‘I’m Not Sure a Third Force Will Emerge’

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Mr. Iboro Out, Akwa Ibom State governorship candidate of the Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party tells Nseobong Okon-Ekong the new political parties don’t yet have the structures needed to win major elections

Many of the newly registered political parties claim to be the alternative third force in Nigerian politics, is the space not too crowded?

The issue of a ‘Third Force’ as a single party in Nigerian politics has been falsely sold to Nigerians in many quarters, thereby deceiving some of the newly minted parties to assume it is possible to stand alone and best a party like PDP or APC in the political scene. I genuinely think this is some falsehood. The reality is, as at today, some of the individuals that sold the third force idea aren’t even in any of the new parties they helped form. The reason being that most of these new parties don’t yet have the structures needed to win major elections – presidential, gubernatorial, federal and state house elections – on their own because it takes a lot to build a political structure, not just money.

As such, the Third Force can only be possible through inter-party coalition; political parties and ideas coming together because of a shared purpose. Looking beyond parties and considering individuals fit for purpose provides the initial platform for conversation and this is exactly what happened in my case. Taking my case as an example, we were able to bring together 17 different parties to agree on one candidate – myself – as their gubernatorial candidate in Akwa Ibom state because we started the conversation by identifying Akwa Ibom as our ultimate political party and community development, transparent, effective and inclusive government as our collective interest. With our mutual interests spelt out first, the conversation started making more sense afterwards.

As I write, 10 more political parties are coming on board. We flipped the usual political dynamics on its head. What this means is that as in my case, the newer parties devised a strategy for inter-party partnership in order to achieve a common purpose, something rarely seen in contemporary African politics and this is the solution to the Third Force issue. Often bigger parties like APC and PDP induce smaller parties to work with them, but in Akwa Ibom state today, we have been able to form a coalition where even much older and bigger parties than mine – the ANRP (Abundant Nigeria Renewal Party) – have agreed to work together and have successfully picked a candidate, myself, from a much newer and smaller party as a candidate of choice.

This, to me, is the new face democracy in Africa. In order for the new thinking to do away with the old and for the Third Force idea to take hold, there has to be a kind of broad based coalition amongst smaller political parties in every state in Nigeria, and this means different political parties will emerge as Third Force in different states. I’m not sure the Third Force will emerge as APC did or be a case of one single party as third option on the national scene. If that will be possible, I’m not sure it will happen soon. Like you said, the space is too crowded; no single party will be strong enough to dislodge PDP or APC without a broad-based collation.

What should be the profile of a true political third Force?

Coalition. Nigeria is a very diverse country; the most important ingredient should be inclusiveness of ideas from different people and associations. The ability to exercise long term tolerance – in terms of assimilation of diverse interests where all points of party, societal and individual interest empty into one bowl of collective prosperity – is one good start. This is possible. As dynamic as Nigerians are, when service to the people underpin leadership and political interests, it becomes very easy for ideas and people to align and work together. The young generation understands this better. The major problem of leadership in Nigeria has always been the sharing formula of our resources between godfathers and gladiators. If there’s anything that has destroyed Nigerian politics and leadership, nothing has done it quicker than the politics of god fatherism and personal interest. The newer parties have an edge in mitigating this by drafting constitutions that would make god fatherism difficult, as is the case of my party ANRP. However, in all these, we all should ultimately find a way of making politics less expensive. Politicking is a very expensive venture in Nigeria and like a chicken and egg situation, makes parties and candidates seek moneybags who in turn become godfathers.

Which of the emerging political parties has the potential to emerge as a political third force?

It’s very hard to say. Like I said earlier, without coalitions this will be impossible to achieve as it is. Politics is a game of numbers and great people make great parties. Right now, many great Nigerians aren’t in the two major parties. However, there are many political parties in the system as it is, the way thing are going, we will soon be having situations where different parties control different states especially at the gubernatorial, federal and state house levels. I’m not sure we are advancing towards a stage where one party will control a region for example say the south-south or south-east, rather, we will be having scenarios where different parties will reign in different states and I think it would be very good for our democracy. This one-party-takes-all style hasn’t really helped us. Majority of Nigerians are bitter winners and sore losers unfortunately. To move forward, it’s time we move beyond party. Again, this isn’t a popular idea; Nigeria would probably be leading the world with a different form of multiparty democracy. We’ll wait to see…

Where lies the hope for a political third force?

For a Third Force emergence to take hold, our electoral institutions and processes have to be fair and simplified, this is where the bulk of the responsibility lies. Next would be on the youth population – especially first time voters – to look beyond party and vote in competent individuals. By so doing, competent people like myself who otherwise would be unable to get tickets in popular parties because of one reason or the order, would be able to stand elections in a other parties and win because of electoral transparency.

Nevertheless, whatever the outcome of the 2019 elections, it is the responsibility of all Nigerians, especially the youth, to demand free and fair elections. Where this isn’t happening, we must do all we can within the law to make sure our votes are protected. I believe 2019 is the year that will define the political future of this country; if we are moving towards greatness or stepping into the abyss.