Can NNPP replicate Kano’s feat in Edo?

11th April 2024

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The political atmosphere in Edo State is electrifying, ahead of the September 21 governorship election.

While the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is struggling to maintain its dominance by fielding Asue Ighodalo, as its standard bearer, the All Progressives Congress (APC), on the other hand, brought forth Monday Okpebholo, to reclaim its position.

But the new entrants trying to dislodge the aforementioned parties are the Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), with Olumide Akpata and Azemhe Azena as their candidates, respectively.

The embattled Chairman of the Labour Party, Julius Abure is from Edo State, so also is the 2023 NNPP Vice Presidential Candidate, Bishop Isaac Idahosa, which most people believe that it will tinker with the votes of the PDP and APC.

One question begging for an answer is: Can the NNPP replicate Kano’s feat in Edo?

Political watchers are sharply divided in their opinions. Some have doubted the capacity — financial war chest, structure and acceptability of NNPP by the voters, to snatch the state from the PDP.

They have also shrugged off the party as a regional political platform with no stronghold in the South, going by the poor performance of the party in the last general elections, in the region.

Despite the political dynamics that appears favourable to either APC or PDP, the NNPP seems unrelenting in its quest to soldier on with its candidate, a pastor who is from Okpekpe, Etsako-East in Edo North senatorial zone, who is believed to be the Biblical David, warming up to defeat Goliath.

Also, sympathisers of NNPP have reasoned that the party would take advantage of the internal wrangling rocking the APC, PDP and LP, which is as a result of the outcome of the primaries which some aggrieved members have outrightly rejected, to replicate the victory in Kano State.

Recall that in the 2023 election, the NNPP overwhelmingly won in Kano State with over 1 million votes which were affirmed by the supreme court despite a heated legal battle launched by the APC.

In an exclusive chat with NNPP’s National Publicity Secretary, Yakubu Shedam, he christened the Edo plebiscite as a “low-hanging fruit” for his party.

Shedam claimed that both the PDP and APC have unleashed hardship on the people of Edo State for decades, which is evident going by the bad state of the roads, high unemployment rate, insecurity and biting poverty.

He said the only snag that could truncate their chances of NNPP would be the disposition of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), not to conduct a free, fair and credible election.

He warned INEC against repeating the ‘mistake’ it made in Taraba State, where the party’s candidate, Prof Sani Yahaya, allegedly won the contest, but was denied by the court because of the role INEC played.

According to him, staunch supporters of the party and the candidate, this time, will stoutly resist the gimmicks of INEC or anybody planning to sabotage the process.

“Edo State is a low-hanging fruit for the NNPP because NNPP is becoming very popular in Edo State, considering the fact that we have a grassroots candidate who is flying our flag as the governorship candidate.

“This is a man that has the capacity to reduce poverty the people of Edo State are experiencing.

“PDP has ruled Edo State for almost 8 years and there is nothing to show for it. Obaseki has bastardised the state with a lot of hardship.

“That is why in this off-cycle election, the people of Edo State have completely rejected the PDP and the Obaseki group.

“So, our party, the NNPP is making inroads in all the 18 local governments.

“The Osadebe Avenue is already prepared for us to takeover. Azemhe Azena is a grassroots person; a religious leader who has a congregation of over 140 outlets or Christian organisations.

“Of course, Edo is a very religious state, if you look at the likes of Apostle Johnson Suleiman and the rest, you will know.

“Because of that, we as a party, will take advantage of that window to take over the state.

“We have warned INEC to steer clear from any irregularities. What has happened to us in Kano State is a testament that we are on the ground.

“See what happened particularly to us in Taraba State where Professor Sani Yahaya won the election and the election was truncated at the supreme court.

“It is unfortunate and so sad for our democracy. Because if you look at the margins in Taraba even though we won outrightly, they still claimed that we came second, having scored 216,000 votes. You could see that on a normal day, there was supposed to be a rerun.

“But INEC refused and declared the PDP candidate as winner of the election. So, that has taught us a lot of lessons that in subsequent outings, we are going to be very severe, observant, careful and watchful.

“So, we are warning INEC and its actors that will be conducting the election to be wary because our supporters are not people you can dare with. We have them all over the place.

“We will mobilise them properly and make sure that we monitor all the materials that will be dispatched to Edo State. None of the materials will fall into the wrong hands.

“NNPP is very comfortable with the process leading to Edo election. We are not having any fear. Forget about the APC and PDP bigwigs.

“People are tired of those parties. As I speak to you now, Nigerians are dying every day because of hardship. The indices are clear. So, we believe that the NNPP will win Edo State.

“Our candidate is from the Northern part of the state. The zoning arrangement is not a constitutional matter.

“As far as we believe in the zoning matter, it is a gentleman’s arrangement among the parties just for convenience.

“It has nothing to do with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended).

“So, as far as we are concerned we have not breached the constitution of Nigeria. Our candidate is from Edo North.

“The Edo North and South are the places a majority of the people exists. The current governor is from Edo South.

“We are not saying the Edo Central is not important. We are saying that our candidate is from Edo North.

“We believe that he has the capacity and numerical strength to win the election.”

On the influence of the 2023 vice presidential candidate, he said: “I do not think we should be looking at the influence of anybody.

“What we believe is that the people of Edo have influence. We believe in the grassroots.

“We do not want to drop names that this person is going to help us. The people of Edo have taken a decision to work for the NNPP. We want to return sovereignty to the people.”

Also, NNPP’s National Secretary, Dipo Olayoku, shrugged off insinuations that Azena lacked political experience.

In fact, he contested that it would be a political gain because the electorate would not find anything scandalous to use it against him.

He said it would be an interesting contest because a perceived neophyte would be in the race.

Olayoku said: “I think our chances are very bright. It is not just about beating our chest.

“With what is going on in the country, it is very difficult for someone to say he or she wants to vote for APC or PDP because he knows what has happened to the present condition.

“Unfortunately, PDP seems to have fizzled out immediately after the general elections.

“And if you look at the personalities in the Edo election, our governorship candidate for now is among the youngest. He is the most grass-rooted politician.

“He is a man of God that relates with people from diverse religion and, he is also someone by virtue of his disposition, is a youth.

“And that has been the trend since he emerged as our governorship candidate.

“We have seen what he has been doing. The campaign has not started officially but people are beginning to accept him. He is getting the momentum everyday.

“You really need to meet with this person to know that NNPP is happy to have him as our candidate. The people of Edo State would be happy to have him as their governor, after the September 21 governorship election.

“The fact that he has not held any political office is the advantage that he has over the other candidates.

“If you look at those promoting other candidates, you will see that it is people that are in government or have been in government.

“But our candidate has a clean record. He does not have any blemish. It is very difficult for anybody to be in government and come out unscathed.

“So, I think that is the added advantage we have there because nobody can point at any bad record about him of wrong doing when he was in office.

“When you say someone is a man of God, he has proven it in his style of doing things and people want to identify with him. And that is the feelings in Edo State now.”

Expectedly, the NNPP’s candidate, who is banking on the Christian fold, told some select journalists, that if elected governor, he would create jobs for youths, unite the state and fix basic infrastructure.

He, also, promised to invest in agriculture and sports, to keep the youth busy.

SOURCE:THE SUN

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