Coalition for Nigeria is a candle in the wind

Obasanjo. PHOTO: TheCable

In my first reaction to former President Obasanjo’s letter to President Muhammadu Buhari, published in this column a week or so ago, I agreed with the former president on his detailed criticisms of the performances of the latter in office so far. But come to think of it: if we feel disappointed with Buhari, and we do, it is not exactly his fault. It is ours. As usual, we raised our expectations too high in the new administration. We ignored Buhari’s sensible plea that he could not work magic. Well, we expected him to make the difference between him and Jonathan positively clear in the time it takes to say APC; chain the rampant corruption and bring discipline to this wildly undisciplined nation.

Well, the president is seriously grappling with corruption. He once told me at an interview in 2003 that indiscipline was worse than corruption. That is one rogue still blissfully roguish under his watch.

I pointed out in my said column that it was not up to Obasanjo to decide if Buhari should run for a second term in office or not. That decision rests squarely on the president. Both the Nigerian constitution and the APC constitution give him that right. In any case, are those telling him not to run for a second term doing so for his own sake or the sake of the country itself? Obasanjo may be the most accomplished Nigerian so far but that gives him no right to dictate who rules and for how long he should rule. He has had the greatest opportunity to put things right in the country. If the country is not what we believe it should be, and it is not, he cannot escape moral responsibility despite his moral grandstanding.

In the second part of his letter to the president, Obasanjo suggested the floating of what he calls Coalition for Nigeria dubbed as the third force by the news media. He posits that the “Movement must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress.” It is his latest offering on what we call the way forward.

I find it difficult to digest that. Our political parties, no matter how inept, are social, economic and political movements. We do not need a supra-political party movement to drive our national development. Obasanjo, most certainly, is banking on the fickleness of our politicians who like to flock to anything that promises an easier path to political power to float this movement at this time. With the stale air of a new season of national elections wafting into our nostrils nation-wide, floating such a coalition is bound to get more than a casual notice of the nation and its people. People are easily fatigued by politics and the politicians when, as now, a nation is forced to keep its head above the storm of insecurity, growing poverty and the resurgence of those primitive things such as tribes and religions that have collectively hobbled us for so long. We live on the promises of a new beginning. Obasanjo, the newly-minted PhD from the National Open University of Nigeria, is now in the business of marketing such a promise.

The former president expects the two main parties to soon begin to haemorrhage as their leaders and followers desert them and flock to his new national movement in the false hope that joining the new bandwagon at birth is both politically wise and pragmatic. The implication of Coalition for Nigeria is that it would undermine the political parties. I find it difficult to accept that this would be good for our democracy or good governance. It would be more honest of Obasanjo to form and register a new political party. That would bring the number of our registered political parties to 68. The only man who should worry about 68 political parties with possibly 68 presidential candidates and a horrendous number of governorship and legislative aspirants should be the chairman of INEC.

It would help to remind Obasanjo that as president from 1999 –2007, he did everything he could to undermine democracy and good governance by taking it upon himself to assume powers not conferred on him by the national constitution or the constitution of his party. He treated every democratic institution with total contempt. Had he allowed democracy to flourish as our preferred choice of government by duly respecting its tenets, our situation would be different today. He did a great deal of damage to our political pluralism, a strong pillar of democracy, when he systematically destroyed all the other political parties. By 2003, only two of the five original parties were still standing after a fashion – PDP, ANPP and AD.

PDP was, of course, the party. But its failures under his watch were glaring. The culture of impunity must have flowered under Jonathan but it took roots under Obasanjo. In his eight years in power, he could not forge a political party with a clear ideology for our national development. It was no tribute to him or the credentials he claims as a democrat and the nation’s foremost patriot that he is sold on his new thesis of a national movement to drive our development. It says something for his faith in the party on whose platform he ruled this country for eight years that he left it and made a public spectacle of destroying his membership card.

The birth of APC in 2014 captured our imagination. It caused haemorrhage in PDP. In effect, APC is a but PDP with new three-letter acronym. I can count only two men in APC who were not in PDP. They are Buhari and Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu. Whatever may be the failures of the new party under Buhari’s watch was its inheritance from its parent political party. Obasanjo is floating Coalition for Nigeria because he has lost faith in the capacity of both Buhari and APC to meaningfully drive our national development. It is the way to go only because he is Obasanjo, our moral compass.

He offers honeyed and beguiling words and expressions intended to sway the minds of the people as products of hard-heading thinking. He says “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.”

It is not in our national interest to accept a supra-political movement because no such movement has room in our political structure. And unless such a movement transforms itself into a political party, its work would be but an intellectual misadventure in the brown fields of the nether world. No one would be naïve enough to suggest that we do not have enormous social, political and economic problems. We cannot fix them by seeking to undermine the constitutional platform represented by the political parties. Fixing them is, indeed, the primary duty of the political parties in power at both the centre and the constituent units of the federation.

We must never forget that individually and collectively, we are complicit in the failure of the parties to fully commit to a better and more secure nation. The election cycle is designed for the purposes of enabling the people to change the leaders in the executive branch and their representatives in the legislative branch of government whose performances in office they find disappointing or unsatisfactory. It is the true and tested path to enthroning democracy and respecting its ethos.

No movement, mass or otherwise, can drive national development outside the political parties. If each time those in power fail to satisfy us we float new movements or parties, Nigeria would be condemned to permanently groping in the dark. Obasanjo should do better at this stage than confounding the confusion. Coalition for Nigeria can take us nowhere beyond the realm of sentimentalism. Men may flock to it as the moths the naked light but it will still be a flickering candle in the wind.

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