The Presidential Candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Senator Rabiu Musa Kwakwanso, was adjudged as the dark horse ahead of the 2023 presidential election; however, with just months to the poll, KEHINDE OSASONA asks if he is still a contender to the throne.
When two-term Governor of Kano state, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, and some political associates formed the National Movement, which later adopted the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP) as its political wing, some Nigerians hailed the decision, tagging it a third force capable of giving the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the major opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), a run for their money.
Justifying its formation at a media parley, the group said it was on a mission to save the country from the PDP and APC, arguing that the parties had run the country in turns since the beginning of the Fourth Republic.
The eventual defection of the arrowhead, Kwankwaso, who commands a large number of supporters, did not come to many as a surprise.
Intra-party disagreements with stakeholders in the main opposition PDP coupled with other reasons had led to Kwankwaso’s defection.
Now the presidential candidate of his newly formed party the former governor has insisted that the NNPP was the party to beat in next year’s general elections.
Dismissing his claims, political observers who spoke to Blueprint Weekend said NNPP was a party of the future with no capacity to shake the ruling party APC and its main opposition, the PDP.
Aligning with the observer’s views, the Senator representing Kano South, Kabiru Gaya, said NNPP would not be a threat to the victory of the APC governorship candidates in Kano state.
Gaya, a former governor of the state, speaking recently, maintained that: “In Kano, we have two political parties; the APC and the PDP. The PDP split into two with the Kwankwassiyya forming NNPP. We still have only APC and PDP in Kano. So I am optimistic APC will win Kano in 2023.”
The question then is whether Gaya’s confidence steams from the APC’s winning strategy or he is privy to information that could weaken their opponent.
Others have also queried whether the lawmaker was merely basking in the euphoria of the APC being the ruling party.
Game of thrones
As he campaigns for the presidential election gets underway Kwakwanso’s NNPP has at least candidates of three other political parties: Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the APC; Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of the PDP; Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP); to contend with.
Blueprint Weekend checks indicated that Kwakwanso would battle for the soul of Kano state and by extension the entire North come February 2023.
Although Kano still remains NNPP’s stronghold, the party members cut across Gombe, Kaduna, Sokoto, Katsina, Jigawa, Nasarawa and Zamfara states. However, despite its seeming confidence, some analysts have argued that the NNPP does not have what it takes to spring a surprise as earlier predicted.
In an exclusive chat with Blueprint Weekend, a political analyst and commentator, Daniel Sombo, noted that exit of former Governor of Kano state, Ibrahim Shekarau, may have punctured NNPP’s aspirations. The former governor had dumped the party to return to the PDP.
Speaking on the development, Sombo said, “As much as I welcome the new party NNPP into the fold, I regret to say that the party is just a party of the future if nurtured well as it cannot rattle any of the heavyweight parties, including Labour Party.
“Here is a party that is yet to make any meaningful inroads southwards but only domiciled in Kano and a handful of supporters or followers in some northern states, I mean it does not cut it for me.
“As a matter of fact, even if Shekarau is still with them, they can only rattle APC and PDP in Kano based on their popularity, but I don’t see Kwakwanso springing any surprise again.
“I say this because if Obi had chosen to be his deputy, it would have been a three horse race for APC, PDP and LP.”
To make matters worse, while deserting the Kwakwanso party for PDP, Shekarau was quoted as telling reporters that his decision to leave NNPP was informed by Kwakwanso’s breach of trust.
However, despite Shekarau’s exit, a chieftain of the party, Alhaji Buba Galadima, has predicted that Kwankwaso would win all the states in the North-west and garner enough votes in other regions of the country in the presidential election.
Galadima, who described Kwakwanso as a lion, boasted that the North-west with 24 million registered voters was for Kwankwaso.
“Nigerians should know what is facing them. Take North-east where I come from, Kwankwaso will win Bauchi, he will win Gombe, he will win Adamawa, he will win Taraba. The only states where he would have to wrestle with the APC are Borno and Yobe.
“If you take North-central, we will win Plateau, we will win Nasarawa, technically we will win Benue, of course Kogi is his second home. We will win Niger, and now Kwara from our visit, is falling into the stable.
“We will win Cross River, we will win Akwa Ibom, we will win Edo, and we will win Oyo. We are fighting for the soul of Delta. If that Delta falls, Kwankwaso on the first ballot will be the President of Nigeria,” he boasted.
Galadima also said that even if ethno-religious politics was played out in the presidential election, Kwankwaso would still emerge victorious.
“And in case, you do sectional, tribal and religious politics, what would happen is that Kwankwaso is going to come number one with the highest number of electoral votes, and whoever comes second, they will go into the election, Kwankwaso is the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he added.
Can NNPP cause an upset?
In an exclusive interview, a former aspirant of the APC in Agbado/Oke-Odo Constituency in Lagos State, Jibola George, insisted that Kwakwanso had only come to showcase himself as a future presidential material, arguing that he cannot compete favourably with the two leading parties in next year’s presidential election.
George, a former LGA youth leader, further stated that although Kwakwanso cannot be left out in the political game because of his popularity in some parts of the North-west, especially in Kano state, that couldn’t make him a formidable opponent as the APC and PDP has the wider coverage and more followership than NNPP.
“As it is, in this coming general elections I believe we have only two wave makers which happens to be Bola Tinubu, the president in waiting and Atiku Abubakar, based on their popularity, tenacity and party structures which we all know are additional advantage to the top flag bearers.”
Also speaking exclusively to Blueprint Weekend, a former Chairman, Transitional Implementation Committee (TIC) during the administration of former Governor Abdulfatah Ahmed of Kwara state, said the NNPP candidate was is going nowhere.
The politician and chieftain from Kwara South, who craved anonymity, said although Kwakwanso has sizeable followership in the country, especially in the North, he can’t rattle either Atiku or Tinubu.
“I don’t see him posing much threat for the PDP and APC candidates, the two major contenders in the presidential election, and if the election is to be conducted today, I see him coming a distant third with Atiku carrying the day in the North.
“In Kwara state today for instance, Professor Oba Abdulraheem, a former Vice Chancellor of the University of Ilorin and a renowned education reformer is the NNPP governorship candidate but his party in is not among the top contenders in the state.
“Political party and structure plays a major role, the major contenders in Kwara Ssate as we speak are Abdullahi Yaman of the PDP; the incumbent Governor Abdulrasak Abdulkrahman of APC; Hakeem Lawal of the SDP; and Alhaji Gobir of the YPP, who all have their structures well rooted as against NNPP which is relatively unknown,” he declared.