By Omoniyi Salaudeen
Senator Rufai Hanga is a leading member of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) in Kano State. In this interview, he gave a glimpse of what the outcome of the 2023 presidential poll could be, postulating the possibility of a rerun.
The 2023 presidential contest is getting more and more exciting day by day. Would you say that the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) truly represents the third force that people aspire to?
This is the third force that people have been waiting for. You know, I talked about this long ago before a Third Force came and when it does it will be a miracle. For me, it is already a miracle. It is not a newly registered party, it was registered about 20 years ago and no one has ever heard of it. But by the time we adopted it in less than two months, it has spread to nooks and crannies across the country and it continues to spread and grow. We have so many things that made sure we won the next presidential election.
How would you explain its acceptance so quickly?
It’s because people are tired of APCs and PDPs. There is nothing you can say to responsible and well-meaning Nigerians who care about the situation in the country – insecurity, poverty, unemployment, educational collapse, economic downturn and so many other things – about ‘APC and PDP they will listen to you. People rejected PDP because of its abysmal performance and embraced APC. Now the APC has even done worse than the PDP. It is therefore difficult to trust one or the other of the two parties. In the midst of this situation, surely, people will want to experiment, especially knowing that the people who formed the NNPP are people of blameless character. That’s why people adopted it.
If NNPP was registered over 20 years ago as you said, why did it remain underground?
It has existed for a long time like the Accord Party and so many others. You know that some parties that had no appreciable representation had been deregistered by the INEC, but the NNPP stayed afloat because it managed to win a seat in Bauchi. Someone won a National Assembly seat from Bauchi on the NNPP platform and that is why he remains afloat. There are also other parties that have pockets of seats here and there, but they are not as popular as the NNPP.
Who were the masterminds behind his training?
The mastermind behind this is an Anambra leader, Dr. Boniface Okechukwu. He recorded it. He’s 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 presidential candidate, while he (Dr. Okechukwu) is now the chairman of the board of directors (BOT) of the party.
How will you convince the electorate that the NNPP represents a clean break from the past since most leading members like you have at one time or another dined and drunk with the two main parties?
The difference is that most of the people who formed the NNPP are the people who were ostracized by the APC and the PDP because they are not comfortable with the ideologies of both parties. They had disagreements with them on so many issues and so they had to separate from them and form another party. Besides these people, we also have other like-minded people, who have never been in politics before, but are now coming into the fold. There are many professors in universities, some civil servants and businessmen who have observed the events in the country. We have encouraged them to enter politics and many of them have answered the call and they are coming to embrace the party. Most of them are new politicians coming together to save the day and save the nation. So it’s not going to be business as usual.
There’s a lot of rhetoric here. Concretely, what will you do differently if you are given the opportunity to lead the country?
We bring integrity on board, we bring openness on board, level playing field, level playing field, fairness, fairness and justice. This is why we adopted the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). We want a new Nigeria where people are equal, where there is fairness, where there is fairness, where people will have a say in what concerns them.
You talked about integrity. But in governance, integrity is like a promissory note. You remember President Muhammadu Buhari came on board in 2015 on the Crest of Integrity. With the current state of affairs, do you think anyone can sway voters with rhetoric of integrity?
People adopted Buhari because they thought he could do it. But we’re onboarding people who’ve done it before and we’re sure they’ll do it again. That’s the difference. Even when Buhari had the opportunity to do so, he was not the main player; he was just a figurehead. He wasn’t the actual actor. NNPP people are the real doers and that’s why we are sure to bring integrity as they are people with proven skills.
Can you now boast that the party will have a stronghold in the Southeast since the founder is an Anambra man as you mentioned earlier?
To tell the truth, the stronghold of the party is not in the Southeast. But he has his roots there and a good following. The stronghold of the party is now mainly in the North. In the whole of the North, I don’t think there’s a state where we don’t have a significant number of supporters. I assure you; the party will come first or second in the whole North. In the southern part, there are also states where we will arrive either first or second. I don’t want to be overambitious in saying we’ll be first anywhere in the south. But in the North, I think we’ll be first in most states.
You might have been expected to seize the opportunity of this auspicious moment to formalize a strong alliance with the South East using your new idea of a new and evolving Nigeria as a vehicle. Why is it not so?
We chat with Peter Obi, but the conversation is stalled by a small disagreement over who the presidential candidate and running mate should be. Otherwise, it would have been consumed. We have problems, but not too serious. I hope we will agree later. Peter Obi’s people want him to be the presidential candidate, and we want Kwankwaso to be the presidential candidate. Someone who brings more food to the table is supposed to be the candidate. From our side, we believe that Kwankwaso will bring more food to the table because, by qualification and experience, Kwankwaso is more experienced. Peter Obi is also educationally qualified, but Kwankwaso is an engineer and a Ph.D. holder, who has held several positions as a two-term Governor of Kano State, as Deputy Speaker of the House of representatives, as a member of the Constitutional Conference, as Ambassador, Minister of Defense and Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. In all these positions, he behaved very well. He succeeded in many missions entrusted to him as an ambassador. During the constitutional conference, he interacted with many 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 does not have much governance experience and is even much younger than Kwankwao. That’s why we say Peter Obi should be the running mate to sometimes learn more under Kwankwaso and then take over after Kwankwaso completes his terms. But just because of the feeling about the power shift, they don’t want to agree. Peter Obi has just joined the Labor Party; it does not have the party structure. I don’t think there’s a state in the North where the Labor Party has a gubernatorial candidate, where it has local government chairmen, where it has state and national assembly members . But we have them all over the country. So how can he come and ask Kwankwaso to come over and be his running mate just because of the sense of power shift to the Southeast? It’s wrong, it’s unfair, it’s unfair. If only Peter Obi and his people agree with us, we can walk together and have a covenant. But if they don’t, there are plenty of other people who show up to be the running mates. We will choose a credible candidate among them. Certainly, Peter Obi is a man of integrity, very intelligent, solid in economics and business. He will be useful in the post of vice-president because he will be the president of the Economic Council. If he can introduce himself as a running mate, everything will be fine. In a few days, you will hear from us because we have not finalized our discussion. We have a lot of credible people in line to take it.
It is also in the news that APC has approached your party for an alliance. How far did you go on that too?
We are not engaged in any merger discussions with APC or PDP, but they have both contacted us. They want our cooperation; they want us to go together. How is it 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; he has no candidates for all positions in Jigawa and Katsina states because people are not interested in tickets. They know they won’t win. Even in Kano, people know they will waste their money if they choose PDP tickets. Despite the propaganda that they will win the elections, people have not bought their forms. How do you expect us to accept PDP when they have no candidates? We can claim the whole of the North and some pockets of Southern states. Even in the southwest, we have very strong support in Oyo and Ogun states. We have strong support in Delta States, Akwa Ibom and some other South-South States. None of these three parties can alone obtain a majority of 2/3 of the votes. There will be a replay. And this is where the alliance will come into play to obtain the simple majority required by the constitution. That’s what we’re counting on. The question of gaining APC does not arise. It will not 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 have no confidence in INEC despite the perceived improvement in its performance in recent elections in Ekiti and Anambra States?
They don’t hold elections in Borno and Yobe, they only write results there. INEC’s performance is improving, but there is nothing they can do in Borno and Yobe. There was Boko Haram in Borno and Yobe in previous elections. More than 12 local governments were in the hands of Boko Haram. Yet they produced results that were impossible in Borno. Where did they get the results? Who came to vote? How would they have voted when people were there in the IDP camps and in Cameroon? So they must have written down the results.
With the electronic transmission of results, do you think this is still possible?
Let’s wait and see.