Last week, former President Obasanjo formally launched the Coalition for New Nigeria, a new political movement he claims will take Nigeria into the promised land. In this report, JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH dissects issues bordering on the formation of the movement and how forceful it is as a third force in Nigeria’s political space.
Less than a year to the 2019 general elections, the temperature of the country’s political space is already getting hot, with politicians setting up their tent and pitching them against one other. Drawing the battle line is former President Olusegun Obasanjo who two weeks ago fired the first salvo at the presidency. Categorically, he asked President Muhammadu Buhari not to contest the 2019 presidential election. To further prove his point that he is averse to Buhari’s second term bid, Obasanjo last week formerly launched a coalition, which he recommended in a statement he issued on the state of the present administration.
“We need a Coalition for Nigeria (CN); Coalition to salvage and redeem our country. You can count me with such a movement… Coalition for Nigeria must have its headquarters in Abuja”, the former president stated.
Since it became a public document, Obasanjo’s press release discrediting the Buhari administration and heralding his third force, has dominated political discourse in the past two weeks. When it was eventually launched last week, political observers were apparently disappointed with the calibre of people in the movement. Their misgiving is that it was a case of old wine recircled in new wine skin. Prominent members of the Coalition include former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke; Olagunsoye Oyinlola, former governor of Osun State; Buba Galadima, amongst others
There are reports that at least 10 governors, serving Senators and members of the House of Representatives, as well as other top politicians, are members of the Coalition. This has however been dispelled as tissues of lies by analysts who contend that a Coalition that boasted of having a good number of former governors in its fold only for just two (Duke and Oyinlola) to be the only ex-governors identified at its inauguration should not be taken serious.
Besides, controversy also reared its head against the movement last week when a group under the aegis of Coalition Nigeria (CN) accused Obasanjo of allegedly stealing its name by launching the Coalition of Nigeria Movement (CNM).
The group said, “We are, however, shocked that the people that are trying to steal our name have the singular agenda of helping former president and convener of the shady group, Dr Olusegun Obasanjo, to secure a third term in office, something he could not achieve when he last held office in 2007.
“The legitimate Coalition for Nigeria hereby warns the Obasanjo Coalition Movement to stop using our name to further the agenda of failed politicians that are out to pursue Obasanjo’s third term and third time agenda. If he had failed before nothing stops him from spectacularly failing again this time. It is most unfortunate that this hare-brained attempt is coming at a time when even Ghaddafi, Grand-dad Mugabe and Jammeh have all become history.”
During the launch of the movement in Abeokuta, Obasanjo who was absent at the launch in Abuja started politicking by throwing up the gender card. He said, “You will see that in my prior statement on the January 23rd, the issue of women was raised very heavily. The position is this: if there will be a change in this country for good, the people that would bring that about would be the youths and the women. That has to be appreciated and right from the word go, they must be carried along. They must have a place of honour, they must have a place of responsibility, and they must be part and parcel of governance in this country. If what we have tried in the past has not taken us to the Promised Land, we must try something else.”
He further justified his meeting with President Buhari at the African Union in Addis Ababa after discrediting his (Buhari’s) government at home, Obasanjo said, “I wonder why some Nigerians were worried why I had to pay respect to the Nigerian President, that’s my own upbringing as a well-born and bred Yoruba boy.
“That doesn’t mean that what I have said about the President, which I did not say out of bitterness and hatred, it is evidence that the President has performed, in some areas, good enough, in other areas not good and a proper advice which he may take and he may not take.
“I didn’t do that out of malice or out of ‘bad belle’, I did it out of my respect for that office and my interest and I hope in your interest and the interest of Buhari in Nigeria. I went to him just before the beginning of the opening of AU summit; I had gone round to meet some few other Presidents, should I ignore him? So, I went to my President, greeted him and we joked before General AbdulSalami said we should have a group photograph”.
Political analysts have been pondering about how the new political movement or third force would impact on the 2019 presidential election. The thinking is that a year is too short for the new movement to make an impact. There are speculations that the movement may align with one of the existing political parties. As at last count, Nigeria has 67 registered political parties.
Recall that the APC registered 18 months to the general election and had existing structures in some states already. Pundits say they foresee a situation whereby bigwigs, either in the APC or the PDP may turn down the request to join Obasanjo’s coalition. According to them, the calibre of people in the coalition so far is an indication that it is dead on arrival.
Most of the politicians in the movement right now are considered as light weight and expired juggernauts. The calculation is that Nigerians had taken interest in the APC as soon as it was formed when they saw the calibre of people in the party. In the mega party then, a Buhari who had consistently delivered 10 million votes in the three previous elections he contested, a Bola Ahmed Tinubu who had the capacity to deliver more than 70% of votes in the Southwest were all members of the party. These were politicians with clout and pedigree.
In the instant case, observers have maintained that a cursory look at the members of Obasanjo’s coalition shows 90% of them cannot even deliver their wards and as such have no electoral value to effect a change. As far as they are concerned, no member of the coalition can deliver even one million votes nationwide.
Meanwhile, President Buhari has still not declared his intention to contest the 2019 presidential election but his body language so far indicates he may run next year. APC governors and cabinet members have already endorsed him for reelection. Keen observers of the polity aver that Buhari is the only person that can win the presidency for the APC in 2019 and should he refuse to contest, the party which is already pressing the self – destruct button will disintegrate after 2019.
While the APC, an almagation of different political parties – ANPP, CPC, ACN And APGA is finding it difficult to manage its success after the polls, the different factions have realised they all have different political ideologies. It is a case of strange bedfellows who are finding it hard to work together.
The PDP on the other hand is yet to recover from its electoral loss in 2015 and political watchers say it has nothing to offer Nigerians in 2019. Nigerians have not forgotten how in the years of milk and honey the PDP was said to have looted the nation’s patrimony and are largely responsible for the country’s present poor state. Therefore, winning the presidency in 2019 may be a tall order for the party.
For the new Coalition, a strong opposition to Obasanjo is coming from his own zone, the Southwest. In his reaction to the Movement, APC leader and former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said that the APC will respond to the new political bazaar called third force at the “appropriate time”.
While accusing Obasanjo of playing politics with his open letter to President Buhari, Tinubu noted that if his action was not politically motivated, Obasanjo could have deem it fit to exploit other better ways of communicating his observations about the Buhari administration other than a public statement.
The APC leader jocularly said that the letter was not written to him. He said, “Obasanjo wrote it about the government. It is a very good awareness on his part and they are both from the same background. I believe that is the doctrine of military officers (retired) because he has unrestricted access to the president, either through the Council of State or by any other means that he needs to see the current president privately and he was his junior in the Army.
“So, I think Obasanjo was playing politics with his public letter; that’s all I see. He could have used other means. He met him in the AU too. He has a way of discussing privately but the letter is being responded to by the government”.
On their part, the PDP rejected the call for Obasanjo’s coalition to wrest power from the APC in 2019. In a statement, spokesman of the PDP, Kola Ologbondiyan said, “Such would amount to repeating the same blunder that brought in the ideologically vacuous APC and the (Muhammadu) Buhari presidency which has now wreaked havoc on the nation in its almost three years of governance”.
He said the former president’s call for a third force that could counter the influence of both the APC and PDP was unnecessary, insisting that PDP remains the only viable option to wrestle power from the ruling party.
The opposition, Ologbondiyan said, 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.”
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