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Obasanjo’s Third Force: What hope for SDP in 2019?

These are indeed interesting times in Nigeria’s political environment. As the nation moves towards 2019, the election year, things are as usual assuming a heightened proportion, as political gladiators are falling over themselves to outdo each other in their efforts to position themselves for political advantage in the coming months.

Interestingly, things are heading the same direction it was prior to the 2015 election when things was falling apart because of the inability of then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to hold its own due to many challenges and the emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) which was vociferous in throwing up the failings of the PDP and telling the people that it was going to do better if given the opportunity.

The problems the PDP had to deal with at the time were multifaceted, ranging from high level corruption, part of which was the fall out of revelations of level of corruption in the subsidy regime in the oil sector, insecurity that was pervading the land, especially with the Boko Haram activities in the North East leading to the abduction of over 200 school girls in Chibok, Borno State among other challenges.

It was clear at the time that the problems were indeed overwhelming for the PDP, and APC seem to have a better grasp of what to do, so it was not a surprise that the party easily beat the PDP at bthe elections and made history as the first opposition party to oust a ruling party in the country.

However, almost three years down the line, Nigeria seem to be back at the same junction, if not worst, as things are getting very bad, insecurity in the land has become very worrisome, despite the claim by the government that it has defeated the Boko Haram sect, as the reality on ground seem to be to the contrary, especially with the Boko Haram still being able to make some very deadly strikes and also the recent kidnap of about 110 school girl in a government school in Dapchi, Yobe State.

This is also beside the heightened activities of alleged Fulani Herdsmen killing and maiming people across various communities in the country.

Some commentators have argued that the country today is more divided than it has ever been in the history of its existence, due largely to the way and manner the APC government at the top have been handling issues that affect the continuous peaceful co-existence of the country.

This concern ranges from appointment of key government functionaries including heads of security apparatus which seem to be tilted to one ethnic group or ethnic groups with close affinity, leaving out some prominent groups completely from key appointments.

It also include government handling of issues of killings in some ethnic groups and utterances by key government functionaries which tends to give tacit support to some groups against the other perhaps because of tribal considerations.

The arrogance displayed by those in positions of authority without regards to those who helped propped up the government in power among many misgivings has become of high concern, making many people wonder if the choice made in 2015 was not an error and if it will not be right to reconsider and find alternative platforms.

It is perhaps in line with these considerations that made former President Olusegun Obasanjo to voice out his frustrations about this government and advised President Muhammadu Buhari to consider stepping down his ambition in 2019.

Obasanjo who also hinted on the possibility of a third force to counter the PDP and the APC which he noted are not different in character was not alone in sounding the note of warning. Former military President Ibrahim Babangida also aired his view in similar direction, this is besides other very many other prominent Nigerians who reasons along that way.

Now, the third force which seem like a joke when Obasanjo mooted the idea is gradually becoming a reality, as the resurrected Social Democratic Party (SDP) is gradually gathering momentum and attracting key figures from across the political divide to do the damage to the ruling APC and finally silence the main opposition, the PDP.

This is because, the PDP though has been struggling to dust off the ashes of its burnt past to fight its way back to reckoning was badly fractured following its convention that left the party with many top members angry than happy.

So, with the beckoning of the SDP to political gladiators to look in its direction, the first sets of people to grab the opportunity are members of the PDP who are obviously unhappy with certain developments within the fold. They are however not alone, as many other political parties have heeded the call for the formation of a viable third force.

As it stands today, the nation is currently having 68 political parties, with others still to come. The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) recently said more than 100 other organisations are still waiting to be registered as political parties

Aside these political parties, there are several coalitions such as the Coalition for a New Nigeria (CNN), a group of 30 political parties which has promised to form the new government in 2019; National Intervention Movement (NIM), a political group led by Chief Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) spearheaded by former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

However, the coast is becoming clearer following reports that the SDP has been adopted by key leaders of the APC, PDP who are frustrated by the things happening within their parties and the coalitions as the third force movement.

Some key leaders of the PDP who met at the Ladi Kwali Hall in Abuja last week Thursday also signified their interest in joining the party.

