The fight for the soul of Nigeria’s third largest opposition party, the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), has deepened among chieftains of the party in recent days.
The party is divided between two camps, the Major Agbo-led group claiming to be original owners of the party and the camp loyal to Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso who joined with his group before the 2023 general election and later became the party’s presidential candidate.
Efforts to resolve the crisis has proved abortive, while the disagreement has continued to aggravated.
This is just as some chieftains of the party have accused the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), of instigating the crisis in the NNPP to destabilise the party ahead of the legal battle at the Supreme Court over the Kano gubernatorial election.
Sources within the NNPP told BusinessDay that some members were being sponsored to factionalise the party and scuttle its chances of wining at the apex court.
The sources noted that the disgruntled members were expected to speak in favour of allegation that Governor Abba Yusuf of Kano State was not a valid member of the party, ahead of the impending legal tussle at the apex court where the Kano Governor is seeking to nullify an earlier Appeal Court judgement sacking him.
The NNPP which controls Kano State, the second largest commercial city in Nigeria won the 2023 gubernatorial election in the state, but the election petition tribunal and the Court of Appeal sacked Governor Yusuf, nullifying his victory and declaring the APC candidate the winner of the poll.
The Courts had said that thousands of votes accredited to Governor Yusuf were not stamped by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) during the election.
However, the NNPP’s internal crisis started shortly after the 2023 general election, when the party’s National Working Committee suspended Boniface Aniebonam, its founder, and Agbo Major, the then party’s national publicity secretary, for alleged anti-party conducts.
Few days after, at a meeting in Lagos, a faction of the party announced the suspension of Kwankwaso, an influential politician, and 18 other members, while they also disbanded the NWC, elevating Major as acting national chairman of the party.
Later that day, the Kawu Ali-led faction of the party in Abuja responded to the faction’s move and announced the suspension and expulsion of Aniebonam and Agbo.
“Is it not laughable that Major Agbo, who announced the suspension of the former chairmen, the expulsion of two of them, and the dissolution of some of the states is now purportedly heading their caretaker committee?
“We are using this medium to assure our supporters all over the country that there is no substance in the story. His Excellency, Rabių Musa Kwankwaso remains the face of the party, has not been suspended, and the NWC under Malam Abba Kawu Ali remains intact,” Kawu had noted.
Amid the current disagreement, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) is recognising the Kawu-led national leadership of the party which had Kwankwaso as its national leader.
The electoral umpire went ahead to supervise and carry out its statutory verification some days ago at the Kawu-led national headquarters in Abuja and did not mention any other factional group within the NNPP.
However, Agbo who is claiming to be the authentic national chairman of NNPP, has said that the party was under his faction’s control, noting that Kwankwaso and his loyalists remained suspended from the party.
He said that some days ago that Kwankwaso and his group were the instigator of the crisis within the NNPP and should be ignored.
He stressed that Kwankwaso was trying to hijack the party, saying that it had nullified the agreement that allowed his group, known as Kwankwasiya to join the NNPP.
However, the duely recognised NNPP’s Acting National Chairman, Kawu at a press conference last Thursday in Abuja, accused the APC of using the paraphernalia of power to destroy opposition political parties.
It claimed that the APC had devoted its time trying to suffocate perceived enemies instead of providing good governance.
He stressed that the APC was doing the same thing with the Labour Party, appealing to the ruling party to face governance.
Kawu insisted that Governor Yusuf of Kano State, registered as a member of the party before the governorship primary, adding that those peddling fake news were out to destroy his image and truncate the fortune of NNPP.
“They have used all means to grab power, they should at least face governance. If they devote 25% of the energy they are dissipating in scattering opposition parties on governance, our Naira will not be on this downward journey into the abyss.
“Even with the removal of the so-called subsidy, fuel is still not available at filling stations. Nigerians are now experiencing the worst form of multi-dimensional poverty in the history of mankind.
“He registered in his Diso-Chiranchi Ward, Gwale Local Government of Kano on March 27, 2022.
“He took part in all the processes approved by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the Guidelines for the 2023 elections.
“The party is solidly behind him as we all march forward to reclaim the mandate freely given to him by the good people of Kano State,” he reiterated.
Speaking further, he said it was disappointing that some expelled members who benefited from the party were part of those plotting to crunch the NNPP with malicious tales.
He added: “But, it is rather unfortunate that someone or some people can descend so low as to turn their back outside, and be urinating into the house (Popular Yoruba proverb to describe someone behaving like a vagabond.)
“We saw it coming. That was why we issued a Press Release on Monday, December 4, 2023, that some expelled members of the NNPP have been hired by the All Progressives Congress (APC) to discredit the person of His Excellency, the elected Governor of Kano State, Engr. Abba Kabir Yusuf, and falsely claim that he is not a member of the New Nigeria People’s Party.
“And that is exactly what they did with their World Press Conference.”
Also speaking with BusinessDay on the situation, National Auditor of the party, Ladipo Jhonson said that Kawu was the recognised national chairman of the party by INEC, noting that no any other faction was recognized by the commission during it visit to the NNPP headquarter last week.
Jhonson stressed that Major and some other people where sponsored to distabilise the party.
“INEC came to the National Headquarters Thursday morning to conduct its statutory verification exercise, etc. They did not go to some expelled members to do so.
“One of the cases filed against us by these renegade expelled members, that is Suit No: FHC/AWK/CS/150/2023 came up last Thursday for judgement and the court (Hon Justice N. O. Dimgba) dismissed their claim in it’s entirety,”Jhonson said.
A few days ago, reports emerged that the NNPP was going into collaboration with the PDP and a number of other parties to check mate the APC.
Observers have since described the alliance as medicine after death.
Speaking with BusinessDaySunday, a citizen who described himself as “an interested observer in Nigeria’s politics”, that he had no tears for Kwankwaso.
“I read a few days ago that Kwankwaso was seeking collaboration with Atiku Abubakar and other parties to retain Kano State. What came to my mind was ‘these men think Nigerians are fools.’ I recalled that before the elections, Kwankwaso swore that he would never merge with anybody even when it was crystal clear he had no political currency to win a presidential election.
“After the election, he visited Tinibu on a number of occasions even outside the country, pledging loyalty. Now that they want to snatch away the only state he managed to win, he is running from pillar to post. That is what happens to those who think they are wise and smart,” the critic said.