By Daniel Kanu
Comrade Tanko Yunusa is the national chairman, National Conscience Party (NCP) and the presidential candidate of the party in the 2019 election.
Dr Yunusa is also the head, Public Affairs Bureau, National Consultative Front (NCFront), a group of leaders of conscience, seeking to rescue the country from the brink.
The activist engaged Sunday Sun in a revealing interview as he spoke about the agenda of NCFront, Igbo presidency in 2023, negotiation with bandits, restructuring, and assessment of the President Buhari-led APC government, among other national issues. Excerpt:
Let’s begin with the Southeast strong agitation to produce in 2023, a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction?
They have a right to seek for it in the election, but they too need to play the game of politics. They have to be inclusive. Where my brothers in the Southeast are missing it is that, when the time comes everybody will pursue it at the same time. It is like trying to enter into a pipe and everybody wants to enter at the same time. You create a problem for yourself with such an approach. The Southeast people are very good technically, economically, intelligent-wise, very good in marketing, sales etc, these are credible credentials of the Southeast. You cannot deny them of their competence. Everywhere in Nigeria, you find a Southeastern man doing one business or the other. So the question is: why don’t they use that particular capacity in politics? They need to reach out, they need to talk with others to strategise better. There is no need to encourage secession. You don’t need to use force, but you can use your quality, which speaks out loudly. I can tell you if a Southeast man leads this country there will be greater progress, that I am sure off, but they have to do it in such a way that the people will have trust and believe that it is in the interest of everybody.
What is your take on this new wave of negotiation with bandits?
It is something that must not be encouraged, not at all. But you see, unfortunately for us in Nigeria, we have already established a precedent. When the Niger Delta issues started, people will say that it is not the same, but anything that is against the state is terrorism. But, of course, the mistake that has already been made is that the government were not able to perform to the expectation of the people, so in order to appease the minds of these particular people, you have to negotiate by giving them amnesty and that sent a wrong precedent for us and that wrong precedence has become a template for others to now seek amnesty even though they are doing something against the state. For me, negotiation with bandits is totally unacceptable, but we needed to bring out the wrongdoing of these people and deal with it, but now what we have to use is the stick and carrot approach. There may be some of them who are involved because of one bad situation or the other, we can understand such. But those who have killed people, innocent people, they should be made to face the wrath of the law. Even if they are seeking for amnesty they must be dealt with according to the precept of the law, but when you keep on giving amnesty, you keep on negotiating, etc, it shows that you are weak and at the end of it all people will continue to take advantage of it that afterall if I kill there is a precedent I must be given an amnesty, it is wrong.
Some people are also calling for the extension of amnesty to Boko Haram…?
(Cuts in) That is what I am talking about. These are people who have taken arms against the state for… how long now. Yes, there are chances we need to sit down to really know exactly what must have pushed them into such dangerous action. Of course, some of us have been saying it and lamenting over the years that there has been a total neglect of the system, the system has broken down. If you go to Maiduguri or Yobe, you will see the land, it’s a desert and these people have also been hearing and seeing how their legislators, how their government have been taken away money, how they have been shortchanging the people, and then nobody is doing anything about it. If we say we are following the Koran and the Bible these things we are witnessing are not allowed in the Koran and Bible that you keep on stealing government money that belongs to the people and before you know it, they take up arms against the government. Yes, they have no right to do so, but these are some of the things they are reacting to. Those who are in leadership have not done the right thing and so they too are not doing the right thing with what they are doing. But two wrongs do not make a right. We need to sit down and really discuss with the people, leadership, and all stakeholders in this project. Those who have done wrong should be punished, those who have not done anything wrong, you find a way to pardon them so that we can live peacefully. But really it is the decay in the system that has led to all of this total mess.
Your organisation, the National Consultative Front (NCFront) has been involved in activities to work out the bringing out of a new Nigeria, but critics doubt your ability to realise such vision bearing in mind it is an advocacy that has defiled solution over the years. What new strategy or formula is the group putting on the table?
The truth about it is that we need to move beyond what the others had done. We want to take it further than what they have done or do I say that we tried taking it up from where they stopped. I am not new, just as most leaders in the group are not new in this particular situation: Hon. Ghali Na’Abba, Prof Pat Utomi, Wale Okuniyi, Olisa Agbakoba, quite a lot of our leaders are not new to this project, we have known that many of the documents that we want to use to reform this country had been left in fallow, left under the carpet gathering dust, that is where it has stopped. So, we want to take it further than that. We are demanding for that particular reform to take place, so that we can do a lot of work, restructuring the certain areas that people are agitating about, so that we can be able to bring about a new order for the benefit of the Nigerian people. Once people see us as being sincere in our approach they will not have any choice than to join us too so that we can all achieve the same purpose, so that Nigeria can be better. Our approach, which is new, is to gather and listen to the people and make sure that the peoples’ will is what is supreme in our own minds. We are not relenting because we know all the documents that have already been used, we want to bring it up so that the people will agree on it and then we put it up to the National Assembly and let them start deliberating on it, let us move on from there. That is our target, so we want to move from where they have stopped or where we have also stopped to ensure we realise a country we can all call our own.
