In this interview with Editor-in-Chief, Musikilu Mojeed, the National Chairman of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party (ANRP), Tope Fasua, reviews the three-year tenure of the President Muhammadu Buhari government, saying the administration has done more damage to Nigeria than all others before it. He also speaks on the growth of his party and analyses how Mr. Buhari would be defeated in the 2019 election.
PT: On December 14, 2017, INEC announced the registration of your party, ANRP, along with 20 others. What has been the journey so far?
Tope Fasua: Many thanks. It’s been very interesting and challenging. Luckily we started on a good note. We opened up our process and system to all and sundry from the moment the idea of the party was conceived and kept growing the numbers until we were approved and certificated. By the time we had our approval we were 27,500 plus in terms of numbers. Since then we have added over 10,000 new members and are growing everyday.
We are Nigeria’s most honest political effort since the return of civilian democracy. People see that we were formed by regular people and we are vehement that we don’t want moneybags or professional politicians. We see ANRP as a platform for the involvement of private sector professionals as well as public servants who seek genuine progress in the governance of this country. We are aware that the political space is now crowded and may become even more so as we move along. However we are positioned as the next biggest political movement after the moribund two which have put Nigeria in serious socioeconomic over the past two decades
PT: So what is actually new that you are bringing to the table? Why should Nigerians take your platform more seriously than APC, PDP and the other older platforms?
Tope Fasua: This is a two-pronged question. What is actually new about ANRP especially in view of 67 other choices? I usually say we are Nigeria’s most honest effort so far. You will discover that we are the only party in Nigeria that makes plain its numbers of members. We are the most transparent party in Nigeria. We are a party that is offering responsibility to Nigerians. The taste of the pudding is in the eating and because we started on a transparent and honest manner we have sowed seeds far and wide and proven to all who have taken the step of faith that we mean business with our transparency ethos. We publish accounts every month and make it available to all members. We are run by young and fairly young people most of whom have the mindset of private sector efficiency. We are prudent in all our undertakings. We are the party that Nigerians should be joining to build because we offer a true new beginning. Also our ideology is termed constructive pragmatism meaning that we adopt only the best policies for Nigeria. We will support businesses but responsible governance is the first port of call.
Nigerians should take ANRP more serious than APC or PDP or indeed any other party because it is only in ANRP that their voices will really count. We don’t have youth and women wings because youth and women own the party and are getting involved fully in the headship, midsection, wings, feet and brainbox of the party. Ours is a statement that as much as Nigerian people had been written off in the past, still we can organise ourselves and get it done. We were the first party to institute and implement crowdfunding in Nigeria and with that we have been able to open branches in most state capitals in Nigeria as well as host a talk of the town national congress in Abuja. It’s even much easier to join our party than to join these old parties where people have to return to their wards and get their village chief to recommend them . No. We live in a digital age with much human mobility. And so it takes a couple or minutes at most to key in your data online and join us at server.anrp.org.ng. We walk our talk.
PT: There was a lot of buzz around your party when the idea of forming it was first mooted. That momentum seems to have died down. There are suggestions that you have perhaps run out of steam.
Tope Fasua: Well ordinarily I won’t say I got the idea that there was a lot of buzz except among people who truly believed and logged on to the idea. For many the initial buzz was embraced with cynicism. For those driving the process the trick is to ignore cynics and get on with the job. There are t’s to cross and i’s to dot. What we did was basically unprecedented because we built consensus among as many Nigerians as believed in the idea. We didn’t keep the idea secret and that is why many heard about it. Now perhaps it’s natural but Nigerians love ready-made things. We didn’t project that we were already made. We wanted people to join and make the idea. We got a handful. We didn’t get millions. But we planted a seed. As at today our population is around 50,000 and growing. You will soon see numbers bumping up because we devised a new manner of uploading members on our system. We had to move our website to a more secure server and also got a much higher bandwidth because the former arrangement could not cope with the traffic of people who were just visiting to see what we were on about. As I speak we have just got about 8,000 new real members in Ekiti and another 5,000 in Ondo. We are getting members daily..We are genuine and organic.
