The First Agenda Before a Third Force, By Majeed Dahiru
To move away from this self-immolation of a materially parasitic and divisive political process, a Third Force should evolve the vision of a prosperous Nigeria, whose existence is more for economic reasons than merely being a political fare, by mobilising Nigerians to realise the importance of pragmatically aligning their democratic choices with their individual legitimate business interests…
Not a few citizens are dissatisfied with the current establishment’s order of politics and governance in Nigeria. The hopes and aspirations of a better Nigeria that heralded the transition from military to civil democratic rule in 1999 have remained largely unrealised. Political parties that are supposed to be the fundamental structures upon which the entire democratic process rests have largely been opportunistic means of achieving power for self-serving purposes. The manifestos of all the political parties are similar in their empty rhetorics, which are full of sound and fury, achieving nothing ultimately. This unsatisfactory state of political affairs has necessitated the now spontaneous idea of a “Third Force” as a rejuvenated ideological platform to alter the course of Nigeria’s journey to a prosperous nationhood, away from the path of a mutually assured self-destruction. However, the vocal few who are championing this latest intervention in the political landscape have not been able to articulate the vision and mission of a third force in a perspective relevant to Nigeria’s socio-economic well-being.
The first of many steps towards achieving a Nigeria that realises our aspirations for a progressive, prosperous and just society is to first admit individual complicity in the bad state of affairs that has characterised our fatherland. Some of us have allowed our ethno-geographic and religious biases to degenerate into bigotry, which have largely defined our democratic choices. Interestingly, these sectional tendencies have failed, not just the Nigerian state but even the anticipatory sectionalist beneficiaries. Former President Goodluck Jonathan’s six-year presidency did not transform the land and people of Niger Delta positively and current President Muhammadu Buhari’s rule in three years has not changed the status of the North-West from the poorest region in the world. The same way the Jonathan administration left the environmental degradation of the land and waters of the Niger Delta unresolved, the Buhari administration is not likely to solve the myriads of problems confronting the North-West region, one of which pertains to the potentially explosive numbers of out of school children [Almajiri] presently roaming the streets.
Nigerians, who have come to the realisation of the futility of sectionalism, are the first recruits into a Third Force. As such, a Third Force ideologue must be one who believes that all Nigerians, irrespective of their ethno-geographic origins or religious orientations, are one because the absolute unity of Nigerians is a condition precedent for growth and development. Having achieved the self-enlightenment that Nigeria is not a diverse country, as widely believed, but a mono-racial nation of traditionally linked ethnic groups domiciled in all its four cardinal points, a Third Force ideologue must take deliberate steps to integrate and assimilate with every Nigerian, economically and politically. For example, a Third Force ideologue like Oby Ezekwesili, who is from Anambra State and ethnically identifies as “Igbo” must first recognise an “Umaru Bako”, whose grandfather moved from Daura in Katsina State a century ago and settled in a place called Bida, in the commercial city of Onitsha, where he was born, bred, schooled and who speaks Igbo language effortlessly, as a bona fide Anambra indigene, with all the rights and privileges of this status extended to him accordingly. Similarly, a Third Force political figure like Donald Duke should be seen to be using his influence to get a “Jide Sumonu”, who originally identifies as ethnic Yoruba but was born, bred and schooled in Cross River State, elected into the State House of Assembly to represent Calabar Municipal area council, in a deliberate show of the belief in the sanctity of the oneness of all Nigerians. All Third Force ideologues from across the country must embody and demonstrate these deliberate sure steps towards national assimilation and integration.
The challenge before this emerging Third Force is to situate individual benefits within the broad framework of a mutually beneficial system that is neither parasitic on the people or the government. To supplant the old order, a new order must not displace the current beneficiaries of the system but only seek to substitute the mode of benefit from a disruptive to creative one.