These development according to the national chairman of the SDP, Chief Olu Falae, was a welcome idea, as according to him, “Some former governors, serving senators of the PDP as well as coalition of political leaders are joining SDP. They have decided to adopt SDP as their political platform.”

Leading the pack are a former Information Minister, Prof Jerry Gana, and ex-Education Minister and former Nigerian Ambassador to Germany, Prof Tunde Adeniran. Others include a former Military Administrator of Katsina State, Sen. Joseph Akaagerger; Chief Mike Oghiadhome, who is a former Chief of Staff to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan; ex-Governor Saminu Turaki of Jigawa State; and ex-Minister of Defence, Dr. Olu Agunloye and a former Deputy Speaker of Ondo State House of Assembly, Dare Emiola.

According to the National Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Hon. Alfa Mohammed, five serving governors, 20 senators and some members of the House of Representatives from the PDP and the APC are also set to join the SDP.

Speaking in an interview with journalists in Minna, Niger State on Sunday the National Publicity Secretary said over 50 Civil Society Organisations have also embraced the party in a coalition movement to unseat the ruling All Progressives Congress in 2019.
Mohammed explained that the mass movement of prominent politicians from both the APC and PDP to the SDP last Thursday was a kick starter for the chunk of other politicians and civil societies eager to join the party.

He said: “In the next two to three weeks, the mass movement into the SPD will become more pronounced, especially at the National and state Houses of Assembly and I am sure that the party will soon become the majority at the National Assembly.”

According to him, the five governors have indicated serious interest in joining the party and have been sending representatives to its negotiation meetings, adding that discussions have been on for some months with the governors.

The National publicity Secretary said the national secretariat of the party has directed all state offices to commence registration of new members at ward levels as from March 5.

The SDP and the Gana-led team from the PDP on Friday signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to work together.

Jointly signed by Falae (for SDP) and Prof. Gana (for Movement for a New Political Order), the MoU reads in part: “Whereas on the 12th Day of February 2018, a joint resolution was adopted at Sheraton Hotel Abuja, for working together to ensure the emergence of a new and credible political order to deepen democracy, good governance and genuine development, with peace, security and social justice. The said meeting also unanimously resolved to build: “A restructured, balanced equitable and truly functional Nigerian federation; A humane, free, self-reliant and democratic society; A dynamic, productive, transformed and sustainable economy; A just, fair, egalitarian and peaceful nation; A land of bright and full of opportunities for all Nigerians; and A national culture of raising good leaders through effective mentoring.”

It added that “Whereas, it was also agreed that the proposed movement shall be directed, driven and defined by such core values as: (1) Justice, fairness, equity and progress; (2) Democracy, good leadership, good governance and sustainable development; (3) Transparency, integrity, truth and honour; (4) Accountability and zero tolerance for corruption; (5) Respect for human dignity, human rights and sanctity of human life; and (6) Peace, security, harmony, cooperative solidarity, within the rule of law; and (7)

International cooperation for a common humanity within a secure and peaceful order.

“Whereas, the movement further resolved to be inspired and motivated by the ideals of social democracy, with great emphasis on: the triumph of social justice; the nobility of human dignity; the harmony of fairness and equality; the power of working together in solidarity; the excellence of good governance, driven by good leadership; the wisdom of reforms and transformation far beyond mere growth; the horror of poverty, demanding eradication; the dignity of prosperity; the imperative of democracy and the security of peace with justice “Whereas with due reference to these objectives, core values, and ideals, a strategy committee was mandated to search for a suitable, popular, meaningful and widespread platform, with a name that already resonates with the people and to make appropriate recommendations; and “Whereas, the strategic committee, comprising representatives from all the six geopolitical zones of the federation, have met and submitted their report, unanimously recommending the adoption of Social Democratic Party (SDP) vehicle by the movement for a new political order:
“Therefore, we hereby resolutely agree to: (a) Fuse together into one political form; (b) adopt the Social Democratic Party (SDP) as the political vehicle for the fused political formation; (c) Convene a non-elective convention for Saturday, 14th April, 2018; (d) authorise the National Working Committee to serve as the Interim Management Committee until the said convention; Set up a National Steering Committee of 12 members to guide the Interim Management Committee during the transition period; Raise a Constitution Review Committee to consider all necessary amendments to the party constitution.”

