ASSESSING OBASANJO’S ‘THIRD FORCE’ - Welcome to Soul 2 Soul Mates Blog


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For many who know former president Olusegun Obasanjo very well, he has just capitalised on the swelling grumbles by
Nigerians — over the suffocating economic environment, frightening security challenges and ethno-religious crises in some parts of the country, to set the polity ablaze — when he passed a vote of no confidence on President Muhammadu Buhari. He said 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 he is capable of giving. Obasanjo 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, 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 “inequality has widened and become more pronounced.’’ It also has an effect on general national security, Obasanjo added.
“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 that 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.
Obasanjo’s prescription: “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, Obasanjo was emphatic that the polity needs a Coalition for Nigeria (CN), saying such a movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong.
He added, ‘’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 said that 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 that Obasanjo’s prescription of 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 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’’, Deputy Managing Director, Mr 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 the former president 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’’, he further said.
‘’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, adding that the energy, time and resources be put on strengthening the existing parties for elections rather than forming fresh ad hoc coalitions.

‘’In sum, Obasanjo is entitled to his own diagnosis of the Nigerian condition. He has fulfilled a patriotic duty by making this intervention. However, the way out of the problem that he has prescribed for Nigeria looks narrow.
‘’A wider way out is what is needed at this time. It is also important to put the prescription in the context of the recent history of this country in order to understand it better and possibly predict its efficacy’’, he said.
Expectedly, the APC also dismissed Obasanjo’s option of a third force intervention in the nation’s politics.
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, 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.  Arguing that there were about 72 other registered political parties in the country and the people reserve the right to support any of these, APC rationalised that the nation’s democracy itself is young and hence all the parties face sundry challenges, saying the country had made progress since 1999, with Obasanjo himself being a major contributor to the progress as a multi-party democracy. APC continued, ‘’It is for this reason that we believe the respected former president should not give the impression that none of the political parties in the country is good enough for Nigerians and the only solution to the current challenges that we face is a completely new arrangement.’’
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.

According to the the party’s spokesman, Kola Ologbondiyan “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 added that Nigerians overrated 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 that while the APC was already caught up with Buhari, the PDP was open for a new engagement that would throw up the president, “which our nation truly deserves at this crucial moment”. He called 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 Obasanjo ‘’bombed’’ Buhari, 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 wasted billions of ‘’corruptly acquired’’ funds to pursue an illegal third term as president, and now rising up against a ‘’legitimate second term’’ for an incumbent president.
Historically, Obasanjo is known to have written a similar thesis condemning everything about former military dictator Ibrahim Babangida and his government. There was a similar umbrage by Obasanjo against late Sani Abacha Administration but was not taken so friendly by that administration. Obasanjo was arrested, charged for plotting a coup, convicted and imprisoned, until he was brought out to carry the trophy that the winner of the June 12 1993 presidential election, late MKO Abiola, paid for with his blood.
The government of Yar’Adua/Jonathan, which Obasanjo allegedly imposed on Nigerians — after his failed third term bid, was also not spared by his vicious public attacks.
The argument by his hard critics is that Obasanjo does not stand for anything, he jumps into every bandwagon and plays to the gallery. And they asked, could this be the mark of a true leader?
Obasanjo’s prescription of a third force does not sit well with many traditional politicians: they have insisted that it is too late to form a new party that could defeat the hardnosed incumbent Buhari-led government, advising Nigerians to engage other registered political parties in the coming general election and give firm conditions to the parties in that direction.
But by the way, can Coalition of Nigerians under the platform of the National Intervention Movement (NIM), which recently unveiled its steering committee, mobilise Nigerians for the needed change within the present political space in the country?

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 widows might 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, by using any of the existing political party as platform.

Political analysts are swelling 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, it will with assurance, and strategically, contribute obviously to the emergence of a new political order in the 2019 elections, if its plans and actions are properly and effectively fashioned out.

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