The New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) is currently seen as a contender in next year’s general election. Though registered almost 20 years ago, the party has been witnessing upsurge in membership and appeal in recent times. The National Chairman of the party, Professor Rufa’I Alkali, in this interview with OLAOLU OLADIPO, talked about the ongoing debate for the impeachment of President Muhammadu Buhari by the National Assembly, the prospects of the party as well as sundry issues. Excerpts:
How would you assess INEC’s preparations as well as efforts being made by your party to win the forthcoming general elections?
Honestly I can tell you that we are very happy with the progress being made by our party in the past few months. We are proud of our progress (as a political party) and we are happy with Nigerians who have shown love and encouragement towards our party in order to establish the best for our great country. Frankly speaking, I used to tell people in discussions that for a long time there is this agitation on their part to identify with a very good party. We have no doubt that Nigerians desire change. They need real change and this is the time for that. The NNPP has come on board as the deciding factor in the 2023 general election.
What about the preparations being made by INEC?
INEC has been very innovative and creative by always coming out with new ideas on how to bring credibility to the electoral process. These ideas come with their own challenges but we as a party are keenly watching the activities of INEC. On our part as a party, we are always coming up with something new in terms of how we manage the affairs of our party. So far, we are making progress, and I do believe that Nigerians should expect the best in the forthcoming election.
You talked about change, what kind of change is your party promising Nigerians to convince the people to vote for you?
Even a visitor to the country will appreciate that Nigeria has changed from what it used to be. This is not the Nigeria that you and I are used to. We know that Nigeria has a long history of challenges and obstacles that we have been managing in the past but what we are facing as a people and country today are peculiar and new and difficult. Life has become very unbearable to the average Nigerian. Everyone is crying of hunger and insecurity. Surely, we cannot continue as a nation like this, therefore any party that deserves the votes of Nigerians must offer much for their votes. Nigeria is different from the way it has been. As you know, things are hard but as you also know, I am not the one saying it but Nigerians are the ones saying it. We have lost our focus as a country. We have even lost our direction too. Sincerely, this is not the way to run a big country such as Nigeria.
From the way you’ve spoken, you are indicting the incumbent APC led government of non-performance. Does your party support the growing calls by Nigerians that President Muhammadu Buhari should resign or that the National Assembly should impeach him?
When you talk of indicting it means I am expressing my personal opinion suggesting that I am saying this or that. This is not true but if that is the case then it is rather unfortunate that I am not saying that. What I am saying is that the voice of many Nigerians including your is that the situation we have at hand is not something to be proud of. On the issue of impeachment, I have always maintained that impeachment can never be the solution to the problems plaguing the country. I am not defending the ruling party or President Buhari, and I do know that the process of impeachment is long and labourous and full of tension and uncertainty. The problem is that when you kick start a process then you have to complete it. Now we are facing elections just in the next few months and when you start the impeachment process, the question is when are you going to finish it? The issue is that, what are the implications of these impeachment processes on election planning? Yes! Maybe the National Assembly is genuinely concerned with the state of the country. Yes! They have the necessary instruments that can solve the problems but I believe that the time is not right for anyone to do that. Nigeria needs stability to be able to conduct the forthcoming elections. What we should be doing now is to ensure that the election and the transition period should be smooth.
Now that you are ruling out the possibility of impeachment, will it be right for your party to call for the resignation of President Buhari from office in view of the worsening state of insecurity in the country?
As a party what we are so preoccupied with for now is how to win the forthcoming general elections. Any political party calling for the resignation or impeachment of the president is merely afraid of the election. We are not afraid of the elections. In fact we are very ready for the election. We are focused on that and anything that will divert or distract our attention from that we won’t entertain.
It was rumoured that the Presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Mr. Peter Obi, was in alliance talks with your party, from your vantage position can you tell us why the talks broke down?
You see, political parties are not run on the pages of newspapers. Strategic planning, reaching out are done behind closed doors. What I can see now is a lot of drama, loads of razzmatazz regarding NNPP having an alliance with the Labour Party and that it broke down. You hardly hear our party say anything about this because we are a very serious party. We are more concerned about results than the process. Talks with other political parties are not something we splash on the pages of newspapers. Democracy in the country is relatively young though it can be stronger than what it is currently. At the same time our doors are wide open to any political party seeking to work with us and such parties must share our ideals, programmes and philosophy. Our discussion with any other party is going to be a continuous process.
How do you react to suggestions that your party is a regional one and that NNPP is not too popular in the South and the North Central?
These are speculations and innuendoes being peddled by some people. You are just rehashing what other people are saying but if anyone says that the NNPP is not a national party such a person has not woken up from slumber and if I must tell you the person who set up this party is from Anambra State. His name is Boniface Aniebonam. He is not from Gombe or Kano State. Right now, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of our party is from Anambra State. His name is Air Vice Marshal Ikeleje. We have national officers from across the country. We have candidates emerging and contesting for various offices and at various levels.
These are people contesting at regular INEC scheduled elections and not during off season. We are moving gradually because we are determined and focused. The kind of goodwill that we are getting from Nigerians along the way is unprecedented. Our presidential candidate, Engineer Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso has been meeting with people and groups from across the country.
He (Kwankwaso) picked a highly educated clergyman to run with him. Our party is not a regional one. It is not a personal one either. Rather, it is a pan-Nigerian political party and we are proud of our composition, our structure and organisation. We have members all over the country who are committed to our cause. Those who are bandying this story of NNPP being a regional party are merely afraid of us. The question now is, who is afraid of us? The earlier they realise that the NNPP is here to stay, the better for them. For us, we are marching on forcefully. When you look at the two major parties… (Cuts in) No! There are three big political parties in the country as we speak. I mean NNPP and others.
Do you think that your party is well positioned or primed to stage an upset against the ruling APC and the main opposition party, the PDP, next year?
Of course, there are smaller political parties in this country that do not have the mass appeal that we have. They do not have the structure that we have. They do not have the reach that we have. They do not also have the right kind of quality leadership that we have but they are also talking and thinking of getting into power the way we are also thinking of. NNPP is a very strong party with membership and structures across the country. I know that we are good to go. We are reliable. We are even waiting for the election to start. We have a huge support base of student organisations and non-governmental organisations. Many people have been besieging our offices begging us to assign roles to them when electioneering campaigns begin.
What are your expectations for next year’s general elections?
We love democracy and we are very passionate about it. We must also follow laid down rules that guide our conduct as individuals and groups. Law and order are very important ingredients needed for sustaining democracy. As you know, INEC is doing its best and political parties themselves are doing their best but we need security for the conduct of the forthcoming election. All political parties must come together to ensure that the process is not in any way undermined.