•Says party’s target is new Nigeria devoid of injustice, disunity
•‘Having overseen a big church for 33 yrs, capacity is no issue for me’
By Charles Kumolu, Deputy Editor
The choice of Bishop Isaac Idahosa as the running mate to the presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Rabiu Kwakwanso, left many surprised for the fact that he isn’t a politician. What could have informed the selection of this prominent religious leader? What political structure does he have? These were the questions many asked in the wake of this emergence. In this interview, conducted at his VGC home in Lagos, the virile cleric, who has spent 33 years on the pulpit, responds to the posers. He also shares the vision of the Kwankwaso-Idahosa ticket, highlighting how they will fix the critical existential crisis threatening Nigeria.
Your emergence as the running mate to the presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNP, Alhaji Rabiu Kwankwaso, came as a surprise considering that you are coming from the pulpit. Were you surprised that you were chosen to run with a hardcore politician?
I was surprised in the sense that it is not what I look forward to. I look forward to a new Nigeria. But Senator Rabiu Kwakwansi and I have been close for a long time. I like his leadership style. He had been to our church a couple of times. We always share our prospects and challenges. I didn’t see this coming.
He only asked me to fly into Kano during the Sallah celebrations if I was free. It was on a Saturday. I said it wasn’t possible because the following day was Sunday. He now said after my Sunday service, I should come over to Kano and celebrate Sallah with them, which I obliged. I flew into Kano on Sunday afternoon.
When I arrived at his place there was a crowd and he asked me to greet them, which I did. At midnight, he asked that I help look for a running mate for him in the South.
Did he give specifications of the kind of running mate he was seeking?
I called some spiritual fathers, asking if they could help look for a running mate for him. It was on a Sunday and Friday was INEC’s deadline for closing their portal. As of Monday, nothing was forthcoming.
So, I called a few fathers of faith. They got one or two but time was too short for them to consult. On Tuesday, he asked if I could fly over from Kano to Abuja. He also asked about the assignment he gave me to look for a running mate.
I said it was quite difficult getting one because there was no time to consult. I told him I had called a few fathers of faith but every other person they got was already neck deep into some political commitments. And the deadline was just a few days away. On Wednesday, he asked that I come over to meet the screening committee and see if we could work on some options.
When I arrived at the screening room, people like Elder Buba Galadima were seated there. They welcomed me to the screening and I was surprised. I said I thought I was coming to join them in screening without knowing I was to be screened.
That was how I was among the 20 people screened for the position. It wasn’t that they mentioned it to me earlier. They asked for my Curriculum Vitae, CV, and I told them I didn’t come there to look for a job. They laughed and said I should fly back to Lagos and get my CV.
I went back to Lagos and sent my CV to them. That same Wednesday, I started seeing on social media that I had emerged as Kwankwaso’s running mate. I called Kwankwaso to inform him about what I was seeing on social media, he said it was nothing.
But the next day, at about noon, people were calling to congratulate me. At about 2pm the same day, I received a call from Senator Kwankwaso addressing me as ‘’His Excellency’’ for the first time. I was surprised because normally, he calls me Bishop. He said ‘’Congratulations, His Excellency, you are my running mate.’’
I went to pray immediately about it and got my peace. I consulted with my wife who he, Kwankwaso, also called.
If it hadn’t happened that way, would you have accepted if you had enough time to consult with family and friends?
The first thing to consider is peace. Anything that would cost your peace is too expensive. You must pray. My name, Idahosa, means hearing from God. I must pray about it and if the peace is there, I am good to go.
Prior to your selection, did you ever work with Kwankwanso on issues of national concern?
We always discuss national issues and ideas of public importance. He respects my ideas and vision about Nigeria. We share prospects and challenges. That has been on for many years. Both of us share the same vision for the country.
If the reverse was the case, I wouldn’t have accepted. The Bible says that two can’t work together unless they agree. He is a selfless, sensitive, bold, humble, accessible, and courageous man. He has a passion for the talakawa ,poor.
His record of service is transformational. He is not coming without experience. He has been there before. He has served in the civil service. He was the Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives in the defunct Third Republic. He was Minister of Defence, ambassador, senator and a two-time governor.
With this, there is no doubt he is the person Nigeria needs now.
The whole country had expected there was going to be an alliance between the
Kwankwaso side and Obi camp, but you emerged suddenly…
My emergence means that God is at work. It means that when heaven campaigns for you, your enemies will vote for you. It means that it is time for Nigeria’s prayers to be answered. Kwankwaso believes so much in education. He has given scholarships to thousands of people. Some are pilots, some are doctors, and others are engineers.
