The ‘Third Force’ as a Factor

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The possibility of a ‘third force’ cannot be ruled out in the emerging equation, writes Iyobosa Uwugiaren

Although with negligible structural errors and disjointed sentences, the message was well-cooked. To make sure the public, especially Nigerians, enjoyed it, the cook, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, served it when it was still blistering. But for many who know the former president very well, he might have just capitalised on the growing disaffection in the country over the suffocating economic environment, frightening security challenges and ethno-religious crises in some parts of the country, to fire up the polity by passing a distinct vote of no confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari.

Without being carried away by their recent camaraderie at the African Union Summit in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, Obasanjo, known to communicate more efficiently through letter-writing, said in his latest edition that the president lacked the capacity to govern Nigeria and therefore needs a dignified and honourable exit.

In his 13-page statement titled: “The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement,” Obasanjo advised the president not to seek re-election in the 2019 general election, saying Nigerians deserve and urgently need better than what Buhari had given or what Nigerians know he is capable of giving. He went further to enumerate three other areas, where he claimed Buhari had come out more glaringly than most Nigerians thought they knew about him.

“One is nepotic deployment bordering on clannishness and inability to bring discipline to bear on errant members of his nepotic court. This has grave consequences on performance of his government to the detriment of the nation. It would appear that the national interest was being sacrificed on the altar of nepotic interest.

“What does one make of a case like that of Maina: collusion, condonation, ineptitude, incompetence and dereliction of responsibility or kinship and friendship on the part of those, who should have taken visible and deterrent disciplinary action? How many similar cases are buried, ignored or covered up and not yet in the glare of the media and the public?” he asked.

The former president said the second was the president’s poor understanding of the dynamics of internal politics, noting that this has led to “wittingly or unwittingly” making the nation more divided and that “inequality has widened and become more pronounced.”
“The third is passing the buck. For instance, blaming the governor of the central bank for devaluation of the naira by 70 per cent or so and blaming past governments for it, is to say the least, not accepting one’s own responsibility,” he added,
Unlike what Obasanjo did in 2015 – when he wrote a similar letter to former President Goodluck Jonathan, at the peak of the general election and later backed the then opposition party, APC, he said what has emerged from the opposition (PDP) had shown no better promise from its antecedents.

“As the leader of that party for eight years as President of Nigeria, I can categorically say there is nothing to write home about in their new team,” he submitted, adding that, “We have only one choice left to take us out of Egypt to the promised-land; and that is the coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement,” he said.
Seen by many sound political experts as unrealistic recommendation especially at this time, Obasanjo was emphatic that the polity needed a Coalition for Nigeria (CN), because 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; a 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.”
He prayed nothing should stop such a movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections but was quick to state that if at any stage the movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring movement for elections, he would bow out of the movement, because he will continue to maintain his non-partisan position.

Even though an insider said Obasanjo’s prescription of a ‘third force’ as an option was “deliberate” as he does not want to be accused of taking side with any political party, many political analysts argued that what the nation really needs at his time – less than a year before the general election, is a critical engagement with the moment and its definitions from various perspectives.
“The mood also calls for a sincere political introspection. To start with, the former President deserves a salute for his courage of conviction. His voice came yesterday (Tuesday) when such a loud voice was needed from such quarters. The voice would doubtlessly resonate with many people who are legitimately displeased with the state of things,” a celebrated columnist with THISDAY, Kayode Komolafe argued.

Agreeing that Obasanjo is a positive force for national unity any day, Komolafe was of the view that his pronouncement could be as magisterial as much as possible, doubting if former president Obasanjo was suited to be the arrowhead of a third force for the type of change being canvassed in many serious quarters.

