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Obasanjo, Thirdforce and Kwankwasiyya temptations

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Olusegun Obasanjo

From unceasing recollections of his alleged failed scheme to get a third term in office, former President Olusegun Obasanjo is in the midst of another round of speculations.

The recent meeting between the former President and other political associations, including branches of his fangled third force, National Intervention Movement (NIM) and Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) in Lagos has pitched him against watchers of the unfolding events leading to the 2019 Presidential poll.

Although the former President impressed upon those invited to the meeting the need to keep it discrete, no sooner did the meeting round off than most of the participants began to grumble aloud about his motives of dragging two wizened politicians to the confab.

Apart from questioning his motives for bringing along Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso and his long-term ally, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Dr. Obasanjo is currently under suspicion over his real intention.

The situation is such that the preponderant refrain among the prominent subscribers to the third force movement has become, “what really is Baba up to?”

Break With Buhari

The year 2018 opened politically when Chief Obasanjo penned a public statement in which he established the fact that President Muhammadu Buhari, his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), as well as, the PDP, whose membership card he directed to be torn publicly, have derailed.

Most Nigerians recalled how the former President was beckoned to serve as the navigator for APC against his former party (PDP) to return Buhari, his former minister of Petroleum during his stint as military head of state as a replacement for President Goodluck Jonathan.

It was also generally held that the former President broke up with President Jonathan when the latter refused to do things according to the designs of the former.

Obasanjo had also used the opportunity of the commissioning of some development projects constructed by the then governor of Jigawa State, Alhaji Sule Lamido, to disparage Jonathan, saying that it was easy to find a job for someone, but you cannot do the job for the person.

The call for rejection of Buhari, APC and PDP alongside his suggestion for the building of national consensus to create a third force to galvanise young people for eventual take over of leadership, became a popular topic for discussion.

With his bold and assertive recommendations, coupled with deep analysis of the state of the nation, the likelihood of a second term for President Buhari paled, while momentum was built around processes and possibility of throwing up new breed faces to take over.

Mixed Bag, Mutual Suspicion

It was against such a rich background of political activism and intrigues that the Lagos meeting of proponents of a third force held. At the well-attended meeting were leaders of NIM and about 31 political parties.

Part of the important resolutions of the meeting, according to confidential sources are that efforts be made to merge the organisations, choose a political platform and carry out wide consultations over the choice of a presidential candidate to support.

Although the Deputy Director General of NIM, Mallam Nasir Kura, told journalists that the proponents of third force are resolved that the key to solving Nigeria’s problems lies outside of APC and PDP, it is obvious that picking up a consensus platform and presidential candidate pose imminent threat.

This fact was reinforced by the surprise presence of former Kano State governor and Senator representing Kano Central in the Eighth Senate, Dr. Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso at the meeting.

Apart from attending the Lagos meeting, the Senator had not featured at any of the steering committee meetings neither was he associated with the third force foundation.

Perhaps, the former President wanted to give the impression that he was free to attend the meeting with his political devotees, Oyinlola and Kwankwaso, but the ambition of the Senator, especially his gradual estrangement from APC attracted “glances of astonishment among those present.”

Not only did Kwankwaso contest the Presidential ticket of APC in 2014, early in 2017 his posters started showing up in strategic places and on rickshaws in most northern states, indicating his desire to contest the 2019 poll.

And though a possible move back to PDP was speculated some time last year, the fact of the movement of former Vice President, Atiku, with whom he contested APC ticket against Buhari in 2014, must have changed that course of action.

But even at, that the senator’s political grouping, Kwankwasiyya had campaign offices opened in some strategic states, albeit without specifying party platform.

Members of Kwankwasiyya maintain that the Senator and former Defence minister, would willy-nilly run for the Presidency in 2019, but are uncertain on which platform that would be.

The first time Chief Obasanjo indicated his interest in Kwankwaso’s presidential aspiration was when the promoters of APC visited him in Abeokuta. The former President had mooted the idea of a younger person flying the party’s flag in 2015.

Sources disclosed that it was partly due to insistence of certain leaders of the merger arrangement on Buhari and the inability of Obasanjo and former military President, General Ibrahim Babangida, to agree on a candidate that made Buhari the eventual flag bearer.

General Babangida was said to have shown preference for the current Sokoto State governor, Alhaji Aminu Bello Tambuwal, while Obasanjo wanted Kwankwaso.

Sources at the meeting last week hinted that it was against the strong suspicion that the entire arrangement for a third force was to promote the political interest of ‘rejected APC and PDP politicians’ that a former minister of Education, Dr. Oby Ezekwesili carved a separate path, which she christened the Red Card Movement.

NIM Deputy Director, Kura had observed that as days go by “more and more people, who hitherto were either in PDP or in government” would boldly come to join the coalition of new forces to replace the present crop of political leaders.

But while people like Kura rejoice about the momentum being generated around the third force, some others, like former national President of Nigeria Bar Association (NBA), Chief Olisah Agbakoba express skepticism.  Agbakoba said the politicians are in circumspect with Obasanjo’s agenda.

Agbakoba noted that it would be hard for the movement to work together and support the same old people that traversed PDP and APC, stressing that the movement is circumspect about Obasanjo’s real designs.

Although the former NBA President agreed that the gathering was still looking at the possibility of working together, he noted the only point of agreement is on a mutually agreed agenda of making an impact in 2019.

As for a candidate or shortlist of possible candidates, Agbakoba said no such agreement has been reached.

It could be deduced that the third force is gradually approaching a dead end, especially regarding whom it would choose as presidential flag bearer, even as it has failed to adopt a political platform as yet.

While the movement indicated that the political parties that attended the Lagos meeting included the Social Democratic Party (SDP); Labour Party (LP); Alliance for Democracy (AD); Democratic Peoples Congress DPC); Action Alliance (AA); Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA); Democratic Alternative (DA) and National Conscience Party (NCP), LP and NCP, denied attendance.

LP had through its National Publicity Secretary, Ebere Ifendu, declared that it was repositioning for ahead of 2019 to present a better alternative to Nigerians, stressing that it was not part of any political merger or understanding.

Perhaps, the planned meeting of NIM in Abuja would throw up some salient answers to the above. But for now, the scenario is being created that nebulous terms of its association and lack of a defined leadership organogram is threatening the third force at a critical juncture.


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