, before now, I was the former Special Adviser on Media and Publicity to the Governor of Kano State, Dr Abdullahi Umar Ganduje.
What exactly moved you to seeking an elective political office, instead of where you were as an appointed political office holder?
I think there are a number of things that have happened. But first of all, let me correct your impression. This is not the first time I would be contesting elections in the state. Prior to my appointment, I had contested for a number of political positions. It is really nothing new. Maybe this particular one is a bigger one, considering the fact that I am pushing for the governor of Kano State, one of the most important states in Nigeria. Perhaps, and maybe the size of this one is what is different. But in terms of contesting for elections, I have been there before. Before venturing into this election, I was in government and I served in government for almost six years, first as the director general, Media and Communications and later on I was promoted to the rank of a special adviser in the same portfolio. And I think sometimes, two years ago, I left the government and honestly, that was because I realized that there was a need for a new set of leadership in this country, particularly in Kano State. Looking at the immediate political history of Kano State, you will realize very sadly that we have been rotating around a particular set of political leaders. It has been the same set of people and their interests. And I felt that there was also a need to change the dominance of the leading political parties in the state and in the country. We have seen what the PDP can do and we have seen what the APC can do and we have also seen what ANPP has done and although they have all given in their best, but we feel there is a need for improvement and there is a need for a total overhaul of the system, overhaul of the way and manner government business is being run in the country and we believe that they lacked clear principles and manifestoes and even if they had them, they have not been abiding to these principles. We believe that the PRP, as the oldest political party in Nigeria today, 44 years in existence, we believe that its manifesto and principles that were there 44 years ago are still very relevant in Nigeria today, of course, with some modifications to make it cope with the contemporary times and dynamic of things. We believe the PRP is a better platform than all of these parties and we believe in the teeming youths of the state that are supporting us in the course of this journey, and by God’s grace, PRP would be elected into the Government House of Kano come 2023, with me as the gubernatorial candidate of the party.
In the last few days, your train has been consulting with the people across Kano. What has it been like?
It is a thank-you visit. After the primary elections, which I won largely, I felt the need to go round and thank our party leaders and delegates in the 44 local government areas of the state and so far, it has been a tremendous experience, an eye opener. I think one of the biggest eye openers for me during this thank-you visit is the dilapidated state in which Kano is, particularly in the rural areas. There was this particular experience when we were visiting Bebeji Local Government from Kiru Local Government, we decided to use a short cut – a 10-kilometer road and there was a river that we had to cross and do you believe that we had to come down from our cars to cross while the cars had to drive through the river to cross to the other side. You can see how these people are suffering; you can see how the rural people of Kano State are suffering. We went to Doguwa Local Government and we have seen how terrible the road was and Doguwa Local Government is one the local government areas in Kano State. From Kano to Doguwa is about 220 kilometers and I can tell you that we left our house at about 8:00 a.m, but we didn’t get to Doguwa till I:00 p.m, in the same Kano and this is because the road is terribly bad and unmotorable.
Are you saying that the Ganduje administration has not been living up to their claims of developing every part of the state, particularly the rural areas?
By and large, I think they have tried, they have done their best, but as you can see yourself, their best is not enough.
Some people say you enjoy criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari. How true is this claim?
I find it amusing when people say that I enjoy criticizing President Muhammadu Buhari. Well, let me throw it back at people that have that line of thinking. The issue of insecurity, is it not what we have been calling the attention of the president to tackle? We have a number of times, over and over and over again, seen how the people are being attacked, people being kidnapped, in fact, school children in their schools being kidnapped. We have seen how terrorists, on a daily basis, are attacking people in this country. We have seen the overall collapse of security apparatus in the country. We are on the verge of becoming a state of anarchy. You can see the state of security in the land, not to talk of the other aspects of life. There is nobody in this country, particularly in Northern Nigeria and particularly in North- Western Nigeria, who has not been affected one way or the other by the present insecurity, including himself. Yesterday, his convoy was attacked. It is not a rumour. Garba Shehu, the spokesman of the president issued a statement saying his convoy was attacked and two persons were injured. Who has not been affected by the insecurity of this country? So, what I am asking is do people want us to keep quiet? Do people want us to allow the situation to go on like this?
