Why Nigerians are becoming Despondent – Alkali, NNPP Chair – The Sun Nigeria – Daily Sun

From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) National Chairman, Prof Rufai Alkali, in this interview with Sunday Sun spoke on why his party is a better alternative to APC and PDP come 2023, and why the continu- ous strike by the Academic Staff Union
of Universities (ASUU) is a time bomb, among other issues. Excepts:
Tell us about the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) and it’s phenomenal growth in the North?
Mistake number one, you have started this interview on the wrong foot because the phenomenal growth is in Nigeria as a whole. This is the reality. If you don’t know that NNPP is moving fast across the country, then you are a stranger in Nigeria. NNPP is moving forward and there is no state today where you will go and not see NNPP structures, flags, billboards, posters, and our people on the ground.
In a recent report, you were quoted as describing your party as a better alternative to APC and PDP. How is the party going to deal with decampees and the crisis that might likely follow? I mean, since your party is like the new bride in town?
Thank you very much for saying that. I mean that is a good language to use. Well, look at it this way, first and fore-most, for a long time, people have been trapped in their belief, wrongly, that there is no alternative to what is already on the ground. So we have this fixated mind that what we have on the ground is maybe the best, and, therefore, we are not likely to get anything better. But the truth is that everybody knows there is a lot of disappointment in what is currently on the ground. Nobody needs to tell you why people are disappointed, everybody, not only disappointment, there’s also anger, there’s also a lot of resentment, there’s also an issue of losing hope. People are losing hope in our country, they’re losing hope,
in democracy, they are losing hope, even in themselves. And this is because things are not going correctly. Surely, we love democracy, surely we love our country, surely we want progress. But, however, much you love democracy, if democracy is not serving the purpose for which it was there, then people have reason to
feel angry. And I think there is a level of alienation in the country that has reached the highest point that they asked what is there for them? Democracy is there to bring peace and stability in the country,
do we have it? democracy is supposed to provide welfare conditions for the citizens of this country, do we have it? Democracy work is supposed to provide opportunities for the young to go to school and complete in record time and come back and get jobs and are we having that? Democracy is supposed to provide opportunity for the women to stand up on their feet to become part of the development agents, are the women part of this process? We are talking about youth whether they are in school or not, the youth wherever they are supposed to be an important part of the society, how are they being treated? So all the elements that constitute the basic foundation of good governance, are missing and today, we have reached a point where when the price of labour is stagnant the price of goods and services are skyrocketing by the day, by the second, by the hour. So, if the price of goods are going up, and the price of labour is fixed, the true situation is that the price of labour is also going down, it is an inverse relationship that the price of labour is going down vis-a-vis inflation rate. And then prices of goods and services are go- ing up. So anybody who is dependent on salary and wages now cannot live a decent life. Even a businessman or woman who goes to market to purchase wholesale, by the time you bring the goods to your shop, finish selling and go back to the market, you will never get the same thing with the same budget. So that’s why you find that even in supermarkets you no longer see price tags on goods because the prices keep on changing by the day by the hour. This is not what democracy is all about. So, what we are saying here is that we need to bring back hope to our people. Let them know that life is also good and can be better. That democracy can also be good and can be better. That the future of our children can be better. We should never al- low this current Nigeria that we have today to be handed over to our future generation, they will abuse us. They will tell us that we abandoned them. How is it possible that somebody cannot travel from point to point in safety? You’re not even sure that when you go to your bed, you’re coming out safely. Everybody’s heart is in his mouth. You know, that’s not what democracy is all about, it’s not about elections. Yes, elections are an important part of democracy. Having the National Assembly is very good. I mean, having parties is good, but are we performing the tasks for which we are set up? We are not. So, we have to revisit the very essence of why democracy should be there. That’s why the New Nigeria Peoples Party, recognizing that there is a serious drift, is trying to reclaim our country and save our democracy.
