Mallam Falalu Bello, Danmassanin Zazzau, is the new National Chairman of People’s Redemption Party (PRP). In this interview, he speaks on issues relating to the forthcoming general elections, saying both APC and PDP have done more harm than good to the nation in the course of their piloting the affairs of the country in the last two decades. MUYIWA OYINLOLA and ADEBIYI ADEDAPO met him.
Much has not been heard about your party until lately, what has happened?
Let me begin by saying that our party, the People’s Redemption Party (PRP) is not a new party. I make bold to say that out of the 91 political parties in Nigeria today, we are one of the oldest surviving political party. If you go by history, our progenitor was NEPU, which was established almost 64 years ago. In 1978, it became People’s Redemption Party, and we have been there since that time.
In 1979, the party was able to form two governments of Kaduna and Kano, which now consist of Kaduna, Kano and Jigawa. So, in terms of size, for example, that accounts for about one-fifth of the Nigerian population. You wouldn’t say we’ve not been there, we’ve been there, we’ve been in power and we have been tested and seen for what we can do.
Since the coming back of civilian administration and party politics, PRP has not made significant inroad essentially because political processes in Nigeria has been captured, if it is the word I should use, by what they call moneybags, people that have money in abundance; they buy votes, we have seen it and it controls what is going to happen. But we have decided that we are going to rejuvenate the party. Mallam Balarabe Musa who held sway as the leader of the party all these years decided to let go of the leadership, and encouraged slightly younger people than him. Mallam Balarabe Musa is about 84 years old, while I am 64 years old, so he is two generations ahead of me, so he can rightly say he has handed over to another vibrant leadership.
Your party formed government in two states in the Second Republic, what is the current spread of the party, have you made inroads into other parts of the country?
It will interest you to know that in the last local government election that took place in Imo state, PRP participated in that election and won five councillorship positions. This just happened about six weeks ago. So, we are in the South-east, we are in the South-south, North-east and South-west. So, we are not a regional party. Historically, NEPU started in Kano, Zaria, Bauchi, Gusau and Jos metropolis, and it has been a national party. Historically, we are a party that has been in alliance, even in the First Republic, NEPU was in alliance with the NCNC, so we are a national party. For instance, I am from Kaduna in North-west; Babatunde Ali, who is the National Secretary of the party is from the South-west and others like that. So, the leadership of PRP covers the entire country, we are not a regional party. But of course, we cannot say we don’t have a history. Historically, the party started in the North-west and to some extent North-east, but we are spreading. In fact, just today (last Thursday), somebody from Delta state, a women, picked presidential ticket of PRP, and she has paid for the form and she is going to contest in presidential election.
What is the vision of this new leadership in PRP?
We look at ourselves differently from all other political parties in Nigeria, there are a few that perhaps I think are like us, in terms of ideology; I will suppose that Labour Party, theoretically will align with PRP, in terms of its ideology and thinking. But I am saying today that out of all the 91 political parties, we are the most ideologically inclined, and we are unapologetically leftist, not rightist. Significantly, we look at ourselves differently, and we intend to be different, we don’t want to align ourselves with the major political parties and their beliefs, we are People’s Redemption Party, a party for the people that will speak for the people. The last governments of PDP and APC for almost 19 years have just made Nigerians poor, the level of poverty in Nigeria today, particularly in northern Nigeria is 90 per cent and 80 per cent below poverty line. And this 90 per cent Nigerians don’t have a voice, APC doesn’t represent them, PDP doesn’t represent them, we represent them. Moving forward, you will hear us criticise and suggest better ways of handling this people, making them happier and richer. And if we are able to capture power, which we shall do by convincing this 90 per cent, for them to know that these people in PDP and APC are not helping them, they have been in power for almost 20 years, two decades and all they have succeeded in doing is to make people poorer.
I come from the North and that is the home of poverty in Nigeria, it is sad, very very sad. The rate of poverty in Zamfara state is 92 per cent, it is 88 per cent in Bauchi, 82 per cent in Katsina, if I remember my figures correctly. What has PDP and APC governments in these places done to make life more meaningful for the people of those states, so we stand with these people. We will stand for them, our government will be their government and even if we don’t form government, because I believe leadership belongs to God, we will stand for the poor, we will speak for the poor. We will speak for the widow, she doesn’t have a voice today; we will speak for the Almajiris, they don’t have a voice today; we will speak for the urban poor; they don’t have a voce today. The voice belongs to rich people in the PDP and APC. So, really this is what will make us different.
So, what will your leadership do differently, like encouraging youth participation in politics etc.?
We are not only targeting the youth, we are targeting the Nigerian population, and the young people are part of them. This is our own target, we will speak for them if we form a government, we will work for them. Also, there are certain policies we are going to drive, take for example, the sale of nomination forms, it may be so small, but it is material. We are saying that we are going to give discount to the women and the disabled, they will pay nothing for our forms, we will give them the form for free. The fundamental issue really is who do we stand for? who do we work for? Wether it is me that is on this seat today or Tunde that comes here, he will do the same thing, because that is what the party stands for. The important thing is we have a party that will work for the disadvantaged Nigerians and unfortunately for the country, the disadvantaged Nigerians are in the preponderant majority.
