Is Po­lit­i­cal Third Force A Mi­rage?

Nseobong Okon-Ekong and Ojo Maduekwe write that so long as po­lit­i­cal par­ties won’t unite to chal­lenge the All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress and Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party dom­i­nance, the emer­gence of a vi­able po­lit­i­cal third force may re­main a fan­tasy

THISDAY - - POLITICS -

Nige­ria has 91 po­lit­i­cal par­ties. Of this num­ber, 23 are new, re­cently reg­is­tered by the In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral Com­mis­sion (INEC) in Au­gust 2018. Most of these par­ties are only op­er­a­tional on pa­per, yet boasts of pop­u­lar­ity that can only be imag­ined. Dur­ing in­ter­views they claim to be the third or fourth most pop­u­lar party af­ter the rul­ing All Pro­gres­sives Con­gress (APC) and main op­po­si­tion Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP), yet ma­jor­ity of them have never won elec­tive po­si­tions into any of the three tiers of gov­ern­ment.

Some of the par­ties even go to the length of self-de­ceit and think­ing they can stand shoul­ders high with the likes of PDP and APC in a po­lit­i­cal con­test, even when the re­al­ity is that they don’t have the needed po­lit­i­cal struc­ture and fi­nances to win ma­jor elec­tions.

At the heat of the con­tro­versy gen­er­ated by the Nige­ria Elec­tions De­bate Group (NEDG) to in­vite only five po­lit­i­cal par­ties to de­bate ahead of the 2019 gen­eral elec­tion, the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the Abun­dant Nige­ria Re­newal Party (ANRP), Tope Fa­sua, said the ANRP was one of the top four po­lit­i­cal par­ties Nige­ri­ans wanted at the de­bates.

Also peeved by the de­bate or­gan­is­ers for not invit­ing its can­di­date, the African Ac­tion Con­gress (AAC) in a state­ment by Mal­colm Fabiyi, Di­rec­tor-Gen­eral of the TakeItBack Move­ment / Sowore 2019 Cam­paign, claimed it was “one of the three largest par­ties in Nige­ria.”

Then the All Pro­gres­sives Grand Al­liance

(APGA) also, in a state­ment by its Na­tional Di­rec­tor of Pub­lic­ity, Ifeana­cho Ogue­jio­for, said it was the “third largest po­lit­i­cal party” in Nige­ria, with a serv­ing gov­er­nor and “nu­mer­ous mem­bers in the state and na­tional leg­isla­tive assem­blies”.

How­ever, in­for­ma­tion gleaned from an In­de­pen­dent Na­tional Elec­toral, INEC, pub­li­ca­tion signed by Mrs. O. O. Ba­balola, a di­rec­tor has

re­vealed that the Peo­ple’s Trust (PT) po­lit­i­cal party, which is field­ing Mr. Gbenga Olawe­poHashim as its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date, has emerged top amongst the re­cently reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties field­ing can­di­dates for the pres­i­den­tial and na­tional as­sem­bly elec­tions. From the ‘Sum­mary of Sub­mis­sion of Form CF002 for Pres­i­den­tial and Na­tional As­sem­bly Elec­tions’ is­sued by INEC, the PT is pre­sent­ing 194 can­di­dates. The break­down shows that the party has one pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and one can­di­date for the of­fice of the vice pres­i­dent. There are 52 sen­a­to­rial can­di­dates and 140 as­pi­rants for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives re­spec­tively run­ning on its plat­form. Fol­low­ing the PT closely are the Jus­tice Must Pre­vail Party (JMPP), 182, Mega Party of Nige­ria (MPN) 176, the Ac­tion Demo­cratic Party (ADP), 136, the Zenith Labour Party (ZLP), 115 and the Ad­vanced Con­gress of Democrats (ACD), 106. Nige­ria’s se­nate is pop­u­lated by 109 mem­bers, com­pris­ing equal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of three se­na­tors from the 36 states of the fed­er­a­tion and one se­na­tor rep­re­sent­ing the Fed­eral Cap­i­tal Ter­ri­tory (FCT), while the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives has 360 mem­bers.

At the bot­tom of the lad­der are the New Gen­er­a­tion Party (NGP) and the Peo­ple’s Demo­cratic Move­ment (PDM) that both have one con­tender each for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives. The Mod­ern Demo­cratic Party (MDP) and the Youth Party (YP) have two nom­i­nees each for the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives.

