By Dennis Agbo
Dr. Yunusa Tanko is the spokesperson of the Third Force Coalition for the Labour Party. He was once a presidential candidate and former chairman of Interparty Advisory Council, IPAC, in 2019.
In this interview, he speaks on the state of the nation, 2023 polls and the chances of LP presidential candidate, Mr. Peter Obi, among others.
What actually is the Third Force and its focus?
The Third Force is a coalition that adopted the Labour Party; it’s a conglomerate of individuals such as Prof. Pat Utomi and others, we are the ones championing the cause of a new political movement that is different from the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The Third Force that emerged is the Labour Party adopted by the Third Force movement as its own political vehicle and quite a number of political parties are involved such as the 15 registered political parties that joined the Labour Party recently. Apart from political parties, there are quite a number of technocrats, intellectuals, political juggernauts, all representing the interest of Nigerians devoid of the APC and the PDP.
The focus of the Third Force is to bring in a new ideologically- based political party that will take Nigeria out of the woods of the dominant political parties.
Can you clear the air on the issue of who is the spokesman for the Peter Obi Campaign Organisation?
What really happened is that there was a Big Tent, a support group for Mr. Peter Obi. We have an intellectual support group, finance support group, security support group, media support group, and mobilisation support group for Peter Obi/ Datti candidacy of the Labour Party.
For now, I cannot say yes or no that I am the spokesman for the Peter Obi Campaign Organisation, but I would rather leave it for a formal pronouncement by the campaign organisation. On several occasions, I’ve been mentioned in that regard but we are just waiting for their formal pronouncement.
The view in certain quarters is that Peter Obi is just a social media creation that does not have a taproot. Does Obi actually have a taproot?
Oh yes, he does. He seriously has because the difference between Peter Obi candidacy and the other candidates is that it is the people that are yearning for him and I will give you a simple example. You will find out that if you are going to have a rally, most of the conventional politicians would be the ones financing the rally, mobilising with T-shirts and banners, but in the case of Peter Obi, it is the people that pay for banners, billboards, face caps, organise marches with no kobo from Peter Obi as mobilisation and so you can see that it is the people that are mobilising for Peter Obi while the other candidates use their own resources to mobilise for themselves. So, I think that Obi has more taproots than any other conventional politician in Nigeria.
Are you sure that these young people will come out with their PVCs to vote on election day?
Oh sure! Let me give you statistics, over 12 million people registered in the recent CVR and out of the 12 million, within the ages of 18 and 35 are youths and they represent about eight million registrants and most of them got attracted to the Peter Obi candidacy, not to talk about the old registration of voters which was about 84 million. The INEC is now targeting over 90 million registered voters. For sure, eight million youths registered purely for the interest of Peter Obi and if you want to do your mathematics, you take that eight million out of the 15 million that voted for Buhari in 2019. So when you minus eight million from 15 million, you will have seven million left for us to cover but we are targeting a population of 30 to 40 million voters for Peter Obi out of the 90 million that registered as voters. This is our strategic calculation because the upsurge has affected the older generation which you can attest to nationwide.
Last Saturday (two weeks ago), Rivers State had a large number of people that came out to mobilise, same thing in Enugu. In Kaduna, it was supposed to happen but they were physically denied by the Governor. So you can see that people just mobilise themselves, it is a spontaneous mobilisation. I just came back from the North-West where we visited Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa, Zamfara, Kebbi and Katsina states. These are core northern states and you will be amazed to know that there are people in Kano, Sokoto, putting up billboards with their own money, mobilising.
In a place where we went, at Aminu Kano’s house, the hall was filled to the brim with people and we didn’t give them money to come, we only told them there is sensitization of the Labour Party which was the first to be done by the party. It was the same in Katsina, Jigawa, Kebbi and that is how the mobilisation is going on even in the North eastern part of the federation. The amazing thing is that the level of the commitment of the people is unprecedented and for the first time in the history of Nigeria, you saw how the TUC and the NLC submitted their charter of demand to the candidate of the Labour Party which of course, is their political party and the TUC also sent their workers’ document for transformation agenda on policy to the same Peter Obi and so invariably, there is a humongous support from all walks of life for the candidature of Peter Obi.
There is fear that the new registrants may not get their PVCs at the end of the day because there is an allegation that a presidential candidate is the contractor for the INEC infrastructure…
Well, in politics you will hear all types of allegations but I’d rather move on facts and the fact for me is that once you register as a voter, your name will be displayed some months before the election and once your name appears on the register, you are eligible to vote.
Can one vote without PVC?
