The adoption of Boniface Aniebonam’s New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) by some political heavyweights is set to change the narrative in 2023.
Unlike in 2019 presidential election when the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) called the shots with smaller parties making little or no impact, 2023 may be different with the determination of a Third Force, peopled by some political juggernauts led by former governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Initially, 3rd Force had been dismissed by many Nigerians as posing no threat to the two established parties, particularly when the window for the registration of a new political party has been closed.
Kwankwaso and his group have entered into a working relationship with an existing party, the NNPP, a platform they said they hope to use to “save democracy, rescue Nigeria from APC and PDP.”
In a recent interview with Rufa’i Ahmed Alkali, professor of political economy, and one of the key promoters of the Third Force, he said the Nigerian people had suffered so much in the hands of the two major parties, but that the Movement was going to change the narrative in 2023.
The Third Force under the name, The National Movement (TNM), a new political association, was launched in Abuja recently.
In the exclusive interview, Prof. Alkali said: “Well back last year, before the summer of 2021, a couple of friends, very much associated with Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, former governor of Kano State, decided to sit down to review the state of the nation, to review the state of the parties in the country. And we asked ourselves what was happening then, where is the country headed? We felt that history will never forgive us if all of us sit down in the comfort zone of our homes, watching television, condemning, and agonising, passing blame games.”
According to him, “So, we started thinking and talking. It reached a point to take a strong decision that no, we should go beyond initial phase of merely being friends to transforming it to a National Movement. We even drafted a Constitution, we have our logo; we have our motto and everything.
Our own position is that, there cannot be peace in this country without justice, there cannot be peace where there is exclusion, there cannot be peace where the vast section of the society is alienated; women, youths, rural population, especially farmers, even cattle rearers. They are human beings. They are Nigerians, fishermen, artisans, name it. So it is necessary that we must do everything to save this democracy and rescue our country. That is the background.”
Although no party has so far declared its presidential flag bearer, BusinessDay gathered that Kwankwaso was eying the slot of NNPP and was good to clinch it.
At the launch of the National Movement, the former governor said: “Nigeria shall be a land of justice, freedom and equal opportunities where all citizens shall aspire to achieve their lifetime goals and ambitions, to live in peace, prosperity, and happiness.”
According to him, “Today is a special day in the history of Nigeria, a special day in the life of our great nation and a special day for all those of us who are desirous of working together collectively to redeem our nation.
“For too long, Nigerians have been waiting for this moment. For too long, Nigerians have been asking for a way out of our current severe economic and political predicament. For too long Friends of Nigeria both at home and abroad have been looking forward to the day Nigeria shall rise again.
“I am pleased to say, the place is here and the time is today and now. Today, 22 02 2022, being both an ambigram and a palindrome, is consciously chosen as a historic day on which we the people of Nigeria, cutting across all social, political, religious and ethnic backgrounds and affiliations, are assembled here to launch this extraordinary National Movement.”
Agbo Gilbert Major, outgoing NNPP National Secretary had recently said the party was in talks with the former governor of Kano State over his possible defection to the party ahead of the 2023 general election.
Major said in a matter of days, the two-time Kano State governor would join the party alongside his allies.
He said: “Nigerians are getting set for the general election and we are meeting to reposition the party, and the frontiers are opening, a lot of Nigerians are coming in and there is need for us to adjust and accommodate the interests that are coming in.
“These are the very crucial decisions that we are about to take and it is going to midwife a national convention which will hold within the next 30 days. We have read Nigerians speculating; the only thing I can tell you is that we are in deep talks with Kwankwaso; in fact, we have almost concluded, in the next few days, we will be reverting to Nigerians to tell them what understanding we have had with him (Kwankwaso), but I can assure you that he is on his way into NNPP,” he said.
Kwankwaso’s plan to dump the PDP is already sending disturbing signals to the party as its Ward Leaders in Rano Local Government Area of Kano State have resigned to join the former governor in defecting from the PDP.
Yusuf Bala-Usman, leader of ‘Kwankwaso Kafarka Kafarmu’ (Kwankwaso loyalists in Rano) who spoke on behalf of the group, said they left the PDP over injustice meted to members of the party in the North-west region.
