RABIU KWANKWASO: We Aren’t Anticipating Run-off in 2023 Presidential Election
Since 1991 when he emerged Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, the presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party, Dr. Rabiu Kwankwaso, has no doubt been a leading figure in Nigeria’s political space. From 1999 when he was first elected the governor of Kano State to 2003 when he was appointed the Minister of Defence, 2011 when he returned as the governor of Kano State and finally 2015, when he emerged the Senator for Kano Central, Kwankwaso has served in virtually all political offices that matter in the federation except the Office of the President. In this interview with Gboyega Akinsanmi, Kwankwaso discusses the rationale behind his presidential aspiration; his strategies to guarantee security of lives and assets nationwide; his action plan to decisively address economic and fiscal headwinds that have practically undermined public governance in the last seven and half years and the reasons he defected from the Peoples Democratic Party and All Progressives Congress, two leading political parties he helped establish in 1998 and 2013 respectively
You have been migrating from one political party to another in the last 23 years—from PDP to APC, now in NNPP. What informed your movement to different political parties at different times?
In 1998, we started the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party was not in any way based on any ideology. Rather, it was based on the fact that we were sick and tired of military rule. So, we brought people together from all sides of the divide, ideologically. When we started running the government in 1999, we realised this gap. We also realised that given the opportunity again, we should not have been on the same political platform with so many people. This is purely because these are the people, who only believe in themselves alone. They believe that whatever the government has belongs to them. But some of us believe otherwise. We believe that the resources of this country belong to all of us. We then had running battles to the extent that in 2003, I lost elections in Kano State. Of course, that was one of the reasons I lost elections in Kano State in 2003 as a sitting governor. When I left Kano for eight years. The good people of Kano State noted that the four years I was in the government were better than the eight years of my immediate predecessor. In 2011, therefore, with all the support of the federal government, then the PDP government, the good people of Kano State came out in good numbers and voted for me based on my performance during my first term. Do not forget then that the local and state governments were under the opposition party, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, now defunct. I went back to the Government House in 2011. The lesson learnt there was that the situations then brought or forced us together. I believe that the arrangement was not the best because the reality was that we could not work together. That was why we thought of a change in 2013 because the PDP was not working. In the name of progressives, we brought people together; formed the All Progressives Congress (APC) and won the elections on this platform.
Unfortunately, the situation, based on all assessments, was that many people were of the opinion that the PDP we left was even better than the APC we formed. So, that was where the confusion first started. We felt we needed a political party, which is based on new thinking, new Nigeria. That is why we decided to pitch our tent with the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). I am happy that within a short period of time, the leadership that we have from top to bottom was able to do our membership registration within one month or two. We were able to elect the leaders of the party from the ward to the national level. We were also able to have credible candidates now, almost 100 per cent, across the federation. We are happy that people share our vision. That is why our party today is the most peaceful party in the country. When you compare it to all the known serious parties, we rank first in terms of peace. Peace is key because if you do not have peace, you will destroy yourself like we saw in Kano State in 2003. Now, we are so happy. We are good to go. Even when many people believe that if there will be an election today or tomorrow, there will be no straightforward winner. This may be true. But in NNPP, we believe in the next few months from now to February 25, the NNPP will be above all other parties. We are not anticipating any run-off election in the 2023 presidential poll. That is why we left APC and PDP because they were not based on any ideology. They are not based on any belief. We have so many people who are anti-progress in their ranks.
What actually distinguishes the NNPP from the other political parties you once belonged to at different times in our recent history?
First, the manifesto of the party clearly separates us from other political parties in the country. Second, our own blueprint is a major distinguishing factor. Third, the people who are in the party are completely different. We left those parties because of the nature of the people there. I am sure they will not join us because they do not believe in what we believe. For example, you may not know these people closely. Many of them have big names. If you are talking of water supply, however, they are thinking of water supply to their houses or their guest houses. If you are talking of education, they are thinking of their children, not even their neighbours’ children. If you are talking of electricity, they want to take all the money to buy generators to power their houses, even if it is the only house in their ward or local government. If you are talking of security, they are just after their own security. They want to take all the money and pay the Divisional Police Officer or Commissioner of Police to give them a battalion of police officers. So, we are completely different in approach, belief and nature. Now that all these things have happened, I see the wisdom in creating many parties so that people of similar beliefs, ideologies or visions can be in the same party. Those who have different opinions, of course, can go to other parties. That is the beauty of democracy. Before 2019, we were having close to 100. Probably, there are too many. Now, we have 18. If you are satisfied with any of the parties, you can join it. For us, both APC and PDP are the same thing, especially now that they have common achievements: failing our people and failing our nation. For us, those who want to maintain the status quo should go to APC or PDP.
