NNPP intact, growing steadily ahead of 2027 polls – Olayokun

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BY BENEDICT NWACHUKWU, ABUJA

Aftermath of the massive defection by the ex-national chairman and other political heavyweights from the New Nigeria People’s Party to the ruling All Progressives Congress on Tuesday last week, the National Secretary of the party, Dipo Olayokun, has declared that the party is intact and steadily growing fast. Olayokun made this declaration recently in Abuja.

The party’s national scribe in response to the many crises rocking the party, said, “Once a political party is growing bigger sure you should be expecting contention here and there due to political interest, but as a political party we went into an election last year which Sen. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso stood as our party presidential candidate with hope of our party winning the election. Our presidential candidate successfully visited over 600 local governments in Nigeria during last year’s political campaigns.

“After losing the last presidential election we accepted the outcome of the results by INEC, but that didn’t cripple us as a party. We are coming with good political strategies for the 2027 general election.”

He claimed that the failure to embark on a robust campaign in the governorship and state house of assembly elections cost them many governorship positions as well as the state lawmakers.

“The fact is not denied that we didn’t carry out robust intensive campaigns for the last election, along the line we discovered there were underground anti-party activities by some state chairmen of the party. Some of the state chairmen were invited to clear themselves on these allegations leveled against them but just one or two of them came.

“In this background the party took a decision by expelling them, that was what brought the issue of faction reported by some media outlets, in this case NNPP as a political party doesn’t have any faction.”

Olayokun reiterated that there was a MoU that merged The National Movement and NNPP which INEC as a regulatory agency for political parties was aware of.

According to him, “NNPP was formed in 2002 and the highest it could achieve as a political party was a house of assembly seat it won in Bauchi State as at that time. On February 28 last year that was when The National Movement group (TNM) came to join NNPP.”

“As for the stand of the party’s presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, he said Kwankwaso is still a legally registered member of the NNPP and hopefully is preparing for the 2027 general election”

There has been an allegation that the MoU has expired but Olayokun refuted the allegations saying, “The issue of MoU is not a football team where someone will be signed for two or three years contract that would expire, MoU is an agreement that has glued NNPP and The National Movement group (TNM) together. There is no dateline agreed on the MoU signed between both parties. The big question is that assuming NNPP emerged victorious in the last presidential election, would the issue of MoU come up? I didn’t understand this issue of MoU where it’s coming from?”

Also reacting to the statement credited to the former national publicity secretary, Agbo Major, concerning the expired MoU between NNPP and TNM, he said, “Major doesn’t have any constitutional ground to decide on any issue of MoU in NNPP, Major has been expelled from the party with other members found wanting, some people cannot sit at the corridor of hotel and take decisions for our party, laws should be respected.”

Olayokun commended the former national chairman, Prof Rufai Alkali who resigned from the party after the general election saying his resignation was a clear indication of good leadership because he parted ways for the young members to have a playground in the party for upcoming elections.

“We are worried but not that much because we at the NNPP know where the arrow is coming from. Other big political parties are behind the seeming crisis in our party, which they have also done to the Labour Party and others.”

Still full of confidence that the NNPP would surpass its achievement in the recently concluded 2023 general election, the National Secretary called on their supporters to be calm and not to be provoked.

“Elections always come and go, we have been engaging our people across the states concerning the current issue in the party, like I said, some of the big political parties in the country are pushing it so hard to cause confusion in our party, we can’t afford to have one political party in Nigeria, so we have assured our supporters nationwide to keep faith with us, the future is brighter.”

He also spoke on the issue of logo that affected their chances of winning in the last general election, claiming it was only the party and the Labour Party that did not have the name of party on the logo and revealed that the logo they registered with INEC doesn’t have the party’s name on it.

As for the stand of the party’s presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso, he said Kwankwaso is still a legally registered member of the NNPP and hopefully is preparing for the 2027 general election.

However, a chieftain of the party who spoke with The Point on condition of anonymity alleged that the crisis bedeviling the party is rooted in the clandestine moves by their presidential candidate in the last election to strike a deal with the ruling party and abandoning the members who stood by him.

Our source claimed that the former Kano State Governor betrayed the party hierarchy in his move to pitch tents with the APC without carrying them along but when his bargain failed, the party leadership became aggrieved and decided to dump the party as a pay back to him.

“If anyone tells you there is no crisis in our party, that individual is being economical with the truth. If they also claim that the APC or PDP is fuelling the crisis that is another unimaginable lie. What is happening in NNPP now is an offshoot of the disregard to commitment of the leadership team of the party by our presidential candidate and leader, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso after the loss in the general election.