How do you feel about the fact in the rage of that saga, you were simply “sacrificed” by Governor Ganduje?
He has to save himself, more or less, because he felt that his own position was threatened by my own views and personal positions and, of course, it seems that the Presidency was using me to witch-hunt him…. He has a responsibility to govern the state and if they want to use me to get to him, it is understandable if he decided to let me go. He warned me the first time, he warned me several times, but I felt that if I couldn’t keep quiet in the days of Jonathan as PDP president, during the days of Boko Haram where we all criticized the system, including President Muhammadu Buhari, was it not President Buhari that took to the streets to protest against Jonathan? So, we attacked and criticized President Jonathan’s government, particularly on insecurity and I felt that it would be hypocritical of me to keep quiet when the same issue of insecurity is worse than it was during Goodluck Jonathan’s era. So, this is the issue. The issue is that every well-meaning Nigerian should speak up against insecurity because as you can see, one way or the other, it would get to you. This insecurity is like a stray bullet, it does not discriminate. One day, it would hit you and you will become a victim.
Back to the PRP, there is a lot of nostalgia I must agree. But seriously speaking, do you think this party has the capacity to win elections to govern Kano State, given the number of APC, the PDP, the NNPP members and all their big names and deep pockets?
PRP is the only alternative in Kano State. It is not the only political party, yes, but it is the only alternative to the people of the state. What is NNPP? It is an extension of the APC and PDP combined. What is PDP and what do they have to offer? We have seen it? What is APC ? We have seen it also? And so , if people feel comfortable with the way this country is and particularly with the way this state is being led, fine and good! Let them go ahead and vote for them once again. It is not my life time ambition to govern the people of Kano State. In fact, I didn’t even want to contest the elections, but it was my good people of Kano State that felt they needed change, that they wanted a younger generation to take charge and they decided I should contest for this election. PRP is a household name in Kano State. It has a history. The PRP has a track record and everyone has seen what PRP did when it was in government. The history is there and the manifesto is there and we are only polishing it now, and as it is stands, I can tell you that at the present moment, PRP in Kano State is well ahead of parties like the PDP and many others. Our worst enemy would tell you that, as at the moment, we are ahead of the PDP. Maybe someone would be sentimental to say that APC as the incumbent party is still an issue, some may be equally sentimental and say NNPP is gathering momentum in the state, but we have seen where they are lacking . And I tell you one truth. A lot of people in Kano State are not happy with the way and manner the state government under APC implemented some of its policies and by and large, there are lot of complaints against the party. We have seen how they produced their candidates at the primary elections and how they concluded that exercise and we know the huge size of internal crisis in the APC in Kano State and we are making efforts to benefit from their internal dispute. We have also seen how former Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in NNPP has squandered his goodwill. NNPP started well, but I knew it was a fluke because I knew it would get to a point where he would select his own candidates for Senate, Reps and state assembly and that is what happened. Because he single-handedly selected everybody that is to contest under the umbrella of the NNPP. I have never seen this kind of election. There was no primary election, there was no consensus, he did not call aspirants to come and sit down and discuss and then given the opportunity to select one among you, no! He single-handedly picked them all and just released names. So, a lot of his people are disgruntled and a lot of his people are not happy because he put forth the worst of the aspirants, the ones that are not popular and the ones that are not liked by the people in the party. We have seen their shortcomings and we are strategizing. Of course, we have our shortcomings as a party that has not been in government, party that is lacking in terms of leadership and structure, we have our shortcomings. But the good part is that we have seven months from today to the general elections and we are working tirelessly to see that this party is strong and that the structure of the party is oiled and intact and this is one of the essence of the tour that we have been going.
You just said something about the fact that Kwankwaso has squandered his goodwill in Kano. What about his presidential ambition. Do you still think he has a chance when Kano, his base, is shaking?
