Ever since former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in his letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, suggested a coalition against the Federal Government, the talk about a “Third Force” in the country’s political architecture started having impetus. His call was not the first time a “Third Force” was ever touted in the current political dispensation. Before the suggestion, some groups, made up of professionals, technocrats and activists, had mooted it. However, the voice of Obasanjo appears to have given the project more force, as politicians, in the two biggest political divides – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) – are now coming out and boldly announcing their intention to midwife an alternative power block in the country.
Yes, on Wednesday, proponents and members of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) made a public appearance at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja, where they declared their mission to arrest the drift in the country. At the Abuja launch, the former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, ex-Governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke, former presidential advisers and others were present. The CNM band, again, converged on Abeokuta, yesterday and had in attendance Obasanjo, Oyinlola, Duke and former Chief of General Staff, General Oladipo Diya, among other dignitaries. At the gathering, Obasanjo said the group was not a political party, but a platform to galvalise forces to, more or less, rescue Nigeria. He declared that he would quit the group any time it indulged in partisan politics.
Apart from the Obasanjo-inspired CNM, the other “Third Force,” with the likes of Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) and eminent lawyer, Olisa Agbakola; ex-Minister of Education and coordinator of the Bring Back Our Girls (BBOG) campaign, Oby Ezekwesili; Prof Pat Utomi and other like minds, is also organising itself to work for the dethronement of the current government and the birth of a new order. This agitation, as it were, shows that many Nigerians are disenchanted with the situation in the country and, therefore, want a revolution that would sweep the Buhari government out of power. In the midst of a bad situation, people are expressing their frustration.
The interesting thing about the movement against the President Buhari government is that most of those championing it are people who worked for its installation three years ago. At the time they worked for the victory of Buhari in 2015, they believed that the country needed a change of leadership and, by extension, political party. Now, they are rising against the same government they helped install, which shows that something has really gone wrong.
However, in the face of the coalition against the Buhari government or the talk about a “Third Force,” there is something that does not seem right. History is repeating itself, in less than one term of office of an elected President. Yes, barely three years after politicians in the PDP rebelled against the political party, called it names and defected to the APC, politicians, including members and supporters of the APC, are, again, telling the world that something is wrong with the party and those who came to office on its platform. To say the least, if members of the APC are openly and secretly identifying with the CNM or any other aspiring “Third Force,” it goes to show that politicians are just taking Nigerians for a ride. It is funny, indeed, that politicians, who, in times past, declared that the APC was the best option for the country, are now singing a new song and, therefore, want to “engineer” another change. This shows the unreliability of politicians.
I am not in any way saying that the APC government, at the federal and state levels, has done well. Certainly not. It is obvious that the APC has not met the aspirations of Nigerians. Therefore, Nigerians are disappointed with the political party and its prime movers. I am not also saying that performance of any government depends on the political party that brings it to power. No. What I am saying is that for people, who said PDP was bad and that APC was good, to turn around and say APC is now bad, proves they are not driven by any conviction or ideology. Such people see Nigerians as a toy that could be played with, always coming out to appeal to sentiments to get their way. This is where the “Third Force” project or the Obasanjo coalition movement rankles. This is why I see the so-called “Third Force” as a farce, since it is not driven by the love for Nigeria but by the selfish interests of some politicians and pretender statesmen who want to be at the centre of power.
To be sure, I see the “Third Force” or whatever name they would want to call it as a joke. The project does not resonate as a serious force that could cause any political upset. There may be other persons behind it, who have not had the courage to show their faces now, but the “Third Force,” as currently constituted, cannot scare anybody. All the people now driving it are not political heavyweights, eventhough some of them won elections before. And even if there were political heavyweights, a coalition that would be made up of breakaways from the APC and the PDP cannot command the same force as the APC of 2015. A “Third Force” with APC and PDP still firmly in place, would not make much impact. Such a configuration means that there would be three strong political parties: The APC, PDP and “Third Force.” In a political setting, where these three forces go for electoral battle, I am yet to be convinced that the “Third Force” will fly.
For the avoidance of doubt, the APC became an irresistible force against the PDP in 2015 because, with it, there were only two strong political parties contending for power. At that time, the choice for Nigerians was either the PDP or APC. And with the demonisation of the PDP, the APC was the next choice. However, despite this, it was only two million votes that separated APC and PDP in the presidential election. Also, the PDP still won 11 states (now reduced to 10 with the loss of Ondo) and APC 25, with APGA holding unto Anambra. When the “Third Force” comes into the mix, from my calculation, there will be three contending political parties, without overwhelming majority. I doubt if the “Third Force” would succeed in depleting the PDP and reduce it from the current 10 to, say, five states. And I do not also see the population of APC states reducing from 25 to 15, for instance, so that the “Third Force” would have influence in about 15 states or more. If we have this political setting, the APC would have gained. Put simply, the entrance of any “Third Force” will be to the benefit of President Buhari, if he decides to seek reelection. This is why the motive of those touting “Third Force” must be examined and interrogated.
In 2019, the PDP still remains the best option to challenge the APC and give it a run for its money. Anybody hoping that PDP would die and APC split to get a force that could take Buhari or APC out of office in 2019 is joking. Such an outcome will be difficult, even if some of the political juggernauts in APC decide to take a walk and join the “Third Force.” In any case, a time has come for Nigerians to stop falling for politicians who come with a puritanistic sentiment but end up being worse than those they criticise. The APC came with a lot of promises. Three years thereafter, the political party and its government have reneged in most of their promises. They have also failed to make life better for the ordinary Nigerian. They have betrayed the trust reposed in them by the 15 million people that voted them into office. Therefore, the plan of a “Third Force” coming to take power is simply a dream, a farce. Nigerians would not trust those making empty promises again.