By Wilfred Eya

Dr. Yunusa Tanko was the 2023 Spokesperson of Labour Party presidential campaign council. In this interview monitored on Arise TV, he spoke on the meeting between Peter Obi, presidential candidate of the Labour party in the 2023 general elections, Atiku Abubakar,  presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), former Senate President, Bukola Saraki and former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido.


Was the meeting between Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar, Bukola Saraki and Sule Lamido about the 2027 general elections?

Let me draw your attention to the last Ramadan fasting period, His Excellency, Peter Obi visited the northern part of Nigeria and had a firsthand contact with the people and the terrain of Northern part of the country. He realised the level of challenges the people are facing in that particular domain. The issues range from education, water, health and even economic wellbeing. In meeting with the people, he felt their pains and this of course created the reason he challenged a lot of privileged Nigerians to support the less privileged because of the situation they found themselves. People cannot eat three square meals, people cannot send their children to school. People are in abject poverty, our leaders need to come to terms with this situation. It’s the reason he visited the key leaders. The three leaders if you had observed carefully represent the three geo-political zones in the North, using them as a point of contact to other leaders in the northern part of the country and by extension the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is from the North-East, Sule Lamido, former Governor of Jigawa State is from the North-West, while former Senate President, Bukola Saraki is from the North-Central.  In the meeting, he discussed about working together with them to pull people out of poverty. Pulling people out of poverty will help in a number of ways, in terms of security, quality workforce, in terms of healthy individuals and at the same time preparing those children, the Almajiris from the archaic way of education into modern way of education. So, he met them for them to collaborate and pull Nigerians out of poverty and save the country from the serious problem we may be facing in the nearest future. These are the major reasons he visited the leaders and we’re happy that they welcomed him with both hands, warmly, and that of course led to issues being raised in the public domain.

What alliances or coalition could emerge as a result of the consultations, and how can that affect the political landscape?

Prior to 2023 general elections, there had been various discussions within the political landscape and I did amplify this matter here on this channel. This discussion is open to anybody who is interested in building a new Nigeria and in that regard, these discussions are ongoing.  Politics is dynamic as long as you’re meeting people and you’re meeting leaders and discussing about the people which is also the fulcrum of democracy, anything can happen in that regard. You cannot say who and who may be contesting in 2027 but what is germane to His Excellency is the issue of pulling people out of poverty, showing care and concern about the wellbeing of the people. After all, it is only when the people are in good health that they can vote. If you don’t take care of them and you don’t show concern where do you think you can get the votes?  The most important to him now is pulling people out of poverty and reaching out to most of his colleagues. You can also notice that the three people you just mentioned, have contested or showed interest in the leadership of this country. So, they are very big leaders in their own rights. It is only when you reach out to these people that you can discuss the situation which some of them already know, you can talk them into putting their resources together to alleviate the sufferings of the masses of this country.

This visit and some of the visits that have been made over the past few weeks in the north by Peter Obi have ignited a lot of conversations, some of which have been highlighted by the infighting that we see in the Labour Party. When he goes to visit these PDP chieftains, it gives affirmations to the conversations that there is a rift going on as Peter Obi may be considering jumping ship from Labour Party as we get close to 2027, is there any fire where there is this smoke?

At this point in time, there is no discussion in that regard. If you noticed, when he was moving round the northern and other parts of the country, he didn’t go mobilizing any political party because it would have been termed a political strategy. He went solo with some of us who are with him to showcase that this is just a humanitarian visit. I can tell you it has yielded result, at least many Nigerians now are responding to the clarion call. Some people are doing the borehole even though it is a short term gap. Many people are trying to find a way of economically empowering people within their domain. These are the things that we need to do as Nigerians, after all even the Bible and the Koran teach us to take care of our neighbours and not this situation that we find ourselves where a lot of Nigerians are really in dire need of assistance and if you have too much or you have a little, share it to help. In his own way he is using the resources that God has given him to do these little projects and he is willing to do more. He asked his colleagues to help in this direction and it will give another narrative to the dire needs in the country and even the government will start to put its priority right because its priority actually should be in the interest of the people, rather than putting pains on the people especially in the areas of taxation and projects that are not necessary at this particular point in time. We have various challenges coming from roads, health, education, and even hunger is ravaging the land. For a country of this nature that has so much, it’s very shameful for us to find that Nigerians cannot take care of themselves even in terms of economic empowerment to do one or two things because of the dwindling economic situation in terms of power and other things that are supposed to be normal indices of survival in the country. It’s a challenge that he is trying to resolve by appealing and collaborating with some leaders in the country. I think that Nigerians should give him kudos for this particular venture that he has taken upon himself and supported by others.

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Considering the fact that they have different political interests, what are some of the adjustments and compromises that might need to be made in other to achieve the objectives that he has as a result of these consultations?

