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Third Force: SDP Gathering Momentum Ahead Of 2019



Few months ago, the Social Democratic Party, SDP, was just one of the political parties in Nigeria, with no elective office holder in its cadre. But within one week, early this month, the relatively unknown and unsung political party has become the bride that everyone is running after.

How did this transformation from obscurity to limelight take place? It began with the press statement released by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, admonishing President Muhammadu Buhari not to re-contest the 2019 presidential election and his advocation for a National Coalition Movement to galvanise the Nigerian masses for the enormous task ahead in 2019.

In the special press statement titled, ‘The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria Movement,’ Obasanjo said that President Buhari has performed far below the expectation of those who entrusted him with the mandate to rule, and should honourably “dismount from the horse” to join the league of the country’s former leaders whose “experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country.”

The former President added, “President Buhari needs a dignified and honourable dismount from the horse. He needs to have time to reflect, refurbish physically and recoup and after appropriate rest, once again, join the stock of Nigerian leaders whose experience, influence, wisdom and outreach can be deployed on the side line for the good of the country. His place in history is already assured. Without impaired health and strain of age, running the affairs of Nigeria is a 25/7 affair, not 24/7.

“I only appeal to brother Buhari to consider a deserved rest at this point in time and at this age. I continue to wish him robust health to enjoy his retirement from active public service. President Buhari does not necessarily need to heed my advice. But whether or not he heeds it, Nigeria needs to move on and move forward,” he said.

“I have had occasion in the past to say that the two main political parties – APC and PDP – were wobbling. I must reiterate that nothing has happened to convince me otherwise. If anything, I am reinforced in my conviction. The recent show of PDP must give grave and great concern to lovers of Nigeria.

“To claim, as has been credited to the chief kingmaker of PDP, that for procuring the Supreme Court judgement for his faction of the Party, he must dictate the tune all the way and this is indeed fraught with danger.

“If neither APC nor PDP is a worthy horse to ride to lead Nigeria at this crucial and critical time, what then do we do? Remember Farooq Kperogi, an Associate Professor at the Kennesaw State University, Georgia, United States, calls it “a cruel Hobson’s choice; it’s like a choice between six and half a dozen, between evil and evil. Any selection or deflection would be a distinction without a difference.” 

It is perhaps his call for a National Movement that gave birth to the National Coalition Movement, which was recently launched in Abuja under the chairmanship of former governor of Osun State, Olagunsoye Oyinlola.

How did SDP come into the equation? When the NCM was launched, it was populated by known Obasanjo cronnies and there was debate among the members whether to form a new political party to replace both the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, which many believed has not lived up to expectation, vis-à-vis its electioneering campaign promises and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which former President Obasanjo accused of buying the Supreme Court judgment which settled its factional wrangling.

LEADERSHIP reliably gathered that many who had personal ambition were of the opinion that a new political; party would be the best vehicle to drive the dreams and ideals of the NCM, while many others, especially, the progressive democrats amongst them preferred an existing political party with structures on ground.

This according to the latter group was because there was not enough time to register a political party and mobilise the electorate for the 2019 election.

Meanwhile, while the ruling party had its own internal crisis to contend with, the opposition PDP was embroiled in fresh crisis, emanating from the ashes of its elective National Convention of December 9, 2017, where Uche Secondus emerged the National Chairman of the party in what many stakeholders has described as a ‘cash and carry’ National Convention.

The first sign of cracks was the emergence of the Fresh PDP, comprised of Prince Obi Nwosu, Alhaji Hassan Adamu, Chief Olusola Akindele, Chief Godwin Duru and Franklyne Edede, which threatened to inaugurate parallel National Working Committee. To douse the tension generated by this threat, the Secondus-led NWC of the PDP inaugurated a peace and reconciliation committee headed by the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, to reconcile aggrieved party members.

But events earlier in the month indicated that all reconciliatory efforts by the Dickson-led committee had failed as former Minister of Education and a contestant for the National Chairman of the PDP in the ill-fated December 9, 2017 National Convention of the party, Prof. Tunde Adeniran, Chief Emmanuel Iwunayanwu and former Minister of Information and member of the Board of Trustees, BoT, of the PDP, Prof. Jerry Gana, defected to the SDP on March 1.

