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4 Feb 2018

2019: The Challenges, Issues Battling OBJ's Coalition Movement


The formal launch of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) spearheaded by former president Olusegun Obasanjo in Abuja last Wednesday has set the stage rolling for the organisation to begin to assert its influence on the political landscape of the country. And it has a very short time to do that given that it is seeking to confine the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to the dustbins of history with the 2019 general election.
Recall that Obasanjo had in his open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari on January 24, 2018 declared that the two prominent parties in the country, the ruling APC and opposition PDP, have failed Nigerians. He mooted the idea of forming the CNM, which “must be a coalition for democracy, good governance, social and economic well-being and progress. Coalition to salvage and redeem our country.”

  Although the former president was absent at the Abuja launch of the movement, it had may Nigerians, especially his associates, who had bought into it in attendance, including former governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Donald Duke of Osun and Cross River states, respectively.

  Barely 24 hours after the CNM was inaugurated in Abuja, Obasanjo registered as a member of the movement at the secretariat of the Nigeria Union of Journalists, Oke Ilewo, Abeokuta, Ogun State, declaring: “This is the new message in town, the new dance in town, the ceremony in town and I will appeal to you to join this ceremony and dance in town.”  He stressed that, “if what we have tried in the past has not taken us to the Promised Land, we have to try something else and something else is this grassroots popular movement built from the bottom-up to lead us, I hope and pray, to the Promised Land.”

  But how far can the movement go given that many of those that have openly identified with it so far are known associates of the former president? These include Oyinlola, Duke, former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr Ahmadu Ali; Otunba Oyewole Fasawe; former Military Administrator of old Ondo State, Gen. Ekundayo Opaleye, former Minister of State for Defence, Mrs. Dupe Adelaja; former National Secretary of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) Buba Galadima; National Chairman of African Democratic Congress, Raph Nwosu; a former deputy governor in Oyo State, Taofeek Arapaja; and a two-time governorship candidate in Ogun State, Prince Gboyega Isiaka, among others. Besides, they are mainly drawn from the folds of either the APC or the PDP, which Obasanjo has condemned? Are Nigerians being given an old wine in a new bottle once again? What would be the relevance of the group in the affairs of the country going forward, especially in the build up to the 2019 general elections?

  A public affairs analyst, Mr. Jide Ojo told Sunday Sun that the CNM belongs in the category of pressure/interest groups like the Save Nigeria Group of Pastor Tunde Bakare, Enough is Enough Group and Our Mumu Don Do of Charley Boy, the National Intervention Movement (NIM) of Olisa Agbakoba and the Red Card Movement of Dr. Oby Ezekwesili.

  According to him, organisations like the CNM are needed to put the Federal Government on its toes and ensure good governance in the country. He, however, warned that should the group metamorphose into a political party before the 2019 election, its chances of winning elections would be very slim.

  Ojo said: “Yes, as a pressure group, the CNM is highly desirable because what Nigeria has lacked over the years is good governance. We have scenarios where all character of people win elections and forget about their campaign promises. We have tested the PDP for 16 years and now it’s the APC  — different characters, different dramatis personae, different politicians both old breed and new breed. But what has happened now is that the Nigerian situation has gone beyond party lines; it is not a political party that can deliver Nigeria. It is the politicians that are holding political offices irrespective of the platform. Even if they run as independents, what Nigeria needs is for them to deliver on their campaign promises. So, the CNM, Red Card Movement, NIM and all of that are desirable so as to join forces with the existing civil society organisations to demand for accountable, good governance.

  “Recently, I took on the APC on the issue of restructuring, which they waited for almost three years to now define their own scope and understanding of it. This was a campaign promise the party made to Nigerians even before the 2015 elections; and they had it on their website. Why are they just defining restructuring on the eve of another election? They ought to have done that much earlier. So, for me the CNM will pressurise for good governance and politicians will now know that unless they deliver on their campaign promises, they may not win another term.”

Reminded that members of the CNM are largely politicians who had been on the scene for years, Ojo said the movement is welcome as long as it remains a pressure group.

  He noted: “One thing I would like Nigerians to understand is that the CNM is just a political association. If you read Obasanjo’s letter to Buhari, he clearly said that he would pull out the day the coalition becomes a political party. It is not a political party yet; they have not applied to INEC to be registered as a political party. They are right now a pressure group for good governance, for accountable leadership and to help people to make the right choice at elections. It is a third force indeed but it’s a third force for good governance. In as much as it operates within that ambit, I will give my support to the movement. And don’t forget that it is even soonest in the day for the coalition to transform into a party. If it does that, their chances of winning elections are very slim because it is not a merger in the mould of the APC. It is just a coalition of interest groups, comprising of saints and sinners, politicians and non-politicians.”

