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Why Atiku should support Obi as coalition’s candidate – Yunusa

Tanko Yunusa is the chief spokesperson for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, in last year’s presidential election. In this interview,…

Tanko Yunusa is the chief spokesperson for the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, in last year’s presidential election. In this interview, the former national chairman of the Inter-Party Advisory Council (IPAC), who is also the spokesman of the National Consultative Front (NCFront) that has been pushing for a coalition of opposition parties, speaks about the intricacies of the proposed coalition of opposition parties ahead of the 2027 presidential election and the real motives for his principal’s visit to other opposition leaders like former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido after his tour and interventions in select northern states.


As a stakeholder in the push for a coalition that would oust the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2027, what do you make of the declaration by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar that he would be contesting the 2027 presidential election amidst talks of him and your principal coming together and leading the coalition?

The declaration will not have any negative impact on the proposed coalition. It is the right of the former vice president to contest, just like any Nigerian.

Of course, it would be better if he (Atiku) supports a person like Peter Obi because he would have made a name for the rest of his life as a true statesman and helped to make Nigerians believe that Nigerians are united towards getting the right person. That will have given him a name that people in his category recognise that it is good to choose the best considering the age bracket.

It would have also given him the opportunity to make Nigerians believe that he is not greedy just because he wants to be in power by all means and that he can choose any person who is capable from any particular part of the country. That would have been a great thing if he had done so.

That notwithstanding, if the coalition achieves its aim, it will be able to give the best to Nigerians who they feel have the capacity to lead. So the coalition is a different ball game entirely; it has to be agreed upon before we can know who is to lead.

Will your principal return to the camp of Atiku; do you see him accepting to be a running mate again?

Considering that both Peter Obi and Atiku Abubakar have tested the political waters, we should recognise that Obi has gained significant traction among Nigerians, bringing new energy to the political landscape. For now, we are not focusing on who might be the vice president or presidential candidate if a coalition forms. We are building a nationwide brand that resonates with the younger generation. When the time comes, those meant to be statesmen will act as such, and the future will be determined by God Almighty.

A lot of people had thought that Peter Obi’s visit to the former vice president, former Senate President Bukola Saraki and former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido signalled that a coalition was back on the table. What is his true position on this?

Prior to the 2023 presidential election, Peter Obi had discussions with leaders like Rabbi Musa Kwankwaso and other contestants about the need for unity. After his recent visits to the North, including interactions with the almajirai during Ramadan, Peter Obi realised the extent of societal decay and neglect. He visited Tsangaya schools, ate with the almajirai in mosques, shared food, drilled boreholes and donated N10 million to various organisations and schools. These efforts aimed to connect with the grassroots and highlight the urgent need for systemic change.

Therefore, after having this particular vivid experience, he decided to reach out to some of the key leaders in the North, like thye former vice president, who is from the North-East, Bukola Saraki from the North-Central and Sule Lamido from the North-West. This represents a very big chunk of the northern part of the country, which he will use as a point of contact for others, as he said to them, “Let’s join hands to emancipate Nigerians from the shackles of poverty.” They also showed care in the health system and the educational system by way of alleviating the suffering of Nigerians, which is visually prevalent in the country today.

The major reason he visited them was just to pull out Nigerians from poverty; and you know he is an entrepreneur, a trader and banker. He intends to put all of his skills and knowledge to use with different parties to see how he can help in that direction.

You believe that it is not far-fetched when people focus on the 2027 presidential election because former Vice President Atiku has been at the forefront, calling for a coalition of opposition parties to stop the APC from creating a one-party system. Some suggest that this may be the time for Peter Obi to return to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Is that what is going to happen?

No; politics is dynamic. However, Peter Obi is primarily focused on addressing societal decay. Given that it is not yet time for elections, the best period for such discussions will be closer to the election. By then, these discussions might be more relevant. Currently, our focus is on addressing poverty, education and health. Our goal is to lift people out of poverty. Obi, being a significant political figure, might engage in political discussions to further these causes.

The leader of NCFront, Professor Pat Utomi, who has also been at the forefront of coalition efforts, said that opposition parties should have come together long before now. However, he believes that even if they come together now, it is late, but not too late. As the spokesperson for Peter Obi, is this something you think your principal is considering in his movement?

I am also the spokesperson for NCFront. I was part of the group that formed NCFront and even part of those who advocated this coalition. We made significant progress and were close to registering a new political party before time constraints caught up with us. I can confirm that these discussions have been ongoing for a long time, and Professor Pat Utomi has every right to speak on this matter.

A coalition is indeed a strong strategy to build a robust political force when the time is right. While it would have been beneficial to start these discussions earlier, as I mentioned, we have been having these discussions for quite some time. Currently, Peter Obi’s focus is on tackling poverty, education and health. In the future, we might be able to conceptualise and actualise these coalition dreams, but for now, our priority remains those three critical issues.

For the 2023 election results, many people felt that if your principal had a stronger connection with the northern populace he might have been successful. They suggest that this realisation prompted his extensive tours of the North, especially during the past Ramadan. Does this indicate a change of strategy with 2027 in mind?

The strategy has always been there. Reaching out to the northern people has been a consistent effort because, if you recall, he often spoke about the arable lands in the northern part of Nigeria, highlighting how Niger State alone could feed the entire country and even export food. However, physically connecting with the people has made these visits crucial. The events of 2023 provided him with an opportunity to understand the situation on the ground better. Many leaders contest elections without having direct contact with the grassroots, but now that he has had this experience, if he becomes president he would have a firsthand understanding of what is happening at the grassroots level.

Are you saying that this is part of the strategy?

No; it is not a new strategy. It has always been there and is now being amplified.

As a former chairman of the IPAC, you appreciate the challenges of coordinating different political parties. How do you see that playing a part in forming this coalition?

Forming a coalition is complex, and there are two main approaches: a merger or an alliance. In a merger, parties dissolve their individual identities, including logos, to form a new party, essentially creating a rebirth of a political party with a broader base. In an alliance, however, each party retains its identity while agreeing on shared positions and mutual support. For instance, party A might support party B’s candidate and vice versa while maintaining their separate identities.

The main difficulty in alliances is agreeing on key positions, such as who will run for president and which party will provide the vice presidential candidate. If party A runs for president, the vice presidential candidate from party B must join party A to mobilise support, making party A the dominant entity. This can create significant challenges in reaching agreements.

Most parties prefer mergers as they unify efforts under one umbrella and allow for a more straightforward division of positions once in power. However, these processes face challenges. For example, during our previous merger and alliance discussions, the ADC and ZLP agreed to merge, while ADP and SDP preferred an alliance. PRP, which was supposed to broker the deal, opted to remain independent. The Labour Party was not initially part of these discussions. That was why we opted for the Labour Party when we could not get the other parties to agree.

We hope that moving forward, parties would realise the benefits of working together under a merger, fostering new leadership.

Is the NCFront trying to midwife anything to see that perhaps even if it is just between the PDP and LP, a coalition can be formed towards 2027, especially considering the internal crises both parties are facing?

Yes, as I mentioned, politics is dynamic. First, the parties need to address their internal issues. There have been discussions about potential names for a merger, such as PDLP or LPPDP. If such a merger happens, it would significantly strengthen our position, potentially securing an electoral victory. These are considerations on the table.



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