“He is too prominent a figure in the old order for any fresh intervention to make him an exponent of change for the sake of progress. It is a contradiction that Obasanjo with his ideological mindset is now the symbol of a third force, which hopes to draw on the demographic asset of the youth. In any case, his prescription is rather ambiguous. He says he is out of partisan politics, but the Coalition for Nigeria (CN) would aim at power employing the ballot. However, only registered political parties can field candidates for election.”
Apart from the APC and the PDP, Komolafe further argued that there were dozens other political parties waiting with their virtually empty political sacks to be filled with contents so that they can stand in 2019. He therefore argued that the energy, time and resources be put on strengthening the existing parties for elections rather than forming fresh ad hoc coalitions.
Expectedly, the APC too has dismissed Obasanjo’s option of a third force intervention in the polity.

Disagreeing with the former president in what it described as “a wholesale dismissal of the entire political system in the country”, APC in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Malam Bolaji Abdullahi, acknowledged its challenges as a new political party, even as it claimed that “APC remains the best option” at this time for all Nigerians, who are genuinely committed to the progress and development of the country.

On its part, the major opposition party, PDP argued that repeating the old mistake of congregating political strangers cannot help the country at this time, more so, when the few concerns raised by Obasanjo about the PDP no longer obtain under the “refocused and rebranded” PDP.

Spokesman for the party, Kola Ologbondiyan, said “The PDP is now standing on a truly democratic ground that perfectly represents and reflects the hopes and aspirations of all Nigerians, irrespective of their class, creed or tribe.

“That is why our great party has now, more than ever before, become a centre of the new patriotic and broad-based engagements by well-meaning Nigerians and coalitions across board, including past leaders, in rekindling our democratic process that places priority on returning power to the people.”

PDP said Nigerians overrated President Buhari in 2015 but have now seen that he never possessed the capacity and the required aptitude to effectively govern the nation and pilot a healthy economy.

It said while the APC is already caught up with President Buhari, the PDP is open for a new engagement that will throw up the president, which our nation truly deserves at this crucial moment, calling on Nigerians, including all leaders across board, to come together to rebuild the nation on PDP’s consolidated base rather than traversing on another learning curve.

To be sure, the near consensus by many commentators since the Obasanjo letter is that there is a dishonest intellect of importance and religiousness around Obasanjo that often borders on mischief and two-facedness. Some commentators were quick to point to how he allegedly wasted billions of naira to pursue an illegal third term as president, and now rising up against a “legitimate second term” for an incumbent president.

But his prescription of a third force surly does not jell with many traditional politicians. They have insisted that it is too late to form a new party that could defeat the incumbent, advising Nigerians to engage other registered political parties in the coming general election and give firm conditions to the parties in that direction.

By the way, is the Coalition of Nigerians under the platform of the National Intervention Movement (NIM), which recently unveiled its steering committee, really in a strategic position to mobilise Nigerians for the needed change within the present political space?
The Olisa Agbakoba (SAN)-led NIM is seen by its members as a third force political reality to provide a credible alternative platform for ideal and acceptable political leadership and governance in Nigeria. It is branded as a “purely owned political platform by the mass movement of the people of Nigeria”, which does not have founding fathers, owners and money bags investors with every member Nigerian contributing token and widow’s mite to fund and grow it. And also fundamentally run it for the purpose of access to “equal and unbiased opportunities to contest or run for elective offices in Nigeria under ideal democratic rules, tenets and ideals.”

However, the question is: how can NIM, a non-political party, but a mass movement of “ideologically compatible and patriotic Nigerians”, move against the frustrating governing order and operate as one force major entity under a political mission and agenda, and ensure the entrenchment of a new and ideal leadership order in Nigeria with the prevailing political space?

From the look of things as the general election draws nearer, the thinking is that NIM could only work with other splinter political, civil society and professional groups of interest in Nigeria to negotiate for power and elective offices for its members; support them to contest and help to install acceptable governments in every part of Nigeria, using any of the existing political parties as platform.
Political analysts hold the opinions that for members of NIM to effectively engage the political space, within the shortest possible time, they need a political platform with solid and wide structures across all the political units, wards, local government councils and states.

With NIM already becoming a house hold name – growing and expanding fast across the six geo political zones in Nigeria, especially with its official launch last Wednesday – it could strategically contribute to the emergence of a new political order in the 2019 elections.