Four of the 89 po­lit­i­cal par­ties vy­ing for var­i­ous of­fices only have can­di­dates for the po­si­tion of pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­dent. They are the Peo­ple’s Coali­tion Party (PCP), We The Peo­ples of Nige­ria (WTPN), AUN and the Re­form and Ad­vance Party (RAP). Other par­ties whose to­tal num­ber of can­di­dates for the 2019 pres­i­den­tial and na­tional as­sem­bly elec­tions in are in the sin­gle digit bracket are the Save Nige­ria Con­gress (SNC) which is field­ing five can­di­dates, the Change Nige­ria Party (CNP) with seven con­tenders and the Lib­er­a­tion Move­ment (LM), pre­sent­ing nine run­ners. A to­tal of 6,510 con­tes­tants have thus far be­ing reg­is­tered for the elec­tions, com­pris­ing 4496 for the house of rep­re­sen­ta­tives, 1856 for se­nate and 79 apiece for pres­i­dent and vice pres­i­den­tial po­si­tions.

Dr. Abio­dun Adeniyi, Se­nior Lec­turer, Mass Com­mu­ni­ca­tion at the Baze Uni­ver­sity, Abuja be­lieves the is­sue of a po­lit­i­cal third force in this dis­pen­sa­tion is very fluid and should be ad­dressed in cat­e­gories, though, ac­cord­ing to him, the PT ap­pears to have an edge over all other newly reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties. He said there can­not be an ab­so­lute un­der­stand­ing of what con­sti­tutes a po­lit­i­cal third force. “Nev­er­the­less, it un­der­lines the fac­tor of po­lit­i­cal char­ac­ter. It also de­pends on the time of our his­tory you are re­fer­ring to and what your yard­stick is. Be­cause it could well be ar­gued that, there was a third force in the first and se­cond re­publics. In those re­publics, the pro­cesses were nat­u­ral, but could not un­for­tu­nately grow. In the botched Third Repub­lic, it was de­creed by the mil­i­tary that a third force should not be in place. Per­haps, the story would have been dif­fer­ent. In our present cir­cum­stance as well, we may not ab­so­lutely deny the forces rep­re­sented by can­di­dates like Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, Kings­ley Moghalu, Oby Ezek­we­sili, Omoyele Sowore, amongst oth­ers. Olawepo-Hashim has par­tic­u­larly be­ing cel­e­brated as the Third Force can­di­date. These fea­tures can­not be un­der­mined on the al­tar of a neb­u­lous con­struc­tion of a two-party sys­tem.”

Ac­cord­ing to Adeniyi, the emerg­ing forces can be rep­re­sented from two per­spec­tives. “The first is the trend of the youth­ful and some­what much more ur­bane, con­tem­po­rary can­di­da­tures of Olawepo-Hashim, Ezek­we­sili, Moghalu, Sowore, and Fela Duro­toye, and some oth­ers. These ones are rel­a­tively young, vi­brant, and for­ward look­ing, be­sides fact that they rep­re­sent the grow­ing trend of youth lead­er­ship that is gain­ing grounds in sec­tions of the world. Their com­ing out is send­ing a mes­sage to the older, tra­di­tional and more en­trenched club of lead­ers that the fu­ture is go­ing to change. The se­cond trend, I can see are the equally ed­u­cated, in­formed and fu­tur­is­tic set of lead­ers. They are older, and ob­vi­ously be­long to a for­mer gen­er­a­tion, given their past ex­po­sures. I will put Profs. Jerry Gana and Yemi Osi­bajo in this class. Then add some for­mer gov­er­nors like Don­ald Duke and Orji Uzor Kalu and you will not be wrong. We can there­fore look at the emerg­ing po­lit­i­cal trends from the an­gle of the in­di­vid­u­als or from the trend they rep­re­sent.”

Paint­ing a pic­ture of what a true po­lit­i­cal third force should look like, Dr. Asukwo Mendie Archi­bong, Pres­i­den­tial Can­di­date of the Nige­ria for Democ­racy po­lit­i­cal party (NFD) said, the peo­ple who com­prise such a po­lit­i­cal group must have the in­ter­est of the na­tion at heart. He gave fur­ther cri­te­ria, “they must be will­ing to sac­ri­fice for the na­tion. They must be in­trin­si­cally hon­est. They type of peo­ple who do not see pol­i­tics as a do-or-die af­fair.”

Pre­vi­ously a self-ef­fac­ing in­di­vid­ual, the NFD pres­i­den­tial can­di­date ar­gued that more ed­u­cated Nige­ri­ans need to come out of their com­fort zone to take an in­ter­est in the po­lit­i­cal process and gov­er­nance to en­able the emer­gence of a true third force. He said mem­bers of the NFD have a gen­uine de­sire to ef­fect changes in the coun­try.”