“We were aware of his moves to pitch tent with the APC and President Bola Tinubu after the election. That was why he decided that he was not challenging the outcome of the election in court but the unfortunate thing was that he did not carry the party hierarchy along. It was a personal thing that if his bargain had sailed through, he would have dumped us and the party and this is the major reason the stalwarts decided to dump the party. Though I am still a bonafide member of the party, I have not defected and have no plans for that now; I know many will still dump the party before 2027.

“If you say I am studying the political environment, you are not far from the truth, however, the way politics is played in Nigeria, we are expecting big fishes to join the party before 2027. Very soon the crisis will be over and we will take stock and know our position in the political calculations, from there we move on. NNPP is not dead and nothing will kill it. The party has come to stay and come 2027, we will take Nigerians by surprise.”

No fewer than 26 chieftains of the NNPP, including three governorship candidates, and the immediate past National Chairman of the party, Prof Rufai Alkali, defected to the ruling All Progressives Congress on Tuesday.

The development came two days after the South East chapter of the NNPP disowned the presidential candidate and leader of the party, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, and settled for Dr. Boniface Aniebonam, who founded the party 22 years ago.

The defectors who arrived at the APC national secretariat in Abuja around 3.35pm were received by the party’s national chairman, Abdullahi Ganduje.

Explaining why they switched allegiance from the NNPP to the APC, Alkali told newsmen on Tuesday that they found the ruling party to be an accommodating platform for any serious politician.

He said, “Mr. Chairman Sir, before you today are some of the leading members of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, indeed the cream of the party who recently resigned from the party. As Your Excellency may be aware, most of us seated here participated actively in building and strengthening the NNPP political base as a formidable political movement that enabled the party to field candidates in virtually every electable position throughout the 36 States of the Federation and Abuja.

“We took time to consult widely with our friends, associates and supporters before we concluded that following our departure from the NNPP and PDP, if we must advance forward, our next destination should be the APC. As usual, we know the temptation for some people is to say that we are joining the APC now because it is the ruling party at the federal level in the country, but as far as we are concerned, this is far from the truth.

“To us, the APC is more accommodating. We are even more convinced that there is a sense of urgency to address the political, economic and social issues that confront our country in order to bring greater good to the greater number of Nigerians, especially the poor, the underprivileged, the women, the youth and other vulnerable groups in our society. And we believe His Excellency President Bola Ahmed Tinubu will see us through.”

Welcoming the former NNPP chieftains, Ganduje told the audience that he knew much about the merger that evolved into the present NNPP.

“It was a decent party before it was bought and polluted by the Kwankwasiyya (movement). But you have done well by retracing your step to the right party, which is the APC. I promise to convey your congratulatory message to President Bola Tinubu and arrange for you to meet him face to face,” he said.

Reacting, the National Publicity Secretary of the NNPP, Yakubu Shendam, said that the defection meant little or nothing to the party.
While describing the defectors as lightweight politicians, Shendam said he prayed Alkali and others wouldn’t become a liability to the ruling party.

He said, “There is no cause for alarm. But I don’t want to agree with you that Alkali and others are leaving the NNPP for the APC. No, these people have left the party immediately after the presidential election. We know Alkali has been looking for where to perch since then.

“Party politics is always like that. People will cross over from here to the other side. You will recall that immediately after the presidential election, there was a lot of defection from one party to the other. It is not a new thing.

“Anybody is free to refer to them as chieftains. But what were their contributions during the last presidential election? What did they deliver? We only groomed and gave them soft landing while they were here. They are just regular traders jumping from one party to the other.

“We won’t miss them. The party is healthy. We have a gladiator in Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and he has enough shock absorbers to sustain the party. We wish them well and hope they don’t become a liability wherever they are going.”

The NNPP chieftains who defected included Kaduna State governorship candidate, Senator Sulaiman Hunkuyi; Benue State governorship candidate, Prof. Bem Angwe; Yobe governorship candidate, Garba Umar; ex- Gombe Commissioner for Women Affairs, Binta Bello; Gombe senatorial candidate, Abigail Albashi; Kaduna NNPP Chairman, Nuhu Audu; ex-Kaduna PDP Chairman and immediate past Secretary of NNPP (North West), Dr Isa Shika and Kaduna senatorial candidate, Mikaih Takwat.

Others included Kaduna Party Secretary, Major Yahaya Shinko (retd,); Kaduna Zonal Chairman, Usman Danbaba; former Cross River State Commissioner, Godwin Ettah; Gombe House of Rep candidate, Adamu Gargajiga; Benue senatorial candidate, Isaac Idu; Benue NNPP Deputy Chairman, Ihyom Asongu; ex-Benue Commissioner for Information, John Tine; Gombe House of Rep candidate, Bukar Mailafiya; and ex-Gombe Commissioner for Community Development and Poverty Alleviation, Aishatu Hashidu among others.