As alignments and realignments begin to emerge ahead of the 2023 general elections, political parties and civil society organisations in the country have warned Nigerians not to trust politicians pushing the agenda of a third force, a political group aside the two main parties – the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
According to the CSOs, Nigerians must come together and ensure the country gets its electoral reforms right, adding that they must scrutinise every candidate standing for election before making informed decisions.
Former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC,) Prof Attahiru Jega, had earlier urged Nigerians to vote out the APC and the PDP, accusing them of being equally corrupt.
According to Jega, the two political parties are the same and should not be given another opportunity in the 2023 general elections. Divergent reactions have since continued to trail Jega’s comments.
The umbrella body of all political parties in Nigeria, the Inter-party Advisory Council (IPAC), and some prominent civil society organisations such as Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre (CISLAC, Yiaga Africa, and Centre for Democracy Development (CDD), however, warned Nigerianss to be wary of a third force ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Speakin with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the spokesman of IPAC, Major Agbo, said the 2023 general elections will not be based on political parties but the quality of candidates.
According to him, a third force should not be disgruntled members of some political parties but people with proven character that have something to offer.
Agbo stated: “We are never tired of talking to Nigerians. Some people always have the tendency of having one party, that is, a party in power. Because a lot of them believe it is better to stay where you can get crumbs or support the government where you can get small money.
“But we are talking to Nigerians and it seems it is yielding results now because if you look at the political landscape of Nigeria, Nigerians are now beginning to embrace other political parties. There are indications that things are changing and Nigerians are beginning to embrace other platforms”.
He pointed out that the history of the PDP and the APC are the same, adding that politicians without character and principles are just jumping into the parties.
“We saw how politicians were moving to APC before 2015. Before then, we saw how politicians were moving into the PDP. We also saw APC people moving into PDP. The question on the lips of some of us is, why must it be PDP or APC? It shouldn’t continue to be like that. Why can’t they move from APC to APM? Why should they move from PDP to APC instead of APM and other political parties? We will continue to talk to Nigerians because these two parties are the same. Their character is the same, their behaviour is the same,” Agbo said.
He urged Nigerians to look at the antecedent of politicians, their contributions in the past towards the development of not just their party, but the nation and democracy in general.
“People can continue to come together. What Nigerians should be looking at is the antecedent of these people coming together. Do they mean well for the country, do they mean well for democracy? For us, like in my party, we have never believed anybody coming to join us should be accepted without proper checks.
“If you just leave it like that, it is possible for crooks to form a force with their ill-gotten wealth. We don’t want to look at it as a blanket. What Nigerians should be looking at is the quality of the people who are coming together. Why are they aggrieved? Are they aggrieved because the party they are leaving is unable to service their selfish interest? Or the party they are leaving does not serve the interest of Nigerians? These are two things. If their antecedents are in order, they will be accepted by Nigerians. But if they are not genuinely aggrieved, Nigerians should ignore them,” Agbo added.
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the executive director, CISLAC, Awwal Musa Rafsanjani, said the only option for Nigerians now is to insist on reforms in the political parties.
“If Nigerians who are complaining of rigging, violence, electoral fraud, manipulation in their huge numbers, if they can come together and have a more transparent platform as a political party, it is very possible that they can wrest power from the riggers and election manipulators,” Rafsanjani said, but he insisted that the voters are already marginalised.
“If people who are currently disappointed by the current political parties can come together, it is possible they can push out the current political parties, but not until we ensure that the electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results is included in the electoral act.
“Nigerians must ensure that certain fundamental reforms, like ensuring that riggers, sponsors of election violence are punished. As it is now, the only people who are punished when it comes to election malpractices are the recruited people. Those who sponsor them are not being punished,” Rafsanjani said, adding that until the electoral process is free of manipulation and electronic voting and electronic transmission of election results are adopted, Nigerians will still face some hurdles.
“Another issue is to get the security agencies to pledge their loyalty to the Nigerian people, not individuals. Elections should not be a do-or-die matter. It should be an opportunity for people to contribute to nation building. Not an opportunity for people to steal and syphon tax payers’ money. Until we curb electoral corruption, there is no way you will have a system that will produce good people that are experienced, competent, not corrupt, who are patriotic, who are nationalistic and have national agenda. That is the only way we can make a difference in 2023,” he said.