There is no way he would have a chance simply because Kwankwaso is more or less a regional leader. He has never been a nationalist. He has never been able to capture the northern part of the country as a political bloc. Of course, he is popular, nobody would deny that. He is popular quite, but unfortunately politically, he has not built a bloc, the same way that we have seen Buhari built a bloc. Kwankwaso is a regionalist in terms of his political spread and he is majorly in the Northwest. He is not obviously across the entire 19 Northern states and who are his allies in the South? Who are his political allies that he can conveniently boast of and say that this is my right hand man in the whole of the Southwest, Southeast or in the South-south? And I believe that what would come out of the NNPP at the end of the day in 2023 is him probably getting a number of seats – Senators, Reps and state assembly members. Of course, there is no doubt he would get some of the seats, but that is equally what other parties would get. So, at the end of the day, we might see an unprecedented political atmosphere, where in the end, what we would get is a rainbow coalition in the governance space. And we might even go into a run-up elections for the first time in this country.
PRP does not have money behind the party. How do you hope to survive given the volume of money in the hands of other parties like the APC, which has made so much from nomination forms and is an equivalent of super bank?
I am not rich at all, but one of the things I love about the PRP is that it is owned by the people and if the people believe in you, they would do so much and more for you. I have gone round and I have seen how they take care of us whenever we visit their local government areas. They mobilize on their own and I am not funding anybody to mobilize people for me. I don’t even believe in that. PRP is the party of the masses, the Talakawas and this is what they did in 1979- the people funded the party. This is what we are replicating today, we are crowd funding and anywhere we go, we don’t pay anybody to do anything. The party members in that area take direct charge. This is how we intend to do it. I know that election requires funds and we are going to raise funds through crowd funding and people contributing to our election. If one million give us up to N1,000 each, it’s huge sum of money. I also want to point out something for you. I am not sincerely bothered about the money that APC, PDP and NNPP have, a lot of these money are stolen funds in the first place. What is their business? Where did they get the money ? We know their origin and their worth when they got into government and we know what they have amassed. Look, if you are doing the right thing in government, you are supposed to be poorer when you are leaving government than when you entered. This is because you have to serve the people. So, if you come out richer and stinkingly richer than you were, then something is fishing. I am not afraid of the funds that they have because I know some of the sources. But I can tell you something, in Kano, the classic case is Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau. The way that I am now, with all respects, is far better than what Shekarau was when he started in 2003, but he won with a landslide in the state. But not just that, we have seen how some of them won elections with being financially rich. Kano is not any other state when it comes to money politics. They would collect your money and chop it. It is their money. They know the source, but they would go ahead and elect the right people and we have seen it. And we are going to see it again.
In brief, what are the three cardinal issues that we should look out when you become governor? What are those things that we will judge you with if tomorrow comes. Let’s have your vision for Kano?
I already have a blueprint and experts are working on it. In that blueprint, we have identified seven points of interest that would transform Kano. The first is economic growth, education, health, infrastructure, environment, peace and security. We are anchoring our blueprint along these seven key sectors because our vision is to make Kano the commercial centre of excellence in Africa in the next 10 years time.
One last question, your father has a huge political and media image. How have you been creating your unique brand as Salihu Tanko Yakasai , different from your father that we already know?
It is an honour to be the son of Alhaji Tanko Yakasai. It is a huge honour – everyday I am seeing, the mere mention of my name everywhere during my tour opens doors for me. It is a huge privilege and I thank him for preparing the grounds for his children and his family. But you see I have always charted my own course. Politically, we have been on different plains since I started my politics in the last 20 years. Don’t forget that I was pro-Buhari and he was anti-Buhari during the Jonathan years. And I sometimes go and inform him of my political decisions, but more or less, just to notify him of my next moves. But to be honest, I make my own decisions, I want to make my own mistakes and learn from the lessons. I want to be my own man and that is why I try as much as possible to do things by myself. And it is working. I am tapping from his wisdom, but I try to be my own man. And I will continue to emulate him and I will continue to take full advantage of the access I have to him and come better by the grace of Allah.