Kwankwaso is the man for the moment. God wants to surprise Nigeria with a leadership that is void of corruption and cowardice. Where you have nepotism and federal character not being observed, there will be injustice.
A place where the armed forces are left behind in terms of welfare, no accountability, and anything goes, needs men like Kwankwaso and I. Imagine a situation where intelligence reports are not given the treatment they deserve.
The case of Kuje is fresh in our minds. We are going to engineer a new Nigeria devoid of disunity. At the moment, there is despondency and division. We are bringing healing to unify this country. We are going to ensure that people given responsibility are accountable to the masses.
We are going to ensure that we block leakages by ensuring proper management of resources. Right now, productivity is at its lowest level. We will train people to acquire social skills to retain our wealth. Once we retain our wealth, a lot will happen.
We don’t need to take our money out of the country. We are coming with hope by creating an atmosphere where we can respect our various cultures, tribes and religions. By the grace of God, we are going to take care of insecurity by doubling the size of our armed forces. The police will be well equipped with all they require to function in a modern state. We believe we are in this race to win.
The office of the Vice President requires capacity, character, courage, integrity and other leadership qualities. Beyond the optics that come with you being a known religious leader, tell us about your strength…
I have been a pastor for 33 years. In the Church, we pastor presidents, other top politicians and people across various sectors. They also cut across the various tribes in Nigeria. We have the Hausa, Igbo, Yoruba and others.
To preach requires anointing, but human capital development requires a lot of skills and human management. And that is what we are going to be doing. People ask how long I have been in politics.
Managing a big church for 33 years is not an easy task. I am not talking of a small church or small congregation. We are bringing the experience that has helped us to build solid and viable churches around the world into the system. Politics is about human management.
It is about building upon the capacities and capabilities of Nigerians. It is about ensuring that Nigeria becomes better than it is today. So, we are coming with that capacity, courage and strong political will to ensure that ours is a governable country and not where there is injustice and an absence of equity and fairness. These are the things we are bringing on board. The capacity is there to do the job.
Kwankwaso is bringing a wealth of experience from the public sector, what newness are you adding to the ticket?
Unifying the country is the first we will do. You need to have a country first for you to develop. We are going to unify the country. If there is division and mistrust, how will there be progress? Nobody trusts anybody anymore. The trust factor is no longer there because of injustice. That is what we are bringing.
When God is at the centre, it would hold. As I said earlier, I have been pastoring for 33 years. Someone who has been there and has been able to pastor a president shouldn’t be seen as not bringing something new to the ticket.
I was born in the North. I am from Edo State. I have lived in Lagos since 1993. The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom. If we remove the God factor everything will be unruly. So, if we have a God-fearing leader, he will be accountable to God and men. In his wisdom, he chose me among many people. In the fullness of time, those who are saying it is not possible today will say congratulations tomorrow.
To win an election in this part of the world, you need structure. And one of the arguments people hold against your principal is that apart from Kano and a few northern states, he lacks the kind of structure that can guarantee victory at the polls. For you, majority see you as someone who lacks political structure and base…
Nigerians and those who ask these questions are about to receive a shocker. Strategy is stronger than strength. If you limit Kwankwasiya Movement to Kano, it is to your peril. It is a whirlwind.
In an attempt to stop a flood, you create more ways for it. We have made inroads into different states. NNPP has been there for over 20 years, but we stepped in and rejigged it. Today, we have structures across the country.
Within a few months, we have been able to synergise with different states and stakeholders. There are things I wouldn’t be able to say here. Let’s wait for a shocker, but we shouldn’t be judged by their assumptions. We are working day and night to ensure that we are in Aso Rock on May 29, 2023.
What is your definition of how governance should be in Nigeria
Governance has to do with improving lives. And if lives do not improve under any government, that government is a failed government. It is not that there haven’t been policies but it is the political will to enforce them. You are in government to show the way.-leadership by example.
You can say all you know but you reproduce who you are as a leader. We are coming into government to lead by example. And we are coming into government to ensure Nigeria returns to its glorious days. It is not going to be an overnight thing, but it is nice to have a new beginning.
The people must feel the government and government must feel the people. Accountability must be the key. We are not better off today. We were better than we are now. But we are not here to apportion blame. We want to solve insecurity, fix school curriculum and others.
When Kwankwaso was governor, he built more schools in Kano and ensured education was a priority.
As a vice presidential candidate, what do you consider Nigeria’s major challenge?