Bala-Usman said in his own resignation letter that: “We officially withdraw our membership from the PDP due to undemocratic activities from the party from wards to National level, especially, our North-West region.”
Kwankwaso’s entrance into the 2023 presidential race has continued to generate debates. While some observers remained pessimistic about his chances due to the lack of nationwide spread of the NNPP, others say perhaps, he may just be the game changer that no one anticipates.
Pundits however, said that Kwankwaso and his associates may have made a miscalculation by dumping the PDP for NNPP. They are of the opinion that his chances of realising his presidential ambition on the platform of the NNPP were slim because time was short for the party to begin to build it structures across Nigeria.
Kunle Okunade, political analyst, said that it would be difficult for any third force or coalition to make any difference in 2023, due to the limited time remaining before next year.
“It will be hard to trick Nigerians with any third force or fourth force at this period so that electorate can identify those that have destroyed the country. Challenging the two parties can’t make any difference. It is too late for the third force to come up because it will be hard for the masses to buy into it at this close time to the election,” Okunade said.
The idea of a mega platform or a third force is not new in Nigeria; such was the case in 2019 when it was suggested, buoyed by the entrance into partisan politics of some young persons with name recognised in many parts of the country and especially on the social media.
The new breed politicians made a feeble attempt to unite their forces as Presidential Aspirants Coming Together (PACT) and produce a consensus candidate without succeeding.
Due to disagreement most of them later contested the 2019 presidential election under different platforms, some of the notable names among the politicians were Fela Durotoye, Oby Ezekwesili, Kingsley Moghalu, Donald Duke (SDP) and Omoyele Sowore (AAC).
However, despite the failure of the mega coalition in 2019, it appears some politicians and leaders of conscience are bent on producing a candidate to challenge the candidates of the two leading political parties towards realising their ambition of rescuing Nigeria and Kwankwaso is seen as perhaps, possessing the profile.
“I think it is a good development that we finally have a third force that could possibly challenge APC and PDP. But the party can’t win the presidency in 2023 unless they are planning for 2027,” Anayo Ezugwu, a political analyst, said.
“Kwankwaso is a force in Kano and even across the North, but it will be very difficult for him to win the presidency because the two major political parties are considering Southern candidates. And some leaders of thought in the North are in support of power shift to the South,” Ezugwu said.
He advised Kwankwaso to build structure for future elections rather than hoping to succeed in 2023, adding that he could have been picked as vice presidential candidate if he had remained in PDP.
“So, I make bold to say that this is a political miscalculation for Kwankwaso and it would have been better for him to stay in PDP and become vice presidential candidate, which will brighten his chances of becoming president in 2031,” he added.
Adelaja Adeoye, a former national publicity secretary of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), expressed doubt in Kwankwaso succeeding in the next year’s presidential election, stressing that the time was too short for his alliance to yield any fruit.
According to him, “Kwankwaso’s reported defection to the NNPP cannot alter the fact that the 2023 election is a straight battle between APC and PDP.
As you know, politicians set up structures that can enable them to remain relevant or to negotiate with the big parties. How can few individuals set up or adopt a new political party a few months to the election and expect them to win?”
But Kwankwaso is not a push over as far as the Nigerian politics is concerned as he enjoys large followership in the North and other parts of the country, with the instrumentality of his foot soldiers, the Kwankwasiya Group.
Apart from being a former two-term governor of the most populous North-western state; minister of Defence and senator, among others, he has made impressive attempts at presidential primary elections in both APC and PDP.
In 2014, Kwankwaso came second to Muhammadu Buhari at the APC presidential primary election and defeated former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and also took fourth position in the 2018 primaries of the APC for the 2019 general election.
The third force is championed by elder statesman, Tanko Yakasai, President Muhamadu Buhari’s fierce critic; Buba Galadima; former Minister of Sports, Solomon Dalung; former senator from Kaduna State, Suleiman Hunkuyi; former Presidential Adviser, Rufai Ahmed Alkali; former Kogi State governor, Idris Wada; Solomon Edoda; Nweze Onu; Falasade Aliyu; Grace Ben; Umale Shittu; Ibrahim Ringim; Ali Gwaska; Paul Okala; Rufai Hanga; Abdulrahman Abubakar, among many others.