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2019 elections: Odds against Third Force

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Uche Secondus

As 2019 approaches, Nigerians seem to have been caught between the devil and the deep sea in their choice of a ruling party among the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while the proposed alternative of a third force faces some political hurdles.

Last Tuesday’s statement by Chief Olusegun Obasanjo where the former President called on President Muhammadu Buhari not to seek reelection on the ground that he (Buhari) has shown enough proof of inability to bring the country out of the woods, climaxed two weeks of political activities that reflect the exasperation of many compatriots about the failure of the political class to create a great nation out of Nigeria.

Obasanjo who, since the civil war days, has become a barometer to measure Nigeria’s socio-political vagaries because of his deep involvement in the country’s leadership formation in both the civil and military spheres culminating in his being the longest ruler so far, expressed regrets about the failure of the two dominant political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to fix the country.

He said the two political parties, no matter the level of internal reengineering done on them, cannot metamorphose into credible platforms that can be entrusted with the future of the country and therefore suggested the formation of a coalition of sincere and patriotic Nigerians who would be committed enough to form a new generation of leaders that would chart a new course of development for the nation.

In the proposal that is already generating interests of patriotic citizens, Obasanjo said, “We need a Coalition for Nigeria, CN. Such a movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong. That movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well being and progress. Coalition to salvage and redeem our country, you can count me with such a movement.  Last time, we asked, prayed and worked for change and God granted our request. This time, we must ask, pray and work for change with unity, security and progress. And God will again grant us.

“Of course, nothing should stop such a movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections. But if at any stage the movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring movement for elections, I will bow out of the movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position. Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja.
   
“This Coalition for Nigeria will be a movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward. It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women. It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress. It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair.

“Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead. Coalition for Nigeria must be a movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in global division of labour and international decision-making.
   
“The movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality. What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden.  It is our human duty and responsibility so to do. Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity.”

Few days to the release of Obasanjo’s statement, and in a manner suggesting that behind-the-scene political activities were moving towards a particular direction, a new group, the Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM) that described itself as “Nigeria’s Third Force Movement,” announced its plan “to rescue Nigeria from corrupt and inert political leadership and system by the year 2019.”

Made up of many non-partisan but credible voices in the nations opinion-moulding process, the NIM which almost fit into Obasanjo’s model of coalition, in a statement said it was “concerned that the political elite, since independence and particularly since the exit of the military from visible power in 1999, has proved that it is ill-equipped and unprepared for the challenge of transforming our nation from its underdeveloped status to one that is prosperous and can create a veritable environment for the realization of its citizens’ potentials and well-being.”

The movement said it was clear “that the political elite, as currently represented by the two dominant political parties, the PDP and the APC among others, have failed Nigerians for lack of clear ideology and principle on how to run the country,” and that “left to their schemes and antics, this class of entrenched leaders will lead Nigeria into a state of indescribable human misery characterized by death, hunger, disease, illiteracy and manipulation.”

On January 14, five days after the NIM agenda and road map was adopted in Abuja which incidentally was the day the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) released the timetable for the 2019 general elections, Pastor Tunde Bakare, the Senior Pastor of Latter Rain Assembly in Lagos, charged Nigerians to be proactive in determining the kind of leadership the country requires for development.

Bakare who was Buhari’s running mate as the candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in 2011, had earlier declared his intention to seek the presidency albeit through a divine arrangement.

According to the cleric who also passed a vote of no confidence on the two leading political parties, “It is time for a democratic revolution.

The season for complaints and complacency is over. We must seize this opportune moment to translate our collective national disappointment into a uniquely Nigerian rebirth. The current political class constitute far less than one percent of Nigeria’s voting population. To avoid engagement with the powers that have hijacked our collective patrimony is to surrender our national destiny without a fight.”

Indeed, the idea of electoral choice as an important element of democracy is lacking in Nigeria’s political space where there is no difference between operatives and operations of political parties thereby limiting the process of change to between six and a half dozen.

Efforts by the INEC to widen the space by the registration of more political parties did not also provide succour as the new platforms became mere pawns in the hands of the political bigwigs who make use of them whenever they couldn’t find their ways in their home parties.

The current agitation for the formation of an alternative platform is as a result of the no-choice situation between the PDP and the APC. While the former has been thoroughly discredited by high graft and wastage of the commonwealth, the latter has proven itself as lacking the capacity to make the change it promised Nigerians in 2015.

Except for the difference in names, the two platforms are peopled by the same characters who, because of the fluidity of the process, change camps according to their peculiar needs other than service to the people. These needs may include seeking greener pastures and insulation against corruption trials.

In the First and Second Republics, there were ideological differences in the identities of political parties and during the political reengineering of Ibrahim Babangida in the aborted Third Republic, great efforts were made to institutionalize this in the two government-formed political platforms, the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) to reflect the characters of other advanced democracies on the globe.

During this period also, efforts were made to create space for new breed politicians to displace the old ones and inject fresh blood into the country’s political system. But the two noble inventions, which could have formed a solid foundation for the country’s democracy, were truncated by the ill-advised annulment of the June 12, 1993 presidential elections by the military junta.

However as laudable as the proposal for Nigerians to create an alternative platform from the narrowed space that the two major political parties have reduced Nigeria’s democracy into is, there are many obstacles on its path.

The major obstacle on the path of the proposal is the attitude of majority of the would-be beneficiaries of the initiative; the voters, who because of lack of political education, would see any attempt at a change from status quo from the perspectives of ethnic, religious and regional sentiments.

For years, the Nigerian ruling elite, in creating blind loyalties of impoverished followers, has used these sentiments to divide the citizens and manipulate them for selfish political interests therefore accentuating the weak links in the country’s chain of unity.

The Nigerian leadership recruitment system, which has been hijacked by a corrupt political class with slush fund at its disposal to manipulate the process and even strengthen its follies with legislation by the National Assembly, is another obstacle to the smooth emergence of a credible alternative to the current crop of leaders.

With the control of apparatus and institutions of governance in the hands of the political class, it would be difficult, except there is massive uproar in the civil society’s call for change, for appropriate legislation to facilitate the process of emergence of a credible alternative to the ruling class.

But with a well-informed electorate that is ready to put aside base sentiments for quality leadership, the proposal for the third force will found a fertile ground to germinate as it did in France when, with a party he formed barely a year, 39-year old Emmanuel Macron won the presidential election in 2017.

However if feelers from the political circle are anything to go by, the quest for alternative platform may be manifesting in ways that will still have elements of the old order in the new system, as there are indications that a mass movement of politicians across parties is in the offing although fuelling fears that the old wine may still be repackaged in new bottle like the 2015 experiment.

If a way is found along this path and it turned out that the new change was not like the mirage that the APC 2015 change mantra turned to be, Nigerians would at least have one solace in the fact that popular demand can create a new approach in the governance system.


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