A female president will lead Nigeria better- Dantalle, APM Chairman
Alhaji Yusuf Mamman Dantalle is the National Secretary of IPAC, the umbrella body of all political parties in the country. He is also the National Chairman of the Allied Peoples Movement [APM], one of the eighteen registered political parties hoping to replace the ruling All Progressives Congress after the 2023 general elections. In this interview with Cyril Mbah, Dantalle vehemently defended the party’s choice of a female industrialist, Princess Chichi Ojie, as its presidential candidate, insisting that Nigeria requires a reliable determined female, who can perform better than men in the high office of president, to rebuild the nation. Excerpts.
The general election is less than 40 days from now, how prepared is your party to participate and win the election?
Well, we are prepared like every other political party to participate in the election. We are working hard but our strategy might not be the same with other parties. I assure you however that the party is working hard and do not forget that we have the only female candidate for the presidential election. All we have been doing is to ensure we put solid structures together so we can have smooth campaigns for the elections and we started by sensitizing the people at the grassroots. Our party is less than five years old but we have done very well and we would continue to do so in the future.
Where do you depend for your strength? Are you banking on the youths, the women, the workers, the middle class or the old brigade?
We are working with all the groups. We are not excluding any group but primarily we will depend heavily on the women because of their voting strength. The data of registered voters released recently by INEC showed that women are second in numerical strength. We are appealing to women to know that it will not be business as usual again. We have to do something different this time around to get better results. Primarily, we are focusing on the women folk and our presidential candidate is young, which means that she falls within the class of the youth. We are also trying to see how we would appeal to the conscience of the youth and the older generation, who are our parents and teachers, to support the youth in the election. We also appeal to the working class because as an industrialist, our candidate has done well and she comes from a very reputable family.
Do you have any special empowerment programmes for women and the youth that you may wish to talk about?
The programmes we have are still in the incubator, but we would release everything soon. Our presidential candidate has not been in the country for some time. She just came into the country last week, but we would soon hold meetings to put things together to set the ball rolling. Hopefully, we still have more than a month to the elections. So, we still have time to properly strategize and go around the country.
Princess Chichi Ojie,
Are you sure you can cover the 36 states within the short period of time remaining for campaigns? Do you have the capacity to do so?
Nobody can hope to rule the 36 states without planning to visit the 36 states. In order to seek the votes and support of the people around the country, every party should be able to meet the people and tell them what programmes one has for them. In as much as it is not easy, it does not mean it is impossible.
What are the selling points of your party and your candidate? Tell the voting public and the nation what to expect.
Nigerian politics has been bedeviled by god-fatherism whereby rich people bring their puppets such as house boys, drivers and loyalists to occupy positions without considering their capability. The only consideration is how loyal the people they put in office will be to them or to the party. APM is a party that was founded on the principles of fraternity and we detest godfatherism. Nobody owns APM. It is a party for every Nigerian who has attained the age of voting or maturity. Nobody can claim to be financing the party but we get our strength and funding from the contributions of members. This is one of our strength. Also, the logo of the party signifies what we are. It includes peace and agriculture with particular reference to cassava, a crop that grows in every part of Nigeria. With little strength, APM will survive.
As chairman of your party and the secretary of IPAC, how would you react to negotiations among political parties and presidential candidates for some people to step down for others at the elections?
In politics, one cannot foreclose negotiations, discussions and alliances. What is important is finding a way to make maximum use of available resources to achieve the planned goal, like when two friends agree to use one vehicle, instead of two, to get to their destination at a minimum cost. The APM has been going about its business and doing its own thing so far. We have no plans to go into any alliances or negotiations but if it comes and it becomes a necessity, we will consider what is most important which is how to get Nigeria to work well again.
It has been stated that Nigerian women do not love each other. Do you think that your female candidate would be able to get as much votes from women bearing in mind what happened to Mrs. Sara Jibrin sometime ago when she contested for the presidential election and got only one vote during an election?
Sara Jibrin’s experience was an exceptional situation and it happened about ten years ago. The same thing will not happen now. Our presidential candidate is sellable because she has so much to offer Nigerians and Nigeria. If she is not sellable, she will not come out.
Your candidate has been outside the country for so long. Does she know the problems of the country and how difficult it has been for people coping to live?