So the buzz hasn’t died down among those who truly believe in this idea and are ready to be part of building it up. It may seem to have slowed in the eyes of those whose reaction to the ANRP idea was cynicism. On the 17th of February 2018 we had our National Convention at Eagle Square Abuja. The turnout was extraordinary. I was amazed myself. Real members came from 36 states. We didn’t hire any crowd. The big parties were afraid. That was great to see. So we decided to continue building our structure. By April 7 we are commencing our state congresses in eight states – six in the South West plus FCT and Kogi. So I will urge you and all who are truly caring to be methodical. Noise is not progress. It takes the bamboo tree five years of watering to grow roots and the sixth year to soar into the skies. We will not need six years but we know that structure is key.
By May 2018 we will move to our LG congresses and later to wards. That is the surest way to build a party. Most others are basing theirs on deception and they call it politicking. Of course we are constrained by finance and that is okay because if we had all the money to spend today even you should be suspicious. We decided that pending when we raise enough cash amongst ourselves we must keep doing every little thing we can do to keep organising ourselves. We are set to surprise the world.
PT: You recently held a convention in Abuja, there were then complaints about lopsidedness in the composition of your NEC. What really happened?
Tope Fasua: Hahaha. Great that you noticed. At least we are making the news. Well again we should be careful not to expect things to be perfect from Day One. Anything great you see today was started somehow and perfected as things went along. Even at that nothing is perfect. The biggest room in the world is the room for improvement. Also they say perfect is the enemy of good. Many people who call themselves perfectionists are such that never start or get involved in anything but criticise and pick holes in what others do. Anyway at ANRP we aren’t looking for perfectionists per se… We are looking for those who understand how to start and sustain an initiative..We are looking for those who understand that even failure is a very necessary part and stage in achievement of success.
So when this idea was started a lot of my friends on Facebook joined. In three days we got people from at least 30 states. Usually those states with more internet penetration. Then we kept forging on. Those who joined early have borne the brunt of our progress till date. They have contributed money and have brought ideas. They have travelled all over the country too. We appointed some interim positions and most of them discharged themselves creditably .
Note that the national convention you referred to was also exemplary. All of us in interim positions tactically stepped down and allowed other people contest against us. We therefore brought in new blood into the management of the party. Of course those traducers who don’t want the party to see the light of day went to town to start counting how many northerners and southerners, how many Christians and Muslims. We don’t roll like that at ANRP and no one is complaining inhouse. What we have said is that we don’t do zoning but we do balancing. We tried hard to balance the outcomes ad much as possible. The process is still on going.
Remember we also have shadow ministers in our constitution. The list will be unveiled soon. No party in Nigeria has our kind of organic diversity. Forget the two big parties which have been spending Nigeria’s commonwealth to get big. The people there are united by the money. We are united by the passion. We have people spending their own money to give this idea a great push. Unprecedented. So at ANRP the first port of call is competence. Then we look at the result and balance out somehow. We also should note that we cannot go and beg anyone who is not a member of the party with positions. You have to submit to the supremacy of the party. Those who tried to make this an issue are not members of the party. Imagine. We’ve been asking you to join the party so we can build it together you refused. Some guy even threatened to go to court if INEC registers us..I reminded him to hurry up the other day. So such people crawl out of the crevices and start counting Muslims and Christians, Yoruba and Igbo and Hausa etc. It’s ridiculous. Same mindset that got Nigeria to this point. ANRP has no time for such inanities but we are a fair and just party
PT: How are you funding ANRP?
Tope Fasua: We have set out to fund via crowdfunding. We are the first to initiate such and take it forward. It is a tad alien to most Nigerians but we are prepared to go the long haul. The uptake hasn’t been very great but it’s expanding. And we can proudly say we have achieved more via crowdfunding than any political party in Nigeria. Our convention was fully funded via crowdfunding. Yes a few of us still bear most of the burden but the kind of Nigerians we are attracting are beginning to appreciate the fact that we all cannot just be foolishly collecting crumbs from looters… that we have to step up and own our own game. ANRP is totally about the emergence of new sets of leaders across the length and breadth of Nigeria. We want to throw up new names that people have never heard before.
