Kwankwaso: I’ll Never Step Down For Atiku Abubakar
*Promises to re-negotiate nation’s debt
*Says APC, PDP 24 years responsible for insecurity, woes
*Insists on restructuring, pledges to employ two million police, military
*NGE wants issue-based campaigns
Segun James and Oluchi Chibuzor
Presidential candidate of New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, has dismissed speculations that he may step down for his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar, in next year’s general election.
Kwankwaso, who was a guest at the Nigerian Guild of Editors (NGE) forum, yesterday, in Lagos, promised to renegotiate the country’s huge debt to move the country forward. He blamed the governing All Progressives Congress (APC) and the main opposition PDP, which have governed since the inception of the Fourth Republic in 1999, for Nigeria’s woes.
The former Kano State governor promised to restructure the country, if elected president next year, joining the growing clamour for such structural rearrangement.
But NGE reiterated its advice to politicians to campaign on issues, instead of personalities.
Kwankwaso stated, “Some people are saying that I am stepping down for Atiku, why then did I leave the party? These are the issues. The problem with that party is that there are so many people, who believe that they are highly privileged. In democracy, people are free to follow any political party.
“You cannot sit there and start dictating that one I like, he is going to be the presidential candidate or that one I don’t like him.
“Now, people are concocting the story that I am going to step down for them or that I am going to withdraw for them. Why did they allow me to go? What happened at that time or was it still an issue in the party?”
Kwankwaso said his ideology and experience were different from those of his opponent, stressing that his long political experience has taught him how to manage public resources, and given him an advantage over other contestants.
Speaking on the recently privatised Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited, the former governor said, said, “Of course, we are happy that it’s now a law to make sure that the NNPC is moved forward and we are very committed to involving the private sector in this country. We will support the bill and do whatever it takes to make sure that the oil and gas industry is better for the interest of each and everyone of us.”
If elected, he said, his government would be open to the yearning of the people, especially as it concerned constitution review
“Now, on the issue of constitution, as I said earlier, we are open to discussion each and everyday to listen to you and if Nigerians require a new constitution, we will be very happy to follow our process to get it done,” he stated.
Kwankwaso added, “But the fact remains that from my own experience in the last two decades; the problem has not mainly been that of constitution, but the operators, which we believe by 2023 we will have the right people to handle the constitution.”
Addressing his defection from the ruling party to the opposition, he noted that the difference in ideology and governance led him to seek his presidential ambition in another party.
Kwankwaso stated, “I think you know that they are not servicing the interest of the majority of Nigerians, but just underline what I said. You see the PDP and APC put together, that is about 24 years, are responsible for the mismanagement of the Nigerian resources.
“I had all the experiences, when we formed PDP in 1998; it was not based on anything rather than issue-based matters. Mainly all of us came together that the military had to go, it was only after then we started to see issues and we believe the leadership at that time failed.
“Of course, the privileged people now can argue now that even the bad PDP is better than the APC. That was why I felt that PDP was lucky even kicking out its members, including my humble self, Peter Obi, even Wike. They were kicking everybody, because they think once you get the PDP ticket, they still see it as 1999. The children born from 1999 are the ones now in charge of polling units, and so on and so forth.”
On Nigeria’s debt profile and how he was going to fund his manifesto, Kwankwaso stated, “We have to sit down in negotiations and whatever it is, we have to have fresh air so that we can even pay them. These are things I believe that are necessary to do; whatever we can to handle the debt issues.”
Kwankwaso also spoke on insecurity and how he was going to solve the menace, which he agreed had hindered the economic development of the country. He said more personnel were needed to curb the situation.
According to him, “We will contribute more to the society and in politics through services for the economy and ensure deployment of huge resources to employ more security personnel. So, we are going to employ about one million of police and one million of the military to help solve the insecurity issues.
“There are many places, villages and towns, where people have been chased away, many people have lost their livelihoods, and some are living in the IDP camps. The issue of insecurity affects almost everyone, especially, the economy, infrastructure, because they are in a place, where contractors will not be able to get to. So, many abandoned projects, farmers are not on the farms. No development in Nigeria unless we solve the issue of insecurity.”
He observed that his interaction with wrong people in PDP led him to cross to another party, saying, “And, fortunately, since that time, in my opinion, the leadership has been coming down, except probably the government of Obasanjo, whom I believe has done so much to make sure that all this issue of insecurity and, being a minister of defence, I know his position; what was being done to bring sanity and peace to Nigeria and to the economy.
“It was only at that time there was cancellation of payment of debts in this country. Now, debt is coming into Nigeria on daily basis. In 1999, we had no problem forming the party, PDP; it was when we started that we realised that we were together with some wrong people, we sought change and we came to APC.
“At that time, we were happy that we were going to bring some positive changes but unfortunately, as time went on, some of us, who have worked hard were declared as people who should not be close to the government.”
Kwankwaso said his party remained the best alternative for Nigerians at the forthcoming elections, saying, “The issue is, do they have the right calibre of people to run a good government and we are so happy that we are outside now doing the right thing for the country. So, I believe leadership is very key to the country.
“I am one of those, who support the 13 per cent derivation and we will ensure it is increased adequately. On the issue of restructuring, our position in the party has been very clear. We believe that there are things that must be done as soon as possible once we have the opportunity.”
President of NGE, Mr. Mustapha Isah, said the forum was designed to provide the candidates an opportunity to address editors on their policies and programmes ahead of the elections. Isah said the editors would also use the forum to seek clarification on different issues and ask critical questions on national issues that concern the common man.
The NGE president stated, “Senator Kwankwaso, Nigerian youths are agitated. They are rightly aggrieved and they want to know what plans you have for them if elected as president of this great country. We want you to use this forum to speak on the plans you have for them.
“The Nigerian Guild of Editors pleads with politicians to avoid attacks on individuals. They should, rather focus on issues, the real issues concerning the ordinary people. We want issue-based campaigns.
“Let me use this opportunity to urge the presidential candidates to call their spokespersons to order. Some of their press statements and interviews are heating up the polity. Maybe, they should be made to sign a peace accord as well, just as the presidential candidates did in Abuja recently.
“We noticed that the candidates themselves hardly attack one another. They exchange pleasantries whenever and wherever they meet. This is maturity. Their spokespersons should learn from them. To my colleagues, you are not bound to use any toxic press statement sent to you.”