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As OBJ’s Third Force enters the fray

Posted by . on May 15, 2018 0

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The last thing you could ever charge former President Olusegun Obasanjo with is languor.

Walk some distance with him, and he leaves you panting even if you are much younger, unless you are exceedingly fit.  Do not enter into project with him unless you are prepared to go to work immediately and to deliver your own end of the bargain at the appointed time, if not earlier.

It is therefore no surprise that barely four months after he issued a bristling criticism of the Buhari Administration and announced that he was starting nation-wide consultations to establish a broad coalition to rescue Nigeria from the dysfunctions into which it had been driven by the governments that followed his tenure, the initiative has gone from proposal to actuality.

Conceived as a popular grassroots movement to stimulate the interest and participation of youth and women in the political process and thus force “power addicts” to make way for new entrants in Nigeria’s power structure to sanitize the system, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) has found a new home in, and reinvigorated, the previously moribund African Democratic Congress (ADC), Obasanjo announced last week at a news conference

Nigerians in their millions, comprising individuals, groups, social, cultural and political formations, had registered in the CNM, desirous of fostering a “new dawn,” a real one, unlike the type Nigerians had been promised with every change of the baton since 1960, he could have emphasized.  And with the transition from the CNM to ADC, the first phase of the initiative to set up new platform,  turn a new page and inaugurate a “paradigm shift” in the country’s political history had been completed.

The second phase, Obasanjo said, would involve “the galvanization” of all like-minded forces to work together to enthrone a new order.

Key elements of that order would include curbing elitism, promoting inclusiveness, reforming the electoral system to lower the cost of entry, with one national agency supervising all elections; setting  new rules for funding of political parties and meaningful participation; empowering 25 million Nigerians living with disabilities to contribute to social discourse and development; fostering internal democracy, and curbing corruption drastically.

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Under the new order, the National Assembly would enact a law enabling Nigerians abroad with valid passports to vote in all future elections through the country’s embassies.  For a start 30 percent of positions in all organs of political parties and all institutions of government would be set aside for men and women aged 40 years old and younger.

Not all the denizens of the old order were “totally evil,” Obasanjo acknowledged graciously.  The new alliance that would take Nigeria to the Promised Land would have to seek out and work with the few good men and women among them that are willing to embrace a new order.

But never again government by “The K34,” nor by “Ijaw Nation with Four Women,” nor yet by “Kith and Kin,” he said, waxing lyrical, almost. Never again government controlled by the denizens of the PDP and the APC who brought the Nigeria to its present parlous state.

That, in essence, is the manifesto Obasanjo handed down in his latest epistle. Not the vaguest reference to re-structuring that the attentive audience has been demanding insistently, only tinkering at the edges with the Constitution, and more of the hyper-centralization that has vitiated Nigeria’s progress.

If Buhari and his Administration would not embrace and implement these marching orders, they must be prepared to be swept off the political platform by the ADC in next year’s General Election.

Obasanjo reiterated that he would not be a card-carrying member of the ADC, having retired from “partisan politics.”  With the ADC now a reality, his work was done.  But he would, apparently drawing on Plato, function as an influential player in the class of “guardians,” to keep the new order on course.

There you have it.

When Obasanjo first mooted the idea of a new political formation last January in an epistle eviscerating Buhari and his Administration, the PDP entered a response that reeked of barefaced opportunism.  True, the PDP had not in office delivered on good governance, and the APC had proved wholly incompetent; however, the answer did not lie in creating “another political quicksand,” but in grounding a rescue mission on “a repositioned PDP that Nigerians had already embraced.”

The PDP, declared it a national publicity secretary, the hard-working and even harder-hitting Kola Ologbondiyan, “is now standing on a true democratic ground that perfectly represents and reflects the hopes and aspirations of all Nigerians irrespective of their class, creed, or tribe.”

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It is for that reason that the PDP has “become a centre of the new, patriotic and broad-based engagements by well-meaning Nigerians and coalitions across the board, including past leaders, in rekindling our democratic process that places priority on returning power to the people,” Ologbondiyan added.

In short:  save your energies, Baba.  We already have on ground and as a going concern what you seek to establish.

As the Buhari Administration stumbled from blunder to egregious blunder, and as the National Assembly it nominally controls plotted in plain view day after day to supplant the Presidency, the PDP that had suffered a humiliating rejection at the polls just three years earlier–the PDP that had threatened to govern for 60 unbroken years in the first instance–began to see itself and to be seen by its depleted  followership as a government-in-waiting.

Those who had defected from its beleaguered ranks to join the hope-inspiring APC more from calculation than from conviction and had remained at heart true believers in the PDP, then felt sufficiently emboldened to demand a meeting “to prepare the party as a fighting force to deliver more pungently on its manifesto and face the 2019 General elections with even greater commitment.”

Few will be taken in by this sudden outpouring of concern for the APC’s fortunes.

The real reason, as documented in the widely-circulated petition, is to press for a greater share in of the spoils and to secure acceptance as bone fide members and candidates in impending party elections rather than risk being shunned as defectors waiting to take flight.

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To put it bluntly, the whole thing is designed to furnish a pretext for defecting.  It they don’t get their demands, they will claim that they were pushed out of the APC

That was before the local government and ward congresses which it would be courteous to call shambolic, and before Obasanjo announced the ADC’s arrival on the scene.

This latter development must have tempered the PDP’s exuberant dream of returning to power in 2019.  somewhat. Squaring up for a straight fight with the APC, it now finds the field complicated by the entry of a third contestant that may well turn out to be more spoiler than mere irritant.  Consequently, according to my sources, they are now hedging their bets in the ranks of would-be defectors.

Meanwhile, I gather that the faithful have been piling pressure on the APC to demand that the waverers shape up or face expulsion for disloyalty and anti-party activities.  That would be a clarifying move indeed.  I understand that it is under active consideration.

Whatever happens, don’t count the APC out yet.  The significant uptick in oil prices will swell the Federal Government’s coffers and enable it to devote more resources to projects and programmes that would touch the lives of the people in beneficent ways and thus cut down a major source of public dissatisfaction with the Administration.

And if it the Administration were to show greater respect for Nigeria’s geo-political imperatives in filling the thousands of positions waiting to be filled, it would be seen to have moved, finally, to address boldly another source of great of public disaffection.

To close with a riff on ace broadcaster Horatio Agedah’s famous sign-off on his election reports during the First Republic:  And so, the drama continues.

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