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PRP’s renewal: Tall dreams of charting Nigeria’s socialist future

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Former INEC Chairman, Attahiru Jega


The Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) was one of the five political parties that came up in 1978 at the heat of Nigeria’s twin transition from military rule to democracy and presidential system. National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), were the second republic political parties.

PRP made waves in that dispensation, because apart from coming fourth among the parties that contested the 1979 general elections, it went into history as the first party, whose elected state governor was impeached.By the time Governor Balarabe Musa was impeached he was yet to form his cabinet, owing to unending political squabbling between him and members of the NPN-dominated Kaduna State House of Assembly led by the late Iro Dan Musa.

At birth, PRP sold itself not only as an offshoot of Northern Elements Progressives Union (NEPU), but also slanted its ideology towards the liberal socialist philosophy.

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Comprising mostly public sector intellectuals of the Marxist school, the founding members of the party, included Bala Usman, Abubakar Rimi, Balarabe Musa, Sule Lamido, Aliu Abdullahi Sumaila, Chinua Achebe, Michael Imoudu and the leader, Mallam Aminu Kano, the party canvassed progressive ideas.
Shaking off the agony of his historic impeachment, Musa and some remnants reengineered the comeback of PRP immediately the country regained the path of multi-party democracy in 1999.

It would be recalled that PRP began the gesticulations for a coalition to confront the ruling NPN. That effort led to the gathering of the Progressives, comprising opposition governors. That was the origin of Progressive Governors Forum.

However, despite his efforts to re-enact similar momentum that saw PRP emerge as fourth ranking national party, the second republic governor of old Kaduna State, Musa, could not lead the party to any electoral success in the fourth republic. In a bid to remain afloat in the unfolding garrison politics, Musa joined with other like minds to found the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties (CNPP). CNPP became a rallying point for opposition parties, as well as fulcrum of support for the ruling party until the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC) came on the scene.

Having remained as a vocal critic of Nigeria’s decadent politics of impunity and sycophancy, the last of PRP twin governors, Balarabe Musa, threw in the towel as national chairman on August 31, 2018 and was succeeded by Falalu Bello.

Signs Of Resurgence
SIX months after Musa’s exit, what could be described as a potent sign of PRP’s resurgence emerged in the buildup to the 2019 general elections. In Kano, Bauchi and Kaduna States, disgruntled members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) moved to the party as platform of choice to contest the election, particularly the National Assembly and governorship seats.

While former Kano State deputy governor, Prof. Hafiz Abubakar, sought the governorship ticket of PRP in the state, former minister of state for Health in President Goodluck Jonathan’s administration, Dr. Ali Pate, became the standard bearer in Bauchi.

The protracted infighting and political supremacy battles between Governor Nasir el Rufai and the Senator that represented Kaduna Central in the 8th Senate, Senator Shehu Sani, helped to announce the changing dynamics of PRP’s strategies in the country, especially in the North where it sprouted.

As the party plans its national convention, the rights activist is said to be warming up to step in as national chairman and help the upward swing of PRP, despite the set back in his petition at the Kaduna State National Assembly Election Petition Tribunal.

Sani has espied what could be the party’s window to dominance. He told journalists in Kaduna that since APC made the mistake of crowning President Buhari as the beginning and end of the party, the ruling party would go into comatose or permanent extinction in 2023 if the party survives at the presidential election tribunal.

According to Sani, “The future of Nigeria depends on the existence of a political party with credible leadership and clear ideological direction like PRP, of which the   Peoples Redemption Party, (PRP) represents.  “Men of honor and integrity should take over relevant positions and win elections in 2023 to free Nigerians from deception, fraud and misrepresentation by the ruling party.

“APC was not founded on ideology, but on resentment against the PDP and under the banner of President Buhari.  It is unfortunate that upon all the promises and pledges of cleaning, reforming and reconfiguring this country, the ruling party has failed.”Senator Sani, who has been criticizing the Buhari administration’s performance on its core programmes, especially fight against corruption, said the ruling party has been treating corruption involving APC members with aerosol, while suffocating the opposition with insecticide.  

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He told PRP state executives led by AbdulRahman Danbirni, who urged him to contest the post of national chairman of the party that the major task confronting the party’s dream of bouncing back is reform. While recalling that PRP was founded on progressive ideas and holds firm to its ideological focus, Senator Sani said that in contrast to APC, “it is not a merger, where you have reformed and small thieves, but small and big armed robbers that will come together to win election.”

He disclosed that the former governor of old Kaduna State, Ahaji Balarabe Musa, fell out with President Buhari, who had always benefitted from his wise counsel “simply because the ruling party abandoned its vision and promises and taken a role that is alien to the people.”It is possible that the perceived disconnect between the masses and APC is what PRP leaders are focusing on as their lynchpin for rebound to make a difference in 2023.

Addressing the party executives as if he was campaigning already, Sani said: “The ruling APC is not different from the party they overthrew, that is why so many people have left the party. They have failed in their pledge to revamp the economy. They have failed to respect the rule of law and fundamental rights of citizens.” 

Game Changer
BUT the greatest flash of brightening chances of PRP’s rebound is the recent entry of former chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Prof. Attahiru Jega into the party. As calculations for the 2023 presidency continue to feature in public discourse, some observers point to the likelihood of the northern progressives congregating in PRP and the possibility of a Jega presidential run.

Sources said Prof. Jega’s decision not to seek another term as INEC chairman was due to the awkwardness of that position being occupied by a northerner after Buhari emerged as President. Others felt it was to free him for the opportunity to play.However, in a statement, the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mallam Abdul Gombe, disclosed that Jega was coming into the party at a crucial moment, stressing that the former INEC chairman would chair one of the three committees set up to chart the road map for the repositioning of PRP.

While agreeing that a meeting held in June in Kaduna was to review the performance of the party and plan the way forward, Gombe said the Strength, Weakness, Opportunities and Threats (SWOT) analysis committee, which Prof. Jega would head is to examine the strength and opportunities available to PRP.

Apart from the SWOT, other committees include Finance/Funding and Mobilisation. According to the National Publicity Secretary, the three committees “are to review the performance of the party in the 2019 general elections with a view to repositioning it for better performance and facing new challenges of Nigerian politics.”

It is obvious that part of the change that PRP intends to inject into Nigeria’s party politics is the intellectual and ideological content. Gombe had actually pointed out that the three committees “are made up of some of the best intellectuals in Nigeria.”With its 41 years experience, it would be remarkable to see what recommendations the PRP eggheads would make regarding the strategies the party should adopt for survival and growth in a remarkably different political environment.

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Recently, President Buhari explained that he allocated two super federal ministries to Kaduna and Kano States to reward their huge votes for him and APC during the 2019 elections. It is possible that how best to grow its membership according to voter demographics would also inform PRP’s climb.

The membership spread would also count to give the party a national outlook. This appears to be the party’s strategy given the array of members in its committees that include Publisher and chairman of Trust newspapers, Kabiru Yusuf; the Dean, Faculty of Law, Crescent University, Prof. Momodu Momodu; Dr. George Kwanashie; Ayo Sando; Dr. Obi Osisiogwu; and Prof. Nathaniel Abraham.

Whether PRP would become the change Nigeria needs or the game changer as the country turns a critical bend in its democratic history depends on the nature of the recommendations from the committees and how it sets about implementating them and the forthcoming convention.For now, PRP has made itself as a party to watch as the post-Buhari era begins to wind down into history.

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