Between Obasanjo’s Third Force and Northern Political Leaders’ Forum

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EMEKA NZE compares former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Coalition of Nigeria Movement or better still, the ‘Third Force’ seen as the solution to Nigeria’s bad governance, and the Northern Political Leaders Forum, many think, is scheming to grab power by 2019.
2019 race begins
As the race for 2019 general elections gathers momentum, new establishments continue to creep into Nigeria’s political lexicon, ostensibly expressing displeasure and casting doubts on existing leadership.
The essence is apparently to the status quo and exert control on the incoming leadership. Just recently, former President Olusegun Obasanjo, in a letter to the sitting President, Muhammadu Buhari, whined that the later should desist from seeking re-election due to reasons of clannishness and , among others.

Reasons for Obasanjo’s coalition
In the conclusive segment of the letter, Obasanjo proposed a National Coalition or Third Force wherein he stated lies the solution to the country’s serial bad governance.
Obasanjo said: “Today, We need a Coalition for Nigeria (CN). Such a Movement at this juncture needs not be a political party but one to which all well-meaning Nigerians can belong. The Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress. 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. Of course, nothing should stop such a Movement from satisfying conditions for fielding candidates for elections.
“But if at any stage the Movement wishes to metamorphose into candidate-sponsoring Movement for elections, I will bow out of the Movement because I will continue to maintain my non-partisan position. Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja.
“This Coalition for Nigeria will be a Movement that will drive Nigeria up and forward. It must have a pride of place for all Nigerians, particularly for our youth and our women. It is a coalition of hope for all Nigerians for speedy, quality and equal development, security, unity, prosperity and progress. It is a coalition to banish poverty, insecurity and despair.
“Our country must not be oblivious to concomitant danger around, outside and ahead. Coalition for Nigeria must be a Movement to break new ground in building a united country, a socially-cohesive and moderately prosperous society with equity, equality of opportunity, justice and a dynamic and progressive economy that is self-reliant and takes active part in global division of labour and international decision-making.
“The Movement must work out the path of development and the trajectory of development in speed, quality and equality in the short- medium- and long-term for Nigeria on the basis of sustainability, stability, predictability, credibility, security, cooperation and prosperity with diminishing inequality.
“What is called for is love, commitment and interest in our country, not in self, friends and kinship alone but particularly love, compassion and interest in the poor, underprivileged and downtrodden. It is our human duty and responsibility so to do. Failure to do this will amount to a sin against God and a crime against humanity.
“Some may ask, what does Obasanjo want again? Obasanjo has wanted nothing other than the best for Nigeria and Nigerians and he will continue to want nothing less. And if we have the best, we will be contented whether where we live is described as palaces or huts by others and we will always give thanks to God.
“I, therefore, will gladly join such a Movement when one is established as Coalition for Nigeria, CN, taking Nigeria to the height God has created it to be. From now on, the Nigeria eagle must continue to soar and fly high. CN, as a Movement, will be new, green, transparent and must remain clean and always active, selflessly so.
“Members must be ready to make sacrifice for the nation and pay the price of being pioneers and good Nigerians for our country to play the God-assigned role for itself, for its neighbours, for its sub-region of West Africa, for its continent and for humanity in general. For me, the strength and sustainable success of CN will derive largely from the strong commitment of a population that is constantly mobilized to the rallying platform of the fact that going forward together is our best option for building a nation that will occupy its deserved place in the global community.”

Coalition as smokescreen
Since the Obasanjo treatise and recommendation which he said was best for Nigeria, Nigerians have been at a loss about the workability or modus operandi of his proposal since he precluded its transformation into a political party.
Sufuyan Ojeifo, the Editor-in- Chief of Congresswatch is one of such Nigerians who shared in the confusion on the workability of the National Coalition. He wrote: “What type of experimentation is that and what result is it designed to produce in a democracy where political parties are the platforms that can sponsor and have traditionally sponsored candidates?
“We are yet to get to the intersection where the platform of independent candidates will kick in to mitigate the tyranny of ruling parties, leading opposition parties and the rash of small brief case parties.
“Truly, I wonder how the Third Force will be able to actualise its agenda of birthing a new Nigeria without transforming into a party. Or is the Third Force going to direct its members, who have different political leanings, affiliations as well as sympathy and fidelity to vested interests with ambition to occupy public offices, to dump them and move into a party for the purpose of building and driving a nationwide consensus on the 2019 presidential power politics?
While Nigerians were yet to fully grasp how the Third Force will fit into the democratic space, Obasanjo and his group proceeded to launch it to demonstrate it was not a breath of the mouth.

