Kwankwaso’s presidential ambition in merger of opposition political parties a mirage

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Rabiu Kwankwaso

A former Governor of Kano State, Rabiu Kwankwaso, will likely not be factored in as either a presidential or vice-presidential candidate when an alliance or merger of opposition political parties try to wrest power from the ruling All Progressives Congress in the 2027 presidential election.

Opposition parties in Nigeria have been itching for a united front against the APC and there is every indication that Kwankwaso, the then candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party in last year’s presidential election and a leading opposition figure in the country, will take a back seat to Atiku Abubakar of the People’s Democratic Party and Peter Obi of the Labour Party.

This is coming on the heels of an impromptu meeting Obi held with Atiku, as well as with other PDP bigwigs to “rescue the soul of Nigeria” from the APC, in Abuja last week Tuesday.

Apart from Atiku, Obi in other separate visits had equally met with a former senate president, Bukola Saraki, as well an erstwhile Governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido, to which an insider in Kwankwaso’s camp described as “nothing,” whilst suggesting that Nigerians will vote for Kwankwaso.

“There is no cause for alarm,” the insider began, “The meeting means nothing to us. We are not worried that they might be trying to overlook us.

“Kwankwaso still has his sights set on the presidency and he is working in that direction.

“People are free to meet. They are free to form alliances. They are also free to add or exclude anyone they so desire.

“But when it comes to deciding who pulls the masses the most, the electorate knows who to vote for,” the insider said with conviction.

There had actually been discussions before now about which opposition politicians would be the focal point of an alliance or have their parties be the primary ones to merge in order to beat the APC in the next general elections.

Atiku and Kwankwaso are from the North East and North West, respectively, while Obi is from the South East and most political pundits had suggested that an Atiku-Obi or Kwankwaso-Obi alliance could be in the offing.

However, considering some of the political events that have unfolded pre- and post-election, analysts say that the Kwankwaso-Obi alliance may be dead on arrival.

In the last presidential election, Bola Tinubu of the APC beat both Atiku and Obi to second and third place, respectively, with Kwankwaso coming a distant third.

And then also, before the last election, Kwankwaso had tried to form an alliance with Obi, but it fell through. The real reason for this failure was that the two politicians were embroiled in a superiority contest which had prevented them from deciding who between them would spearhead their charge.

At the time, Obi felt he had momentum on his side. He also believed he was more popular than Kwankwaso and that it would be easier for him to be accepted in the North than for Kwankwaso to be embraced in the South.

Obi was also confident that most Nigerian youth were rooting for him and the support he was enjoying was massive.

On the other hand, Kwankwaso viewed Obi as a “small boy” and could not imagine himself coming under Obi, as his deputy. Kwankwaso also felt that he had not only accomplished more politically than Obi but also had more experience than the former Anambra State governor.

And so there was no compromise between the two of them and every man went back to his tent.

After the presidential election was decided – by Nigerians and later the Supreme Court – talks of a possible new alliance between Obi and Kwankwaso were resurrected and the expectations were palpable.

However, analysts feared that all the unresolved issues related to the failure of the initial alliance talks would still be hard to deal with and would, in no distant time, truncate any effort to see Obi and Kwankwaso trying to pool their resources together.

Reacting to the difficulty shrouding a political union between Obi and Kwankwaso, a current affairs analyst, Ifiok Solomon Usanga, told The Point that Obi would be more comfortable working with Atiku and that Kwankwaso has everything to lose if he does not make concessions.

“I think Obi will be more comfortable working with Atiku.

“They both ran together in 2019 and to some extent, there is chemistry between them.

“Another important thing is that Obi scored a higher vote than Kwankwaso. He should not be the one running after Kwankwaso.

“Analysts feared that all the unresolved issues related to the failure of the initial alliance talks would still be hard to deal with and would, in no distant time, truncate any effort to see Obi and Kwankwaso trying to pool their resources together”

“With the way things are panning out in the polity now, if Kwankwaso fails to do the right thing, he will find himself at the wrong end of the pecking order of an alliance,” Usanga said.

Meanwhile, Atiku, who is an experienced presidential candidate, had in November last year after the Supreme Court judgment which established the legitimacy of Tinubu’s government called for a merger of opposition political parties against the APC.

The former vice-president’s call was received with mixed reactions. Most of the political parties tried to distance themselves from his proposition while some other parties chose to be cautious about it and weigh their individual chances in an election.

For Obi, some of his supporters, the members of the Obidient movement, had vowed that they would not have anything to do with him if he decided to come back to the PDP or join forces with Atiku.

Their grouse was that Obi’s political ideology did not align with that of Atiku’s.

But in January this year, a professor of Economics, Pat Utomi, revealed that he had spoken to Atiku, Obi and Kwankwaso about a merger and the three heavyweights had agreed to it.

And though Utomi was asked a question centred on who the presidential candidate of the party should be, he chose to deflect the question, stressing that candidates are not in the spotlight now.

“No, no, we’re not talking about candidates now. We’re talking about what the party will look like, the values that the party will stand for, the policies that the party will stand for,” Utomi had said.

In a new twist, however, an Utomi-led group, the National Consultative Front, backed the budding political alliance between Atiku and Obi.

Utomi, without any reference to a future Kwankwaso involvement, has also applauded Obi for his “strategic consultants,” which he said was a teaser towards the formation of an alternative mega political movement.

Perhaps, one other thing that is not helping Kwankwaso’s cause is the internal wrangling in his party, the NNPP.

Kwankwaso is currently involved in a power struggle with the founder of the party, Boniface Aniebonam, with both factions dishing out suspensions to each other.

In addition, after Atiku urged opposition parties to close ranks, Yakubu Shendam, a member of Kwankwaso’s faction had reportedly stated that the NNPP was open to a merger with other parties if Kwankwaso would be the anointed candidate for the 2027 presidential election.

Shendam’s position was rebuffed by Major Agbo, a factional leader in the Aniebonam camp. Agbo had also insisted that the NNPP was not considering a merger.

The Kwankwaso faction held a national convention amid opposition from Aniebonam and the former Kano State Governor said there that the NNPP was the best alternative to the PDP and other political parties, a statement some commentators said would further distance him from the opposition.

Corroborating this, a political analyst, Ndubuisi Etenwa said, “I was surprised that Kwankwaso blasted the PDP and the other parties.

“You want to work with them and yet you are saying they ran this country down? It is not advisable.

“They have until 2025 to present any mega party. So, discrediting others will not help anyone.

“Apart from this, Kwankwaso might never taste power if he has decided never to become a vice-president.

“He should be open-minded, swallow his pride and realise that he must not despise days of little beginnings.”