So Many Odds Pile Up Against Third Force
By Fidelis Mac-Leva, Hamza Idris, Ismaila Mudashir, Muideen Olaniyi, Abbas Jimoh, Latifat Opoola & Ifah Ele Sunday
Nigeria’s political temperature rose to a fever pitch throughout last week with mixed reactions trailing a controversial letter by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to President Muhammadu Buhari, asking the incumbent not to seek a second term in office in 2019. Apart from enumerating what he considered as Buhari’s failings, Obasanjo proposed what he termed Coalition for Nigeria to rescue the country from its present predicaments.
But at the formal launch of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) which took place at the popular Shehu Yar’ Adua Center Abuja last Wednesday to kick start the activities of the movement, the former President who muted the idea was conspicuously absent leaving the National Coordinator and former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Onyilola and a few other members to speak on the objectives of the coalition which is now euphemistically referred to as the Third Force.
Not a few pundits observing the unfolding events in the country believe that the launching of the coalition in Abuja, on Wednesday last week was not as impressive as many Nigerians were made to believe in the first instance. In the build-up to the occasion, it was announced that many serving governors, members of the National Assembly from both the APC and the PDP would be there.
Ahead of its launch in Abuja, handlers of the coalition said many serving governors and senators, who are key to the success of any political permutations in the country would be part of the programme.
Deputy Director General of NIM, Mallam Naseer Kura, in a statement, said among those to be invited for the event include: Nobel Laureate, Prof Wole Soyinka, Col Abubarkar Umar Dangiwa and Chief Emeka Anyaoku, Mallam Adamu Ciroma, Prof Pat Utomi,General Alani Akinriade, Mr Donald Duke, Hajia Najatu Mohammed, Barr Olisa Agbakoba SAN, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Dr Garba Adamu, Barr Femi Falana SAN, Prof Attahiru Jega, Mr Fola Adeola, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Pastor Tunde Bakare, Dr Obby Ezekwesili, Dr AbduJalil Tafawa Balewa, Mr Fela Durotoye among others.
The statement also unveiled what it called coordinators in the six geo-political zones to include: Engr Buba Galadima (North-East), Engr Rabiu Suleman Bichi (North-West), Dr John Darah (North-Central), Hon Uche Onyeagocha (South-East), Dr Olu Agunloye (South-West), and Comrade Ikpe Obong (South-South).
On the contrary, however, only ex-governors Oyinlola and Duke, former PDP national chairman Ahmadu Ali and a chieftain of the APC, Engineer Buba Galadima and few others, graced the event in Abuja in which observers described as “rented crowd” were said to have besieged the venue.
Speaking at the occasion, National Coordinator and former Ogun State governor, Olagunsoye Oyinlola said: “The aims and objectives of the coalition make it mandatory for us to hit the ground running. Time is not on our side and if we are going to effect the aims of the coalition then we must run fast.”
But the poor manner in which the formal launch was carried out may have already upset the political environment with many asking how fast the coalition would hit the ground running and even change anything, especially if they don’t have a constitutional backing through a political party to contest election.
On Thursday last week, the former president officially registered as a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM). At another poorly attended ceremony which held at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) in Abeoukuta, Ogun State, Obasanjo completed the membership form of the movement and handed it over to Oyinlola , the National Coordinator of the group.
Addressing newsmen and after his registration, Obasanjo reportedly said: “I am happy to be a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement which is a movement for good governance. This is the commencement for our popular and grassroots association.
a former Education minister, Dr. Obby Ezekwesili, said she does not know the intervention movement. In a telephone interview yesterday, she said, “I don’t know anything about them and have nothing to do with them
The membership will be free to collectively decide on whether it will become a political party and if it decides to transform itself and go into partisan politics, I will cease to be a member.”
Earlier on November 29 last year, prominent lawyer, Olisa Agbakoba (SAN), Prof. Pat Utomi, Issa Aremu and many others came up with the Nigeria Intervention Movement, saying their aim is to “defreeze” the country which is at a standstill.
Agbakoba at the unveiling of the group said the new movement seeks to galvanise Nigerians towards building a national political consensus to rescue the nation from total collapse.
“The difference between what we are doing today and what IBB did in his confab, what Abacha did in his confab, what OBJ did in his own confab and what President Jonathan did in his own confab is that they had their own political agenda.