Again, as the Fe­bru­ary 16 date for the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion draws closer, Nige­ri­ans, like it hap­pened in 2015, are torn be­tween mak­ing the choice of what has been termed two evils: the APC’s can­di­date and in­cum­bent pres­i­dent, Muham­madu Buhari and PDP’sAtikuAbubakar.

For a time it was thought that a third choice would be thrown in the mix to neu­tralise this dom­i­nance by both Buhari and Atiku. In the first quar­ter of 2018 the idea of hav­ing a third force party that would stand up to the sta­tus quo was thrown around by notable po­lit­i­cal fig­ures and headed by for­mer Pres­i­dent Oluse­gun Obasanjo.

As it was con­ceived by Obasanjo, the third force pro­po­nents con­verged un­der the ban­ner of the Coali­tion for Nige­ria Move­ment (CNM), and were made up of a loose mem­ber­ship of peo­ple in­ter­ested in the devel­op­ment of Nige­ria. They planned on trans­form­ing into a po­lit­i­cal party.

The idea be­hind the CNM, as laid down by Obasanjo, was to have a po­lit­i­cal party grounded in the grass­roots, with the youths who make up more than 65 per­cent of Nige­ria’s pop­u­la­tion re­tain­ing a 30 per­cent stake in all its or­gans, while women would have 30 per­cent stake as well.

Many of the re­cently reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties with young pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates gun­ning for the num­ber one seat were in­spired by this idea of re­plac­ing the old guards in pol­i­tics with young minds and fresh ideas but failed to live by Obasanjo’s most im­por­tant con­di­tion: Unite.

This fac­tor was em­pha­sised by Adeniyi. He noted that a third force en­vis­ages the pos­si­bil­ity of an­other group or groups chal­leng­ing the dom­i­nance of the notable two. “The third force is the al­ter­nate force sep­a­rate from the well-known forces. Call it a C force and you would be right, but note that the C force can also grow to be an A or a B force, just as the B force be­came an A force in 2015.”

In the think­ing of Idu­monza Isi­da­homen, a sen­a­to­rial can­di­date of the So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) in Edo State, his party has al­ready emerged as the po­lit­i­cal third force. His po­si­tion also favours an amal­ga­ma­tion of these po­lit­i­cal par­ties, “Struc­turally, an over­whelm­ing per­cent­age of these par­ties would be clas­si­fied in the lower-mid­dle tiers on the Nige­rian po­lit­i­cal ech­e­lon. Re­gard­less, a sum­ma­tion of these trib­u­taries into a cen­tralised po­lit­i­cal move­ment would be the most ef­fi­cient def­i­ni­tion of a Third Force. The pos­si­bil­ity of a po­lit­i­cal har­mo­niza­tion is ex­cit­ing to the imag­i­na­tion and may, per­haps, throw open the chal­lenge at the fed­eral epi­cen­ter and sub­se­quently squeeze Nige­ria out of this pre­vail­ing so­ciopo­lit­i­cal quag­mire that has been pro­moted by the re­spec­tive gov­ern­ments of the PDP and APC. How­ever, Nige­ria is still a dis­trust­ing so­ci­ety with an avalanche of vested in­ter­est in the power play. De­sign­ing a blue­print that un­der­scores a com­mon de­nom­i­na­tor and still fac­tors in­di­vid­ual in­ter­ests of these po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the food chain, maybe the ap­par­ent im­ped­i­ment in the emer­gence of a Third Force.”

The for­mer pres­i­dent said that the third force “can­not do it alone” and would have to “join oth­ers” to de­feat the APC and PDP. From the self­ish man­ner the re­main­ing par­ties have con­ducted their af­fairs, it ap­pears their only in­ter­est is in see­ing their party logo on the bal­lot pa­per.

When one traces the his­tory of the pro­lif­er­a­tion of po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Nige­ria, the idea of do­ing it solo won’t come as a sur­prise.

Un­til about eight years ago, the fed­eral gov­ern­ment was still pay­ing sub­ven­tions to reg­is­tered par­ties. This easy money meant that aside see­ing their lo­gos on bal­lot pa­pers, most of the reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties were sea­sonal par­ties, ap­pear­ing ev­ery four years.

A pol­icy that was in­tro­duced at the start of the cur­rent demo­cratic dis­pen­sa­tion in 1998 and was in­tended to as­sist the par­ties func­tion op­ti­mally and in­crease po­lit­i­cal par­ties amongst the cit­i­zens be­gan to be abused by lead­er­ship of the dif­fer­ent po­lit­i­cal par­ties. NOTE: In­ter­ested read­ers should con­tinue in the on­line edi­tion on www.this­daylive.com

Yakubu

Buhari

Ezek­we­sili

Abubakar

Archi­bong

Sowore

Olawepo-Hashim

Fa­sua

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