Normally, what happens is that when you register and you go to crosscheck, this particular allegation can only be confirmed for me when we see the voters’ register. If there are challenges, people registered and were given slips and we don’t want to create a scenario where fifth columnists will make this our election impossible because of the way we are going to win the election by the grace of God. So, we want to make sure that this election holds and so issues like this must be put on the front burner on the INEC table to deal with. Everybody that registered should have their slips and INEC will display the register and once you have your name in that register, you are entitled to be given PVC. The register is the first document for your voting and once your name is there, you will be eligible to vote and INEC must provide you with that voters’ card. If they don’t, then we can take up INEC for contradiction on the processes of the election.
What can you say on the allegation that one of the Presidential candidates is a contractor supplying the INEC machines for the election?
That will be investigated. Once we find out that it is true, we will challenge it in the court of law.
Are you aware that the INEC head of ICT, who hails from the South-East, was recently removed from the position?
I heard about Chidi being removed. Chidi has been the ICT Director for a long time which we know and he has done extremely well. Now, the INEC has to come clean to explain because it’s a civil service and they have the right to transfer any of their staff, but if there seems to be a kind of wrong movement against Chidi, it should be challenged within the ambient of the regulations. We’ll have to find out if there is a reason INEC moved him from where he was or is it a calculated attempt to derail the system? So we will not make allegations until we prove it beyond every reasonable doubt because as we are, we are Obidient and we’ll run with the aspect of the law. Don’t forget that we also know that if there is any attempt to create mishap because of Chidi’s person, we will challenge it.
You are from the North and there are fears that the North will not vote for Peter Obi, how true is that?
That is a fallacy. Look, as we are today, check the statistics, the Minister of Finance is from the North, Minister of Defence is from the North, Economic Minister and other major principal officers, the Police IG, are from the North but if one person is killed in the South, 100 other persons are killed in the North. The economic situation of the North has gone completely down, people cannot even go to their farms and you want to tell me that these people suffering so badly will not vote for Peter Obi. This is just a creation of some people that want to sow a seed of discord in the minds of people.
To give you an example, I was in Guzau and I saw a physically challenged person and the moment we mentioned that we were the representatives of the Peter Obi Campaign Organisation, she burst into tears. She said they’ve been looking for a messiah that will help them and save them from this particular situation. And so, she opted that it is Peter Obi that she will vote for. This is a person with disability. So, if anybody tells you that they will not vote for Peter Obi, it’s a total lie. If they believe that there is nobody that will vote for Peter Obi in the North, why did they stop us from the one million-man march that we organised in Kaduna? That is to tell you that there is apprehension. Number two is that it’s just a ploy to send fears into the minds of a common northerner but every northerner is highly educated in terms of politics and they know the capacity of the person they want to vote for.
You may have interacted with Peter Obi enough to know what he will do if he becomes the President…
The documents are being worked on because we follow the manifesto of the party. Remember the party represents social democracy and it’s an ideologically based political party. One of the contents of the documents of the Labour Party is to create jobs for the Nigerian youths because an idle mind is the devil’s workshop, which of course translates into the mantra that Peter Obi has continued to use, consumption to production, which is the key because it’s only when you produce that you will be able to shore up your income and draw down the high rate of foreign currency and create employment for the people.
The Labour Party manifesto also talks about excessive spending without prudency and everybody knows that Peter Obi is a prudent spender and you expect that spending will be made with regards to production that will help the nation. There is the issue of education which would involve working with the charter of the United Nations for funding of education; we must also recognise the issue of insecurity and what Obi did in Anambra as governor is a sample of how he would tackle social service matters.
Peter Obi has been running away from the word ‘restructuring,’ does it mean that he would not restructure the country if elected?
No, he is not running away from restructuring. He’s a practical person. He said that every Nigerian will be involved in decisions that will help take Nigeria out of the woods. We want to discuss it and solve the problem in Nigeria but he never runs away from the issue of restructuring. What he even said in the last meeting with Afenifere, PANDEF and the Middle Belt Forum was that he wants to be a member of the team to discuss the issue and take a decision. He just wants to carry all of us along to have a robust discussion that will bring the best for Nigerians.
As a northerner, do you like the idea of restructuring?
Why not? At the end of it all, the accused may be the beneficiary. Look, the issue of restructuring is about creating jobs and making sure that the Nigerian system gets better. I feel pained as a northerner when my people are not being put to productive use. Do you know that every local government area in Nigeria has its own way of internal survival? In my own local government in Kano, for example, we may feel marginalised but we produce rice. We have young boys and girls who are well educated in western education but they have not enjoyed the bountiful land that God has given to them and with that kind of discussion, it will give my people room to come out and say we are being denied ABCD. So I will never be afraid of restructuring but I will not accept being dominated by anybody, I will not accept being denied my fundamental rights as a human being. I will challenge it.