New wine in old wine skin
One would have expected that its membership would be drawn from sectors other than the two major political parties, APC and PDP but their presence was dominant and contrary to Obsanjo’s claim that he should be counted out in the event of the coalition metamorphosing to a political party, its chairman Brigadier Olagunsoye Oyinola (retd) promised that the coalition will soon transform to a party.
Among the prominent APC chieftains present were Buba Galadima, a member of the party’s Board of Trustees (BoT), and former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the incumbent chairman of the Nigeria Identity Management Commission, among others.
From the ranks of the opposition PDP were erstwhile national chairman of the party, Col. Ahmadu Ali (retd), former Governor Donald Duke, himself a former presidential aspirant and also another former presidential aspirant on the platform of the party, Dr. Abduljelil Tafawa Balewa, among others. Also present was Mr. Akin Oshuntokun, former Managing Director of News Agency of Nigeria, (NAN).

NPLF barges in
The dust for Obasanjo’s Third Force was yet to settle when the North floated what they called the Northern Peoples Leaders Forum (NPLF). Some of the dignitaries at the event were: former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; former governor of Kogi State Ibrahim Idris; Bala Mohammed; Sen Jeremiah Useni; former governor of Kogi State, Idris Wada; Prof Auwal Yadudu; Shehu Gabam.
Others were former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa; Prof Ango Abdullahi, former governor of Adamawa State, Boni Haruna, Sen Solomon Ewuga, former speaker of the House of Representatives, Ghali Na’aba, Dr Umar Ardo and Engr. Buba Galadima.
In his welcome address, former Minister of Defence, Dr Halliru Mohammed, declared that since 1999, presidents from North were not the decision of the region.
The former acting chairman of the PDP, who decried the division in the North, noted that ahead of 2019, unless they unite in the region the same scenario will repeat itself. Also, he added that the meeting was convened because of a failure of leadership over the years, which has caused a division between the masses and the leaders.
The former minister said: “What we can see in the political arena is that most political operators have agreed that the leadership of the country should be zoned to the North, according to what is in our constitutions about zonings and rotations. But from what we have seen earlier, it had always been zoned to the North but the decision of what to do and who to be, has never been a northern issue.
“What we have observe is same trend is starting now. We have seen all kinds of movements starting now. If you look at what is happening now and look at what happened when it was the turn of the North to produce president, President Umaru Yar’ Adua of blessed memory was produced. But was he really a Northern choice?
“It is not the Northerners who decided that the presidency should leave the North. We had to follow the bandwagon. The same thing happened in 2015. It was actually not the North. The North voted but the decision of who is to be the candidate was not a northern decision. What we want is that this time around, let us have an opportunity to come together so that whatever is decided for the North, it is the Northern leaders that will decide it and then we get support from other regions as brothers.
“If we are able to do that then we should be able to produce a leadership for this country that will be just, equitable, and will lead us into national development which has been eluding us.”
Regretting the division in the North, he said: “Our country is in serious predicament. Over the years there has been growing failures of leadership. There is clear loss of confidence between the masses of our people and the leadership.
“I don’t need to dwell on the fact that a lot of negative indices are more in the North than in the South. We all know that a lot of the times the North is being blamed for all the predicaments of Nigeria but we know what the truth is on the ground.
“We are aware that ACF and NEF have all tried but the politicians and the people generally in the North are still very much divided. We know that even in our politics nationally, the South west, South East have a common political understanding. But in the North it is always a case of this one will pick his part and the other will pick his part.
“And we are always divided. This time around the dynamics have changed in the country. If we don’t have a united mission, the interest of our people will be neglected. And we have seen that in the last several years that we have been having administration in this country.
“It is, therefore, a need for us to establish this united front for the North that we thought as conveners somebody has to offer a platform, a forum that Northern leaders and intellectuals can come together and speak among themselves and come out with what next should be done and how best to do it.
“That is the purpose of this gathering. We don’t have an agenda. What we have put down is tentative and advisory but definitely we have leaders of the North here from all works of life and we believe by the time we finish from here we can have something tangible that we can present to our people and there will be a way forward for the North and consequently a way forward for the country Nigeria.”