You are contesting the presidential poll at a time when most Nigerians think the presidency should return to the South in the interest of fairness, justice, and peace. Don’t you share a moral burden that no northerner should contest the next presidential poll? As a northerner, why do you want to replace an outgoing president from the North?
This is the belief of several people. Many of them are politicians. They are so lazy. They want a short cut. They want to get positions based on sentiments. Some will talk about religion, many will talk about ethnicity, others talk about region or zoning. We do not believe in all these sentiments. What we believe is that there are now 18 political parties currently in this country. Each political party will sit down and decide on who goes where. Which position goes here or there? PDP, for example, has an arrangement to rotate key positions between North and South. That is the calculation of the PDP. For APC that is just finishing its eight years in the presidential villa, definitely, the general thinking favours the South. The decision of electing or selecting a presidential flag bearer rests squarely on the political party.
Our political party believes that we should pick the best presidential candidate either from the North or the South. We came together and by coincidence I happened to be thought of as the best by members of our political party. Our party believes that I am the best in the country, especially when you compare my candidature and that of my vice-presidential candidate on the one hand and that of other political parties on the other hand. Based on our credibility, achievement, ideology and other considerations, we are the best. That is why we are hoping that there should be debates and everybody should put his cards on the table for Nigerians to choose the best. In our party, we do not go and bring somebody from anywhere as long as he is not the best. So, that is the position of our party. You can see that we are making a lot of progress. Within eight months, NNPP is everywhere including your village.
What is the guarantee you can win the presidential contest, especially because your political platform is relatively unknown nationwide until your emergence as the presidential candidate of NNPP some months ago?
The 2023 elections will be based mainly on the character and capacity of the candidates and probably not on the issues of political party. Understanding this point, that is why we decided to put our best now only on the presidential and vice-presidential candidates, but down to the level of the State House of Assembly. We are very conscious of the quality of our candidates. Now, we have the best across the federation. Now, we have almost 100 per cent of our candidates across the country. We are very happy about that. In life, there is nothing like a guarantee. I can assure you of one thing. We are the best as far as today is concerned. We believe that it is just a matter of time that Nigeria will come to terms with reality. The reality is that APC and PDP have not done well. Everybody knows that we have the best candidates comparatively, irrespective of whatever criteria you put on the table.
If you win, what will you do differently? What distinguishes you from other candidates seeking to be President of Nigeria?
We have experienced failure in the last two decades. Failure is the main issue. We cannot continue to be a failure. And the failure of leadership is very expensive to each and every one of us. That is why we decided to join NNPP and work for the party. By the grace of God, this party is becoming the first among equals in the country today. By early next year, I believe, and have no iota of doubt that we will be the first party irrespective of any criteria you may wish to consider. We will continue to support the party. At the end of the day, we believe our party is going to succeed. We are different in all positive areas, ranging from ideology to capacity to deliver. We believe we can provide enough security for the country. We know clearly what we intend to do and how we are going to do it. We will increase the number of our military officers to about one million. We will also increase the number of police officers to about the same number. Of course, we will increase the number of intelligence operatives, civil defence corps and our entire security outfits that we have in this country. Also, we will talk to everybody including the IPOB and Boko Haram. We will talk and dialogue with every group that wants to talk to us. After the talking, certainly, the government must take action because there must be peace in the country because many of our people are out of their houses, towns and villages. Some are in the IDP camps. Some are killed while in the hospitals. Some are even sick in their IDP camps. We will take necessary actions to guarantee the security of lives and assets. I am aware of the issue of the economy. We know how to tackle it whether from the angle of security or otherwise. We all know that insecurity is one of the main issues fuelling our economic challenges. There are many things we want to do including in the education sector. So, many people will be involved in the education sector as lecturers, teachers and non-teaching staff in all the institutions that we have. Millions of people are going to be engaged either as workers or as students across the country. We believe that we have adequate resources to fund the military, security and education. We also believe there are enough resources in this country to protect ourselves.
In Nigeria, most people believe votes do not count. This has been a major source of concern for most Nigerians, especially candidates contesting on the opposition platforms. Do you share the same concern? Do you have confidence in the country’s electoral process?