A Third Force is not likely to be confined within the rigid structures of a political party, neither is it going to be about personalities. Rather, a Third Force will be the embodiment of a Pan-Nigerian agenda for inclusive growth and development that will redefine the goals of citizen’s participation in partisan politics, which will in turn expectedly yield benefits in the form of legitimate individual prosperity. Political participation is always with the aim of individual benefits, just as most people worship God because of the promise of a Paradise flowing with milk and honey in the hereafter. The challenge before this emerging Third Force is to situate individual benefits within the broad framework of a mutually beneficial system that is neither parasitic on the people or the government. To supplant the old order, a new order must not displace the current beneficiaries of the system but only seek to substitute the mode of benefit from a disruptive to creative one. Currently, political participation is fundamentally driven by primitive acquisition for individual and sectional enhancement at the expense of the Nigerian state, which is detrimental to its growth and development.
To move away from this self-immolation of a materially parasitic and divisive political process, a Third Force should evolve the vision of a prosperous Nigeria, whose existence is more for economic reasons than merely being a political fare, by mobilising Nigerians to realise the importance of pragmatically aligning their democratic choices with their individual legitimate business interests, which collectively aggregate as the core of Nigeria’s economy, away from ethno-geographic and religious sentiments. The old order thrived pretty much on ethno-geographic and religious sentiments, which unfortunately led to the current state of dysfunction in our polity, with the grave consequences of retrogression in all spheres. When people align their democratic choices with their ethnicities or religions, they get such tokenism as ethno-religious patronage in the form of appointments of their elite into juicy public offices, sponsorship on pilgrimages, donation of worship centres and government contracts for a few connected individuals, leaving the needs of the majority of the people largely unattended to.
Under the current order, reward for partisan engagement is by the way of direct patronage from the public purse. The unsustainability of the current dispensation is evident in the growing army of politicians who are entangled in mortal combats for spaces at the sharing table, as the economy is left to drift. Ironically, the temporary acquisitions from public office no longer go a long way in sustaining the beneficiaries after office. They ultimately become victims of the bad system they helped nurture while they were opportuned to serve in government. In the end, everyone is a loser under the current order. Hence the need for a Third Force as a way out.
…a Third Force should be able to clearly define the role of the state in the economy, as well as evolve a realist foreign policy that will guarantee Nigeria a fair share of world trade by negotiating favourable trade deals and securing for Nigerian businesses profitable overseas investment opportunities.
Mobilising Nigerians to pragmatically align their legitimate individual businesses with their democratic choices, the retrogressive ties of ethnicity will be broken as artisans, medium and large scale entrepreneurs from the four cardinal points of the Nigerian nation will converge on a common policy promise that will enhance their collective business interests. This will create a new progressive association out of every ethnic group in Nigeria, whose bond is not language and culture but shared economic interests. Artisanal shoe makers from Kano, Ibadan and Aba will come together and bet their money and political influence on a policy that enhances their shoe making businesses, irrespective of the ethno-geographic or religious background of the candidate making the promise. A Third Force should guide the emergence of unifying economic blocs like guilds of artisans, chambers of commerce and industry, etc to replace divisive ethno-geographic blocs likes the Ohaneze, Arewa and Afenifere as the main influencers of Nigeria’s democratic political process. Most significantly, the reward for partisan political participation will be reaped from a well implemented social contract that will enhance legitimate individual business ventures, with resultant increases in profit, upon which participants based their support, and government’s lean resources will no longer bear the burden of a bloated bureaucracy to accommodate professional politicians. This will eventually lead to the emergence of political parties with clear cut ideological leanings, and electioneering will subsequently become healthy competitions of ideas on how to enhance the economic well-being of citizens. Card carrying membership of political parties will give way to membership by shared ideological leanings.
On medium and large scale business levels, a Third Force should be able to clearly define the role of the state in the economy, as well as evolve a realist foreign policy that will guarantee Nigeria a fair share of world trade by negotiating favourable trade deals and securing for Nigerian businesses profitable overseas investment opportunities. Furthermore, a Third Force must seek to reverse the current trend that makes Nigeria a thoroughfare for all and sundry across Africa. An immigration policy that admits the best of human resources but shuts out the worst in order to shore up domestic inadequacies must be evolved. In doing these and more, a Third Force would have redefined Nigeria’s democracy as not just a government of the majority but in the new order, the numerical superiority of ideas and not ethnicity.