The CISLAC head who said absence of internal democracy in political parties is a major issue Nigerians must address ahead of the 2023 general elections, added that if they had insisted on a certain amount of transparency in the political parties, it would have been possible to carry out reforms that can hold the political parties accountable for their actions.
“But a situation whereby political parties are totally privatised, monetised and cornered by some powerful forces that have questionable character, and have questionable funds and resources, liars, crooks and criminals, they will just simply have money and hijack the party structure and impose candidates they want against the popular will of the people.
“That is the number one thing we must insist on, and we still have little time between now and 2023. If the political parties will ensure certain minimum conditions, affirmative action for women, people with disability as well as young people, Nigerians can come in and insist on internal democracy, insist for the party to be more transparent in how the party is run, what resources they have, how they spend such resources. If we all have that in place, it will be the most important fundamental reforms Nigerians will need.
“There is a danger with the current two-party system that is currently in play between APC and PDP. If people who have questionable funds continue to run the parties, it means that anybody who is not involved in such acts, violence or criminal activities or money bags, or commercialisation of the party and the politics, cannot make headway. It means that no decent person will have the opportunity to be involved in politics,” he added.
Also speaking, the director of programmes, Yiaga Africa, Cynthia Mbamalu, said the crisis in the two major political parties do not warrant a third force, but that Nigerians should go for quality and not political parties.
“Both the APC and the PDP have failed in delivering services to the people but a third force needs some kind of force to be able to function. I won’t be able to talk about the third force now because it is barely a year or so until the next general elections.
“If they are planning for a third force, what will they present? Remember the All Progressives Congress was the major opposition political party in 2015 and came with some kind of agenda for the people and there was large support.
“But getting into office, people have seen that it’s not about being a new force, it’s about the quality of individuals that are members of the party. It is about the quality of individuals who can win elections. Policies of the big political parties have made a lot of Nigerians are skeptical about a third force considering what happened in 2015,” Cynthia said.
For the 2023 general elections, Cynthia said what people are looking out for is not a third force but an alternative to the present crop of politicians.
She said, “So, it could be from either of the APC or PDP, it could be from a different political party. But for the presidential office, Nigerians need a Nigerian who understands the diversity of the country and is ready to manage the diversity. Nigeria needs a leader who is not part of the old order. They need someone that will bring a different agenda to the people and execute it, someone who is younger. They could be in their 50’s. But that Nigerian must have the capacity because what we are experiencing in the country is always leadership capacity.”
On her part, the director, CDD, Idayat Hassan, noted that the formation of a third force should not be the issue but that citizens must get good and trusted leaders. And they should not vote based on religion or region.
She said, “I think the formation or not formation of a third force should not be the issue. We are concerned about the citizens voting and being voted. The parties have enough time for the citizens to understand and vote accordingly, not on ethnic basis, but they should scrutinise the agenda of each of the political parties.
“Of course, it is everybody’s right to do what they like. Ours is not political. We don’t want to delve into the politics involved. We want political parties to give citizens the right information and ensure that their votes actually count.
“Nigerians will have to interrogate the parties, the history of the parties. The processes should be monitored. It should not just be monitored, but the processes should be all inclusive – from the voter registration exercises, party primaries and all that is involved”.
Also, elder statesman and the immediate past secretary-general of the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF,) Anthony Sani, posited that with the performance of both the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), a third force cannot succeed in Nigeria again.
According to him, political parties in Nigeria have jettisoned their roles of designing winning plans by breaking barriers and building of bridges across ethnicity, religion and regions needed for the electoral mandate to be president.
He said, “Prof Jega is not the first to submit that both the ruling party, APC, and its predecessor, PDP, have failed to deliver on the promise of democracy – be it in terms of infrastructure or by way of values needed to glue Nigeria together as a peaceful and united nation.
“Prof Wole Soyinka has said the same thing, to wit, that if APC has failed to solve the problems, it makes no sense to give power back to the instigator of the problems.To both, giving power to PDP is the same thing as going back to Egypt.
