Following the adoption of African Democratic Congress as the platform Chief Olusegun Obasanjo’s coalition intends to use in the 2019 General Elections, Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu, reports on the prospects of the Third Force in the emerging scenario SINCE former President Olusegun Obasanjo came up with the idea of a coalition designed to dislodge both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the biggest opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2019 General Elections, Nigerians have been eager to know the political platform the group would use to achieve its set objective. Taking cognisance of the strength of the two big political parties in the country, some experts had predicted that the coalition’s most viable option may be to engineer merger of many opposition parties in order to get an equally large political organisation that would match APC and PDP’s reach and make the required impact across the length and breadth of the country. But while some observers were still speculating on the likely political parties in the envisaged grand mergers, CNM last week’s Thursday announced its adoption of African Democratic Congress (ADC) as the political platform it would use to contest the 2019 elections. The leadership of the political pressure group, founded by Obasanjo, said the move was designed “to form a formidable force to wrestle power from the ruling APC in 2019 elections.” Former Military Administrator of Lagos State, and former Osun State Governor, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a co-convener of CNM, who made the pronouncement at a press conference in Abuja, said “With this development, the Coalition for Nigerian Movement (CNM) has ceased to exist, having formally collapsed into the political party.” Explaining why the coalition chose ADC as the right platform amongst several options, Oyinlola said: “The decision to move in to African Democratic Congress therefore is an appreciation of the progressive essence of the party and its untainted existence on the terrain of our nation’s politics. “While I, on behalf of the leadership and the over three million members of the CNM congratulate ADC as the vehicle for national reinvention, I urge us to know that the task ahead is an arduous one that needs further strengthening of the forces of change. What I am saying is that we should be open to new engagements and alliances being forged and crystallizing across the country.” ADC and search for new generation of leaders Oyinlola had said the vision of his group is to usher in new players in the body politics of Nigeria. As he puts it: “You will all recall that in January this year, the Coalition for Nigeria Movement was formed by some of us across the country as a political platform to create a new generation of leaders for our country. “Between that time and today, a lot of grounds have been covered in achieving the set goals. One of such is what we are doing here today – the formal fusing of our movement into the African Democratic Congress. “Beyond what we are doing here today, we put our countrymen and women, old and young, on notice that they should expect more from us; that they should expect deepened political engagements across platforms in the coming days and weeks. In other words, this is just the first in a multi layered action plan to give back the country to its much deprived people. “As we stated in January during the launch of the CNM, we are taking on this task not minding the inconveniences and other expected and unexpected consequences of our efforts at reinventing the country. “We admit that structural inadequacies and failure of leadership have robbed our country of greatness. We also note that a future of greatness for Nigeria will only be birthed by a new generation of youthful leaders with fresh ideas and knowledge of what it takes to govern a 21St century nation.” While the key players in the CNM and ADC fusion seem upbeat over the development, some Nigerians, who probably expected a more dramatic merger, told The Nation that it was a big disappointment. “Former President Obasanjo gave us high expectations; we expected something much more dramatic and realistic than mere merger with little known political party named ADC. I think the development is a sign that the so-called third force is neither a force nor can it constitute a serious threat to APC and PDP. I say so because ADC is not in most local constituencies. I consider it as one of those paper weight political parties, good in speaking good English but politics is much more than that. I had expected the Obasanjo-led coalition to make use of a political platform that can reach all the remote parts of the country,” said Dr. Godfrey Onyeukwu, a member of Civil Governance Initiative. But Oyinlola had explained that the fusion is not the end of the efforts currently made by the coalition. According to him, it is just the beginning as other likeminded stakeholders are to be brought into the grand alliance. According to him, the aim is to bring in new, young and fresh minds to take up the leadership of the country. “This gathering here today is a proof that the modest efforts at waking up the vast majority of our people to for once, take their destiny in their hands as demanded by the constitution are bearing fruits already. Our constitution guarantees all Nigerians their fundamental human rights, including freedom of association and the right to hold political views. “We have said it before and we are stating it here again that the current state of despair and despondency in our dear country is an ill wind. “It is foreboding and can only lead to a conflagration. Between January ‘when CNM was formed and now, can we say that the story of Nigeria has changed for the better? Have things not worsened at all levels? “Indeed, every one of us who has been in power before at whatever level may have a share of the blame for the state of the nation. That fact, however, will not disqualify us from being part of, and indeed, stand at the vanguard of finding a lasting solution to this problem. “Indeed, those who have seen it all but with the right perspective are better placed to bring in knowledgeable young men and women to come and reinvent the country for the challenges of the future. “ADC and other like- minded political parties should join other patriots in democratically building and enthroning a new set of youthful, knowledgeable and goal- oriented leadership for this country. We believe, therefore, that through right engagements and