But the party is being built by heavyweights from APC and PDP. So, what’s the difference?
I will prefer you to say that the party is being built by Nigeria’s first and foremost, we are Nigerians coming from different backgrounds. Okay, everybody has a base, everybody is coming from somewhere. But first and foremost, the first identity is, we are Nigerians, we are also patriotic Nigerians because in every political party, you also have the good, the bad and the ugly. But those who come to us, are people we see also share our ideals and aspirations. Therefore, in this country you have to carry everybody along. It’s not
a question of a member from this party or from this region or religion. No, it is collective responsibility and, therefore, we must work together as a team to salvage our nation.
What difference do you hope to make from security to economic differences?
The fact that we are recognizing that there is problem, for example, it’s a good start. There are people who do not even believe there’s a problem at the moment.
If you tell them there’s a problem they say no, no, no, we inherited this problem. Of course, when inheriting the problem in the country you are also inheriting the assets of the country. And, therefore, if you have the opportunity to serve, if it’s for one, two, three, four, five years, make the difference. You cannot finish all the problems in the country, whatever you do, even if you take 20 or 30 years of being in charge, you will not be able to solve all the problems. If that were to be the case, President Paul Biya would have sorted the problem of Cameroon, or Moseveni, would have sorted all the problems in Uganda. Have they done that? They have not. But there are people who serve only a few periods of time, let’s say without necessarily celebrating American democracy as it were. But if you look at Barack Obama, he came and in eight years, he changed a lot in America, he brought sanity into a lot of areas, so you don’t need to spend eternity to solve the problem. The fact that our party recognizes that there are problems is at least the beginning of knowing the solutions. Two, bringing people together from all parts of the country. We recognize that already the bridges, the bond of relationship among Nigerians have been broken, the bond of friendship has been broken. There’s a lot of anxiety, there’s a lot of suspicion among even people who ordinary are friends or associates. That’s why you find that small issues like what happened at Die Die recently, a small problem will escalate into big problems because people are also tensed up. So, the fact that we are seeing that we are moving away from this means we are also addressing the fundamentals. So, bringing people together from various backgrounds, to talk to ourselves, to organize and plan is a better way than sitting down and saying that no this thing cannot be sorted out or we have done our best or our best is not good enough. No. You have to do it differently, if you tried one way it did not work, try another way. That is why I am passionate about the university because I’m part of the system. You cannot tell me one, two or three reasons universities today will be closed down for three months in this country. No country in Africa, no country in the world will close their universities for three, four months and still do nothing and say all is well. It is not okay. I’m sure even the government is worried, but they should do something beyond getting worried. They should be worried because these children being left at home unattended to, they could be a danger to our future. They will become very angry with the system having lost time, having lost everything. Many of them that don’t have fathers or mothers will
not go back to university again. They’re finished. Having spent most of my life in the university system, I can see the danger very clearly. The sad part is that most of us who are now in government, were also beneficiaries of this education system. Why should we abandon them?
With all that is happening, are you afraid for the 2023 elections? Do you see it holding?