Our major challenge is education. Education is very critical to solving our problems. In the book of Genesis chapter one, darkness was upon the earth and everywhere was chaotic. God created things for his pleasure.
Shortly, there was chaos because the earth was without form or shape. The first thing God did wasn’t to consider the darkness upon the earth, he proffered a solution by saying let there be light. When people are educated, a lot of things they do, they won’t do them. The lack of education is the reason for the quagmire in Nigeria. That is why there is unrest, banditry, terrorism and all forms of crimes.
When you educate a man, it transcends. He sees things differently the way he would have seen them without education. But when you have dark minds, they can’t reason far and do not see the reason you do what you do. Education will curb corruption because it will make them realise what corruption does to the nation. Education will curb insecurity. Why loot your nation? Why do you want to kill? Education will curb infrastructure collapse.
Where there is no vision, the people perish. So, we are bringing clarity to the system. When we say education, it doesn’t mean you have to earn a PH.D. A mechanic can be educated on how to be a better citizen. But such an education is lacking in Nigeria today.
If we take education so seriously, we won’t have a situation where ASSU will be on strike for more than one year. The teachers, parents and government can be brought together for dialogue. Because there is mistrust, ASUU will never believe government. Therefore, light is key to solving our problems. It will curb insecurity, unemployment and others.
When people are gainfully busy, they won’t have the appetite to make trouble. Education will curb the challenges in the healthcare sector. With education, medical tourism won’t be an issue anymore. A whole lot is tied to education.
Without prejudice to the relationship you established between education and Nigeria’s challenges, insecurity and bad economy are now existential problems to Nigeria. Is it the same education you are going to use to arrest the situation?
Whoever you are going to talk to has to see what you see. The people who are causing unrest in Nigeria have their reasons. So, if they don’t see what you see, they will keep on doing the same thing. Education can solve anything. It is not just about going to school alone.
Getting people to see what you see by enlightening them is key to solving a problem. With education, someone wielding a gun will know that dialogue will solve the problem he wants to solve with a gun. They must see what you see to follow. Because there has been this mutual mistrust, you see people taking up arms.
But when you sit down and dialogue, they will understand what you are trying to say or do. Light is very important. With light, you can proffer solutions to insecurity, corruption, contract inflation, and mismanagement of resources and hold people accountable. Someone who looted billions is not educated. Greed is an act of ignorance.
No legacy is as rich as honesty. We must be honest with ourselves. Are we educated? Not the education of the classroom. Have we talked enough? Have we had enough? Have we been accountable? Who has been held accountable for the Kuje jailbreak till date?
Light is key. When you educate a child, you have played your part as a parent. The child will find his way by doing the right thing. When you educate a driver, he doesn’t drive against the traffic. He will keep the traffic rules. When you enlighten people, they do the right thing. What we do here, when we go to London and America we don’t do it because they are truly governed by laws.
In 1994, when I travelled to Jamaica, I saw a signpost with the inscription, ‘’ we are not just in Jamaica, we are for Jamaica.’’ That is education about patriotism. If our leaders know enough to retain our intellectuals, people won’t be rushing out of the country.
Where there is no light you can’t assess anything.
Religion has emerged as a big issue in this race given the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC. As a prominent religious leader, what do you make of the argument that the religion of a candidate and his running mate doesn’t matter?
They have made their choices. I am not an APC candidate. We have made our choice. It is left to Nigerians to use their conscience and know who to vote for. What APC is doing or has done is the least of my problems.
My ticket represents a balance. I don’t know what informed their decision. For us here, we have been able to choose a Muslim-Christian ticket.
Are you concerned that the Obedient Movement seems to have eclipsed others in terms of pre-election popularity and presence?
Everybody is entitled to what he wants to do. We can only wish everyone the best and the best is what we want to happen to Nigeria. But we are in this race to win. If they are saying ‘’Obedient’’ so be it.
In the NNPP, we are for a new Nigeria. And hope is on the horizon. A new Nigeria is coming and I believe it is coming shortly. Ours is not a sectional party. We are a Nigerian party for Nigerians. It embraces everyone.
The day we stop thinking narrowly, we embrace the wholeness of this country. What makes an improvement and balance are what we need. The day we choose leadership that will enthrone equity, fairness and justice, peace will return. And that is what Kwankwaso and I offer.
Kwankwaso is not going to garner experience on the job. He is an experienced man. He is a man that respects culture, religion and ethnicity. Kano is like a mini Nigeria. And he has helped many to rise. Again, we are in this race to win.
A peaceful Nigeria is possible and we are engineering that.