Alhaji Bisi Olopoeyan, is the southwestern leader of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP). In this interview with SEYE OLUMIDE, he said that there was nothing wrong with him, as a Yoruba man, supporting his party’s presidential candidate, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Do you have any fears regarding the general election, considering the ongoing currency crisis and fuel shortages?
I won’t say no, or that there is cause for concern regarding the upcoming general election, but the recent nationwide protests against the policy are signs that something unusual is coming if the government is not careful. If the situation persists until February 25, Nigeria may be forced to change the elections, otherwise there will be a crisis.
For example, the way in which some of the protesters were destroying public property and banks is cause for serious concern. People are already angry and if the situation persists without the government looking for a solution, especially to the shortage of money and fuel, there will be problems. The cash shortage issue has nothing to do with any individual’s ambition; it is something that affects everyone.
Choice or not, Nigerians are seriously angry. What the hell are we talking about that a government is taking us for a ride, imagine that people have money in the banks but they couldn’t collect it. Are we now using money to buy money instead of goods and services? I’ve never seen this kind of thing before. This is not politics at all, this is about Nigeria and if Mr. President is not careful, he will set this nation on fire. Let’s wait and see how many hungry and angry people will pour out to vote. It may affect the elections if the government fails to find a drastic solution in time.
How do you feel, for the first time in the history of this nation we have a shortage of money and fuel and even electricity at the same time?
APC is in a better position to answer that question, but I suspect that there is something going on within the ruling party, which has nothing to do with other political parties. These money and fuel crises are signs that dangerous politics are unfolding within APC, but they are spreading the implications to Nigerians; that’s what puzzles me. I suspect that some stakeholders in the ruling party are trying to use the development to fight each other. For example, APC presidential candidate Bola Tinubu recently alleged that the new naira design and fuel shortages are being used as weapons by some members of the government to truncate their chances of winning the presidential election; Kaduna State Governor Nasir El Rufai, who is also a major APC player, made a similar allusion, but the government denied it. The fact that the government responded showed that there is a serious internal problem within APC and that is the reason why Nigerians should vote wisely if the elections are held. A house divided against itself cannot stand.
The APC gladiators understand what they are doing because fuel shortages alone are enough to disrupt elections, not to mention cash shortages. After all, INEC will use vehicles to transport electoral materials from one point to another and the arbitrator will have to pay the drivers to buy fuel.
What is your take on the suggestion that some northern elements are unwilling to cede power to the south after Buhari’s eight years in office?
APC members may think that way, but that has nothing to do with other political parties. This problem is peculiar to the government party, I don’t think the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) is thinking like that, after all, the problem in the PDP is about the call to the national president, Iyorchia Ayu, who is from the north. give up a southerner to create balance. We don’t have such a problem at NNPP. All political parties have their presidential candidates. For example, our NNPP presidential candidate is from the north, Kano State, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso. Any good candidate can win. I do not agree that the north does not want power to shift to the south. If this were a one-party system, then we can say that the north does not want to change power, but there are many contenders. For example, Kola Abiola, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) presidential candidate is a Yoruba man from Ogun State, the party’s national president is from the north. A Yoruba man is the presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), there are northerners in the party. Peter Obi is an Ibo man from the south, his running mate is a northerner, so why are we now personalizing the crisis for Tinubu, as if he were the only presidential candidate from the south? I don’t believe in that sentiment. Allow Nigerians to come out and vote for whoever they prefer. I am from the South but I am supporting Kwankwaso, a Hausa-Fulani man and also Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner who has support across the country. As long as it’s about elections, there shouldn’t be any sentiment. Allow everyone to go to the urn. A Yoruba man, Olusegun Obasanjo, was president for eight years, former president Goodluck Jonathan, spent six years, so what’s the problem? We all want the best for Nigeria. In 2015, Southwest endorsed Buhari against Jonathan, while Southwest itself in 2011 endorsed Jonathan, when the issue of minority opportunity came up.
But some people might see you as a traitor; that, as a Yoruba man, he is supporting another northerner to succeed President Buhari after eight years?
All these insinuations are not part of the policy. I have my party, NNPP and a northerner is our presidential candidate. APC has its presidential candidate and so does the Labor Party and the PDP. I don’t belong to APC, so you can’t expect me to vote for the party I don’t belong to or be called a traitor because I’m supporting our candidate. If I am an APC member you can say what you want but still nothing in law or morals says I can’t support who I believe has the ability and competence to change Nigeria. You don’t expect me to go to work for Tinubu or Obi because they are from the south since I don’t belong to their party. Kwankwaso is the person close to me and I also trust his ability.
Do you see Kwankwaso giving up on Atiku or Tinubu…
The man has openly said that he is not going to retire for anyone. And why should he quit? NNPP has its structure throughout the country and we are presenting candidates for each elective position. There is nothing like that.
What gives you confidence in Kwankwaso’s ability to transform Nigeria?
Kwankwaso will outperform President Buhari if elected. The first thing is that as a former Minister of Defense, he cannot be as insensitive to the issue of security as we have been in the nearly eight years under APC. What Kwankwaso has done in the past, President Buhari has never done and neither have any of the other contenders.
Nigeria’s main problem is the security problem and Kwankwaso, who served as the former Defense Minister, if he is given the chance to govern, he will know how to fix the insecurity of this nation. He will give due to the different security agencies so that they can function optimally.
When he was the governor of Kano State, everyone knows that Kwankwaso did wonderfully well in the education sector. If he is elected, Nigerians can be sure that the NNPP administration, under Kwankwaso, will fix these two main aspects, education and security.
When Kwankwaso was governor of Kano State, he did not borrow money to run the state, much less leave the state in debt. He can fix the country and is never known for nepotism or an ethnic bigot. He will never be able to rule like President Buhari, under whose leadership Nigeria is experiencing great security tension. For former President Olusegun Obasanjo to appoint Kwankwaso as Defense Minister, he must understand that the person is trustworthy. You know that Obasanjo is a former military general while Kwankwaso is a civilian, that is, the former governor of Kano is a man of honor.
What is your advice to those protesting cashless policy and fuel shortages across the country?
My first warning is that the protesters need to stop vandalizing public property because that will not solve the problem. We all know that the situation we are in is unnecessary and what the current government is doing to us is condemnable. But our reaction should not be the destruction of public or private property. I support protests as long as they are peaceful because it is unimaginable that Nigerians cannot get cash, no fuel and even the electricity supply is epileptic. You are making life very difficult for the masses. I am ready to join protests as long as it is peaceful.
I don’t know what President Buhari wanted to achieve by redesigning the naira and why he is doing it now that the elections are just around the corner. In 1984 he did the same and Nigerians went through a lot of stress; Why is he doing it again now? Buhari simply applied the military mindset with this new coin redesign. That’s the way I see it. He thinks that he is a military leader, democracy is a different ball game.