By Sufuyan Ojeifo
Is the leitmotif of former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s proposal of a National Coalition (NC) geared towards a complete change of the modus of appropriating the structures of political administration in Nigeria or essentially targeted at stopping either President Muhammadu Buhari or former vice president, Atiku Abubakar, from becoming president in 2019?
If Obasanjo’s raison d’état is to sincerely contribute to the process of entrusting the governance of the nation in the hands of a set of new breed leaders who are more patriotic and more technologically-attuned to nation-building than members of the old guard who have mostly dominated the political terrain without adding substantial value to government, then I am in pari materia with him on the subject.
Otherwise, it will smack of egotism for the former president’s latest gambit to be located in his single-minded resolve to only ensure that neither Buhari nor Atiku emerges as president in 2019. The timing of his celebrated January 23, 2018 press statement seems to reinforce the likely thesis that Obasanjo is out to upstage the applecart of Buhari’s presidency and ensure that Atiku’s quest for presidential power, for the fifth time, is stymied.
Hate him or love him, the former president does not care as long as he is not encumbered in dancing to the political rhythm of his soul. He speaks truth to power even if his antecedents in office do not provide a strong moral ground for him to pontificate about proper conduct in office and/or exhort others to do what he either did not do or did but did not do well. Funnily enough, as some people have said, Obasanjo’s uncanny way of presenting as a moral compass in Nigeria’s political terrain still baffles. This messenger may be problematic; his messages are always in apple-pie order.
He had gleefully exposed what appears to be the underbelly of Buhari’s government. He had spoken to the specifics of Buhari’s failings as president. Those who are passionate about Buhari obviously hate Obasanjo for the obtrusive deconstruction of their hero. The conversation around the purported failure of leadership under Buhari’s watch is raging to the discomfort of minders of his government and leaders of his APC.
But then, there is no doubt that Nigeria and Nigerians have suffered Obasanjo for too long with his inexplicable savvy to reinvent himself. I only hope that, this time round, he is not pushing his luck too far with his somewhat suspicious idea of a Third Force that will not be candidate-sponsoring. This is the bugaboo in his suggestion on how to exit the gloomy picture that he painted about government and governance presently in the country.
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?
If the plan by Obasanjo and other promoters of the National Coalition or Third Force is to use it to mobilise Nigerians to enlist in the rigorous process of effecting a leadership change, it will not be out of place to contemplate who benefits eventually from the process. Who benefits? It may be too early in the day for dispassionate watchers of the political process to fathom, but the former president had already foreclosed some possibilities. “Neither APC nor PDP” was his apocalyptic summation in the conclusion of his treatise with which he deconstructed Buhari as non-performing and, in a better way that he would wish Nigerians to see the president, incompetent.
I am sure Obasanjo has his answer to the question of a possible beneficiary of the intervention by a pan-Nigerian Third Force and this is what further renders his intervention suspicious. He is not that altruistic to allow the process to throw up someone that he probably has not predetermined. He has always desired to control the presidency of Nigeria. That informed his first fault in 2007 when he coupled the Umaru Yar’adua and Goodluck Jonathan presidency. He discovered to his chagrin that he could not control Yar’adua.
When Yar’adua was terminally ill, he supported the call for his resignation. He unsympathetically spurned the secrecy around Yar’adua’s health status at the Daily Trust annual African personality of the year award ceremony in 2009. With the death of Yar’adua, he gladly supported Jonathan to complete Yar’adua’s term and to contest the presidency in 2011, thinking that the timid-looking man who grew up without shoes would be easily manipulable. He suffered a back-to-back disappointment under the PDP arrangement.
In 2015, he decided that the failed power contraption should be dismantled and he decided to promote Buhari’s presidency on the basis of a thesis that has now blown up in his face that anybody but Jonathan would be good as president. The perceived failure of Buhari accentuates the ugly dimensions of Obasanjo’s second fault under the APC deal.
Something tells me Obasanjo is headed for a third fault with his Third Force project. Because his leadership profile and antecedents in office are more writ large than his professed patriotism and love of country, the passion he is investing in the project is thus indicted on those scores. Yet, he would do anything to ensure that Buhari does not return as president.
Suddenly, it does not matter anymore to the former president that he is a member of the old guards that have benefitted so hugely from the infamous political structures with which they have perpetuated themselves in power. They gregariously deployed the structures to service their enlightened self-interests and to promote politics of prebendalism.
Without a sense of contradiction, and I stand to be challenged, Obasajo remains the greatest beneficiary of trouble-free access to national leadership, especially the full panoply of presidential powers in Nigeria’s entire political history. The prognosis, with which he has, without solicitation, assailed our sensibilities, in his characteristic avuncular and oracular manner, even if patently selfish, is fatality for APC and PDP. That is vintage Obasanjo!
He has now forcefully cut a niche for himself as political, not necessarily moral compass in search of a new leadership through the vaudeville of a fast-unfolding political dramaturgy. But unfortunately, his profile in self-adulation as a messiah of sorts, which is somewhat apocryphal, is now a subject of interrogation and derision by Buharists.
Those that have descended heavily on the messenger at the expense of the message are perhaps unaware that Obasanjo’s real politik is actually feeding on the circumstances and egregious failings of political leaderships afflicting the political economy presently. That is where the justification for his intervention lies. But as for his Third Force, time will tell whether or not it will unravel as his third fault.
Ojeifo, editor-in-chief of The Congresswatch, writes via email@example.com (08034727013)