Former Kano State governor and presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party for the 2023 general elections, Rabiu Kwankwaso, speaks about his strategy and chances in this interview with CHIMA AZUBUIKE
How will you respond to the claim that the goodwill the New Nigeria Peoples Party enjoys is essentially based on defectors who left the major parties due to some disagreements?
The NNPP is not based on the defectors. It is based on the talakawa (masses), voters and good people of this country who believe in us. The defectors are just like an addition. We are happy that people left their political parties to join us. I was in the Peoples Democratic Party in 1998; by 1999, I was elected as the governor of Kano State, and by 2007, I was through. By 2011, I went to Kano again. I was with the Niger Delta Development Commission as a member of board. I’ve been in the PDP for a long time but at the end of it, I realised that it was good to join forces with others to create a new party in order to bring a change to the country. I was among the five governors that built the All Progressives Congress, and I later left it to go back to the PDP.
Why did you leave?
The APC proved to be worse than the PDP; that’s why I left and almost everyone is disturbed about the ruling party’s inability to tackle certain challenges that the nation is facing currently which include insecurity and failing economy. These are the two major problems that we are facing in Nigeria, in addition to also poor education, which no one is even talking about it.
What will be your priority areas if you become the President?
My major concern is education. A Kwankwasiya believes in education. Education is my priority and we believe also in creating job opportunities for people. When I was in Kano, anybody that was jobless probably did not go to school. We created job opportunities and an environment conducive for business to thrive in Kano State. What we did in Kano State is there for everyone to see. We took measures to ensure maximum security of lives and property.
How realistic is NNPP’s aspiration to win the 2023 presidential election with the APC and the PDP in the race?
Nigerians know the APC and the PDP very well and they’ve failed. The two political parties themselves know that they’ve failed. The only chance they have is to buy votes. That’s what we’ve seen in Ekiti State, we may possibly see that also in Osun State and every other election. The masses don’t want the PDP or the APC again. The people want a change. Nobody is happy with insecurity, the level of poverty; nobody is happy with the entire happenings in this country and it is because of these challenges that the NNPP, by the grace of God, will win the 2023 presidential election.
What kind of alliances are you considering to be able to achieve this Herculean task of defeating the ruling APC and the PDP at the poll?
We are working around the clock to come together with other parties, especially those that have similar ideologies with us. Therefore, we are working with our friends, brothers and sisters so that we can get stronger than what we are today, so that at the end of the day, we can win elections. We have multiple parties we are working together with because these two parties (the PDP and APC), are not the best for the country. Some of those who are in the two parties and also share the same ideology with us will definitely be leaving the two parties. The NNPP was re-established three months ago and before you knew it, we are all over the country within the period of four months. We are very organised and we are a united party. In 2011, I contested election in Kano State, men and women came out to support us, and we won the election. That’s why I went back the second time. We took the issue of education, empowerment very seriously in order to create job opportunities for the people. I do not doubt that the NNPP is here to stand. We are going to tackle the issue of insecurity from every border of the country.
I believe many people who are not members of our party today will soon join us. The party is growing so fast despite being less than four months old. I believe that before the general elections, some people will change their minds and join us because of what the other parties are doing. The APC and the PDP are coming down because they are not been fair to this country.
What is the overriding philosophy behind the Kwankwasiyya Movement which you lead?
Education, education and education, but that does not mean we are stopping there. What I meant is education is the key and in Kano State, we have done so well in almost all the areas that we can remember. If you go to Kano State now, it is looking different, even the enemies agree that Kwankwasiya is the architect of modern Kano State. There’s no question about it and I believe if we have government again in 2023 for Kano State and northern Nigeria, the sky will be our starting point even in other areas like agriculture, health, infrastructure and security. I am sure you don’t know that for the eight years I was governor, I never borrowed one naira from anybody. In 1999 when I was coming into Government House, we had billions of naira debt owed by the Kano State Government. The first thing we did was to settle the bill. When I was governor, in 2003, Kano was not indebted to anybody in this county or anyone or anywhere in the world. When I came back in 2011, I settled the money borrowed by successive government in four years and did all that you are seeing today in Kano. So, the management of resources is very key. Now, we have the federal and state governments borrowing money, when I know and I have proved it that there is no need to borrow for governance. So, all these things put together is the meaning of Kwankwasiyya.
How can governments survive without borrowing to finance governance?
I have done that before. What we need is the prudent management of resources. I don’t see any reason why this our government will go on borrowing all over the world. This means our future, including that of our children, is already been sold to Europeans and Americans; that means whatsoever they are going to do in the future, their hands are tied. We are told that whatever we are borrowing today is equivalent to what we are paying as interest tomorrow. So, it is unfortunate that leaders in this country are so careless and sometimes very selfish. They take money from everywhere without accountability. Unfortunately, these loans are to be paid in hard currency
What is the stage of your collaboration talks with LP and the others?