We are saying that those famous looters that many seem to worship today were nobodies until they somehow found a chance. ANRP is the chance of our time. The chance of a lifetime. It’s the political equivalent of Microsoft shares being sold for a dollar at IPO – Initial Public Offering. With the N5,000 annual dues members are positioned for positions of responsibility like never before. They get an opportunity to get involved… to shape the party in the ideal way that they’ve always imagined. That is priceless. Anyone who says we shouldn’t collect any dues is trying to push us to be dependent on political godfathers. We will not go down that route. So in as much as the process of funding is a painful one we have left the opportunity open to those who still want to assist or fulfil their obligations to the party. The key reason why anyone will even donate to the party is because they have observed the way we work and think and believe they can trust us with the little they have. Let any other party try raise funds and see what happens. Donations are very key to the party beyond subscriptions but we even have a cap on that like they do in the USA. Our constitution says that no one should give the party anything more than 20million naira. This way no one can saunter in with stolen funds and say he wants to buy or hijack the party.
We got it all covered. Only that it places a bigger burden on us. Now we must think deeper, work harder, sacrifice more. It’s excruciating. But I tell.our members that we should be proud of the pains and complaints. If we suddenly have billions to spend we will stop thinking. And that may mean that someone somewhere has started to pump in money to steal our innocence. Our funding should increase in line with our membership growth. One other important aspect is that ANRP is undoubtedly Nigeria’s largest collection of talents. We have so many young people doing things for the party for free. Graphics. Music. Poems. Writeups. Media coverage. Videos. Banners. So so much. Sometimes it makes me emotional that we have got so many diverse people who have absolutely bought into this idea. We are thankful to them all.
PT: You came on board because you felt the older parties have disappointed? What will you do differently if elected?
Tope Fasua: We will do almost everything differently. What Nigeria needs now is a new way of thinking. A new culture. A new way or life. Nigeria is easily the most misgoverned country on earth. The other day Bill Gates was telling them how if they can increase Government Revenue to GDP ratio to the level of Bangladesh which is at 10%, we will.add a whooping $18billion to our yearly budget. That means our National budget will be up at $41billion instead of the paltry, dismal, uninspiring, hopeless level of $23 billion that it is today. We are talking of a budget for 180 million people. Per capita or per person that budget is a mere $133 per annum. That means $133 is what the arrogant and profligate, oppressive and irresponsible Nigerian government intends to spend on an average Nigerian this year whether on roads or health, education or environment. That is as good as nothing. Meanwhile half this money will disappear into people’s pockets. And another quarter will be used to pay salaries.
What is more? Again in the year 2018 we are in April and our wicked government is still kicking the can down the road. They are tossing the budget up and down. The lives of Nigerians don’t matter to these people. The members of the National Assembly are gorged full with money. We run a feudal system of slave masters and serfs. Whoever is closest to our resources just stretches their hand and takes everything. No repercussion. No consequences. That is why the Senate collects that huge emolument and the members still corruptly insert themselves in every deal under the sun. They even tell Nigerians that it is not our business to know what they earn. They have also told us to go and find out what Ministers earn and that is true. Somehow everybody is officially earning amounts not approved by Salaries and Wages Commission or the Revenue Mobilisation Agency. Somehow there are allowances appearing from every crack and the public which pays these people are not supposed to know what they are being paid. Remember that the budget is paltry. This is the reason why Nigeria is now by far the poorest country on earth. Poverty is increasing. Too many Nigerians are dropping below the threshold. Too many are unaware what life is all about and how to get involved in the new economy.. And the government is not ready to help.