Going by what happened in 2019 in Kano State, we do not actually have any confidence in the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). We believe we won the 2019 elections in Kano State at all levels. But INEC imposed the minority on the majority. Of course, they were not working alone. They worked with security agencies and even the judiciary itself. We are not happy with what happened then because there were more facts that we won that election. However, the last elections we had in Anambra, Ekiti and Osun brought in a glimpse of hope. We believe that INEC is now becoming more serious. I hope they will be more serious, especially during the 2023 elections. Right now, we have some cases in Kano State and elsewhere. The agents of APC are going round to collect PVCs from the poor people, giving them peanuts in exchange. We caught some people. We took them to police stations. I think they said they would take them to court. We are watching the development. I think Nigerians should watch the political parties, INEC and security agencies closely. If we do not watch them, then we will let them be comfortable and the rigging would start. But, at least, to some extent, we now have some level of confidence in them. We will keep on watching them.
Nigeria is in the throes of critical fiscal crises that have paralysed governance nearly at all levels. As a result, governments cannot perform their basic obligations. With these stark fiscal realities, how do you intend to address the country’s fiscal challenges?
In a situation where we have serious security issues, the level of resources we get from oil itself has gone down drastically. From the projected two million barrels per day, we are getting a little below one million barrels per day. This is less than half of what we should be supplying to the market. By aggressively plugging areas of wastage and theft, we will be able to address these challenges. With security, farmers will be able to go to their farms. Businesspeople will be able to go about their activities without fear of disruption. People are likely to bring investments from outside. Even our indigenous investors will inject more funds at home. We will improve our infrastructure. We will ensure corruption is forced to the absolute minimum. Then with discipline and efficient management of resources, cutting of costs and wastage in government itself, we will reduce our fiscal crises and steadily improve our fiscal reality. Naturally, we would encourage the independent Central Bank to use its monetary policy tools to target inflation and that way both mechanisms will amongst other things, help drive the economy in the right direction.
What do you think is or are responsible for the security challenges in the country? How do you intend to fix them, if eventually elected?
The security situation is unacceptable across the federation. No part of this country is completely secure. But we will handle our security challenges, adopting different approaches. First, we need to engage additional security operatives. Second, we need to apply technology to fight insecurity. Third, we will use our local intelligence because we will carry everybody along including political parties. We have our own way of taking care of our people across the country because that is one of the areas our government is not doing well. We are likely to get a lot of information even from the Niger Republic because they will have confidence in us. If we have enough intelligence, if we have enough military and security agencies and if we have enough equipment necessary to address insecurity, I believe the issues of armed attacks like Boko Haram, banditry and kidnapping will be a thing of the past. We will put in everything including creation of job opportunities for young men and women and attacking the drug issue that has become fashionable today. In the course of our campaign, we have seen many young men and women who are unfortunately into drugs. Of course, these are things we have to stop.
Some leaders believe Nigeria may break up without re-organising its federal governance structure or ceding more obligations and powers to the sub-national governments. Do you share the fear of these leaders? Are you receptive to restructuring? How do you intend to address their fears about the future of Nigeria if elected?
We are sincerely open to all requests, grievances from all interests across the federation. We are ready to sit down and discuss them, especially when we assume office come May 29, 2023. We will engage all these agitators. At least, most of them are Nigerians. In this country, we should have peace. We will sit down with everybody. We are open to restructuring. But we must note that the president alone cannot restructure Nigeria. We have due process that we must follow. Along the line, we will stand by whatever Nigerians decide. I can tell you that if we are elected, all these issues will disappear because most of them are political. You can see the equation now. How many are talking about restructuring now, even in the South? There are not quite many. People have kept quiet, even the Indigenous People of Biafra. If they are, they are not certainly as before. We will look at all these issues on restructuring through engagement. We are also open to discussion.
Under previous administrations, Nigerians largely believe the rule of law is relatively weak and selective. Under the current administration, it is evidently worse. How do you plan to strengthen the country’s justice sector?
Judiciary, which is one of the three arms of government, is very important. If we fail in any arm of government, definitely, it will affect the government generally and of course negatively. That is why we will not disrupt or interrupt the judiciary. Rather, we work with the judiciary closely. We will look at all the issues that affect the judiciary. We will work together; see what their challenges are and address those challenges together so that every Nigerian should get justice under any circumstance. Without justice, we continue to experience most of these things that are happening. They will tell you that their problem is the police. There was no justice. All the issues of national concern must be addressed so that we will not run into more problems. On the one hand, we will look at all the issues on how to support the judiciary and ensure that they are given all they are required within the limit of our resources. Together with them, we will look at what are the things we are going to do so that we can get the judiciary right and also get the country right. Of course, from my experience, being a former senator, former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, they see me as one of them. We will sit together with them to do the right thing for the country.