fundamental reordering of the affairs of our nation, our country will be out of the woods. Nigerians are a very resilient people. They are great optimists. “They have invested so much trust and hope in our democratic infrastructure with very miserable returns, so far. As I stated during the launch of the CNM our country must not continue to be condemned to a four yearly ritual of voting without results. “To get positive results, therefore, we must get right the choice of leadership. But the apple does not fall far from its tree. Only credible, positive platforms can produce positive results. A tree conceived and nurtured in lies can only bear imaginary fruits. Every government has ideas and programmes – most times packaged in flowery prose. “The deficit in leadership is noticed at the point of implementation of the ideas and policies. ADC from its well enunciated policies and Programmes is well placed to make democracy work for the people. “ADC is properly placed to join other patriots in moving Nigerians in all the wards, the 774 local governments and the 36 states to join hands to make our country truly great.” The founding National Chairman of African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralphs Nwosu, also confirmed that more people and political groups will still join the emerging organisation to form the real third force. According to him, over the years, Nigeria’s biggest resources in human capacity and diversity seem to be weighing her down and tearing her apart. He however said: “I do not want to dwell on our failings. I want to assure you all that we, the African Democratic Congress, working with Coalition for Nigeria Movement and many strategic coalition partners, involving a rainbow coalition of political parties, civil societies, labor and trade unions and well-meaning eminent Nigerians are determined to reframe the narratives about Nigeria.” ADC’s history The party, African Democratic Congress, was registered in 2006 and stood for elections in 2007 with Prof. Pat Utomi, an economist, as its presidential candidate. Utomi reportedly scored about 50,000 votes in that election. The party also participated in the 2011 and 2015 elections. According to the party’s National Chairman, the party has only one elected official, who is a member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. It would be recalled that Utomi, ADC’s former Presidential candidate, was one of the earliest members of CNM that openly criticised President Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the economy. Some observers are already saying that Utomi may have played a critical role in the CNM and ADC’s fusion. The Nation investigation during the week shows that many young and successful professionals like Utomi, who may not be very influential politicians, are part of the emerging third force. But according to some respondents, such professionals may be knowledgeable and with fresh ideas, but they know little or nothing about grassroots politics. “Many of them are only popular in Abuja, Lagos, at boardrooms and in the universities, where they expound very interesting theories. But they can hardly win votes,” said Kingsley Idema, a PDP supporter. But ADC chairman, Nwosu, a leadership scholar himself, insists his party is “active in the field.” He was recently quoted as alleging that the ruling party, APC, hijacked ADC’s “change advocacy and slogan to win the 2015 general election.” Is Obasanjo out of the picture? Following the fusion of CNM and ADC, observers are wondering if former President Obasanjo will make good his promise to quit the scene as soon as his coalition transformed into a political party. A source close to Oyinlola-led CNM told The Nation that Obasanjo gave the hint on Thursday evening when he addressed the press at his presidential library home in Abeokuta. In a speech he titled ‘My treatise for future of democracy and development in Nigeria’, Obasanjo said, “Let me start by welcoming and commending the emergence of a renewed and reinvigorated African Democratic Congress (ADC) as a political party. “Since the inception of Coalition for Nigeria Movement, CNM, many of the sixty-eight registered political parties had contacted and consulted with the Movement on coming together and working together. “The leadership of the Movement, after detailed examination, wide consultation and bearing in mind the orientation, policies and direction of the Movement, have agreed to adopt ADC as its platform to work with others for bringing about desirable change in the Nigeria polity and governance.” The source confided that besides the formal congratulation, the former president told the new ADC leadership that he would only want to remain a nonpartisan elder statesman. The source however said there is no way the new political organisation would not seek advice from the leader who, according to him remains the group’s rallying point. “You will recall that he is the one that motivated us to begin this new movement. So, we will, I believe continue to seek his advice whenever the need arises,” he said. Another source, said “Obasanjo cannot abandon the movement he started. He will certainly not seek any formal position in the party, but we all know he is the chief patron and will remain so.” It would be recalled that Obasanjo had, in his original letter said amongst others, “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… We have only one choice left to take us out of Egypt to the Promised Land. And that is the coalition of the concerned and the willing – ready for positive and drastic change, progress and involvement.” In the second letter, he said emphatically that he would remain a member of the coalition for as long as it has not transmuted to a political party. He had said: I am happy to be a member of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement. The movement is a pressure point towards good governance. This is the commencement for our popular and grassroots association. Of course, the membership will be free to collectively decide on whether CNM becomes a political party. If the Movement decides to transform itself and go into partisan politics, I will cease to be a member.” Most of the members of the new ADC who spoke to The Nation during the week however insist that the party would be better off with Obasanjo’s continuous guidance and direction. “He is a leader with experience, so why must he be urged to leave a political party he influenced,” they queried, adding that he is being persuaded to remain, at least in advisory capacity.