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It was Professor Wole Soyinka that first introduced the word “Third Force” into Nigeria’s political lexicon. In 1967, during the Nigerian civil war, Biafran forces led by Brigadier Victor Banjo, a Yoruba, overran the Mid West and were speedily heading towards Lagos to unseat General Yakubu Gowon and capture Nigeria’s federal capital city when they suddenly stopped at Ore, a town in Ondo State. While many wondered about the reason for the sudden stop even when they faced little or no resistance; with General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the Biafran leader, barking out orders from Enugu for the mission to proceed immediately to Lagos, an instruction which fell on deaf ears, Professor Soyinka, in his memoirs titled “You must set forth at dawn”, reveals the reason for the delay by Banjo which not only changed the course of the war but also altered the course of Nigeria’s history. Apparently, Brigadier Banjo, unwilling to shed yoruba blood, had sent Soyinka as an emissary to deliver a message to Major Olusegun Obasanjo, who was the commander of Nigeria’s military forces in the Western region, to allow easy passage of Biafran troops to Lagos. He also revealed that his true intentions was not to divide Nigeria but to unify the country as part of a Third Force comprising of soldiers both in Nigeria and Biafra, who saw the war as a clash of egos between two men(Ojukwu and Gowon) and proposed a solution to the crises by toppling both regimes, bringing an end to the war, and unifying the country. Obasanjo snitched on Soyinka to the federal authorities who promptly clamped him into detention until the end of the war. While Brigadier Banjo, Major Emmanuel Ifeajuna, and other suspected members of the Third Force in Bafra were recalled to Enugu where they were shot at the stakes after they were court-martialed by the military authorities.

The recent call for a Third Force by the same person who frustrated the success of the initial Third Force, is not unconnected with the failure of the 1st Force(PDP) and the 2nd Force(APC), to satisfy the yearnings and aspirations of the Nigerian people. However, here is a caveat, we must not mistake Obasanjo’s Coalition for Nigeria Movement as the Third Force that we desire or seek. As a matter of fact, Obasanjo’s new group must be avoided like a plague by all well meaning Nigerians who are truly desirous of changing the supposed change that we are currently experiencing in Nigeria. My reason for saying this is neither far-fetched nor are my fears unfounded. The Coalition for Nigeria Movement is largely made up of political disciples of the former president some of whom were accused of vote rigging in times past and evicted from power by judicial pronouncement from the temple of justice. Others have corruption cases hanging over their heads like the proverbial sword of Damocles. Additionally, most of them are politicians who were once members of the PDP and the APC and that includes Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, the former Governor of Osun State who is the Convener of the movement. We cannot allow spent forces to be members of the proposed Third Force. Also, if we accept CNM as the Third Force, that means we have given Obasanjo another opportunity to produce Nigeria’s President again and whosoever emerges as President would be beholden to him and not the Nigerian people. Obasanjo’s personal failings are all too obvious so rather than play a direct role in the proposed Third Force, he should rather play an advisory role.

What we need is a granite coalition made up of several interest groups and stakeholders in the Nigerian Project. The Nigerian Intervention Movement, the Red Card Movement, CSO’s, Labour Unions, Professional bodies and even CNM should coalesce together to form the Third Force. It should transmute from a political movement into a political party that would present credible and competent candidates at all levels of governance in this country in the 2019 elections. The Third Force will need to act fast as the 2019 elections is just about a year away. The Third Force should be ideologically driven and it’s major ideological plank should be the restructuring of Nigeria or the devolution of powers from the center to the various federating units. Nigeria is arguably the only federal republic in the world that has about 62 items on it’s exclusive list. That implies too much workload on the federal government and that is why whenever anything bad happens in any part of Nigeria, we blame it all on the President. For example, if we have state police and even community police, why would anyone blame President Muhammadu Buhari for the killings by supposed fulani herdsmen in various parts of Nigeria? I dare say that contrary to President Buhari’s New Year Day homily to Nigerians, Nigeria’s problems are more about structure than processes.

There should be an aggressive social media campaign to encourage the youths who constitute about half of Nigeria’s population and who mostly bear the brunt of the bad policies of our leaders, to stop the online rant and vent, register to vote, collect their PVC’s and come out en masse on election day to vote and protect their votes if need be.

Money is a critical factor in any election and some have blamed the dirty money given by dirty politicians to the ruling APC in the 2015 elections as the reason for the indecisiveness of the President on some critical national issues. Therefore the Third Force would need to generate it’s campaign funds directly from the people through crowdfunding both online and offline. This would automatically make the Nigerian people the godfathers of the Third Force and all the evils and shenanigans associated with godfatherism in our political system would be absent in this new political party.

In conclusion, Nigerians need to know that the success or failure of the Third Force is directly dependent on them and not the politicians. They must shun the “siddon look” mentality and must be actively involved in the political process at least at the level of voting. Nigeria belongs to all and not the politicians alone.

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