She is a Nigerian and if she does not understand the problems, she will not come to contest the presidential election. It takes a lot of effort to vie for the presidency on whatever platform. So, for someone to come out, it means the person knows the problems.
What challenges are facing your party as the general election draws nearer?
There are challenges but it is not only my party that grapples with such challenges. Other parties, especially those that do not have access to public funds, have similar problems. Some of the parties contesting in the elections are in power and have access to public funds and this makes them stronger than others. Politics is also expensive not only in Nigerian but elsewhere. We are trying to draw resources from our pockets to remain afloat. Because of this, our speed and visibility cannot be the same as those who have access to public resources.
You spoke against godfathers, but they play vital roles in supporting political parties morally and with funding. If you condemn godfathers, how do you get the money to finance your operations?
Godfathers support some parties with the money they get from public coffers where they are opportune to have access to milk. Those who made their money legitimately such as Alhaji Dangote, Chief Otedola, Alhaji Dantata, A.A. Rano or Chief Elumelu are not spending money on politics. This is because they sweated to get their money.
Political parties are constantly engaging with the Independent National Electoral Commission [INEC]. How would you score INEC so far in terms of its preparations for the 2023 general elections? Are there areas that should be improved upon?
We are 100% satisfied with the preparations of INEC. I do not think that there are any areas that the commission has not done well. The team under the leadership of Professor Mahmud Yakubu has done very well. INEC has surpassed our expectations in the preparation for the election. I am very confident that Nigerians will see something different during the election coupled with the new CBN policy of the changing the currency; incidences of vote buying will be greatly forestalled. This time, votes will count far beyond what it used to be.
Are you not worried that even the INEC chairman recently expressed concern that the elections might not hold due to widespread insecurity?
The INEC chairman is a very responsible person and I trust that he would keep to the promise not to postpone the election. I know him very well. He is a very capable man for this job. The increase in violence is normal in the sense that if people are going for some competition, those who see that they are losing will do everything to thwart the process by finding faults or doing things that may derail the process. This exactly is a summary of what is happening now as it affects the attacks on INEC offices. There was increased violence just before the elections in 2015, and 2019 and before these dates. Boko Haram operations heightened and there was an insurgency, but the election took place and produced people like Governor Zulum. Even in Anambra state, the scale of violence was so much before the election, but the polls held and produced Governor Charles Soludo. So, these things that are happening now are to be expected and there should be no cause for concern.
The distribution and collection of PVCs have not been very encouraging. As a stakeholder what do you think is responsible?
We must blame Nigerians who like the last-minute rush in everything and not INEC which has been so magnanimous by extending the deadline. People should try and collect their cards.
There are also complaints that some INEC staff are frustrating the process by demanding gratification and are being selective in the distribution of the cards. What do you have to say to this?
People should be encouraged to disclose such things. I had a similar experience some years back when I went to collect my card, and somebody was demanding money from some old men and called the attention of law enforcement agents who arrested the culprit. So, people should blow the whistle. Although we cannot have a perfect situation, there must be an exception. There are people who are deviant enough to want to break the rules, but such people are small in number.
Finally, what do you advise politicians and Nigerians to do during the coming general election?
My advice to politicians is that they must stop the politics of ‘we must get it by all means.’ The attitude must stop in the interest of the nation. It is God that gives leadership, and He gives it to whoever He wants. In the end, it is only one person that will emerge for each position. We must have a country and a home before any other thing. If we destroy our homes in the name of politics, we have done a great disservice to ourselves, and nobody will come to fix it for us. Whatever we do, Nigerians should prioritise the harmonious existence of the people and society by putting God first in all we do. President Muhammadu Buhari contested the election several times before winning to become president. Alhaji Atiku Abubakar contested many times. It is possible that this time around, God will favour him because it is the will of God to do so. Other candidates like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu or my candidate who are contesting for the first time can equally be favoured to win the presidential election. It is the will of God. Nigerians should learn to accept the will of God and move the country forward. I want to assure the people that this is going to be one of the best elections in the country because every vote will count. People should not entertain fear that someone will sit in a classroom somewhere and rewrite or falsify the results of the election and announce it. It will not be possible in the 2023 general elections. Ends.
Photo- Alhaji Yusuf Mamman Dantalle, National Chairman, Allied Peoples Movement (APM).