New Telegraph

Only selfless leadership’ll save Nigeria –Dantalle

Alhaji Yusuf Mamman Dantalle is the National Chairman of Allied Peoples Movement (APM). In this interview, he speaks on his party’s chances in the forthcoming general election and other national issues. JOHNCHUKS ONUANYIM reports

The 2023 general election is just a few month away, how prepared is your party for the polls?

First, we must understand that the APM is a young party and it is also not in government. We all know that party politics in Nigeria is about resources because our election is a bit expensive. So, what we are doing in the APM is how we can use the social media and other modern technology for the membership drive.

Don’t forget that you people were here last week when the party had its national convention and the essence of that convention was to reposition the party towards the challenges of 2023 and that is why we also introduced a new constitution, so as to accommodate some of the flaws that mitigate against the party’s fortunes in the past. I believe we are in the process of having the first National Working Committee (NWC) meeting for the new national officers and then have our National Executive Committee (NEC) to see how we can work on the road map, which is already in the incubation and for the public consumption at the moment. So, as soon as that is done, we will get to the media to get across to Nigerians.

Do you have candidates for the forthcoming election?

We have candidates in almost all the elective offices. One of the problems we had earlier was the new system where political parties were to upload the names of their candidates to the website of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). We had a little challenge, but I say it is not INEC’s fault because they trained us on how to do it but somehow, we like some other parties couldn’t meet up with the deadline. So, for that reason we were not able to have more than 70 per cent uploading of the names of candidates to the system. That is what happened, but substantially, we have candidates for the general election.

What are the positions that you have candidates?

For the presidency, we are there. For the governorship, at least we have about 90 per cent. The National Assembly is where we have some challenges but in the states Assembly, we are well represented.

But your presidential candidate is rarely heard like we have those of the Labour Party (LP), All Progressives Congress (APC), Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP). What are her chances?

Let me start by telling you that we are the only party that is fielding a female presidential candidate among the 18 political parties and she is a successful business woman. Because of the challenges of the presidential campaign, she needs to take care of her health and she is expected back any moment from now. Her silence is part of our process of warming up for the rigours of the presidential campaign.

In view of the huge financial challenges of running the 2023 presidential election, what is the financial status of the APM, will you consider to go into alliance with a political party with similar ideology?

Primarily, the focus of any political party is to acquire power for the purpose of running the affairs of the state on behalf of the citizens. Mark Weber said that ‘power is the probability that one acts on within the social relation is able to exact his will despite resistance regardless of whatever basis such probability lies.’ So, what is important is whatever we know we can do within the ambit of the law that includes merger, coalition, going alone cannot be ruled out. Again, it is not just the party but the candidate, the capacity of the individual in question is also important. We should ask some valid questions including what kind of friends the candidate has and what they can bring on board. By the time the campaigns start, we will see what they will bring on board, but I am assuring you that APM will do the needful and ensure that we change the status quo in the next election by the grace of God.

What are your expectations from INEC concerning the elections?

I am not trying to patronize INEC, but under the leadership of Prof. Mahmood Yakubu, INEC has done very greatly. The transformation is very inspiring and I know that 90 per cent of the political parties have confidence in INEC as it is constituted today. The new innovation, Bimodal Voters Accreditation System (BVAS) and electronic transmission of results have built confidence in the system. Though, we are trying to see if we can discuss with INEC to also have the collation of results also done electronically just as we have in the operation of banks. But above all, most political parties have confidence in the preparedness of INEC.

Beyond the fact that you are the national chairman of a political party, you are also a Nigerian. If you are to support any of the leading candidates, who among them do you think has what it takes to pull Nigeria out of the woods?

Number one, I will say that Nigeria should come first before any political party, and before any manifesto. So, for now, I will not say it is this or that candidate, my own candidate is also qualified. She is a successful business woman and you need someone who has achieved in the private sector because it is an area you learn how to make three out of one. Therefore, I won’t look at any other candidate other than the candidate of the APM to win the election.

What is your view on the proposed Electoral Offences Commission (EOC)?

In my own opinion as a Nigerian, as a politician and a nationalist, I have said this before at the floor at the Senate, when this issue came up. My position was very clear; who are the targeted offenders in the first place? It is the common man who is also the victim of the porosity of the system. The man who will be arrested for ballot snatching or thuggery, the father is not contesting election, his mother is not contesting. The children of the people contesting are not even around, it is still the victims who are suffering from the system that would be sent to prison for the actions of the big masquerades.

So, what I feel is that we should first look at the root of this problem, establishing Electoral Offence Commission, I think is addressing the symptoms of the problem. What is the problem? The problem is the office. Why is it so lucrative? Why are we pushing too much to get to that office? Is it because we want to serve the people or for some personal interest? Why can’t we make it less lucrative? It is very outrageous!

The moment you get elected into the House of Assembly, banks will begin to follow you with money, offering to lend you money even when you never asked for it? There will be gifts flying from all over; we will begin to lobby for juicy committees because we consider them very lucrative. So, what I think we should look at is the lucrative nature of the offices; it is too outrageous and that is why we should as much as possible focus on reducing attention from the offices.

If I know I am going to serve, and there is no possibility of me becoming a super billionaire overnight, why do I have to sell my building just to contest an election? Why do I need to go to bank and borrow money? Why will I do all manner of things both legally and illegally just to be in office? So, I feel that while we are looking at the immediate solutions, we must also look at the remote cause of this problem. We will not need EOC if there are no outrageous benefits that will make people go out of their way to get into office.

How do you think we can make political offices less lucrative?

There is something they call security vote for governors and other elected chief executives, they just take money and they don’t account for it. Some in the Senate and House of Representatives will now leave their legislative duties to take over the functions of the executive to award contracts. Until we reduce the clash in these things, there will be no clear checks and balances in the system.

The media must help us to amplify these things that the salaries and allowances of political office holders are too much. Now, we are looking for how to raise money to pay university lecturers but the former Accountant General of the Federation is answering questions about N118 billion. This is just one case that is known.

When an official is giving out cars and monies to over 300 hundred people, how did he make the money? How much is his salary? I have told them in the Senate that they must have to be fair to this country by reducing their own salaries and allowances and when that is done, the people will begin to believe in them and then there will be no need for the Electoral Offences Commission.

Nigeria is a crossroads; issues of insecurity, poor economy, the Naira is on a free fall, what are those things your party wants to implement to change the tide if you get there?

I think I mentioned this in my first interview after our convention that all these are only indicators that things are wrong. I am a student of Sociology; armed robbery, kidnapping and the likes are not problems but indicators. I will not go into terrorism and armed robbery because I have a sustainable income, I have hope, I live well, I have something I can fall back to, but the boys who are doing these things some of them cannot even speak. Those who claim to be Muslims and claim to be fighting jihad can’t even recite Fatiha because they lack the basic knowledge of what Islam is. You see them doing what Islam does not permit.

Islam says don’t kill anybody because if you do, it is as if you have killed the whole of humanity. Islam said there is no compulsion in religion and somebody says he is fighting for God. Some of these things are not in tandem with the teachings of Islam. What it means is that illiteracy, poverty and hopelessness are the problem. Now the closest government to the people is the local government, but we all know that in Nigeria today, there is no local government because the governors have killed the local government system in Nigeria.

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