By Chukwudi Nweje
Dr. Yunusa Tanko is the spokesman of the National Consultative Front (NCFront) which adopted Labour Party as the 3rd Force for 2023 general election. In this interview, the presidential candidate of the National Conscience Party (NCP) during the 2019 election discussed the LP and what it has in the offing for Nigeria.
What lessons do you think can be learnt from the 2023 presidential primaries of the major political parties?
One good lesson from the presidential primaries is that people should know and understand the internal mechanisms of their political party. If you are not well grounded in the structure of the political party, it will be difficult for you to emerge as a candidate regardless of how strong the general public perceives you to be. A case study is that of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo. In some quarters, many people supported his candidature, but as a person, is he well-grounded in the structure of the All Progressives Congress (APC)? Obviously, the answer is no; it is the political party that will conduct the primary which is internal democracy and different from the general election. This means that any person aspiring to lead must be familiar with the four documents that are very strong in the party. Such person must be a strong member of the party who has been part of the political structure; he must know the constitution of the party and be well-grounded with the manifesto of the party; he must be in tandem with the party constitution with regards to the Electoral Act and the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and how well does such person relate with party members nationwide in case he wants to run for office. These facts are very critical and that is why if the APC repeats its primary 100 times, Bola Tinubu will win 100 times because he is well grounded within the party structures.
The PDP has similar situation on ground, once they could not agree on a consensus candidate or saying that they have ceded the presidential ticket to a particular section of the country, it may be difficult for them to popularize a candidate they feel the general public wants. That is why no matter how strong Gov. Nyesom Wike is within the structures of the PDP, he was also outplayed by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar at the PDP primary. These are indices that shape the internal party structure; people must be fully aware how the internal structures of the party they want to aspire from work before they plunge into the contest. I guess it was at that point that Peter Obi sensing these challenges opted out and because he had the love and support of Nigerian youths decided to take the love to a political party adopted by the NCFront and today, we can see the end result that Peter Obi is unstoppable.
Apart from knowledge of party structures, a lot of money were exchanged during the presidential primaries of both APC and PDP, what do you say about that?
Of course, our politics has been monetised and people feel that one cannot win the ticket if he does not give out money because it is not based on ideological views. Money shape the candidates because right from the start, those of them that knew that they didn’t have well-grounded documents to sell to the people resort to giving out money, and that becomes a factor to ensure that certain individuals are schemed out. If you don’t have money no matter how credible you are, it may be difficult for you to win the primary, and this is also a test of the integrity of the party because in the NCP, it is criminally punishable for one to monetarily induce people to vote for you and you may even be disqualified for that. I think it is time that we put it in the Electoral Act that anyone who bribes a party member should be disqualified, maybe that will serve as a deterrent, but frankly it is distasteful that people use money to dampen on integrity and merit.
NCFront as it were consulted among eminent Nigerians for over one year to birth a 3rd Force political party; LP was adopted as the preferred political party. Now Peter Obi, a former PDP presidential aspirant emerged presidential candidate of LP within 72 hours of joining, how do you justify that since PDP is one of the parties NCFront planned to dethrone, what happened to ideology?
The truth of the matter is that NCFront is talking about rescue Nigeria and anybody who believes in rescuing Nigeria flows along with us. By the time NCFront announced LP as our adopted party, we had done all the due diligence, looked at every nook and cranny and consulted with 16 political parties with regard that we want a new lease of life and a party that will midwife a new Nigeria. Anybody that believes in that movement knows that there is a template of agreement. When Pat Utomi and other NCFront leaders were discussing this, a lot of people gravitated towards us including Peter Obi who joined LP; that for us is credible because it shows people are watching. Obi joining LP is an added credential to the movement because we believe strongly in rescuing Nigeria. Obi is not being promoted by a religious sect, he is not promoted by a tribal sect, he is a Nigerian project; Nigerians from all walks of life believe that he can change the narrative of the Nigerian situation.
You have discussed this over and over, but remind us of what are some of the factors NCFront considered before adopting Labour Party?
