On the emerging political ‘Third Force’
The plans by various groups to form a ‘Third Force’ as an alternative to the two major political parties, should be appreciated against the abysmal failure of both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC). For more than two decades, the two parties have failed to manage the affairs of Nigeria, and to make the country and its people better than each met it. There is now, hardly any notable difference discernible between the two political groups. Many of the people who were in one at one time, were in the other at another time and have moved again back to ‘the ship they once jumped’, in a manner of speaking.
Furthermore, it is demonstrably clear that the quality of life of Nigeria as a geopolitical entity, and Nigerians as citizens, have steadily deteriorated from 1999 to date. In brief, the two political parties in government have certainly albeit in different degrees, failed to fulfill the basic constitutional requirement, as enunciated in Section 14 (2) (b), that makes a government deserving to be so called. Therefore, a respectable, credible option to these ‘duo’ provides hope for the electorate. After all, choice, especially informed choice, is a sine qua non of democracy.
The overarching question for the ‘Third Force’ is what they are bringing to the table that is sufficiently fresh, believable and worth the attention and membership of a now thoroughly disappointed Nigerian electorate.
This is an important question that everyone involved in the formation of this proposed group must first answer to themselves and next, to Nigerians. The reason: not a few of the ‘promoters have been, in one way or another, part of the very groups they now discredit either as party office holders, or holders of high public office. Put simply, they occupied leadership positions, wielded influence, been privy to the formulation and implementation of public policies that, for good or ill have affected the Nigerian situation. And they certainly benefit therefrom. These persons may not exonerate themselves from the collective failing of the party and, or the government in which they served. To this extent, many in the new ‘projects’ come with some moral baggage that, it must be said directly, will make Nigerians take their messages with a measure of suspicion, ‘a pinch of salt’.
The keynote speaker at the grandiloquently named Rescue Nigeria Project (RNP) is reported to say that his group wants to ‘salvage this country and see how we can fix the mess’; another speaker saw an impending ‘disaster’ and need to rescue the nation’; still another analyzed ‘the trouble with Nigeria’ and concluded that ‘when you reduce the problems of this country to what they are, ultimately, it all comes to leadership’. All these are correct analysis seemingly laced with good intentions.
But there has never been, especially among the ruling elite and their benefiting collaborators, a shortage of good intentions and correct diagnosis in respect of ‘the Nigerian condition’. Alas, every time they are given problems to fix, they literally finish the tool and worsen the problem. This explains why over the past four decades, irrespective of type of government, Nigeria has worsened by all the important indices of development and progress.
Is the ‘Third Force’ aiming to form a political party? There is no clear answer from any of its promoters. Nonetheless, it is speculated that a number of small political parties are holding discussions with a view to form a larger and stronger political entity. The National Consultative Front (NCF) of former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Umar Ghali Na’Abba, styling itself ‘a citizens-led mass political movement and claiming to have initiated the ‘rescue agenda’ in July 2020, has issued a statement that it is ‘set to hold tactical talks with RNP, EndSARS Movement, NIM, ADD and other groups to save Nigeria’ …and ‘to form a strong Third Force Movement as a political block’.
Usman Bugaje noted (rightly), that leadership failure is the overarching problem with Nigeria because the recruitment process into leadership among the parties does not ‘prioritize’ ‘the essentials’ of ‘knowledge’, ‘competence’, and ‘character’. His group therefore wants parties ‘to introduce a set of criteria for the different (public) offices’. The RNP strategy to this end is ‘mobilize the demographic power of Nigerians (who are worried about the state of their country) to acquire the requisite power to negotiate with other parties from a position of strength.’
It is only by constitutionally forming a government that the changes so enthusiastically espoused by the members of these groups can be effected. The first step to achieve this is, under Section 221 of the extant constitution, to form a political party; then canvass for votes for its candidates on that platform. With success, the party will form a government invested with the executive, legislative, coercive powers to effect the changes it desires for the polity.
Even if it does not transform into a political party, the ‘Third Force’ can and should be assessed even now, by the relevant provisions of the Constitution on such criteria as non-sectionalism, democratic practice, good governance, accountability and transparency and the unitive intendment. It is trite to state that the two major parties have unabashedly violated these rules. ‘Third Force’ and such groups will be relevant only if they play by the rules.
Having poisoned the political environment with greed, nepotism and every other evil in the land, the existing major parties will have a tough task to get a mass of Nigerians to believe in or share values and ideas with them. They constitute elite that, for at least the past 20 years, has conducted affairs with such unenlightened self-interest.
In 1993, Nigerians across the ethnic and religious divides voted for a man they believed in. The depressingly urgent question is where now are the men and the women Nigerians can trust? Still, given the present situation in the land, there is reason enough for a ‘Third Force’ that will play by the constitutionally laid down rules of the political game.