They are more interested in feathering their own nests. See the story of the Minister for Communication Adebayo Shittu who was recently outed by a former aide. Now he’s telling us how he borrowed money to build a mansion. When did he get to Abuja? How well has his budget performed for the people that he became so comfortable to erect a mansion in just two years or less? The man was even justifying his penchant for travels and estacodes and how he has been doing other people favours to enjoy the same. Look, what we have are slavemasters. The shocking thing is that Buhari is superintending over perhaps the most oppressive, most intolerant and most unimaginative poverty-promoting government in the history of Nigeria.
So I went and checked what was Bangladesh’s budget this year. I found out it is $56 billion. And the budget is already approved and in play. Their population is 150 million. Our current leaders have no.plans for the people of Nigeria. Forget it. Algeria is already operating a $60 billion budget for its 40 million people already. Reuben Abati recently returned from Morocco and reports ‘first world’ infrastructure.
Everywhere seems to be overtaking Nigeria. Kenya is already running a $29 billion budget for its 48 million people. Angola is already effecting a budget of $47 billion for its 25 million people. The so called largest economy in Africa and clay-footed giant of Africa is doing a mere dismal $23 billion or N8.6 trillion for 180 million people. They are thumping their chests. They are deluded and misguided. They even think there is so much to pilfer out of that amount. We heard about 78,000 ghost policemen.
Nigerians must unshackle themselves from this nonsense. What we are saying at ANRP is that Nigeria has since lost its way. The problem is not just about structure or tribe or these things that divide us..it’s in our heads. We stopped thinking. Not that we were great thinkers before but suddenly we went into reverse. We are here with a new thinking. Our ideology says we are a thinking party and will throw out all these ideas and get Nigeria to take informed decisions based on critical thinking. Whether it is for budget or mad debt acquisition or neglect of the environment or neglect of human resources we are here with a totally new thinking that will delight Nigeria and Nigerians and give us a life worth living not the current nonsense.
Meanwhile, just to inform you: South Africa, which is meant to be our junior brothers in Africa – economy wise – is already operating a budget of $155 billion for its 58 million people in this year 2018. Where do I start and where do I end? It’s just pathetic. Absolutely pathetic and saddening.
PT: So given the resources needed to campaign in this large country, how strong can your party be for the coming elections?
Yes, resources are needed but not as much as these old parties have made out to be the case. Look at what we have built without having access to any government money like them? We have offices in at least 20 state capitals with the rest coming in stream shortly. We are in many LGs and Wards. We say we don’t have money to build houses but we are assiduously building castles and mansions in the hearts of people. We have young people across the country who are crazy about ANRP and truly demand change for the better or renewal for this country. It is these ones who will take our message forward to the corners of the country.
Our model is different. We are in touch with all our members via a Call Centre. We manage our members. They are delighted to hear from us. We build the relationships. We are certainly making a dent in 2019. We are unlike other parties that are relying on rigging. Yes they can rig but will not succeed everywhere.. We are tech driven and our eyes are open. If any of these planless, oppressive parties try any hanky panky we will contest the election to any limit. We are building our roots. State LG Ward congresses. That means showing presence. We will keep raising funds too. But one naira in ANRP is equivalent to 100 naira elsewhere..We are prudent and totally accountable. Imagine a political party that renders accounts to all members on a monthly basis. What could be better than that. That is the reason why an increasing number of people are ready to trust us with their hard-earned resources. This trust investment is even more important because it is why people will defend their votes. No other party has that advantage in Nigeria. None of them are ready for the hard work and sacrifice it requires.
So by and.large, before the next general elections all our structures will be solid and we will drive membership recruitment through our equally unique system of performance management. Let me give you an insight. We had since designed a form for recruiting en masse. Anyone who wants to contest on our platform is required to bring a certain number of members..it’s like the American petition system. We are not here to joke.
PT: There are speculations you might seek the nomination of your party to run for president.
Well it’s a possibility but for now we have a lot of work to do. Our party is not based on ego tripping. It’s not about one individual who thinks he’s a superstar. Personally I’m self-effacing. If not for Nigeria’s many unbearable problems you won’t hear from me. I’m here because of my pity for humanity really, myself inclusive.