A chieftain of the APC and Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Mr. Osita Okechukwu, also described the advent of the CNM as a welcome development. But he wondered what Obasanjo was seeking to achieve with the movement, alleging that he failed to lay the foundation for good governance in the country when he had the opportunities to do so as the number one citizen.

  He said: “On the launching of the CNM, for me it’s a welcome development. It’s trite convention in liberal democracy that let all the flowers blossom, let all contending forces operate freely and let the people choose. We are confident that in the fullness of time before this time next year, Nigerians will feel the prosperity in the making. This being the case, the APC leadership I discussed with is not losing sleep. This doesn’t mean that we don’t need the CNM; we need them and as I said before, the convention is let all the flowers blossom.

  “In fact the National Chairman of our party, Chief John Oyegun, reassured me that President Buhari, unless he is not running, will be given the chance to complete the critical infrastructural foundation he is laying for our dear country. As I said somewhere, we agree with Chief Obasanjo that there is skewed appointments in our security apparatus and the NNPC, but these can be easily corrected and cannot overshadow the ambitious and massive critical infrastructure Mr President is constructing. It is unprecedented and therefore Chief Obasanjo who paradoxically produced the richest African from Nigeria and regrettably made poverty easy for majority of Nigerians should give us a break.

“Obasanjo ran a nebulous economic policy, borrowed from what is termed Washington consensus, which is an extension of the Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP) of the IMF. The programme says that government has no business in driving the economy of the country but the private sector. The business they mean include the state abandoning the development of critical infrastructure. He went on the binge of privatisation of state owned enterprises, both those working and those that failed. That’s the greatest disservice to fatherland, for he, who failed to provide electricity, rails, roads and food wittingly or unwittingly is promoting poverty. This economic programme failed in 99 per cent of third world countries wherever it was foisted.

  “For the avoidance of doubt, the critical infrastructure we are talking about is the most massive infrastructural project, ever embarked upon by one regime in the annals of Nigerian history. Approximately, 5,000 kilometers of standard gauge rail lines, 5,000 kilometres of federal roads, agro-revolution and power projects are the target in the four or five years project plan. I am happy nobody accused Buhari of nepotism in this employment generation projects. Is it fair to tell the driver of this noble objective to step aside? This is dangerous as the foreign lenders of our soft loans predicated their investment on President Buhari’s uncommon integrity quotient.”

The VON DG, who said he has great respect for Obasanjo as an elder statesman and former president of the country, insisted that he does not loose sleep because of the emergence of a Third Force or movement championed by him (Obasanjo), noting: “One could have been worried if Chief Obasanjo is like Shehu Musa Yar’Adua or Chief MKO Abiola, both of blessed memory, who would use the last firewood to get the food ready for the people. But Chief Obasanjo despite his stupendous wealth is ever stingy. He preaches good governance and practices otherwise. ”

  On the claim by the CNM that both the APC and PDP are infected and should be displaced in 2019 as they couldn’t deliver the dividends of democracy to Nigerians, Okechukwu also believes the movement might not have the capacity to achieve that mission anytime soon.

  He said: “This is why some traducers of Obasanjo like His Excellency, Ayo Fayose of Ekiti State, talk of hypocrisy. This is Chief Obasanjo who was changing the national chairmen of his then political party, the PDP, like wrapper and castigating the party that railroaded him to power.

  “The truth of the matter and most importantly is that going by my 40 years experience in Nigerian politics, meaningful coalition or merger is not a quickie. A lot of people fail to remember that the merger of APC was not just in 2013, when the party was registered. The merger talks started as far back as 2004 when it was evident that Chief Obasanjo, then president, was constructing a one party state.  And we reasoned that the only solution was a merger.

  “In fact, APC could trace its origin to the formation of Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) in 2004, which was a counter-force to Obasanjo’s anti-democratic tendencies. One remembers vividly the Abuja Mass Action of April 2004, which was organised by the CNPP. The Mass Action had in attendance leaders of the defunct, Alliance for Democracy (AD), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).  Chief Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu, Wada Nas, Tunji Braithwaite, all of blessed memory, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, Chief Olu Falae, President Muhammadu Buhari, Chief Maxi Okwu, Engr Buba Galadima and a host of others were there.

  “So, going by the 1999 Constitution, the APC is entitled to field candidates in all the elections, not only as a registered political party, but most importantly as the ruling party. To be exact, we have the best chance of winning the presidential, more gubernatorial and more legislative seats across the federation.”

  From the foregoing, and with the stage gradually getting set for the 2019 electioneering, there is no doubt that both the APC, the PDP and groups like the CNM that want to shove them aside have an arduous task in their hands to convince Nigerians to queue behind them. Nigerians will definitely ask questions when the time comes. So, it’s going to be a clash of ideas and if fairly done, the group with the brightest minds would surely carry the day.

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