By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Senator Rufai Hanga is one of the leading members of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in Kano State. In this interview, he gave an insight into what may likely be the outcome of the 2023 presidential poll, postulating the possibility of a rerun.
The 2023 presidential contest is getting increasingly exciting by the day. Would you say that the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) genuinely represents the Third Force people have been yearning for?
That is the Third Force people have been expecting. You know I spoke about it a long time ago before that a Third Force might come and that when it comes it will be a miracle. To me, it is already a miracle. It is not a newly registered party, it was registered about 20 years ago and nobody ever heard about it. But the moment we adopted it in less than two months, it has spread to nooks and crannies of the country and it is still spreading and growing. We have so many things that assured us of winning the coming presidential election.
How would you then account for its acceptance in such a speedy manner?
It is because people are tired of APC and PDP. There is nothing you can tell responsible, well-meaning Nigerians who care about the situation in the country-insecurity, poverty, unemployment, collapse of education, economic downturn and so many other things – about APC and PDP that they will listen to you. People discarded the PDP because of its abysmal performance and embraced APC. Now, the APC has even performed worse than PDP. So, it is difficult to trust any of the two parties anymore. In the midst of this situation, definitely, people will want to experiment, especially knowing that the people who formed the NNPP are people of impeccable character. That is the reason people embraced it.
If NNPP has been registered over 20 years ago as you said, why has it remained underground?
It has been there for a long time like Accord Party and so many others. You know that some parties that had no appreciable showing had been deregistered by the INEC, but NNPP remained afloat because it managed to win a seat in Bauchi. Somebody won a seat in the Bauchi State House of Assembly on the platform of the NNPP and that is why it remains afloat. There are some other parties too that have some pockets of seats here and there, but they are not as popular as NNPP.
Who were the brains behind its formation?
The brain behind it is one Chief from Anambra, Dr Boniface Okechukwu. He was the person who registered it. He is not a full-time politician; he is a businessman in Lagos. He came and handed over the party to us with Dr Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso as the National Leader and the presidential candidate, while he (Dr Okechukwu) is now the Chairman, Board of Trustees (BOT) of the party.
How would you convince the electorate that NNPP represents a clean break from the past since most of the leading members like you had one time or the other dined and wined with the two leading parties?
The difference is that most of the people that formed NNPP are the people that have been ostracised by the APC and PDP because they are not comfortable with the ideologies of the two parties. They have had disagreement with them on so many issues and so they had to part with them and form another party. Besides these people, we also have other like-minds, who have not been in politics before, but are now coming into the fold. There are lots of professors in the universities, some civil servants and businessmen who have been watching the happenings in the country. We encouraged them to come into politics and a lot of them have answered the call and they are coming to embrace the party. Most of them are fresh politicians who are coming together to salvage the situation and rescue the nation. So, it is not going to be business as usual.
There is a lot of rhetoric here. In specific terms, what are you going to do differently if you are given the opportunity to lead the country?
We are bringing on board integrity, we are bringing on board openness, level playing field, equal opportunity, fairness, equity and justice. That is why we adopted New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). We want a new Nigeria where people are equal, where there is fairness, where there is equity, where people will have a say in what affects them.
You mentioned integrity. But in governance, integrity is like a promissory note. You recall that President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in 2015 on the crest of integrity. With the current situation of things, do you think anybody can sway the voters with rhetoric of integrity?
People embraced Buhari because they thought he can do it. But we are bringing on board people who have already done it and we are sure they will do it again. That is the difference. Even when Buhari had the opportunity to do it, he was not the main player; he was just a figure head. He was not the actual actor. People in NNPP are the actual actors and that is why we are sure we are bringing integrity because these are people with proven competence.
Can you now boast that the party will have a stronghold in the Southeast since the founder is a man from Anambra as you have earlier mentioned?
To say the truth, the stronghold of the party is not in the Southeast. But it has its roots there and a good followership. The stronghold of the party now is mostly in the North. In the whole of the North, I don’t think there is any state where we don’t have a sizeable followership. I assure you; the party will either come first or second in the whole of the North. In Southern part, there are also states where we will come either first or second. I don’t want to be too ambitious by saying we will come first everywhere in the South. But in the North, I think we will come first in most of the states.
