The Chief Spokesman for the Labour Party Presidential Campaign Council, Yunusa Tanko, tells ADEBAYO FOLORUNSHO-FRANCIS how the party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi, will hit the ground running and what Nigerians should expect in his first 100 days in office, if elected.
The presidential candidate of your party, Mr Peter Obi, enjoyed massive support and endorsements in the course of the campaigns, but some political analysts say endorsements are not enough. Are you confident that will translate to victory for your party?
We are confident that with the level of endorsements that came in, Obi will win. Some may claim endorsement does not translate to votes, but I differ because an opinion leader or whoever endorses has followers. The most recent one by Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State shows clearly that there are a lot of people rooting for Obi and Datti Baba-Ahmed. You can also see the level of support from the youths. They are more interested in having a new leadership exemplified by Obi when he was the governor of Anambra State. With the renewed physical evidence of suffering and disdain unleash on the people, we are confident Nigerians will toe the line of prosperity, dignity and respect by looking for someone who has competence, character, consistency, capacity and charisma, all of which we have found in Obi and Datti. It is left for the people to make a change.
Different polls predicted Obi, Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party and Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress as the winner, what do you make of those polls?
When you take an aggregate of these polls, you will see that some are manipulated. Out of the almost 10 polls, the Obi-Datti campaign takes the lead; we won almost on seven occasions. We didn’t because of that rest on our laurels; we continued to push to make sure our message got to the people. We are appealing to Nigerians to protect their votes, defend their dignity and rescue Nigerians from those who have put them in perpetual poverty.
Some reports quoted a chieftain of the Arewa Consultative Forum as saying Atiku was the candidate of the North. How did that make you feel?
The ACF is a group of individuals who cannot speak for the downtrodden who are feeling the brunt of the misrule by some of their leaders. As far as we are concerned, it is not about Arewa or people in the South, it is about competence, capacity, character and those who have the will to change the narrative. I can tell you authoritatively that the North is feeling the lack of good governance for the 52 years that the North has been ruling this country. I am a northerner and I can say that I have not felt the impact of progressive governance in that region. It is our brothers and sisters who are on the streets begging for alms; they are whipped and held down by insecurity and many cannot go to their farms while the elite go to their settlements on tarred roads. This is the level of backwardness that we have faced in the past 52 years and it is time to change the narrative. I think the ACF has erred and they should bury their heads in shame. After all, they have not been able to lead the Arewa into prosperity. We are wealthy in the North and people can attest to it also that we are not lazy or weak. All we need is good governance, which has been lacking.
Many people still believe that your presidential candidate has a weak political base in the North. How will you manage that?
I agree that some may feel we are not strong from their perspective, but I can tell you that the bulk of the people feeling the negativity of this present government are known. It is amazing to know that if you drop a Peter Obi shirt or his face cap on a street in the North, people rush them just because they can associate with him. I have been on the street, faced the people and been on radio. I can conveniently tell you what they are feeling. They have decided that they will fight for their rights this time round. The notion that Obi and Datti are not visible in the North is fallacy. We are very much on ground.
What states are you hoping to win in the North aside from Taraba, Plateau, Benue and perhaps Nasarawa that your critics claimed you have penetrated?
I don’t want to make assertions, but I am assuring you that we will get enough votes in the North-West and even the North-East. Don’t forget Gombe, Taraba, Adamawa, Niger and Abuja in addition to the ones you mentioned. In some parts of Katsina, Kwara, Kaduna and Kano states, we will get our votes. It will surprise a lot of people.
What are your biggest fears going into this election?
I will say it is the fear of those trying to cause mayhem in order to disrupt the exercise. There is every tendency they may try to cause commotion and manipulate the poll once they start to lose ground. Therefore, I call on the state security apparatus to be at alert. As long as the process is fair, we have no problem with that.
There can only be a winner, what will Obi do if he loses this election?
We are not afraid because we are democrats. A full democrat only exemplifies his character when he knows he lost in a free and fair contest. That’s what makes him a democrat. But if there is manipulation and he was denied victory, he has the right to challenge the process. However, if we lose in a fair and credible exercise, we will do what we ought to do as democrats. The caveat is for the process to be free, fair and credible.
In addition to moving Nigeria from consumption to production economy, can you summarise specific things Obi will do in some specific sectors?
Obi has said that every local government area in Nigeria has a domicile way of survival. For instance, we in Kano produce rice and most of our industries in Kano are independently financed. There are LGAs that produce palm oil, salt, cucumber, water melon and yam, especially in Benue. In the South-West, some areas produce garri, cassava, rubber and cocoa. These products have not been fully explored for a very long time. What Obi and Datti intend to do is to empower each local government to produce what they are known for. Can you imagine what our economy will look like if we are producing these products in a convenient manner? It will go beyond the usual subsistence farming for many and we will start exporting. That should even force down the pressure on the naira due to the high demand for dollars. Local manufacturers will be encouraged and we will make sure Nigerians are engaged. Within four years, we should be talking about massive production and feeding not just Africa but the international community. When you are economically endowed, it takes care of security.
If Obi wins, what changes should Nigerians expect to see in his first 100 days in office?
Practical actions based on his seven-point agenda. In terms of security, you will see improvements. In the economy, I have shown you how we will encourage people to return to farming. Infrastructural development is there as well as cutting waste in government in alignment with the Stephen Oronsaye Report. There will be employment opportunities and legal reform will be looked into. These are achievable and Obi and his running mate will hit the ground running once they are elected.
Political pundits have predicted a keenly contested election, do you envisage a narrow win, landslide or a run-off?
As far as we are concerned, we are determined to win this election by a landslide. I have reeled out statistics from previous polls. We don’t think it will get to a run-off. We want to win the election on first ballot. We have the numbers on our side and we strongly believe it will work for us.