From the discussion that was going on, the issue is who the presidential candidate will be when the political parties come together at the end of the day. Some of our representatives thought there should be criteria in terms of age, qualification, offices held, performance, etc. Most of the people on the other side thought there was a belief that the presidency had to go to another part of the country. Nobody is against the presidency going to any part of the country because we are national politicians; we are not local politicians contesting for local government positions in the state. The population of the NNPP is built on an individual that the people believe in. Therefore, people of like minds decided to come and join me. Under that circumstance, the committee believes that if that person is not the presidential candidate, the implication is that we will only help another person in another political party in northern Nigeria (Atiku), which will not be in the best interest of the party.
I like people of the South-East so much that even this Kwankwasiyya you hear, many thought it is Okonkwo and Sons. They said because an Hausa man can’t say Okonkwo and sons, he now turned it to Kwankwaso. One thing the South-East must learn, in addition to many other things, is that the South-East is good in terms of business; very hard-working, industrious but one area they must learn is politics. They are at the bottom line of national politics. If you look at the situation, they have lost out in the APC and the PDP. They have no presidential, no vice-presidential candidate. The only opportunity the South-East has to be president or vice president is with the NNPP. Coincidentally, the party was registered by an Igbo man from Anambra State 21 years ago. It is even their party, and it is only that I took it up and my growth did not start from the South, it started from my local government area about 30 years ago in Kano State.
What will be your advice to the people of the South-East?
This is the golden opportunity they have. If they lose this opportunity, it will be a disaster even for the country because the young men and women there think they are being sidelined. I have attained my current position because I worked very hard based on thinking, planning and projection of things. That’s why I am relevant to my local government area, state, etc. What the South-East doesn’t know is that if they miss this opportunity, it will be a disaster for them because they will continue to say they are been marginalised but no one is marginalising them. Leaving the APC and the PDP was a strategy, and the South-East must learn how to play politics. If I decide to become vice president to anybody in this country, the NNPP will collapse.
Why will the NNPP collapse?
It is because it is based on what we built in the last 47 years of very serious hard work. Thirty years ago, I was Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives. Before then, I was in the civil service for 17 years. That is what is holding the NNPP now. Someone was telling me that even if our friend wants to withdraw to accept VP, some people in the South-East will not accept. This is not strategic. Look at what happened with some of our friends in the South-West; they are very strategic especially my friend, Bola Tinubu. Eight years ago, he was strategic enough to say, ‘You take it for eight years and after eight years, I will take’. Now, whatever happened in those eight years, at least, he is holding the ticket of the ruling party in the country now. So, people have to be strategic, otherwise the implication of the South-East not being part of the NNPP is the total marginalisation. But the question is who marginalised them? Nobody wants to take any blame, and they will start hanging it on the Yoruba, Hausa or the Fulani or some others.
As the politics is today, this is the only opportunity for the South-East. I love them and I want to work with them. If for example, under the equation, I’m supposed to be the vice-presidential candidate and it will add value to the ticket, I will be very happy. The job of the vice-president is a very big one, especially in a responsible government. When I was in Kano State as governor, my deputy governor, (Abdullahi) Ganduje, was everywhere doing everything. When I finished, despite all the odds, I handed over to him. I think the problem in the South-East is a political issue and it must be tackled politically. If it goes like that, the Igbo will continue to detain the Igbo every Monday (sit-at-home) and other people in the South-East and kill others because of additional frustration.
What do you think is the way out to stop the agitation in the South-East?
The best for the South-East is for them to come and partner, maybe after eight years, after our term, they will say, ‘This man is the best for the country because he has stopped the security challenges of the country’. Nigerians will say ‘these are the people’, and eight years is just like two years. Eight years will come but if you are not prepared for it, it will come and meet you worse than eight years ago. They (South-East) have to be strategic.
Can the proposed alliance be termed as dead as many have claimed?
We are still flexible on the issue of running mate up till 15th of this month (July). We are waiting to get the right person. I’m so happy that there are many Nigerians. We have many options in the NNPP in the South to choose a good vice-presidential candidate; one of them is the Labour Party man (Peter Obi). Left to me, if it will solve the problem of the South-East and minimise the challenges of the region to the barest level, that’s why the NNPP wants to take its vice-president (from there). Under normal circumstances, anytime we are sworn in, because the problem is political, he (vice-president) will call the people and sit with them. At least, someone is there. If he likes, he can talk to them in Igbo (language) and see how it can be resolved. I am from the northern part of Nigeria and of course, everyone can tell that the solution to the happenings in my region is at our fingertips. It is just about talking to the people. As I said, no one is talking to them (people of the South-East). The Nigerian security agencies are above all the bandits, terrorists we have seen. It is just a matter of doing the right thing. We have the answer at our fingertips. If we add the political will, our young men and women who are in uniform will go and do their job.