Our projection for the presidential elections is that we will have at least six people from within contesting for the post. They will go through all the process and have a debate. The best winner will emerge. My joining the group of contestants must not upset the apple cart. I’m just another member of the party. At ANRP we don’t play politics like elsewhere. At ANRP everybody counts. We are the party that has come to restore dignity to the average Nigerian..I just wish more will know and realise this. Like Harriet Tubman, the lady who operated the Underground Railroad and helped to take thousand of black people to freedom north of America used to say even though this quote is attributed to anonymous online… “I freed a thousand slaves… but I could have freed a thousand more if only they knew they were slaves”.
Over the decades Nigerians have been battered almost to a state of stupor and stupidity by its wicked leaders. Tens of millions of Nigerians don’t know there is a better life out there even within Africa. Even the educated and middle class don’t know their lives will be better if their country was better. That is it. We are selling the idea of a much better life. We don’t need to borrow massively from abroad like this current government is doing. A friend said that if we continue to service our debts at this rate it will take us 120 years already to exit these debts. Yet we are taking more. So ours is not about self glorification. We are here to give the responsibility back to Nigerians and this country back to the youths who own the future. They should smarten up and join us at www.anrp.org.ng
PT: Garba Shehu recently said the followership of President Muhammadu Buhari is so phenomenal that it has to be studied by political scientists. How can a candidate like you defeat such a ‘phenomenon’?
Tope Fasua: I believe by now we can see that that followership is based on half truths and deceit. Yes it is an approach in politics to amass millions of believers based on fakery. It is not just our approach at ANRP. Who are these followers that Garba Shehu speaks about? Are they not the downtrodden and forgotten people of Nigeria who have since developed Stockholm Syndrome after decades of oppression and suppression by their own very traducers? Are they not the 15 million Nigerian children who have been left in the lurch of illiteracy and want? Are they not the religious and tribal fanatics who see something divine in the man even though he has told them via his actions in no uncertain terms that he is not in their class and category and would rather roll with the heavy hitters and moneybags?
Any follower with a modicum of intelligence has since shifted gear apart from those profiting from the system. How can we be talking of followership for a man whose children school abroad while he says nothing about declaring an emergency against mass illiteracy? A man who prefers the company of lavishers of our commonwealth in high octane parties? A man with no sense of urgency who cannot even move his own cabinet around. A man who has infected Nigeria as a whole with his own disease or stasis? A man who threw the country deeper into economic recession just because he thinks of himself alone and believes that he and some of his friends are superior to 180 million Nigerians?
I can assure you that most of that followership is waking up but I admit he may retain a chunk as long as he continues to promote illiteracy and fanaticism of different hue. Buhari cannot win 25% in 25 states and so cannot form government at first vote. He cannot get any of the five states in the east. Any of the six states in the South South. He cannot get more than two states in the South West and will lose even some North Eastern and North Central States woefully.
Look at the serious problem of open grazing. The man has said nothing. it is a tough problem that requires quick action not preachment. It is a fact that that age long practice can no longer continue in this age. No concise marshal plan is in place or in the works. No we don’t have leaders in Nigeria. The man has to be forced and insulted before he visited some of these flashpoints? He has refused to have a media chat for perhaps a year!
A president that cannot even talk to or motivate his own people? What is there to follow in him? FD Roosevelt led the USA through World War 2 on a wheelchair. All he had to do was speak. They called it his ‘fireside chats’. All the Americans had was their radios. The man took the USA to abiding greatness. The man we have here only insults and condescends on the people. He wants to be feared I reckon. Wrong strategy. So yes we can defeat the myth called Buhari especially for those who are feigning ignorance of that fact. Just wait and see.
PT: You enumerated how difficult it would be for Buhari to win re-election. How easy can it be for your own party to win the 2019 general elections?