“So, if we start from saying that Nigeria is a failing or failed state we have about 180 million people who do not take part in the political discuss. If we can get this political movement and get these people to make a political choice, that will be the difference,” he said.
Director General of the group who is also the convener of the Political Summit Group, Mr. Olawale Okuniyi, said the group’s deliberations centered around Nigeria’s problem as a nation.
He said: “We decided to set up a National Intervention Movement we are to merge with
all other formations to find this solution.” Odds stacked against Third Force Even as it embarks on its membership drive on the one hand and while many Nigerians considered his advocacy for a movement to save the country as the highest point of his letter, not a few discerning critics have identified bottlenecks against the realization of the aims and objectives of the movement which include the following:
One of the odds identified with the Third Force towards the realization of its professed ‘rescue mission’ is the timing. Many pundits are of the opinion that the coalition is rather coming too late, especially as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has already released time table for the conduct of the 2019 general elections. Many observed that the success of the coalition that eventually led to the formation of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was largely dependent on the fact that it had started much earlier before the 2015 general elections, thereby giving room for proper organization and execution of their aims and objectives. Also linked to the timing factor is the challenge of registering a new political party for the Third Force if it eventually coalesces into one. Since the coalition has written off both the ruling APC and the opposition PDP in terms of performance, it would be required to register a new political party on which to pursue its political agenda or align with any of the already registered political parties. This, observers say, is a time consuming process that should have started much earlier than now.
The other identifiable obstacle against the Third Force in the realization of its objectives is the lack of cohesion and consensus building among the various interest groups among the movement’s proponents.
For instance at various meetings of the proponents of the alliance where the nature and form of the platform were discussed, there seemed not to have been any consensus reached. While the idea of joining the PDP was advanced, on the ground that it is still the only party with national spread and structures that can be used to challenge the APC, majority of the supporters of the Third Force were said to have opposed the idea of joining the PDP, which they described as being the major cause of the problems in the country that their coming together was trying to address. Even the option of pitching tent with the ruling APC was said to have been discountenanced because of the near impossibility of any aspirant to beat President Buhari to clinch the party’s ticket.
Also indicative of the lack of cohesion within the formation of the Third Force is the proposal to repackage the PRP in line with the ideologies of its founding father, Malam Aminu Kano and the progress made by its current national chairman, Malam Balarabe Musa and field a presidential candidate that would challenge President Buhari, in the event that he decides to contest.
Another odd identified by critics against the Third Force is the fact that there are no serving governors in their fold. The presence of serving governors, analysts say, would have been a critical factor to the realization of the aims and objectives of the movement, considering the powerful role that serving governors have assumed in determining the political direction of the country. Aside serving governors there is no elected political office holder or serving legislator that has so far publicly aligned with any of the movements. This is seen as a serious setback for the proponents of the Third Force in the realization of their goal of wresting power from the incumbent.
Perhaps, the greatest obstacle in the way of the Third Force is the absence of an identifiable political figure as rallying point within the movement, observers say. So far former President Obasanjo is the visible face behind the movement but critics say his controversial nature cannot allow him build consensus to get a large followership. Similarly the former President is neither in the good books of the ruling APC nor that of the opposition PDP whose membership card he had dramatically torn to denounce the party. To make matters worse, Obasanjo said he would get out of the coalition once it becomes a political party, a statement that leaves pundits wondering how he intends to achieve a political objective with the coalition without getting involved in its political affairs. It would be recalled that in the coalition that metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC) Buhari was seen as the rallying point that eventually made the alliance possible but critics say this may not be the case given the pronouncement by Obasanjo to withdraw from the coalition if it eventually becomes a political party. ‘Count us out’ To give credence to the odds against the movement some of those mentioned have distanced themselves saying they don’t know anything about the movement. Similarly some opposition political parties have also denounced the movement.
For instance, a former Education minister, Dr. Obby Ezekwesili, said she does not know the intervention movement. In a telephone interview yesterday, she said, “I don’t know anything about them and have nothing to do with them.”
In the same vein, Hajiya Naja’atu Mohammed, said she don’t know NIM and will not be part of them. “Nobody contacted me on this and they should count me out of the contraption, it is wrong to drop somebody’s name without notifying them,” she said.