No, no, that question should not come from you, you should be a positive person. Democracy is a continuous process, in any case, every transition comes with challenges, particularly in Africa. Generally, political transitions are always uncertain. There is always anxiety, you don’t know what the outcome will be. But that doesn’t mean that the plan for elections should not take place, or somebody will want to subvert or stop it. No, you can’t do that. Because if you do that, you will create other problems that cannot be sorted out again. So, we have to have confidence in ourselves, we have to have confidence in the system, where there are anomalies, we try to correct. There have been a lot of re-forms going on in the electoral process. It cannot be perfect, but there is a lot of effort
being made consciously. You may recall, in 2010, even some parts of the Nigerian Constitution were amended to accommodate some reforms in the Electoral Act, I believe even in 2022, so many things were done to accommodate some changes. So, it means that people are willing to improve in the electoral system. Of course, we have to have faith in the system. If we say we don’t have anything, what do we do again? So, elections will hold but of course, I want to use this opportunity to call on every stakeholder who is involved in this process, to also know that there must be a country before there will be a democracy. Nobody should sacrifice our people because of his personal interest. Nobody. Because our people have suffered enough. Most of them don’t know, whatever they can call the gains of democracy or they can’t see the dividends of democracy. So, even the little peace they should enjoy, you want to scatter it because of elections? That would be unfair. So, as a party, we are going to be disciplined, we are going to be organized, our campaign will be based on issues not personality. We have no time to go into unnecessary brickbats with individuals over our direction in this country. Anybody who wants to do brickbatting, mudslinging, that is his own business. But for us we want to focus on the future of our country. We know it’s very difficult. We know it’s challenging. But we also know it can be possible. Other countries not as big as Nigeria, not as rich as Nigeria, not as dynamic as Nigeria, other countries that do not know what they’re doing as much as Nigeria, are moving. Why can’t we move? We should be a beacon of hope in Africa. We should be a good example in the whole world. And I believe we can make it.
Aside from the issue of economy, security, what does NNPP have for Nigerians?
Like I said earlier, we are offering this country hope, new direction, new opportunities, because we believe one of the reasons there is anger in the land, among other things, apart from this alienation is non-inclusiveness. There are individuals, groups, organizations, regions, communities that feel alienated in the process of either getting power or using power in the country. They feel neglected. Why should they be? Nobody should be neglected, everyone is important. That is why we said if you look at the sectoral level, the gender issue, the age issue, the regional issue, everything matters. That is why our party is offering hope for everybody to say that look, we can do it.
It is more or less like a paradigm shift for want of a better word, you know, we have to shift from where we are, where we are headed to something better. And I think the vision of this party is to make our nation more prosperous where everybody will be proud. I don’t think it is nice to allow a situation where the moment you cross into another country and they see your passport, they dismiss you as a criminal. Already, they have made up their mind that every Nigerian is a criminal, is it true? We are not criminals, but because of the way we conduct ourselves and the way we paint ourselves. You know you dress the way you will be perceived. The way you talk about yourself or the way you’ll be treated. So, the way we talk about ourselves negatively is the way we damage our-selves, because we think we are not fanciful. In fact, some of us say that Nigeria is dead. Have you ever seen a country that is dead and people are moving around everywhere in the street? Yes, there are serious difficulties. There is a
section of Nigeria, where you cannot walk easily around. But there should be an exception, nevertheless. And that’s why it’s very important that all of us who are involved in this process, we must guard our excesses, guard our words and actions. And we should offer something new, some- thing fresh to our people.
Women are agitating that they will only vote for parties that are offering them a chance. What are you offering the women in your party?
I said earlier that no sector, no group will be delineated. For the avoidance of doubt, when we planned for congresses and primaries, we ensured that the expression of interest for women and youth is free. So, it’s zero kobo. And for nomination, we’ll get 50 per cent. For both women, our youth and even for people living with disabilities. But you know, the women have to stand up. Okay, if you are given an opportunity, a door is opened for you, make sure you use it, don’t close the door. Because if he does turn up and you don’t make yourself available, this opportunity will be lost. Unfortunately, not just the women alone, even some men also look at politics as dirty. They don’t want to be part of it. So, if you say it is dirty, who do you want to come and clean the politics before you can come and join? After all you are a Nigerian and the other person you are expecting is also a Nigerian. If you’re clean, come with your cleanliness and help us to clean the system. But if you say you’re too clean and you won’t come and you allow dirty people to go inside, then the system would become worse. So, I think we need people to come up. The youth should also come up. Even the people with disabilities, who have a large constituency, should not be alienated. So, I think women should stand up and be counted. That’s the most important message. They should move beyond tokenism. They should stay away from merely being patronized, that’s not the best way to solve the problem. Not to be patronized, not to be given tokens. No, they should take their rightful place in the political process.

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