The irony of it all is that even the people are becoming docile politically. What is NCFront doing to raise the consciousness of the people to this agenda bearing in mind that some members of your group have been in power and perhaps failed too?
The docility of the people is because there was no resolve that has been germane. They have not been convinced and so the majority of the people that you are seeing from our side have not tasted power so we are trying to bring out something new. And the difference between us and those who have tasted power is that at that point in time the majority of the agitation were not being listened to, but here we are, we are listening to the agitation of the people, we are saying, bring your problem let us work together. We are not saying they should vote for us or that we are contesting an election. We are saying that they too have a right to contest election and if you are popular and acceptable by your people (constituency) come and join and run for election. There is the difference of we trying to be in leadership and trying to say it is us that must lead, no. We are saying that it is a different ball game entirely, we need capable hands from every parts of this country, every technocrat, those who have the capacity, knowledge, etc should come up and run for elections. Then we will set up a programme that all of us will agree to and then we follow it pari passu, so as to get the desired result. So, it’s a different ball game completely from what we used to have in the past. It is a different thing entirely.
You talked about restructuring the country and this means different things to different people. What does restructuring Nigeria mean to you?
What I want is for me to see when Nigerians are equitably comfortable, when a person in a position of power is spending nothing less than N10, for example; the followers are spending nothing less than N6. The gap will be closed, not in a situation, you are looking for employment you have to look for a paper from a Senator to guarantee you a job, no; let your merit, your capacity give it to you. Even if it is on quota system as being done in NDA (Nigeria Defence Academy) ten per each state, let every state have a fair share of it. I want to see a Nigeria where I don’t have to change my clothes, my dressing when I am going to the South or Southerner going to the North. I want to see a situation where we understand each other and know that the culture in the North is different from the one in the South, and all the same, we all understand each other. I want a situation where if something is being developed in Lagos can be beneficial to somebody in Sokoto or Maiduguri etc, it will be encouraged for use there and not discriminated against. Take for instance, INNOSON Motors, being developed in the Southeast, it is beneficial to everyone and not seen as Igbo product, but seen to be a Nigerian product. I want to see a production of food items, rice, beans, maize etc, that come from Maiduguri, Sokoto, Katsina, being benefited by the people in the Southwest, and South-south etc, that is the kind of Nigeria I want. A Nigeria that is united in thinking, and is progressive as a people and then having a common agenda to progress as a people. A Nigeria where there is fair play, justice, and equity. Not a tribal sentiment Nigeria where if I appoint, let’s say an Igala man, Igbo man or an Ijebu man as my ADC, I will be seen as not being patriotic to my people in Kano, no. I want to see a Nigeria where people believe that every Nigerian is capable of doing the right thing, not the kind of Nigeria that people think that we have to protect our own enclave.
But how do we evolve this kind of Nigeria?
The truth about it is that we have laws quite alright, but the problem is that we are not making the institutions work for the people. We gag the institutions for our own benefit, of our tribe benefit or our religion benefit etc, if we allow the right things to be done things will get better. Imagine fellow Nigerians asking people of other ethnic groups to leave their states… it is totally wrong, it is ineptitude, an inexperienced and incapable government that does that. The laws are very clear, if an Igbo man in Kano commits murder, kill an Hausa person, it’s not an Hausa person that he killed, he killed a human being, the laws are there. What is expected of the police to do is to arrest him, investigate and find out truly if he did commit the said crime? He is not being looked at as an Igbo man; he is being looked at as a human being who has committed a crime against another human being. Deal with it according to the provisions of the law, provide him with a lawyer to defend him, if he is found guilty he goes through the terms, serve the punishment, if he is not guilty he goes free. If a Fulani man staying in the forest of Ondo is found to have killed or encroached on somebody’s farm, it is not Fulani, it is him as an individual who has committed a crime against another individual, the laws are there, arrest him, put the cow in an enclave where it is supposed to be protected against those particular farmlands, let the police investigate it, deal with it, that this particular cow belonging to you has destroyed this and that and this is fine the person (herder) should pay, and that the cow should not go there again. And if it happens again the person may be given a jail term. If we have been institutionalizing this punishment across the land it will not be looked at as a weapon for dealing with groups that do not have same sentiment with your own group. That is where our leaders are failing because we have a sentimental mind and before you know it, the group or region will say, this is Fulani problem or this is Igbo or Yoruba problem and that the people should leave their land. Which land did we bring to earth? Nobody brought any land but the laws, justice and fairness that are established must be followed. Once every governor is doing that and they have done all that they are supposed to do according to the law, believe me, the majority of the problems will have been solved. What we need to do is to make sure that each of the institution performs according to the law that provided them irrespective of where you come from. If you are qualified to be employed you should be given that employment intoto, no discrimination and if you are appointing people make sure that the position of the law takes place, no injustice or undue favoritism.