I am saying today that 90 per cent of Nigerians are actually poor, if you are talking about those below the poverty line, 1$ per day, and the middle class is almost disappeared, you are either there or nowhere, and this is happening in the days of PDP and APC government. So, what we shall do differently is to make the poor man the focal point of our policies.
In specifics now, your party tends to represent the poor and the vulnerable, and majority of them are engaged in agricultural activities and small scale enterprises, what policies is PRP bringing on board to help this category of Nigerians?
Let us look at the fundamentals, what is wrong with agriculture in Nigeria? Agriculture in Nigeria today is not an economically viable activity. The same kind of people and government made it unviable, this thing started during the military era. Growing-up, we saw what agriculture did to the economy, of particularly, the Northern Nigeria, Western Nigeria and even Eastern Nigeria; groundnut pyramids in Kano, cotton and it was virtually everything the country was dependent on in terms of its export. How did that happen? It happened because there were marketing boards, and practically they guaranteed price for the farmer. If you are going to grow cotton for example, before you put your seed into the soil, the marketing board will tell you that grade ‘A’ of cotton will sell for a specific amount, and grade ‘B’ will sell for a specific amount, so what they did was to stabilise price and ensure that the peasant farmer got some profit for its activity. Now, if I remember correctly, a military government abolished marketing boards, without alternatives, the peasant farmer was left with the vagaries of demand and supply. This may work in advanced countries where everybody is literate and where commodity exchanges exists, there is no commodity exchange in Nigeria today that is really functional. So, Nigeria abandoned marketing boards without any alternative for the farmer. Now a PRP government will ensure that agriculture again becomes an economically viable activity, it will be gradual, we will start, it doesn’t have to be marketing boards but we will guarantee minimum price for produce of the peasant farmer. Once you guarantee minimum price, that has taken into account some profit for the farmer, he has a reason to go to the farm, the banks will look at him. Right now, he doesn’t have access to credit, because his activity is not economically viable. Once you make it economically viable, everybody will want to go into it, because it pays him.
So, a PRP government will definitely ensure that a farmer gets a minimum guaranteed price, which is taking into account the farmers’ costs plus a marginal profit for him. And the for the urban poor, he has to learn a trade, but even if he learns a trade, he needs access to credit, which he doesn’t have now. A PRP government will ensure that the urban poor is trained in terms of artisanship and then guaranteed access to credit at not more than 9 per cent. You can tell me that both the PDP and APC have pushed out a lot of intervention funds, I agree, almost N3 trillion, but how many of these peasant farmers and urban poor have access to this credit? The money is circulating among those in the upper class. So, a PRP government will make sure that this changes.
And like I said, we are not talking about a party that has never formed government in Nigeria, PRP formed government in the past, and we have done it, the people have seen it, the issue is it is not just in Kaduna, Kano, Jigawa and Katsina, we want to expand what we can do to more states and possibly end-up getting power at the center, that is how we will address the peasant farmers and the urban poor which account for at least 80 per cent of Nigeria’s population today.
Of course, we will do things differently, I can assure you that relevant PRP government in Nigeria will fight for the abolition of the Nigerian Senate, it doesn’t need to be there, they are just wasting our resources, destroying our democracy, just 109 of them are holding this country to ransom, and what are they doing, do we need them, as far as I am concerned, they are not needed, we don’t need a bicameral assembly in this country. It is too expensive, it is too elitist and we will work as a party towards abolishing the Nigerian Senate.
Money plays a lot of roles in politics. How can we address this challenge?
I don’t know whether you read my interview with Daily Trust, I did appealed on a personal basis to President Muhammadu Buhari, and I am going to repeat that appeal, maybe he didn’t read that interview, I hope he reads this one and if he doesn’t, I hope somebody who reads it will tell him. I appealed to him, to immediately investigate what happened in Ekiti state, the vote buying thing, we saw the clips on the internet, it was aired by the BBC, people that were been persuaded to sell their vote for N5,000 per vote. If the government of President Muhammadu Buhari does not investigate this and punish those who have been responsible for this nonsense, I don’t think there will be democracy in this country.
A smaller version took place in Bauchi during the last senatorial election, where votes were bought for N2,000, this has thwarted the whole essence of democracy, because what happened is that you would have to go and thumbprint, show it to them that you have thumb printed ( a particular party) before they give you N2,000. Unless that is checked and that cannot be checked by a particular political party, these are criminal activities that are being sponsored by some state governors, the governors are known, if you do your investigations, you will know who and who is responsible for providing that money used in buying votes in Ekiti state. The media has not exposed those responsible for giving the money used in buying votes in Ekiti state. If those people who have done it in Ekiti and Bauchi are found and punished, it will stop. This is what I believe the government of the day must do at the center.
Are you comfortable with the procedures INEC has put in place for the 2019 elections?
