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Bane of sectional politics – The Sun Nigeria

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By Cletus  Njoku

A major blight to the advancement of democracy in the country over time has been that of internal democracy or lack thereof. Either in operational modalities or composition of leadership structure, the yawning gap remains to be filled towards a more realistic and balanced democracy where the interests of all members and groups in a political party, for instance, are well recognised and protected.

Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso has for many years been a shining light in the political scene in Nigeria. His movement into the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) in 2022 was hailed as one that would bring the party to the forefront of politics in Nigeria and create  another “national” political party in outlook and effect. However, two years down the line, even though Kwankwaso is in total operational control of the party, political pundits are fast coming to the conclusion that he is building a parochial party which at best would end up being a zonal party.

A renowned professor of political science in one of the top universities in Eastern Nigeria, once observed that Kwankwaso’s body language is not that of one who is serious about contesting for the office of President of Nigeria! The history of the NNPP runs through southern Nigeria where most of the initial sponsors of the party hail from.

However sometime in 2022, Kwankwaso dominated the party and by 2023 was able to take operational control of the party. In fact, many pro-Kwankwaso members of the party stated that his total control of the party would give him a free hand to position the party as one with national spread. This has not happened. One must therefore begin to think soberly and more analytically about the public perception that the NNPP is now largely a northern party.

Of course, such evaluation is bound to raise some consciousness and questions about Kwankwaso’s national outlook, spread, and his intent for the future, both for the party itself and for his personal political ambitions. Given the current political dynamics in the country, Kwankwaso’s moves will directly impact democracy and its development in Nigeria.

But really, is NNPP now a northern party? To answer the question, few variables are germane. Although the legal authority as to the ownership and indeed the future of the party is still being contested in the courts, it is apposite to say that by virtue of the expulsion of its former BoT chairman along with some of his loyalists, some other southern elements, NNPP has been slightly diminished.

Till date, there seems no drive by Kwankwaso to replace these leaders or to consciously make a place for the South. What one could see in NNPP is the overwhelming domination of the leadership hierarchy of the party by the Hausa/Fulani, making it a conscious narrative that the party is a northern party without the expected national spread and outlook. The implication here in national politics is too vivid that the skewed structure of NNPP leadership does not augur well for votes catching and acceptability.

Now the issues: In the short time that Kwankwaso has been in absolute control of the party, he has personally installed three national chairmen all from the Northern Nigeria! The latest from news monitored over the internet, being Dr. Ahmed Ajuji from Adamawa State. Curiously, he is expected to pilot the party to the 2027 elections. Would he be expected by Kwankwaso to usher in a Northern presidential candidate (Kwankwaso) for the party?

An astute politician, Kwankwaso knows that this is not the culture and norm in Nigeria politics. As stated earlier, the 20-member national executive of NNPP can barely boast of more than six southerners of both Igbo and Yoruba. Others are northerners, occupying the key and consequential party positions.

This does not encourage mass participation in politics as expected nor does it advance the cause of democracy. It only speaks to the feelings out there that NNPP is a small party restricted to Kano and some northern states, making it effectively a zonal party that cannot win a national election. It is an assertion which could even be validated going by the outcome of the last national election where NNPP only made impact in the north.

But this should not be the case. If NNPP is really desirous of being regarded as a party of consequence with national aspirations, then it should begin in earnest the process of democratising its leadership structure to reflect a national spread and outlook.We must indeed state emphatically that this issue has been the albatross of its leader and exponent of Kwankwasiyya, Kwankwaso, in his presidential ambitions.

Till date, the southerners believe Kwankwaso is a tribalist who is pro-North and could not be trusted to truly represent their interests as a president. No doubt, this kind of sentiment from such important section of the country remains a big issue for his future political aspirations.This factor would not allow him to make the necessary in-road into the South and this should be addressed without further delay.

Yes, delay is dangerous in political terms, even as early as it is, alliances are already being negotiated and formed including the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of 2027. So where does NNPP stand in such political calculation that requires more members and consolidation of current structures?

Succinctly, it is not too late for the party to make the basic amends by democratising its leadership structure to carry the South along more realistically and in an effective manner that gives them due sense of belonging, a development which comes with greater responsibility and commitment to the goals and aspirations of the party.

In a fundamental sense, therefore, it has to be emphasised that a realistic and consequential national spread is now imperative for the NNPP moving forward. The objective value is too important in national election, not only a constitutional requirement but also helping to deliver the necessary votes. Yes, pluralism should exist in any social or political formation to make it relevant and acceptable across board otherwise it is an invitation to chaos and failure.

Pluralism is basic to any democratic culture, a right of all geo-entities to exist and organize with common interest and ambition, responsibilities and powers, especially in a multi-ethnic society like ours.  Pluralism in this regard as an important political weapon of interest aggregation with positive consequence must be respected because of its value of mass membership and participation.

Indeed, diversity is a strength and not a weakness, a major ideal which NNPP must now cultivate towards attainment of a national party status and as so recognized across the nation as truly capable of representing the interests and aspirations of all Nigerians irrespective of tribe or religion. But the starting point would be a truly national representation of its national leadership structure.

• Njoku wrote in from Owerri, Imo State

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