By Chinelo Obogo
Presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, has dismissed the prospects of stepping down or joining forces with Labour Party (LP) candidate, Mr. Peter Obi to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
Kwankwaso who spoke, yesterday, at Chatham House, London, UK said he was the candidate to beat and that his party had more grassroots appeal and support than other parties contesting the February 25 poll.
He was responding to a question from Duke Oputa, an independent political analyst and member of the audience who wanted to know if he would step down for LP given that the NNPP campaign strategies were similar to that of Obi in many ways.
“Is there any circumstance that you will step aside and cooperate with Labour in other to remove the current extraction in Nigeria?” Oputa asked.
Kwankwaso, however, dismissed the question saying: “On Labour Party, I was initially interested in working with them, but at that time, they were at peak of the media hype and we couldn’t reach a compromise. Our party (NNPP) is a national party, and we’re commanding the support of the masses. I can’t work with a party whose ideas are based on ethnicity and religion because I’m a Nigerian. Go and look at my credentials my brother, I am a Ph.D. holder in Civil Engineering, check what your candidate has. I have been in the system for over 30 years now. I was a civil servant for 17 years, I wasn’t a trader. I was the deputy speaker of the House Representatives in 1992, I was in the constitutional conference elected delegate, the Governor of Kano State for eight years and I was in Senate.
“If you had been from the North, I am sure you won’t have made that statement for Kwankwaso to withdraw for Labour Party. When we sat down, what I told them is what I will tell you. If they want Kwankwao to withdraw, let’s bring the criteria and select the best. Anytime they have a better candidate, I am ready to talk to him.
“We are the only party that is now getting support; forget about the big-big people who are the actual problems of this country. But from supporters at the grassroots level, mark it, we have been successful in locking Northen Nigeria today in terms of votes and support. Now, we are working in the Southern part of the country. The difference between the North and South is that the North knows us more than the Southern part of the country.”
When asked if he believes there would be free and fair elections, he said that would depend on President Muhammadu Buhari.
“If the president wants a fair election, it will happen. I want to appeal to the Nigerian president to leave a legacy of free elections, as a serial victim of electoral fraud, and as the first beneficiary of free and fair elections in Nigeria.”