BusinessDay

2023: Third Force or better leadership recruitment process?

Ahead of the next round of national election in 2023, many observers are saying that neither the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) nor the main opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) is good enough for the future of Nigeria.

The thinking is that the Nigeria of 21st Century needs a forward-looking party to take it on the journey of tomorrow.

At a recent event, Attahiru Jega, a former chairman of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), pointedly advised Nigerians to look beyond the APC and PDP. He suggested that the country needed a Third Force.

However, some political analysts have said that what Nigeria needed urgently was to enthrone a better leadership recruitment process, a lack of which, they believe, has plunged the country into the mire it has continued to wallow in.

More than two decades since Nigeria returned to democratic rule and the advent of the Fourth Republic, the general feeling among Nigerians is that the dividend of democracy has remained elusive.

This is despite campaign promises by successive administrations to alleviate the suffering of the masses and provide purposeful leadership.

Presently, there is the general feeling of disenchantment among Nigerians on the state of affairs amid the spate of insecurity and bad state of the economy.

Read Also: INEC, electronic voting and 2023 general election

Some Nigerians have even said the country have never had it so bad. They say just like the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) government has failed them.

Recall that the PDP ruled Nigeria from 1999 for sixteen years, winning all general elections and dominating the political space until it was displaced by an alliance of three major opposition parties and a wing of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in 2015.

In 2019, the APC again won the general election, including the presidency and majority of seats in the National Assembly. The party also won most of the state governorship seats.

But since 2015 when the APC assumed office, gains achieved in virtually most sectors under the PDP appear to have been lost, while the standard of living of Nigeria has worsened.

Findings, based on a projection by the World Poverty Clock and compiled by Brookings Institute show that presently Nigeria has overtaken India as the country with the largest number of people living in extreme poverty, with an estimated 87 million Nigerians, or around half of the country’s population, thought to be living on less than $1.90 a day.

Despite being the largest oil producer in Africa, Nigeria has struggled to translate its resource wealth into rising living standards.

A slump in oil prices and a sharp fall in oil production saw the country’s economy slip into its second recession in the last four years.

Some analysts say that Nigeria’s problem is basically leadership; they say Nigeria cannot make any meaningful progress if its current leadership recruitment process is not checked.

Over the years, there have been agitations in some quarters for a new crop of leaders, the signing into law of the #NotTooYoungToRun bill in May 2018, perhaps, offered a chance.

There were large numbers of young Nigerian professionals who ventured into partisan politics; they had some level of popularity in some parts of the country and in the media.

So, there was hope that perhaps, that third force party would emerge to challenge the dominance of the two main political parties in Nigeria.

But that challenge failed to make any meaningful impact or pose any threat to the two parties because the politicians failed to build a structure on which to support themselves at the grassroots.

Most of them believed they could win elections on social media without a clear cut programme on how to galvanise the voting population.

Observers also identified lack of synergy among the politicians as a reason for their failure

Meanwhile, the seeming failure of the APC government and Muhammadu Buhari’s administration has re-echoed clamour for change. While Nigerians appear not interested in PDP either, others have advocated for a realignment of third force.

They say the need for an alternative platform in 2023 has become imperative.

Perhaps, such thought was further fuelled a few days ago when the former chairman of the INEC, Attahiru Muhammad Jega, urged Nigerians not to vote for the APC and PDP henceforth, alleging that the two major political parties have destroyed everything, and are like Siamese twins of corruption and that it was high time Nigerians looked for a credible alternative.

“The bad things these parties committed in those past years, Nigerians should never give their trust to them again. It is now very clear that these parties will never change, even if they are given another chance.

“The APC and PDP have formed governments; we were all witnesses. They did not come with good intentions to make amends. If you look at the fight against corruption, all these corrupt people that were supposed to be prosecuted sneaked into the APC,” Jega had said.

Jega’s advice to Nigerians, however, did not go down well with the two parties, which in turn accused him of not being sincere with the truth.

In the last few days political watchers have expressed divergent views on the desirability of a third force ahead 2023.

While some have welcomed the idea, some people simply say experience from the past had shown that the smaller parties could not compete with the two dominant parties, stressing that owners of the smaller parties are businessmen who are only after the money they would make from the system.

“Where are the third force coming from, are they coming from the sky? Are they not going to be Nigerians? For me, I think the third force would not solve our problems. When APC came to power people were talking about alternative, change, but look at them now, failure.

“There is no party that is perfectly run across the world; I believe we can work with what we have and make it better. I don’t think any force, or even any name you call it would be the solution”, Eddy Olafeso, a former national vice chairman of the PDP, South-West, said.

But Sanni Yabagi, national chairman of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), said the realignment of major political actors to salvage the country had become inevitable in 2023, adding that the current turmoil in the two ruling parties had given pointers to that.

According to him, “Necessity is mother of invention; as we move towards 2023, given the state of affairs in the country, there would be need for a new camp for people to regroup, the current two dominate parties have shown they are not capable and have no solutions for solving Nigeria’s problems,” Yabagi said.

“So, there is the need for a new status quo, it is a natural phenomenon, change is normal. But Nigerians must stop being docile and take what they want,” he further said.

Meanwhile, politician, Adelaja Adeoye, disagreed that third force would make any inroad in Nigeria’s political environment and offer any meaningful change, stressing that such arrangement would fail because experience has shown that promoters of some smaller parties were not sincere and lacked the unity, structure, finance to win election in Nigeria.

According to him, “Nigeria does not need any third force in 2023 because there is no political ideology in any party, both old and new, other than the quest by these politicians to grab power.”

He further warned: “Do not allow any proponent of 3rd force to deceive you into being used to raise personal funds for their own use. Most of the mushroom parties screaming ‘third force’ are business ventures floated to do political hatchet jobs.

“Nigeria of today only has two parties with widespread political structures, which is PDP and APC. Quote me, one of them will float a Presidential candidate and win in 2023; the rest will start adopting candidates from the two big parties.”

Adeoye further said: “I would like you to go back to what happened in the 2019 election, where youths in different political parties under the 3rd force structure could not agree amongst themselves who will be adopted.”

Political pundit, Kehinde Kayode, offers a different perspective, arguing instead that what the country needs to change is the leadership recruitment process.

“In 2015, Nigerians clamoured for a change in political leadership after several years of the PDP rulership of the presidency and many of the states’ governorship positions. In 2015, we saw APC take over, and now, with our current state, it is crystal clear that the solution to our problems does not necessarily lie in any party, whether APC or PDP, but in having leaders that care for the people, understand our problems, and have the capability to make things better,” Kayode said.

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