Others caught by the defection fever included: former military administrator of Katsina State, Senator Joseph Akaagerger; a former Chief of Staff to former President Goodluck Jonathan, Chief Mike Oghiadhome, former governor of Jigawa State, Saminu Turaki, former Minister of Defence, Dr. Olu Agunloye and a former Deputy Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Hon. Dare Emiola.

Not left out of the mass transition from PDP to the SDP are a former member of the House of Representatives, Junaid Mohammed; Senator Bassey Ewa Hensaw; a member of the House of Representatives, Hon. Olamide Oni; a former leader of the Alliance for Democracy, Hon. Dipo Olaitan, a former Speaker, Oyo State House of Assembly, Kehinde Ayoola; Ambassador Yemi Farounbi; leaders of the Middle Belt Forum; John Dara; the leaders of the National Intervention Forum led by Tafawa Balewa; Ambassador Bejide and Alhaji Shehu Gabam.

According to an officer of the SDP who spoke to the paper but asked not to go on record, “What people will see in the days ahead is the third force emergence. It is going to be a coalition of interest group from PDP and APC. You have seen with your eyes two members of the PDP who are here to day

LEADERSHIP reliably gathered that the defection of Adeniran et al was the beginning of the wave of defection to hit not only the opposition party, but also the ruling party. An official of the new bride, who craved anonymity told LEADERSHIP, “This is just a tip of the iceberg as there are bigger PDP members who will be coming to SDP.”

He further explained that in the next few months, everything would unfold, as many more bigger fishes from both the ruling and opposition parties would join the gravy train. LEADERSHIP also scooped that the Peoples Redemption Party, PRP, and a few other parties are working on a coalition with the SDP ahead of the 2019 general elections to provide a fresh alternative to both the APC and PDP.

He revealed that some APC members ‘will defect soon before the APC primaries and others will do so after the primaries

At the rapprochement with various interest groups during the defection, the SDP revealed that it had reached an understanding with the various interest groups which were passionate about the way forward for Nigeria.

In a document titled ‘Towards a New Political Order,’ a Memorandum of Understanding between the party and the various political interest groups, LEADERSHIP learnt that an arrangement has been worked out on true federalism, democracy, sustainable economy, among others.

The MoU also spelt out core values of the party as justice, transparency, accountability, zero tolerance for corruption, respect for human life, international cooperation for common humanity.

Findings by LEADERSHIP have revealed that many top notches of both the opposition and ruling parties are gearing up to move enmasse to the new SDP. Already, among others who have identified with the SDP is the former governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda, who LEADERSHIP learnt may contest for the party’s presidential ticket.

It was also gathered that the forthcoming Ekiti and Osun states gubernatorial election would serve as the litmus test for the emerging Third Force; just as it was scooped that the SDP is already shopping for a formidable and popular candidate amongst those parading themselves as aspirants in Ekiti State to fly its banner.

LEADERSHIP also learnt reliably that in the coming months, no fewer than 25 senators from across all political parties and over 50 members of the House of Representatives would dump their various political platforms and align with the new bride on the block. Also expected to jump ship to the new kid on the block are about five governors from both the APC and the PDP, among them a former Speaker of the House of Representatives.

It was also learnt that SDP may provide the needed succor for the embattled governor of Benue State, Samuel Ortom, who recently, in the heat of the massacre of his people openly declared that should his people ask him to leave the APC, he would gladly oblige them.

Already, talks are under way with various leaders of the main political parties, the APC and the PDP, on how to strengthen the SDP ahead of the challenges ahead; just as consultations have continued nationwide with stakeholders of the Nigerian project, on how best to pull the rug off the feet of the APC and the PDP come 2019.

From the foregoing, the Biblical maxim of the stone rejected by the builders becoming the cornerstone is coming to pass on the SDP.

Many aspirants for the gubernatorial tickets of the various political parties are already perfecting their plans ‘B’, in case the powers that be in these parties deny them of a level playing ground. Many social media groups who had hitherto supported either the ruling APC or the opposition PDP, have also started restrategising and exploring the possibility of joining the bandwagon of the Third Force.

And if the momentum continues as it is, the SDP may spring the surprise of the century in the 2018/2019 elections and emerge the ruling party.



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