Dr Yunusa Tanko, National Chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP) in this interview with EJIKEME OMENAZU speaks on the defection of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the All Progressives Congress (APC) to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and his party’s plan for the 2019 elections. Excerpts:
What is the recent exit of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar from the APC?
The APC government has created the impression that it cannot fulfill its campaign promises. This can be seen in the inability to handle the economy and to prosecute its anti-corruption crusade. Also, President Muhammadu Buhari has not been decisive enough in his actions. There is no clear-cut action in the implementation of the policies. Look at Maina’s reinstatement through the back door and the so-called sack. All these affect the image of the government and led to internal disharmony within the party. Also, the party has not been able to clearly give a clean bill of health to President Buhari as it finds it difficult to say if he is running in 2019 or not. All these contributed to the exit of Atiku from the APC.
One of Atiku’s reasons for leaving APC is that it has no ideology, while a cross section of the populace said that APC is not a political party. Would you agree to these views?
Atiku’s exit from the APC is not an issue of ideology. There is no clear-cut demarcation between APC and PDP. As I said, promises are not kept. Everyone contesting in the two parties is only interested in their ambitions and not about ideologies. President Buhari moved from ANPP to CPC and to APC. Atiku moved from PDP to ACN, to APC, and now back to PDP. It is their self-ambitions that move them from one party to another. There is nothing ideological about any of the candidates. Ideology is what you believe in. During the time of Awolowo, there was an ideology as his party, the UPN, believed in free education, free medical treatment, full employment, integrated rural development. Waziri Ibrahim believed in politics without bitterness. All these are ideologies.
For us in the NCP, we are masses-oriented. We focus on improved welfare of the masses. Ours is like the PRP of Aminu Kano. We have not moved. We have a clear-cut ideology. We believe that one day, we will emancipate the masses from the shackles of poverty.
At first Atiku was silent on the party he was moving to. He later indicated that his destination was the PDP, from which joined the APC. What has really changed in PDP since he left it till his recent return?
It was clear to analysts that there is no other party where Atiku would move to where he can realise his ambition. Rumours had it that he has been in PDP long before he announced his resignation. He has a large followership in Yola. In Gombe and Adamawa, he is very strong. Borno, Yobe and Bauchi can also fall into PDP. He is taking his time. They will tear APC into two, just as they did to PDP in 2014. More defections will still take place. Many people in APC believe they have been left in the background. Many of them from PDP who defected to ACN/APC are not happy. A lot of politicking has been going on. By the time all these people leave, APC will find it difficult.
As for us, with Labour Party and CPC, we thought we had something in common. All of us were talking about the emancipation of the masses. But, it is not the same with the APC. It is easy for the ex-PDP members to walk out of APC. This development will continue.
The coming PDP national convention has been generating a lot of interests, especially as it concerns the National Chairmanship position, zoned to the South. People are also touting Ahmed Makarfi, the party’s caretaker committee chairman of having a presidential ambition. What is your take on coming PDP convention?
There is always a challenge in a party if certain things are not managed well. This is what obtains in PDP. The state governors have their different interests. All these have to agree. Free and fair democratic election is what can lead to a vibrant opposition. PDP can only be in peace when there is no manipulation or suspicion. But, where there is manipulation and suspicion, the crisis in PDP will continue. You can see what happened in PDP in Anambra State. This will also happen in the party’s national convention. If they will allow transparency, that is when there will be peace. We want everyone to imbibe the democratic culture.
The NCP has not been able to win seats both at state and national levels. How is it preparing for the 2019 elections to achieve better results this time around?
This has been a big issue for us. We have been thinking how to get benefits for the masses. Nigerians are looking for an alternative to APC and PDP. NCP has positioned itself as that alternative. But, it is not easy. We have hinged our campaign on a paradigm shift, centred on the youths. We are targeting those between 18 and 55 years. We will have a brand new set of people. Our forms are free. Anyone who has interest in any position, from local government councilor to chairman, from state Assembly to House of Representatives or Senate, and for the Presidency, is welcome. Many people are showing interest. We want to attract people who have not been polluted, women and youths. We want people who have interest in the party. We have been using the social media to reach out to them.
We understand that the NCP may witness a harvest of presidential aspirants for the 2019 election including yourself and the 2015 candidate, Chief Martin Onovo. Don’t you see this development as an evidence of a crack in NCP?
As a party, we shopped for candidates. But, now, people are showing interest. That shows that we are growing. People are now coming in. this will popularize the party. We have people in Bayelsa and even in Zamfara. A lot of people are interested. Some people are asking me to run for presidency. Buty, that does not stop anybody form running. There is someone in the uNied States who said he in interested. NCP is democratically inclined. We will have a clear-cut primary. In 2015, Chief Martin Onovo contested with someone from Edo State and Onovo won. We have never had a candidate from the North. it is a sign that we are growing for people to be showing interest. I appreciate those who want me to run. When the time comes, everybody will toe the line. A lot of people are urging me to contest. I am considering it.
This development cannot cause a crack in the party. It cannot cause a problem between me and Chief Martin Onovo. Chief Onovo has shown a lot of commitment. There is no misgiving in what we are doing. We want to emancipate the masses.