Dr Boniface Aniebonam is the National Chairman of All New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP). He spoke to EJIKEME OMENAZU on his party’s preparation for the elections among other issues: Excerpt:
You are a top player in the Maritime sector as former National President of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF), why did you go into politics?
I have always been there. What I have just done is to move away from active involvement in the association activities as far as Maritime transport is concerned. But, I still remain the founder of NAGAFF. On politics, NNPP is the political arm of NAGAFF. This is time for politics and I am into active politics as the National Chairman of the party.
Why did you choose to form the NNPP instead of joining any of the established parties?
We did not register New Nigerian Peoples Party to support any other party. NNPP is a registered political party with same status as any other party like the PDP, APC and the others. We are not in a hurry about anything. Power is not a small thing. You must have an ideology, be able to groom people that have the same mindset with you. We are not a new party. NNPP is of the same age with PDP. NNPP was founded in 2001.
With the elections by the corner, how would you describe the strength of your party?
We have a lot of strength in the North East. That does not mean we are not in the South. We have contestants in places like Imo, Enugu states, we are in Zamfara, Sokoto and all that. I think what people are looking at is where we are much stronger. There is no doubt that we have the capacity to win gubernatorial elections in some states. We are doing well in Bauchi and Gombe States also. So, we are growing from strength to strength.
If you are contesting the position of president, you must have the capacity. You can see the candidates of PDP and APC. The candidates visit two states in a day. That means you must have a private jet. Even talking to the media takes money. You have to open offices. INEC no longer funds political parties.
You said NNPP is strong in the North. Apart from the North, what other areas would you say your party has large followership?
We are in all the states of the federation. We are doing well in Bauchi and we have the capacity to pick the governorship ticket there. In Gombe too, we have the capacity to pick some State Assemble seats, House of Representatives seats and Senate seats. In Imo State, we have the capacity, not necessarily to win the governorship.
With what is happening now, would you say the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is ready to conduct a credible election?
I think we are distracting INEC. INEC is independent. But, with all these problems we are distracting them. They are human beings. That is the truth. You can see all the innuendos about INEC …These are nonsense. We are putting them in a tight corner. People obtain court injunctions on daily basis. This is happening when INEC is already printing materials. INEC has a master plan and you are distracting them.
How would you react to allegations that President Muhammadu Buhari and his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), are planning to rig the coming elections?
Their body language says it all. But, it may not really be. I recall he was former Head of State and was toppled in a military coup. Now that he has a second chance, would he allow you? Nobody considers that. He needs to protect himself. However, there should be equity and fairness to all. We should know that whatever we do today will have ripple effect tomorrow.
The election seems to be centred on Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and President Buhari of APC. No one is talking about the younger presidential candidates. Do they stand a chance?
I have just given you analysis of what is involved. Nigerians have been made to be poor and you know what a poor man can resort to. A poor man will go for food to be alive before any other thing. That is the truth of the matter. Atiku and Buhari have financial back up. As a former vice president, Atiku has the capacity. NNPP was formed in 2001. How old is APC that came up and amalgamated with parties and wrestled power from PDP? They have the logistics. People can go ahead and deceive themselves. I have also given you example that as the campaign is going on now, some of them can attend to two states in a day. Can you go by leg or motor from Lagos to Anambra? You have to fly so that in the next 45 minutes, you are in Anambra, finish up, and lodge in a hotel. That is money. If you don’t have money, you better shut up.
How sure is your party on the presidential election in the 2019 election?
We had a presidential candidate. But, does he have the capacity to do it? We don’t have the capacity to contest the presidency now. The young man who wanted to contest the presidential position fulfilled the obligation of picking a nomination form, paid for it. To start with, you have to set up campaign offices throughout the federation. Do you have the capacity? If you don’t have, then you sit down.
People are of the opinion that these parties that do not have the capacity should have come together just like other parties did to form APC…
(Cuts in): That we don’t have capacity today does not mean we may not have it tomorrow. The election is not a do-or-die. Our party doesn’t want to be polluted. NNPP is an offshoot of the National Association of Government Approved Freight Forwarders (NAGAFF). This is a big organsation. Here (in Apapa), you have the headquarters of the association and the liaison office of the party. It is a family. We are moving on. Some of NNPP members are found in other parties. We have identified what is our problem; that is finance. They know their root. They will come back at the appropriate time. You know, when there is a system collapse, tactics takes over.
Many say the elections might not hold and that APC might not allow it to hold…
(Cuts In): People can say anything, especially the online writers. Anybody can type anything and post online. I am optimistic that the elections will go smoothly. That is why I used the words ‘There is hope’. Whether we like it or not, all these propaganda cannot help us. We need to be very objective. The only thing I can tell Mr. President is to understand that he is the father of the nation. We must apply the principle of equity.
What do you think should be done to move Nigeria forward?
When you to talk about moving Nigeria forward, we should be looking at the informal sector group. The informal sector is the engine of the economy, as opposed in what you see in the organised sector with their bogus data which confuse government in making trade policies. In other words, we should be looking at what do we should do to. Look at the Chinese and the rest of them, can’t we begin to think of improving the skills of Nigerians? First look at labour, do we have quality labour now? If we really want to search our conscience, we have to go back to technical education, where skills can be developed.
If I were to be a governor of a state for instance, I could go ahead and export labour, and that would mean I would invest on skilled labour, so that if Lagos or Enugu or any other state wants labour, they come to Anambra and take the labour and I would earn a lot of money. So, people need to think.
Some groups are asking people to boycott the elections. How would you react to this?
I don’t believe this thing you are saying. Most Nigerians are agog. Many have begun to see that their votes count. There is no need to stay at home because when you sit at me, decisions will be taken, that means voting will be carried out, counted and they will take over. The best thing now is to go and vote, protect your vote, finish. And I think that message is going down well.