On his part former Kaduna State Governor Alhaji Balarabe Musa said he was yet to get a formal invitation from the group but would be willing to attend when he looked at the caliber of people championing the course.
“Once I get the invitation, I would look at what they want to achieve and see if it aligns with my philosophy for a better Nigeria; I would look at members of the group, if they don’t appeal to me I would have nothing to do with them” he said.
Engr. Buba Galadima said he received a letter from the group on his appointment
as the coordinator of the movement in the North-East. “I got the letter but I am yet to attend any of their meetings. I would attend the next one and see where they are heading it. This is very important to enable me make a sound judgment. I am for Nigeria,” he said.
A chieftain of the opposition Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Alhaji Lawan Batagarawa said they have nothing to do with any Third Force.
Similarly, the National Chairman of the Labour Party (LP), Alhaji Abdulkadir Abdulsalam, told Daily Trust on Sunday that it is unbecoming of Obasanjo to think of dislodging a sitting government overnight. “There is a saying that everyday is for the thief and one day is for the owner. This time around Obasanjo is in for a failure. It was the same Obasanjo that campaigned for President Muhammadu Buhari after severally attacking the immediate past President Goodluck Jonathan.
“Why is he crying foul now, he cannot be the builder or maker and at the same time be a destroyer. He was there for eight years and his failure largely contributed to what we are suffering today. His third term agenda failure is there for all to see,” Abdulsalam said.
National Chairman of the Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA), Chief Peter Ameh, said Obasanjo’s letter was not addressing anything not already known to Nigerians, and that he (Obasanjo) was playing to the gallery by trying to exploit the current frustration of the citizens.
“I can say from my observation, his letter is not as forceful as it used to be because most Nigerians are coming to terms with the fact that they now also see former President Obasanjo as part of the complex web of problems bedevilling our nation.
“Nigerians are also united in their resolve that the former President should apologize to Nigerians for his major backing and contributions which eventually lead to bringing the current government to power. If he is convinced that the government is a total failure, he should tender apology before offering new solutions,” he said. ‘They are all confused’ Supporters of President Muhammadu Buhari said nothing serious would come forward from the alignments, insisting that all those calling for a new order “are the same old politicians, so-called technocrats and the disgruntled.”
Malam Mohammed Lawal who served as Deputy Director, Coordination/ Implementation of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in 2015 which worked for the emergence of President Buhari, said they were not bothered by what he called “ranting of disjointed groups who are confused about the real happenings in Nigeria.
Lawal, who is now a board member of the NNPC, said: “And let me be frank with you, look at the movements, there are no new people to form the so-called coalition. It should either come from the PDP and the APC for it to succeed and then the issue of timing.”
Some senators spoken to said Obasanjo’s movement and any other would not succeed in dislodging the president come 2019.
One of them, a ranking lawmaker from the North-East, said, “I can bet you that the movement will not succeed in sacking Buhari come 2019. Whether we like it or not if Buhari throws his hat into the ring come 2019, he will win because his support base remains unshaken.” He added that the president will remain relevant in Nigeria’s political space even after 2019 and that any movement to install a president without Buhari’s support won’t succeed.
He said the 2015 coalition against the former President Goodluck Jonathan succeeded because Buhari was involved, and that he (Buhari) gave life to it.
For his part, the Director-General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr Osita Okechukwu, said the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) will soon fizzle out judging from the history of every protest movement.
Okechukwu, in an interview with Daily Trust on Sunday, said he doubt the readiness of the promoter of the Obasanjo movement to fund its activities like the late Shehu Musa Yar’adua and Chief MKO Abiola.
He said that the movement could not challenge both the APC and the PDP in 2019, recalling that it took the current ruling party several years to achieve its feat of dislodging the central government.
He said, “Coalition for Nigeria Movement is a protest movement and like most protest movement, especially those without clear ideology, they will fizzle out in no distant time. One foresees them going back to the PDP where they originated from. Truly, CNM is a storm in tea cup.”
On Wednesday last week, handlers of the NIM said they would formerly launch the group at a grand event in Abuja in the last week of this month.
So many names were dropped by both Coalition for Nigeria and the Nigeria Intervention Movement. Analysts say this also remains to be seen as events unfold.
Coalition for Nigeria