Tope Fasua: Yes, Buhari has been part of the deceptive and wickedly myopic elites that prefer to keep our people in ignorance for the sake of power. Only that he played his own game extremely well. It wasn’t until he became president that he bared his fangs. Great strategy. Mind you I had admired him since 1984 partly because I attended an Army Secondary School and had soldiers all around me while they ruled the country. The scales dropped since 2015. So as much as he will have it easy in some parts as usual, it will be impossible to sell his brand in half of Nigeria at least. I recently reviewed the results of the 2015 elections and realised that he lost in some states where we may mistake to be strongholds of his. These are Edo, Plateau, Taraba, even FCT. I was like wow. And he will lose even more in those places going forward. Add that to the South East, South South and losses in the South West. We should probably be seriously looking at a Government of National Unity and ANRP wants to be solidly in such a Government because we must mainstream our many ideas. We must also deploy the youthful energy, passion, global exposure, enlightenment and modernity and most especially the innocence and honesty that drives us for the salvation and renewal of Nigeria. We cannot have another minute of lacklustre, wasteful, ego-driven, disconnected, deceptive, uncommunicative, uninspiring and archaic governance any moment from May 29, 2019. Enough already!
As for how tough it will be for us to win at first vote, I have enumerated that earlier. We don’t deceive ourselves. We have to work on building our structure down to the wire. We have to build the structures and create awareness for the party down to the very last moment. Let me just say that we are a party of consequence. We are not here for money or for jokes. We are here to bring to reality all those dreams about Nigeria that had remained in the realm of wishes. We believe Nigerians deserve a better way of living and we are ready to help realise this together with every compatriot.
PT: What’s your message for the Nigerian electorate as we inch towards the 2019 general elections?
Tope Fasua: Nigerians should know that a better life is possible. The poor should know that it is not their destiny to be poor. That we can achieve a nation where most people can pull through. The weak should not despair. They should know that the state can help them because we cannot all be strong and smart the same way. The middle class should know that their numbers can grow and that the progress of society relies on them. They should know that there is no joy in thumbing their noses to their own country. That if we make Nigeria better they will get the first benefit. The rich should know that they can even be richer and have even more fulfilling lives if we allow this country to attain its potentials.
I want Nigeria to know that this country has reached the peak of international disdain and disappointed the entire black race and that time no longer exists to kick the can around and faff about. The time for renewal is now. I want Nigerians to know that it is the choices to which our commonwealth has been put that is wrong; that a situation where 70 percent of the commonwealth is used to make politicians and civil servants comfortable and happy cannot liberate a nation even in a millennium. I want Nigerians to know that the time is now. They should join us at www.anrp.org.ng.
PT: When will you likely declare to run for president?
Tope Fasua: Again I’m not the item in ANRP. Someone has even gone ahead and is rallying forces for his presidential ambition within the party while I still slave away to ensure we are not running on a joke but building a solid structure. That we are not presenting candidates as a joke but to ensure we really shake the system when we do. To be a president in Nigeria you need about 10million votes. Where will we find 10million votes? We just have to invest all the time and resources on our hands. It takes time, talent and treasure to get this done. And it cannot be one man’s time, talent or treasure. Any serious person in this quest should be able to unleash these three t’s in millions of people.
That is why we are concentrating for now on our structure. Our state congresses start April 7. Then we go to the LG and so on. As we go along we are bringing in more talents. And we are getting more and more people to invest their treasures. Only then can we talk of presidential elections. Any party whose focus is on presidency without going through the crucibles we are going through is just deceiving himself. If people have never heard about your party in the villages and you have no members there to tell them how can you win presidency? Is it meant to be a joke? So out of respect for the party and our hundreds and thousands of members and admirers I haven’t talked about any personal ambition since we started. I’ve instead put everything I have and more into growing the party. Sometimes I find it tough meeting obligations because of the party. I get totally chewed out. So much poverty in the land and you have to keep carrying people one way or another. But when it gets frustrating I remember those who have been to jail several times in the quest to make Nigeria better and I tell myself it’s a sacrifice I have to keep making. I will only declare when the time is absolutely right
PT: Thank you very much sir for speaking to us.