Speaking on the arrangement with another media organisation, Dr. Mohammed said, “Those involved in SDP are the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Peoples Salvation Party (PSP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and some elements of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was like a merger, but we do not want to call it so because the All Progressives Congress (APC) has destroyed the concept of merger.

“I am an optimist. I believe SDP will make a great impact. The main reason I want to be associated with it is because it is ideologically driven. Even if it was not ideologically driven before it has to be ideologically driven.”

Speaking on why he chose to join the SDP, despite only recently touring the entire country in his bid to become the national chairman of the PDP, Prof. Tunde Adeniran said because he is a man who believes in political ideology, he has to look for a platform that aligns with his ideology.

Assuring that the SDP will win the 2019 presidential election, Adeniran who was a guest on the Channel Television, Sunrise Daily on Monday alleged that the PDP has been hijacked by a certain individuals and was therefore difficult for somebody like him to continue to associate with such a party.

According to him, many waters passed under the bridge during his last days in the PDP, “There was alliances, there was corporation, infact, so many things were done during the period there was crisis, you know there was this reconciliation committee headed by the Bayelsa State governor, Seriake Dickson, a fine gentleman, who did his best, but it is not about individuals, it is about idea, belief, principles and it is these principles that also bring people together, whatever effort that will be made will be based on the fact that there is irreducible minimum standards that will have to be met by the people coming together.

“There is a clear difference between the SDP and the other parties, because at the time the PDP was formed for example, there was a coming together of people generally, from left, right and all that hoping that after sometime a clear ideology will emerge, but instead of that emergence some distractions here and there prevented that with self interest, sabotage and other issues, but in the SDP you can see quite clearly.

“I just take one simple example, the SDP believes that it should not be a question of Nigerian children having access to education and all that, it has to be justiciable, we believe that education must be free and compulsory up to the secondary school level.

“My joining the SDP is not a question of winning the PDP chairmanship, winning or not winning is not the issue, I am not a desperate
politician, I believe in principle, I believe in certain principles and if I had won I had an agenda, I had a blueprint to take the party to where I thought it should be, but the party has been captured, it has been pocketed.”

He said those of them in the SDP have learnt their lessons with regards to monetisation of the electoral process and were ready to guide against it, “People have learnt now that when you monetise politics and go the way other parties have gone, those who believe in principles and programmes and who believe in core value will not go with you.

“So, as a result we are designing some template that will govern the affairs of the party in such a way that it will be seen as a party of the people, everybody with equal access, opportunity to actualise their potential and to achieve whatever goal they want to achieve, rather than turning the whole thing to something that is purchasable, both the process itself and the outcome.

“I believe too that we are going to be mindful of the fact that in an economy like ours and in a situation in which people’s orientation is becoming rather faulted, there is a need to do things differently in order to lay emphasis on competence and commitment and above all on genuine democracy.”

He said that the party will not spare any effort to give it a national outlook to prevent it sliding into the errors other parties have made in the past, “if some people are saying that the PDP has now become a South South party and so on, you don’t make the same mistakes in making a party that has such potential, a regional party, so the SDP is spreading, it has tentacles all over the country and it is wary of that and we have to be mindful of the fact that those who make the mass of the party are not a few names here and there.

“The mass of the people we are targeting are the younger generation, we believe that the future that belong to them they are now ready, the consciousness is growing and they really have to take that future into their hands right now, because the future starts today,” he said.

Though the SDP seem to suddenly be growing in leaps and bounds, it remains to be seen what is ready to do differently once it captures power to convince the people it has better plans for them than the PDP or even the APC.

Those involved in SDP are the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP), Peoples Salvation Party (PSP), the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and some elements of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). It was like a merger, but we do not want to call it so because the All Progressives Congress (APC) has destroyed the concept of merger. I am an optimist. I believe SDP will make a great impact. The main reason I want to be associated with it is because it is ideologically driven.

Read Also: 5 serving Govs, 20 senators, reps set to dump APC, PDP for SDP – Official

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