Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso is the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). In this interview, he speaks on the redesigning of some naira notes and its impact on the masses, among other issues. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM reports
Can you speak to Nigerians in respect to the difficulties they are experiencing at the moment, especially on the issue of the redesigned new Naira notes and the deadline given for the use of the old notes by Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)?
First of all, let me start by sympathising with the people of Nigeria, most especially the masses, who hustle day and night to earn a living in order to provide for the needs of their immediate families. In fact, this policy that was introduced at this critical time, especially when the general election is around the corner is something to be worried about because the period given by the government to change the old Naira notes to the new naira notes is not enough to meet up despite all the calls from different channels to extend the period given by the Federal Government which was only listened to two days to January 31 dateline.
One of the responsibilities of government is to subsidize for the people by providing security and protect the lives of the citizenry and also boost the economy to enable the citizens provide for the needs of their families. But upon all the advices we gave to the government of the day regarding this policy, it seems the government is not ready to adhere to them. But, we will not relent in our efforts.
The government of the day should realise that this is a democratic system of government, where those at the helm of affairs were voted in by the electorate but unfortunately the electorate are always at the receiving end. From all indications, the government is not really prepared for this policy. In fact, when we brought this kind of policy in Kano State when I was the governor, we realised that many local government areas in the state had no banks. That was why we provided 37 micro finance banks in 37 local government areas in the state, so that people will have access to banks within their locality.
That is for Kano State; most states have no provision for such banks. Most owners of shops in Kano State closed their shops and traders who engage in buying and selling, only God knows the loss they will be counting without this little adjustment on the January 31 deadline. For the politicians, who the masses want to change for good, most especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressives Congress (APC) who have been ruling this country for decades, this policy will not affect them because they own some of the banks.
What is the way out of this problem?
We are still advising the government of the day to look into the matter in order to find a lasting solution to this lingering problem to enable the masses and the common man have access to their banks in order to change the old naira notes to the new redesigned naira notes because as it is right now, there are allegations that most of these politicians have stashed their homes with the new Naira notes, which made it to be scarce even in the banks across the country. But we as a party, that is the NNPP, we have decided that when we emerge as winner in the presidential election come February 25, we will open a window where people will have access to the banks without any hitches to deposit their hard earned money because NNPP is a party that is much concerned about the plight of the common man and we will make sure that the common man will have all it takes to become self-reliant at all levels. That is why we are calling on Nigerians to be patient with all the situations they found themselves; it is just a matter of time.
Supposing you are the president of this country, will you support this policy?
Not at all because any policy that will not favour the common man we are not party to it. Those in government presently thought that with this policy, they will deprive others of their electioneering campaign. Honestly, if a serious government wants to redesign Naira notes, it should give enough time for people to meet up with that policy. What do you think would have happened if the deadline was not extended what do you think will happen at the end of the day. My advice to the masses is that they should keep their money and Permanent Voters Cards (PVCs) safe. They should endeavour to go to the polling units during the election to elect NNPP. Every party should come out with their manifestos and blueprints of what they will offer to Nigerians differently for people to vote them. Those parties you are seeing, I mean the APC and PDP, are birds of a feather. Their aim is to deprive Nigerians of their rights as citizens at all levels and that is why we in the NNPP came on board to kick them out, God willing, in the forthcoming election.
There are speculations that this policy was aimed at disrupting the elections. What is your take on that?
I don’t believe that. I have heard one of the presidential candidates saying that the policy was aimed at him, but it is all lies. Can’t you see some governors, ministers and the President going round with him and telling Nigerians to vote him? So, it wasn’t aimed at him. Let me tell you, the policy is aimed at us. As you can see, we have no access to this money but they do. We don’t have banks, all we have at our disposal is the common man and the common man has no bank either. So, at the end of the day, we are at the receiving end. In fact, they are birds of a feather that flock together as I mentioned earlier on. They have these new naira notes at their disposal for vote buying and at the end of the day, they will portray to Nigerians that all is well as far as the policy is concerned.
Do you think this policy will prevent vote buying as they presumed?
As a party, we are happy that we didn’t come out for money politics. Besides, we don’t even have the kind of money they have and we are not engaging in vote buying. We have the people who believe in our ideology and struggle and if we succeed, the success is for all of us. Those engaging in vote buying have the backing of the banks, governors and even the Federal Government. So, you can’t deprive them access to the new Naira notes. Furthermore, we in the opposition parties and the masses are at the receiving end because we have no access to the money.
If eventually you didn’t emerge as the winner in this race and those who want to change their money couldn’t, what will be their fate?
Almighty Allah will not even accept that prayer because Nigerians are suffering, especially in the northern part of the country, where the people are facing various kinds of challenges. Besides, Nigerians are angry and it is a good thing for them to be angry at this material time just the way I am angry too. So, I am advising Nigerians to come out en mass during the forthcoming elections to show those people that, they cannot do anything without the votes of the masses and that they cannot be where they are today without their votes. Nigerians should come out to exercise their franchise in order to have access to good education, good health care facilities and security to mention but a few. How can a serious government give its citizens just three months for the redesigning of the Naira? Honestly, this is unrealistic and not feasible and. That is why we are advising those in government to please come to the aid of the common man and save him from this suffering. Recently, I came across a young man on social media, who swore that if he fails to have access to change his old naira notes, he will join the terrorist group. So, please whenever anyone of you come in contact with him please advise him to keep his money safe but if eventually he succeeds in changing them to the new naira notes so be it. Let him do all he can for us to become victorious in order to come to his aid and he shouldn’t think of joining any terrorist group. Terrorism is not the last resort or option for a young man like him in order not to regret his action at the end of the day. In our own agenda, we condemn such act in totality and we won’t allow that to happen to anyone. That is why we are saying that people should keep their PVCs safe for NNPP to emerge and open a window for the common man to change his old Naira notes.
Some youths are saying they will stand firm and not allow any government to impoverish them; what will you say about that?
That is why I am always telling them to be patient and also keep their PVCs safe in preparation for the general election and they should keep it in their minds that this rubbish or nonsense will come and pass as it is just a matter of time. All they need to do is to elect those they feel will take them to the Promised Land. If not, a day will come when the common man will be impoverished. Thank God for the introduction of Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) which we believe will prevent electoral malpractices.