How will you rate or assess the President Buhari-led APC government?
To be candid with you, there is nothing to rate. If we can say these are the template of action, of course, I know that Mr. President said he was going to fight corruption, revamp the economy and tackle security challenge or insecurity, but look at the situation so far. Before it was a bomb going up in cities, but now they are going up in homes, there are small, small bombs everywhere now. You sleep and you cannot be sure that you will wake up without anything happening. When you look at the issue of corruption it is seen to be a selective fight. They will move against you because you are saying the truth, some of us are facing the situation as we speak. You say the right thing and they will say you are being antagonistic. The irony is that the same issue of corruption is happening everywhere even within Aso Rock, even the wife of Mr. President has said it. When you talk about the economy, are you saying we are doing better today? No, we are not. In fact, people can hardly eat these days. Can you imagine that at a point in this country we were buying a bag of rice at N7,000 today, it is above N30,000 depending on the one you are buying, some are costlier. So, how do one reconcile the economy in this regard and they are still blowing propaganda with it as if they are living in the moon. It is not as if we are productive, the youths that are supposed to be productive are all into yahoo yahoo, partly because there is no job, kidnapping, man-napping etc are all rampant, so we are not using our human resources to the benefit and development of the country. All the three issues, cardinal points Mr. President campaigned on and promised to deliver have been bastardised. He as a person may be different, but the fact still remains that the people surrounding him are not thinking the same way. What is happening is even making some people to think whether Mr. President is actually alive or is he up to his responsibility or not. We have to be begging Mr. President to come and address us; this is not the Buhari we know. This is not the Buhari I know. I know him at a close distance. Obviously, this is not the person I used to know. If you know Buhari closely, you will know that he is not in control and I think something is wrong somewhere. So, the country is completely being ruled by individuals that are selfish and insensitive to the plight of Nigerians. So, when you talk about rating, the APC has about 49 manifestoes, but which of them has been done or implemented to the satisfaction of the Nigerian people? That is the big question.
What do you think is the best way to govern this country?
The best way to lead this country is by making sure that everybody is being carried along. When I mean by everybody, I know the over 200 million Nigerians cannot be carried along at the same time, but they have leaders, and their leaders need to be talked to. The President won the election out of the 88 million registered voters, he won with 15 million, followed by Atiku Abubakar with I think 11 million votes, followed by other political parties. So there was just about let’s say over 30 million that voted. Now, the President won with 15 million, you think you can only deal with those 15 million people in the country of 200 million people? Is that correct? No, you must treat the others as equals. So, where they missed it from the beginning is when they felt that they can only deal with those who worked for them in the area of position of power, appointments, favoritism, nepotism, and all that. Every part of this country must be approached, those political parties that lost elections are equally important. We need to sit down as Nigerians and talk; it is not about APC, PDP, or any party. It is about Nigeria. Of course, whether you like it or not there are people who are out there to make sure that this government does not work and in any way that the government is trying to do something they are also breaking it down, but it is because of the failure of government. The government has created a crack and that crack gave room to all types of amoeba and the like. So, if they can seal that crack and call people together, let everybody feel important, everybody in Nigeria is important because if they were not they would not have voted for you in the first place to come to power. The government must listen to the people, listen to Nigerians, and attend to their needs. It is sad for government to be saying that this government will not operate the way you want it to operate that they will operate on their own terms. No, the whole essence of governance is that you operate in the interest of the people; they gave you leadership in trust. You rule in the interest of the people not in your own personal interest. The people must be carried along and what they want is what you will do as a leader. When everybody sees that there is sincerity of purpose with the leadership they will ensure that you succeed knowing that their interest is protected. Let Nigerians sit down around the table, bring out their issues from different political zones and you know the ones that can be done for each group and give genuine reasons some cannot be tackled now. When they see the sincerity of purpose as I said earlier in the leadership their agitation, attitude will change or even die down because there is equity and justice.