So Many Odds Pile Up Against Third Force

Sunday Trust - - BIG STORY -

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.


Oby Ezek­we­sili

Don­ald Duke

Coali­tion for Nige­ria

Balarabe Musa

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