By Leo Sobechi and Murtala Adewale
The forthcoming 2019 election would show how far the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) could go in its campaign to redefine politics in its traditional bases of Kano and Kaduna States. Kano State chairman of the party, Alhaji Sammani Sherif, insists that PRP would address the issue of vote-buying by sacking moneybag politicians from the polity.
That appears a tall aspiration, especially in the light of the fact that the two states are currently under the control of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). But it is instructive and timely that PRP is setting its target on the ideological revitalization of politics in the traditional Mallam Aminu Kano political strongholds.
PRP is one of the second republic political parties that were resurrected in the upsurge of fresh registration of parties, including Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN). Unlike UPN, which has not won even a state assembly seat, PRP has made some interesting hauls of prominent politicians in the north. When, for instance, the member representing Kaduna Central Senatorial District, Shehu Sanni, moved over to the party recently after a long-drawn battle in APC, the popular notion was that PRP has already secured a Senator.
It is obvious that as preparations for the 2019 election continue, PRP would reap from the discontent within the two major parties, namely APC and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The party was actually a product of defection, because it was born shortly after Aminu Kano left the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) during the second republic. Although PRP reaped from the image of Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU) by winning the governorship in Kano and Kaduna States, it suffered from fractionalization.
Of the two governors produced by PRP, the late Abubakar Rimi and Mallam Balarabe Musa, none could get a second term because while the Iro Dan Musa House of Assembly impeached Musa, Rimi’s attempt to get a second term on the platform of Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) hit the rocks.
Other prominent politicians within the PRP Sawabist bloc include Sule Lamido and Abdullahi Aliyu Sumaila. But on the return of democracy in the Fourth Republic, only Musa remained with the party, serving as its national chairman until last August when he relinquished his post to Bello Falalu.
The future looks bright for Falalu and PRP in the north central states of Kano and Kaduna because of intra-party squabbles within APC and PDP. The zigzag political realignments in the region have exposed a lot of discontent and disappointments. While some politicians crisscrossed between the two main parties, a lot more progressive minded politicians decided to pitch tent with PRP, thus making it the third force to watch in next year’s election.
Although PRP is fast gaining momentum and unarguably building a formidable political structure to effectively challenge the two big parties, a lot depends on its ability to resolve some internal crises after the process of nominating its candidates for the 2019 poll.
For instance, it is only through an amicable settlement that the party could settle for an acceptable gubernatorial candidate in Kano State. Unless that truce is achieved, PRP stands the risk of losing its bright chances to reap from the unease in APC and PDP, which are riddled with accusations of bribery and cronyism.
The Kano challenge
In a bid to meet the deadline, the party submitted the name of its state chairman as gubernatorial candidate. That was before the party hierarchy considered substituting the name with Malam Salihu Sagir Takai as the party’s standard-bearer.
That move did not go down well with some prominent stalwarts of the party, who voiced their resentment. Takai, who has the firm backing of former Minister of Education, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, has contested the governorship unsuccessfully against Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso in 2011 as well as against Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje in 2015.
But although the former Commissioner for Water Resource decided to remain in PDP, when his political godfather, Shekarau, decided to retreat to APC, he was, however, forced to leave PDP for PRP, when Kwankwaso blocked him from clinching the PDP ticket, choosing rather to favour his son in-law, Kabiru Abba.
It should be noted, however, that Takai was not the only aggrieved bigwig that moved away from Kano PDP. The state’s former deputy governor, Prof. Hafizu Abubakar, who returned to PDP after resigning from Ganduje’s cabinet and APC, was also compelled to move into PRP. Hafizu had resigned his position as deputy governor, ostensibly to join Kwankwaso in PDP, but was given the shock of his life, as he was also denied the governorship ticket. Takai defeated Hafizu to become the PRP governorship candidate, but he (Hafizu) has rejected the outcome of the primary, even as he vowed to remain in PRP.
Kano State chairman of the party, Alhaji Sammani Sherif, has declared that despite the challenges, PRP is fortified and possesses what it takes to dislodge the ruling APC in 2019.
In an interview with The Guardian, Sammani contended that the ruling party is already jittery of the growing popularity of PRP among the common people, stressing that the emerging party has been repositioned with determination and strategy to win the confidence of Kano people. The founder of the new PRP adopted the name and aspiration similar to the defunct Second Republic PRP, founded by the late political sage, Malam Aminu Kano, which focuses on the emancipation of the common masses.
Sammani said Kano remains one of highly vibrant and conscious of political intrigues being deployed by the ruling party, but insisted that the 2019 general election would clearly show the difference. The PRP boss remarked that Kano has passed through difficult times under the current administration, maintaining that APC has not only failed to deliver on its promises to the people, but manifested confusion in its approach to governance.
He said: “With the strategic position that Kano occupies in Nigeria, you will not believe the level of development we have currently. In the 1970s and 1980s, you can only mention Lagos, Rivers and Kano. Today, Kano is as backward as states like Zamfara and Jigawa. The poverty level of states in Nigeria attests to this.
“Take a visit to our rural communities, education is devastating, abject poverty is high, bad roads, our healthcare system is begging for help and these people have been in power for years, no change. PRP is better repositioned and formidable to take over power in 2019 and by God’s grace we shall return to power next year.”
On what strategy the party wants to deploy to defeat Ganduje and the power of incumbency, Sammani explained that both APC and PDP have lost significant number of their members and supporters to PRP. He stated that many credible members, who were unlawfully denied the opportunity to contest during the primaries, were being accommodated in PRP to contest, adding that PRP was out to defeat APC and its moneybags.
While promising that the PRP candidate would be sold to the electorate with simplicity and compassion, the chairman noted, “It is only in PRP the syndrome of godfathers does not exist. Because of that unique factor, we have won the heart of brighter members who defected from APC and PDP to PRP. They were denied the lawful opportunity after the primaries and we warmly accepted them in PRP and with their strength and population, we are rest assured PRP is a party to watch in 2019.
“We may not have the whole money to share like the APC and PDP, but we believe money is not everything. Already, the electorate has come to the realization of moneybags and the deceit that come with it. They now realised when you give them N10,000 to vote, the money will not save them, but good governance will save them from poverty.”
In Kaduna, where the governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, settled for a Muslim/Muslim ticket and the membership of Senator Sanni, PRP stands a big chance of making a bold statement next year.
The situation in Kaduna presents PRP a golden opportunity to reinvent itself, if nothing else to achieve such feat, as producing more two third members of the state House of Assembly that led to the impeachment of its governor in the second republic. However, with one Senator already to its credit, PRP could change the dynamics of politics in the north, but it needs to develop aggressive membership drive and electioneering style.