3rd Force On Course, Say Na’Abba, Utomi’s NCFront
But the National Consultative Front (NCFront), which is part of the 3rd force, said the political movement has the prospect of a new political party PDP in the 2023 general election.
The political platform told LEADERSHIP Sunday that it is consulting technocrats, academicians, political parties and older folks to join their fold.
LEADERSHI Sunday recalls that early this year, leaders of NCFront raised a 22-man political merger committee.
Headed by former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Alhaji Ghali Umar Na’Abba, the committee was mandated “to negotiate and facilitate an inclusive Mega Party Movement for Nigerians.”
Besides Na’Abba, other members of the political platform include Prof Pat Utomi, Raph Okey Nwosu (ADC), national chairman); Dr Olu Agunloye (SDP national chairman) – secretary, Dr Osagie Obayuwana (former national chairman, NCP).
Others are Ezekiel Nya Etok(former chairman, YDP); High Chief Peter Ameh (former chairman of IPAC and PPA); Dr Tanko Yunusa ((national chairman, NCP); and Senator Zainab A. Kure; Comrade Issa Aremu (Labour and LP leader); Chief Precious Elekima (national chairman, PLIF); Dr Aisha Salihu Lemu; Alhaji Hamisu Santuraki (national chairman, MPN); Comrade Mark Adebayo (national chairman, KOWA Party).
The group which also hailed former INEC chairman, Prof Jega on his comments on the nature of APC and PDP, assured that they would come up with a party that has ideology.
Speaking exclusively to LEADERSHIP Sunday, head of the Public Affairs Bureau of NCFront, Dr Tanko Yunusa, said, “We want to commend some of our Frontline leaders for coming out boldly to make statements that are targeted towards emancipating the Nigerian people from the shackles of misrule and miss governance that we found ourselves.
“In this regard we want to specifically appreciate Professor Attahiru Jega for making his bold statement on how we can get out of the situation that we find ourselves in at the moment. It is also important that we state what we have been doing so far .
“We have two legged committee. While listening to demands of the people for restructuring of the country a People’s constitution committee is working on a new constitution for the country of which the committee is working assiduously to ensure that we have a constitution that the Nigerian people will be happy and proud of, even though we are very aware that the national assembly is doing a constitutional amendment. Our document will also be put up for debate and agreement. This is aimed at building trust with the people.
“The next step is that there is a merger or alliance committee being worked on, very soon there’s going to be a meeting of that particular committee to come up the political angle of this movement and for Nigerians who have been waiting so long to have a new political party or a strong political movement that can challenge the status quo.
“We want to assure them that we are working hard to ensure that we come up with a platform that it will be based on program of ideology , programs of wealth development programs of security program of inclusivity for all part of this country so that we can have an egalitarian society that everybody will be proud of.”
He added that NCFfront is working hard and consulting across all walks of life to ensure that we have the right people in the right place.
It Will Make No Difference – Shagari
But former deputy governor of Sokoto State, Muktar Shagari, has said the new political platform will not be different from the PDP and APC, noting that it will be populated by disgruntled members from both parties.
The former deputy speaker said the new party that will emerge will be like old wine in a new bottle.
He added that politicians now see politics as business rather than a duty to serve hence the lack of ideology in the party system.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP Sunday, the former deputy governor said, “I can’t dissect the mind of Professor Attahiru Jega on what he is really thinking or saying. He is a professor of political science and he is an authority in that area. Perhaps what he is thinking about is a new political party might emerge because, maybe, in his view Nigerians are not happy with both political parties.
“But I have a different view about all that. My view is predicated on the fact that if you know from a new political party who are going to be the members? Are you going to create them from somewhere? It will still be some disgruntled members from PDP and some disgruntled and dissatisfied numbers from APC that will come together and form that party which means that old Wine in a new bottle. So the issue, as far as I am concerned, is the politicians must change their attitude to politics. They should emphasize the politics that are purely for national interest and not selfishness.
“We’re having all these issues because a lot of people in this country see politics as a business where you invest money and then you harvest at the end of the day. That is not what politics should be. It is a calling to serve the national interest to bring about national development, security for the people, good economic policies and provide infrastructure and healthcare and of course national unity.”