Not a few Nigerians are dissatisfied with the order of establishment politics and governance in Nigeria. Hopes and aspirations of a better Nigeria that heralded the transition from military to civil democratic rule in 1999 have remained largely unrealis ed. Political parties that are supposed to be the fundamental structures upon which the democratic process is built have largely been opportunistic means of achieving power for self-serving purposes. The manifestos of all political parties are similar in empty rhetoric, full of sound and fury signifying nothing.
This unsatisfactory state of political affairs has necessitated the now spontaneous idea of a “Third Force” as a rejuvenated ideological platform to alter the course of Nigeria’s journey to a prosperous nation away from the path of mutually assured self-destruction. However, the vocal few who are championing this latest intervention on the political landscape have not been able to articulate the vision and mission of a third force in perspectives relevant to Nigeria’s socio-economic emancipation.
There has to be a Nigerian nation before any form of socio-economic development can be achieved. Unfortunately, Nigeria is not a nation but a country of many ethno-geographic nationalities. Nigerians who have come to the realisation of the futility of sectionalism and have cleansed their minds of ethno-geographic and religious bigotry are deemed the first recruits into a Third Force movement. A third force ideologue should be a Nigerian who is passionate about the unity of Nigeria and upholds the sanctity of state citizenship by recognizing the economic and political rights of every Nigerian wherever they chose to reside within Nigeria, irrespective of their places of origin.
For example, a third force advocate like Oby Ezekwesili, an ethnic Igbo indigene of Anambra State should be able recognize an ‘Umaru Bako,’ an ethnic Hausa, whose grandparents moved from Katsina State, over a century ago and settled in a place called Bida, in the commercial city of Onitsha, where he was born, bred, schooled and speaks Igbo language effortlessly, as a bona fide Anambra man who is entitled to economic and political rights as a citizen of Nigeria. Similarly, a third force political figure like Donald Duke should be seen using his influence to get a ‘Jide Sumonu,’ who originally identifies as ethnic Yoruba but was born, bred and schooled in Cross River State, elected into the state house of assembly to represent Calabar Municipal area council, in a deliberate show of the belief in the sanctity of the oneness of all Nigerians, irrespective of varied ethno-geographic origins. All third force ideologues from across the country must embody and demonstrate these deliberate steps towards national assimilation and integration that aims to transform Nigeria from a country of indigenous tribesmen into a united Nigerian nation of citizens, wherein one can be Hausa and Anambra, Igbo and Kano, Yoruba and Cross River, in fulfilment of the fundamental condition preceding sustainable socioeconomic development of any sovereign entity.
A Third Force is not likely to be confined within the rigid structures of a political party neither is it going to be about personalities. Rather, a Third Force will be an embodiment of a pan-Nigerian agenda for inclusive growth and development that will redefine the goals of citizens’ participation in partisan politics, which will in turn expectedly yield benefits in the form of legitimate individual and collective prosperity. Political participation is always with the aim of individual benefit, just as most people worship God because of the promise of a Paradise flowing with milk and honey.
The challenge before this emerging third force is to situate individual benefit within the broad framework of a mutually beneficial system that is not parasitic on the people or government. To supplant the old order, a new order must not displace the current beneficiaries of the system but only seek to substitute the mode of benefit from disruptive to creative. Currently, political participation is fundamentally driven by primitive acquisition for individual and sectional enhancement at the expense of the Nigerian state, which is detrimental to its growth and development.
To move away from this self-immolation of materially parasitic and divisive politics of identity and patronage reward system, a third force should evolve a vision of a prosperous Nigeria whose existence is more for economic reasons than political, by mobilizing Nigerians to realise the importance of pragmatically aligning their democratic choices with their individual legitimate business interests, which, collectively, aggregates as the core of Nigeria’s economy away from ethno-geographic and religious sentiments. The current order thrives much on these sentiments, which, unfortunately, led to the state of dysfunction in our polity with grave consequences of retrogression in all spheres.
When people align their democratic choices with their ethnicity or religion, they get such tokens as ethno-religious patronage in the form of appointments of their elite into juicy public offices, sponsorship on pilgrimages, donation of worship centres and government contracts for a few connected individuals, leaving the majority of the people’s needs unattended.
Under the current order, reward for partisan participation is by way of direct patronage from the public purse. The unsustainability of the current order is evident in the growing army of politicians who are entangled in mortal combat for a space at the sharing table as the economy has largely been left unattended. Ironically, the temporary acquisitions from public office no longer go a long way to sustain the beneficiaries after office. They ultimately become victims of the bad system they helped nurture while they were opportune to serve in government. In the end everyone is a loser under the current order. Hence, the need for a third force as a way out.
Mobilizing Nigerians to pragmatically align their legitimate individual business with their democratic choices, the retrogressive ties of ethnicity will be broken as artisans, medium and large-scale entrepreneurs from the four cardinal points of the Nigerian nation will converge on a common interest of policy promise that will enhance their collective business interests. This will create a new progressive association out of every ethnic group in Nigeria whose bond is not language and culture but shared economic interests.
Artisanal shoemakers from Kano, Ibadan and Aba will come together and bet their money and political influence on a policy that enhances their shoemaking business, irrespective of the ethno-geographic or religious background of the candidate making the promise. A third force should guide the emergence of unifying economic blocs like guilds of artisans and chambers of commerce and industry to replace divisive ethno-geographic blocs likes Ohanaeze, Arewa and Afenifere as the main influences of Nigeria’s democratic political process.
Most significantly, the reward for partisan political participation will be reaped from a well implemented social contract that will enhance individual legitimate business ventures with resultant increase in profits, upon which participants based their support, and government’s lean resources will no longer bear the burden of a bloated bureaucracy to accommodate professional politicians. This will eventually lead to emergence of political parties with clear-cut ideological leaning as each as electioneering process will become a healthy competition of ideas on how to enhance the socio-economic well-being of the citizens. Card-carrying membership of political parties will give way to membership by shared ideological leanings, values and beliefs.
For short and mid-term purposes, a third force should be able to clearly define the role of the state in the economy, taxation and environment, as well as evolve a realist foreign policy that will guarantee Nigeria a fair share of world trade by negotiating favourable trade deals and securing for Nigerian businesses profitable overseas investment opportunities. Furthermore, a third force must seek to reverse the current trend that makes Nigeria a thoroughfare for all and sundry across Africa. An immigration policy that admits the best of human resources but shuts out the worst in order to shore up domestic inadequacies and reduce pressure on internal resources must be evolved.
In doing these and more, a third force would have reshaped Nigeria’s democracy from a government by a divisive ethnic majority to a unifying majority of progressive ideologues.