One would have expected you to seize the opportunity of this auspicious moment to formalize a solid alliance with the Southeast using your fresh idea about a new Nigeria that is evolving as a vehicle. Why isn’t it so?
We are talking with Peter Obi, but the talk is stalled by some little disagreement on who should be the presidential candidate and the running mate. Otherwise, it would have been consummated. We have issues, but not too serious. I hope we will later on agree. Peter Obi people want him to be the presidential candidate, and we want Kwankwaso to be the presidential candidate. Somebody who brings more food on the table is supposed to be the candidate. On our part, we think Kwankwaso will bring more food on the table because going by qualification and experience, Kwankwaso is more experienced. Peter Obi too is qualified educationally, but Kwankwaso is an Engineer and a PhD holder, who has worked in several capacities as a two-term governor in Kano State, as deputy speaker of the House of Representatives, as a member of constitutional conference, as an ambassador, as a minister of defence, and as a senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In all of these positions, he has performed tremendously well. He succeeded in a lot of assignments he was given as an ambassador. In the constitutional conference, he interacted with a lot of Nigerians from all walks of life and he knows the pulse of the nation. The Senate is also a platform for all Nigerians. Peter Obi is not all that experienced when it comes to governance and he is even a lot younger than Kwankwao. That is why we say Peter Obi should be the running mate for sometimes to learn more under Kwankwaso and then takeover after Kwankwaso must have finished his terms. But simply because of sentiment about power shift, they don’t want to agree. Peter Obi has just joined the Labour Party; he doesn’t have the structure in the party. I don’t think there is a state in the North where Labour Party has a gubernatorial candidate, where they have local government chairmen, where they have members of state and National Assembly. But we have them all over the place in the country. So, how can he come and ask Kwankwaso to come and be his running mate simply because of the sentiment about power shift to the Southeast? It is wrong, it is unfair, it is unjust. If only Peter Obi and his people will agree with us, we can go along together and have an alliance. But if they don’t, there are many other people who are coming forward to be the running mate. We will choose a credible candidate among them. Certainly, Peter Obi is a man of integrity, very intelligent, sound in economy and business. He will be of help in the position of Vice President because he will be the chairman of Economic Council. If he can come down to be running mate, it will be fine. In a matter of days, you will hear from us because we have not finalized our discussion. We have a lot of credible people on the queue to take it.
It is also in the news that APC has approached your party for an alliance. How far have you gone on that too?
We are not engaged in any merger talk with either APC or PDP, but they have both approached us. They want our co-operation; they want us to go together. How is that possible? Let me give you an example, we have candidates for all positions in Kano, Jigawa, Katsina. But PDP does not have candidates for all positions in Kano; it does not have candidates for all positions in Jigawa and Katsina states because people are not interested in the tickets. They know they won’t win. Even in Kano, people know they will waste their money if they pick the tickets of the PDP. Despite the propaganda that they are going to win the election, people didn’t buy their forms. How do you expect us to go along with PDP when they don’t have candidates? We can lay claim to the whole of the North and some pockets of states in the South. Even in the Southwest, we have a very strong support in Oyo and Ogun states. We have strong support in Delta, Akwa Ibom states and some other states in the South-south. None of these three parties can alone secure 2/3 majority votes. There will be a rerun. And that is where alliance will come into play to secure a simple majority required by the constitution. This is what we are counting on. The question of APC winning does not arise. It won’t happen. I don’t see APC winning anywhere in the North other than Borno and Yobe where they will write the votes.
Are you saying that you still don’t have confidence in the INEC despite the perceived improvement in its performance in the recent elections in Ekiti and Anambra states?
They don’t do election in Borno and Yobe, they only write results there. The performance of INEC is improving, but there is nothing they can do in Borno and Yobe. There was Boko Haram in Borno and Yobe when we had the previous elections. More than 12 local governments were in the hands of Boko Haram. Yet, they produced impossible results in Borno. Where did they get the results? Who came out to vote? How would they have voted when people were there in IDP camps and Cameroun? So, they must have written the results.
With electronic transmission of results, do you think that is still possible?
Let’s wait and see.