INEC invited us for a meeting and I represented the PRP, along with the National Secretary, we debated their guidelines and theoretically, we are satisfied with what has been set. But I will tell the INEC Chairman that from the Osun state election, he must have the courage of punishing those who are buying votes, it is a criminal offence. INEC was in Ekiti and Bauchi states, they know what happened but they don’t have the courage of doing what was right. Theoretically, what they have outlined as the process is okay, but laws of the land must be respected, those who commit offences must be punished.
Unless we do that, honestly speaking, no matter how laudable the programmes and plans are, they will come to zero, because as long as people are allowed to buy votes, we in PRP don’t have money to buy votes, I am sure most of the 91 parties don’t have money to buy votes, those that have money to buy votes are PDP and APC, so there will never be change and if there is no change and the same people continue to govern us, God knows what is going to happen in the next four to five years. Before the APC government came, the level of poverty in Nigeria hasn’t got to 90 per cent, it has gone to 90 per cent today and when you push people to the wall, I am not saying there will be the kind revolution we had in the USSR, but honestly speaking, the social problems that are going on will increase.
During the first ‘Leadership Forum’ in 1994 of thereabout, if I remember correctly, I presented a paper which I titled ‘Nigeria, One nation, Five Economies’, what was discussed there is still relevant today. If I remember correctly, President Buhari was at that ‘Leadership Forum’, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida was there and I think Gen. T.Y. Danjuma was there and a host of other leaders, particularly from the northern part of Nigeria. I predicted social unrest in the north, I didn’t know it would be called Boko Haram but it turned out to be Boko Haram, I predicted it, go and look at the paper that I presented, I am sure it is in your library. I said so long as things continued that way, there was going to be social upheavals in the north and it has come to pass.
Boko Haram is not a religious issue, it is a consequence of poverty and unemployment, and believe you me, today there are 10 million people of school age that are out of school, even if you solve the problem of Boko Haram today in the northeast, in the next five to ten years, another Boko Haram is going to come, this 10 million people are hopeless, they are growing-up, and you think they are going to allow Nigeria have peace? I was talking with one of my professional colleagues from South-western Nigeria, and I told her that if you people feel very comfortable and refuse to do anything about what is happening in Nigeria, if you think the crisis in Northern Nigeria is going to stop in Northern Nigeria, you are just deceiving yourselves. Boko Haram is going to the South, and all these Fulani herdsmen crisis that we are facing around is Boko Haram. They displaced them in the North-east, they came into the hinterland, it is the same Boko Haram, have you seen a typical Fulani man carrying AK-47, no, the government can decide to call it whatever they choose to call it, that is their business, but any informed person knows that the herdsmen crisis in Nigeria is directly linked to Boko Haram and this is Boko Haram chapter one, if we don’t take time. If we don’t stop the nonsense going on, just few people controlling the resource of this country, we will continue having this in circles, this one will go, another crisis will come, that one will go another crisis will come, because you cannot say a society that is 90 per cent poverty driven will have peace.
People don’t even know where they are going to get their next meal, there are many people that took only one meal today, it doesn’t need any student of sociology to tell you that there is crisis. Boko Haram that we have seen is a consequence of social injustice in this country and another Boko Haram will still come unless we address this social injustice. Have we seen the APC government in the last three years done anything about this? The answer is no. In fact, more tragic things are going to happen. Over 27 per cent of our children are malnourished in Nigeria, what does that mean? It simply means that there mental capacity to develop is already impaired, we are producing people that cannot be intelligent, it is scientific, a malnourished child, after a period of six months losses his bran, his bran cannot develop like your own brain.
Take him to whatever school, he cannot do well, and this malnourishment is taking place more in the north than in the south. And of course, as far as I am concerned, not because I am from the north, if the Nigerian nation does not correct this, I don’t see how we can have peace, I am 64 years old, I am nearing my grave, I just pity people like Tunde who are young, because this crisis is going to continue. Who speaks for the widow in Nigeria, particularly in the southeast, who speaks for them, with the kind of rubbish and nonsense they are going through from their in-laws, nobody speaks for them. In Kano I leant that there are over 1 million women divorced, it is not just enough to say you are going to pay dowry for them to get marries, why are they divorced? Because people cannot feed themselves, look at prostitution, it is on the increase in the north, why? Because our boys don’t have jobs to do. Now, if any of these people in the APC or PDP believe they will have peace, I am telling them that they are making a mistake, there will be no peace in this country unless they change.
And that is what we stand for, people may not elect us immediately, but they will see the difference between us and them, and we shall continuously speak for the poor in Nigeria, for the widow. The malnourished, the almajiri’s and for the urban poor, because unless they are taken care off, there will be no peace in this country. You can send your child to the best university on earth, he is coming back to Nigeria. There are certain parts of Kano that you cannot take a good care there, they will scratch it, it is happening, not that it is going to happen. So, this is the difference between us and them and we shall speak for the 90 per cent poor of Nigeria at whatever cost.
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