The national chairman of the newly registered political party, the National Rescue Movement (NRM). Senator Saidu Dansadau, tells TAIWO AMODU why the Electoral Act must empower the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to automatically deregister political parties that do not win any seat in general election, among other issues.
WHY did you decide to form a new political party?
Honestly speaking, it is in our own opinion, the failure of the All Progressives Congress (APC) government. I, for one, and majority of Nigerians, have very high hopes on President Muhammadu Buhari and the APC, taking into consideration the number of political parties that merged to form the APC. But unfortunately, that expectation was dashed and when this government clocked two years, remember in 2008, I issued statement that I resigned from the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), after serving in the Senate for eight years and I said I wasn’t going to join any political party; that I was through with politics having served 30 years. I felt that was just enough and I meant it. But when this government clocked two years and I saw what is happening: the insecurity challenge, the poverty and all these socio-economic problems, I said to myself—look, not only myself, but any Nigerian that has a contribution to offer to rescue Nigeria from its present state of affairs, from this unprecedented drifting, if he or she fails, or refuses to make that contribution, he will account for that before his God. That was why I said I have to come back to politics and I said I would look for like-minds from all over the country.
What will your party be doing differently from the PDP, APC and other existing parties?
Number one, we want to substantially relegate the use of money in politics and bring credibility, acceptability and the fear of God to the fore front. Because it is our belief that, until and unless we substantially minimise the role that money plays in leadership recruitment in this country, we will never have good governance. Number two, we are going to change style of governance.
We said majority of our governorship candidates will be at their youthful age: 35 to 45 and we will get university lecturers, professors to be members of state assemblies, local government council chairmen. If you have majority of state assemblies as university lecturers, retired directors, retired permanent secretaries, at the level of council chairmen and state lawmakers, who is that governor that will turn the councils into his parastatals? That will never be possible. Who will be the governor that will now corner the resources of local government? The constitution says local government is an autonomous level of government. So, it isn’t a question of the constitution but political will and style. With these caliber of men in place, local government will have their own resources, they will be responsible for managing them.
In order to guide against abuse in this party, we shall put in place a local government caucus. The local government council chairman himself will not be managing the resources at that level of government alone. The caucus will involve at least three elderly, credible elders in the state that will be part of the caucus, who will monitor the budget. Major expenditure will have to be endorsed by them. Our leadership recruitment is also different. Our presidential and governorship candidates will emerge with the input of Nigeria’s traditional rulers, religious leaders, and professional groups.
Are you saying you won’t be conducting party primary?
Yes, there will be. We have a document that we call New Face of Nigeria; our agenda for good governance. In that document, we spelt out all the processes and we are going to make it public so that Nigerians will see how the process is going to be. So, in other words, it is a process that money cannot influence; it is a process that godfatherism cannot influence. It is a process that seeks the face of God. Purely objective. In NRM’s dictionary, there isn’t zoning- everybody, from the 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, people who are interested in the presidential ticket will be given the opportunity to undergo this rigorous objective process.
How national is the NRM’s spread?
Remember we are just six days old, but as I am talking to you, we have interim state executive committees in all the 36 states of the federation and the FCT and within the next two weeks, we start to open offices. In fact, in some of the states, we have state and local government executives, ward executives, including polling unit executives. Not only that, no organ of the party has right to take disciplinary action against any member of the party except at the polling unit. Remember, you dare not ventilate any contrary opinion against your governor at a meeting. If you do so, sycophant will tell him, you are his enemy and the governor will say, suspend him from the party. It is to guide against the impunity by the governors that we now say disciplinary action against any member must be initiated from the polling unit.
The number of political parties in Nigeria keeps growing by the day. A lot of people have reservations over the number and they have dismissed majority of these parties as brief case parties, with no functional offices. What is your take?
What you said is quite true. There is no doubt, most of these parties aren’t interested in even contesting elections. All they want is when there is crisis during elections, it is for them to be invited by
Whoever and then they negotiate, take some money and are promised offices. If you go round some of these parties, where are their offices, even in Abuja? Even those who have offices, are they offices you can call national secretariat of a national political party? I don’t blame INEC, but I blame members of the National Assembly for making registration of political parties very simple and for not making a strict provision of deregistering non-performing political parties. It is high time the National Assembly amended the Electoral Act in such a manner that there will be automatic deregistration of political parties. That is to say, if a political party, after the first general election, hasn’t won any number of votes, or seat in the National Assembly, should be deregistered.
You have said your party will be a departure from the other existing small parties who are just there to provide haven for desperate politicians who lost out in their party primaries and rush to the new parties to pick tickets for elective positions. What is the assurance that your party will not be another dumping ground for such aggrieved and desperate politicians?
Such politicians can join us, but we won’t give them tickets. You will have to wait for another four years. We aren’t PDP that will say we are giving waiver.
Will that not affect your membership drive, if you don’t give waiver?
We won’t mind! We aren’t in a hurry; we aren’t just going to be in power but we want to be fair to Nigerians. So, we know you cannot produce new result with the old order and that’s why we want to change the process. Anybody that wants instant ticket, when we open for registration should register and become a member. But if you dare contest for primary in another political party and lose, don’t come to NRM. We won’t give you. That’s part of our policy.
Can you give us your appraisal of the Buhari administration?
I haven’t seen any significant difference between APC administration and PDP’s. Buhari was elected massively in this country on the belief that he is a no-nonsense person. He will fight corruption, headlong.
For me, I haven’t seen him fight corruption. I don’t see him get the kind of result that Nigerians and the international community expected from him.
Yes, if you are talking about fighting Boko Haram, some progress has been made and it is appreciated. But more needs to be done and the mistake we are making in this country when we are fighting insurgency such as Boko Haram and other security challenges is to concentrate on buying arms and ammunition. You cannot fight insecurity effectively in that manner. The way to deal with insecurity is to grow the nation’s economy. Provide opportunities for Nigerians at all levels to do businesses of their own choice, make the cost of doing business very low, through policies that will bring about job opportunities—let there be policies that will allow a Nigerian farmer to sell his farm produce and make profit. Let the agro-processors have low level funds to buy raw material from farmers locally.