Well, at this point in time, it’s for us to speak with one voice as regard to issues on budgetary allocations, executing them and making sure that things which are important to the people are being done, especially the neglect being faced in the local government. We need to have a society that is economically empowered and independently stable to be able to make informed choices, even in voting. The truth about it is that by the time you put the people in abject poverty, they’re at your beck and call and at the end of it all, we would have elected politicians that are incompetent, which is what we see in Nigeria at the moment. Making sure that the people are moved out of poverty, they can make informed decisions and things can go well. In terms of issue of concession within the leaders, of course, the leaders can resolve to speak in the direction of fighting for the interest of the country. The Nigerian state is in dire need of production so that they can help to develop the internal needs of the country. It’s not about continuously making the people cry in need. I know His Excellency had a one-on-one contact with a woman in Kano. The woman was just crying that they couldn’t take care of their children, sending them to school, feeding them and all of that. It’s not as if to say that they are lazy but their farms are already overrun by bandits. So, what is the issue of the bandits themselves, it is about the issue of neglect in the local governments. You can imagine 15 trillion that is being proposed for a coastal road, if the money is distributed to the local governments where the people will feel the impact, can you imagine the kind of energy that will resolve and come out of these local governments. It’s this narrative that he is trying to push into the national discourse, and I’m happy that the reception he got from his colleagues is very encouraging. We want to urge Nigerians to think in that direction so that at the end of it all, it won’t be spaghetti, sugar, milo and all others that will determine the vote of any Nigerian. The person who wishes to vote will vote from his personal conviction. ABC has the capacity, the competence, and this is what he can do for us, and not for somebody coming to give me spaghetti or magi before I can vote. So, these are the concessions that can be made in trying to change the psyche of Nigerians to think about the genuine democracy that all of us will be proud of.

You say we want to move away from politics of spaghetti and all of that but some critics will say that  Peter Obi during Ramadan and even now was eating with Almajiris; and some of the boreholes we saw during the last election Obi had stronghold in the South and now he needs to make in-road in the North, so how much of this is politics and how much is governance because it’s easy to reduce this to governance but at the end of the day, Peter Obi knows he needs the North and he has to make the necessary alliances there, so how much of this is about governance?

As far as he is concerned, he is not interested in the divisive politics that the conventional politicians are used to, that is regional, tribe and religion politics. Every Nigerian is important to his Excellency and that was the reason most of the time that we were campaigning he talked about the arable land in the North, where he gave a statistical analysis that Niger State alone can feed the Federal Republic of Nigeria. Even the Sambisa forest that is supposed to be used for productive purpose has been turned into a haven to bandits. It’s something that he has been looking into. Can you imagine if Nigeria can put these resources into use, this country will be super rich? So, as far as we’re concerned, he has always been aligning with the northern part of the country, identifying the potential there. Long even before the election and even during the campaign, he did all of that. What he is doing now is getting closer to the people. During the election, a lot of people came out and told lies. Remember when I gave an analogy of what was going on in the North, in the churches that probably he is a religious bigot. His motive is to get closer to the people.

So it is all about politics….

Getting closer to the people is not about politics. What I mean by getting closer to the people, is getting to know them and they also know him. It’s a different ball game entirely.  When there was need for him to support them, he did support them. It’s the reason for the borehole, going to the Almajiri schools and all of that. Let me say this, just imagine, had it been that His Excellency didn’t do this or didn’t move from point A to point B, what will the people say? Now he is doing it and people are still talking. He is doing it practically and even supporting practically. Is it when there is election that you expect him to go round? This is the best time to do it independently that even before the election, you will tell them, this is who I am.  This is somebody who has been doing this humanitarian support even in Haiti, outside of this country.  He has been doing it, it’s not his first time. People didn’t know that, he only brought it out to the public domain.

You said earlier about trying to shift the mindset of Nigerians from short term benefits, are you concerned based on current realities, our economy, what Nigerians are experiencing right now, that might be a perfect  storm to reinforce that mindset based on desperation, are you not concerned that this stomach infrastructure can be reinforced as opposed to being sidelined?

That is why he said that the country belongs to every one of us and that is the reason he found it very expedient to pay the visit to the key leaders. He said to them, gentlemen let us do this, it will help deepen our democracy. Let us do this, it’ll help our people, let us do this, it’ll help our country in general. Let us do this and change the narrative and the mindset of the common man on the street. By sitting down to eat with the children who are not privileged, it’s just the show of love and empathy. Many people will see it as if it is appalling, some even say, why would he eat with the same spoon as a small child, he said, the child is a human being just like me. By showing him love, it’ll change the mindset of the child. He didn’t feel he had misgiving against the government, against the leaders, it’s just like, and this is me showing you that it can be done differently. Imagine if thousands of our leaders do the same, do you think we would find ourselves in this particular situation? Obviously, no. The idea is just to call every Nigerian that has the means to help, so that we can change the psyche. If we leave this situation the way it is now, God knows what will happen before the next dispensation. So, before it happens, let us change the narrative. I’m glad that he is championing this particular cause. I only hope that every leader will do similar things to help build a Nigeria that all of us will be proud of.