NPLF another smokescreen?
The leaders resolved to hold a Northern Political Summit on March 15, 2018 to commemorate the attainment of self-government of the Northern Region in 1959.
The group therefore formed five sub-committees, namely; Security, political, Northern Unity, the 2019 Election and Restructuring of Nigeria.
While the details of the members for the subcommittees will be announced later, former governorship aspirant in Adamawa State, Dr Umar Ardo and Commodore Isaac Mankilik (rtd) are to serve as secretary and deputy secretary of the central secretariat of NPLF.
According to the communique signed by Sen Mantu on behalf of the NPLF, “the meeting observed that governors were seriously indicted for inability to maintain fairness, equity and social cohesion in business of governance especially on government appointments and empowerment.
“Most appointees were being married to nepotism as a new phenomenon rearing its ugly heads in the region. The governors were challenged to change their disposition and borrow a lead from Sardauna and his key officers for change for the better in larger interest of the North.
The governors were also reminded of their detrimental approach to issues of Northern unity; employing series examples like giving support to third term or tenure elongation of Obasanjo and their open disregards to unity of purposes.
Stakeholders were enjoined to change their profile and desist from paying lip services and double standard to ensure a functional Northern Region.
“Pay attention to good leadership and discontinue with recruitment of half baked or non educated people in leadership spectrum. People should be trained to take up leadership and put a stop to capacity solution. Let us be strategic in thinking affectively.
“It has been established that North has lost her leadership for a long time and there was no any mechanism put in place to rectify this damaging situation.
“It has also identified security architecture being drastically collapsing and there is no attempt to arrest the problem. Other problems like poverty, education and empowerment are also lingering.
“It has been observed that the forum should continue as non partisan but political, non ethic and non religious for viable resolutions and reliable forum.
“North has allowed divisions along primordial lines and our government at states levels bring little on nothing to overcome these shortcomings. Therefore, stakeholders should pay special attention to 2019 elections as united force without any tear.
“Identify contradictions and proffer solutions to them. There should be deliberate efforts to return power to the people.
“There should be effort to dilute the powers of monopoly of the governors who do what they wish outside the tenant of democracy. This is a forum to correct wrongs committed with a view to ensuring entrenchment of democracy at all levels.”
The communique stated that the group discussed the general security situation in the North; appraised the current state of politics in the North in relation to the unfolding national political dynamics with a view to creating a common Northern position for alliance with our fellow citizen in the southern zones; examined the causes of conflict among Northerners and suggested practical ways and means of attaining functional unity.
They also deliberated on the best mode of maximizing Northern advantages in the 2019 general elections; impress upon their people to register and have their PVCs; and formulation of the stand of the North on the various issues raised.
In an earlier remark, chairman of the occasion and Elder statesman, Alhaji Tanko Yakassi, who lamented that the Northern region is losing its rightful place in Nigeria, said the future of the region within the nation is to establish its unity and guard its identity as a region.

Northern renaissance?
While noting that the Northern region is passing through its most trying times since 1914, he said “for the people of the North to come out of these challenges, undoubtedly triggered by poverty, illiteracy, ignorance, unemployment, lack of honest and sincere leadership and huge lifestyle disparity in society, they must resolve the current leadership failure in the region and return the region back to its rightful position in Nigeria’s national balance of political power.”
He further noted “It is therefore critical that the elites of the region stand in unity, with the express objective of narrowing the conflict, saving Nigeria of instability and advancing the course of national unity, democracy and development.”
He added that while the NPLF is political, “it’s non-partisan; nor is it also a prelude to the formation of a political party. But the conversation represents all shades of political opinions and ethnic religious diversities of our people.”
Nigerians acknowledge that it is a rat race where the gladiators are leaving no stone unturned to reserve for themselves the exclusive right to shape what will later snowball into the next political leadership.
For now, from the analysts’ point of view, the synopsis of the actions of either the CNM or the NPLF is that those scrambling for political space are doing so with altruistic and patriotic reasons, the citizens will either watch in akimbo to their peril or participate actively in what will play out between now and the next general elections.
Both the Third Force (TF) and the NPLF no doubt have the same objective: To corner or decide who wields power in a country bogged down by bad leadership. Both have avowed to their non partisan disposition but during their launching and inauguration, they were peopled by politicians not from the blues but from the same political platforms that have been ruling Nigeria since 1999.
However, in Obasanjo’s Coalition there are some technocrat-politicians while the NPLF were northern politicians mainly of the PDP who would not want the input of another zone in deciding who becomes the presidential flag bearer of their party.
Unlike the PDP national convention which took the North along to produce the chairman of the party, the North does not want external influence in determining the presidential flag bearer, and the formation of the NPLF is meant to achieve this.
It appears the CNM is to stop the bazaar that took place leading to the emergence of Secondus in the party primaries that will produce the presidential flag bearer of the party.
Similarly, the emergence of the NPFL is to counteract the National Coalition which has been variously described as Obasanjo’s scheming in producing or imposing another presidential flag bearer that will contest against the incumbent president, Buhari.
There is no doubt, the posturing and showmanship of some of the political actors would only leave their footprints in the political sand of time positively and negatively.
The seeming pessimism hovering in Nigeria’s atmosphere is that it is not capable of lifting the country from bad governance which has been the country’s albatross. Expectations are that more of such groups would continue to emerge.

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