The labour union joined the NCFront, and it is widespread. LP is interested in the emancipation of Nigerians from the stronghold of poverty, and it has strong principles that align with those of the NCP and some other parties; so in the event that we had several parties that were identically inclined to saving Nigerians from the shackle of poverty, it becomes obvious that the LP is the platform from which we can achieve our collective aspiration. The character and commitment shown by the leaders of the labour movement gives us the belief that it is best to dock our ship under the LP to rescue Nigeria from the situation we find ourselves in.
Critics say LP does not have the structure to run a national election let alone run the affairs of the entire country, how do you respond?
Criticisms are welcome, and if I may borrow the words of Peter Obi, he said the 100, 000,000 Nigerians that are abjectly in poverty and hungry are his structure. Let me also make it clear the NCFront is a conglomeration of several groups across the country, that is a structure, the NCP and other political parties who are part of the NCFront and believe we can work together have structures in every nook and cranny of this country; the TUC and NLC have offices in all parts of the country, and they are at the grassroots. By the time you put these together, you will find out that LP has more structures than any political party in Nigeria because it has the people backing it.
How does LP hope to compete in a highly monetised political environment like Nigeria without indulging in the malfeasance?
Someone called me from Kaduna to tell me that they have over 150,000 volunteers ready to man each of the polling stations in the state; it is not about money now but conviction. This sort of thing is going on around the whole country and nobody is giving these people money. If we can learn to do these kinds of things, even if you come with money, the people will defeat you, and that will change the narrative. However, in order to make it a concrete arrangement, the LP presidential campaign organisation is also building structures nationwide to complement what these people are doing individually, that way we will have a formalised system that will be devoid of the issue of collecting money.
Where is LP on the issue of a substantive vice-presidential candidate to Peter Obi?
The truth about it is that He said, we are building a big tent, we want to build a crossbreed political formation, we are doing what is called constructive consultation, and I want to put it on record that the LP Campaign Organisation has concluded talks on looking for a running mate and between now and Friday, the name of the vice-presidential candidate will be unveiled to the public. The issue we are going through now is discussions with those who want to join the party, but we have gone beyond an alliance with the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).
What exactly went wrong on the alliance talks with NNPP?
We had about 16 hours discussions with the NNPP; we agreed to work together in many areas. But what we don’t agree on is in the area of the presidential election. Kwankwaso wants Obi to become his vice-presidential candidate and that is not acceptable to us.
You are from Kano State just like Kwankwaso, what would you say is the strength of LP in the state viz.-a-biz NNPP?
Yes, we are both from Kano, we have people on ground. Obviously, we don’t have equal strength, but we have a lot of people supporting us, but Kano is just one state.
What is your take on the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC?
I am not a fan of religion in politics, but for a secular state like Nigeria, we should be able to carry everybody along. It will be a catastrophic mistake for anyone to try to make his own religion look superior to others. We must carry both religions along so that people will feel actively involved; that is why for us, it is time to have a president from the southern part of Nigeria to add value and unite the country and give everyone a sense of belonging irrespective of his tribe or religion.
Insecurity is worsening and whoever emerges in 2023 will inherit the bad situation. If LP wins the presidential election, how do you suggest the problem should be tackled?
We must reach out to people at the local government levels who are being annihilated, and it seems leaders have neglected them; it must be a problem with governance. There is no doubt that there are internal and external conspiracies against the Nigerian State; this has been confirmed by both our security agencies and leaders, but the inability of the leaders to get to the roots of the conspiracy is the problem. We must get to the roots to put an end to insecurity. The economy of the country must also be improved, we must move from a consumer nation to production, and there is need to run an inclusive government because in politics, when you carry along your opponents, there will be no room for nursing grievances and people causing problems for you to bring themselves to power. LP will not run a government that shows itself as giving preference to one part of the country over the others.
What is your message to the youths who constitute significant number of LP supporters?
They should continue to publicise the ideals of the party and avoid violence. They should go out and register and get their PVC. They should not just register but also identify the polling station nearest to them. The Electoral Act legislated on electronic transmission of results to make sure that votes count, so youths should collect their PVCs, vote, and also stand ready to defend their votes.