LAGOS – Though 91 political parties have been registered by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to participate in the forthcoming general elections, 73 parties are fielding candidates for the presidential elections. The figure reduced by a number a few days ago following the voluntary withdrawal of Oby Ezekwesili, erstwhile presidential candidate of the Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN).
To political watchers in the country, despite this huge number of parties, only two political parties, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which has as its candidate, President Muhammadu Buhari and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) with Atiku Abubakar as its flagbearer are seen as serious challengers for the highly coveted seat.
Concerned with developments in the country and the need to chart a better course for the nation having experienced what the APC and PDP can offer, politicians, civil society organisations last year agreed to come together with an option for Nigerians. Coming together under the aegies of Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), the group was optimistic that it has what it takes to wrest power from both the APC and the PDP.
Handlers of the movement said they were not partisans but out to change the old narrative of deception that laced the two dominant parties in the country.
The movement has former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Charles Soludo, former president of the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), Olisa Agbakoba, and Prof. Pat Utomi, a former Minister of Education, Mrs. Oby Ezekwesili, former Minister of Information, Frank Nweke Jnr, Col. Abubakar Umar (retd), Ayo Obe, Rabiu Ishyaku Rabiu, former presidential adviser, Akin Osuntokun, among others.
A statement by the group reads “The NIM is concerned that the political elite, since independence, and particularly since the exit of the military from visible power in 1999, has proved that it is ill-equipped and unprepared for the challenge of transforming our nation from its underdeveloped status to one that is prosperous and can create a veritable environment for the realisation of its citizens’ potentials and wellbeing.
“It is clear that the political elite, as currently represented by the two dominant political parties, the PDP and APC, among others, have failed Nigerians, for lack of clear ideology and principle on how to run the country.”
However few days to the elections, many of the proponents of the group have either found their ways to the APC and PDP.
Speaking on why it has been difficult for political parties to forge a common front against the two dominant parties, Balarabe Musa, former governor of Kaduna state attributed it to the expensive nature of Nigeria’s politics which is beyond the reach of the smaller parties.
He said “The APC and PDP are the only ones with the resources to contest the presidency. All other 89 political parties do not have the resources to contest the presidency. Those of them who are contesting are just doing so for contesting sake”.
“This is money politics and Nigeria’s politics is very expensive. The deciding factor in Nigeria politics is money power. The other 89 will contest because they have been registered and the constitution allows them but only the PDP and APC are contesting with the hope of winning”.
“It is unfortunate for the country because none of the two candidates- President Muhammadu Buhari and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is relevant. None of them will win and do anything to correct the negative state of the nation but we are confronted with only these two”.
“It is important to have a third alternative. Various organisations have tried to a third alternative but it has not been possible. So we are faced with these two” he said.
Other candidates who may make some difference in the elections based on their performance so far Kingsley Moghalu, ex- Deputy Governor of Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) of Young Progressive Party, YPP; Donald Duke, former governor of Cross River state of Social Democratic Party (SDP); Omoyele Sowore former student activist and Publisher of Sahara Reporters of African Action Congress (AAC), Fela Durotoye of Alliance for New Nigeria (ANN) and former publicity Secretary of the PDP, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim now of the Peoples Trust (PT).
Among these parties, Olawepo- Hashim’s PT has been gaining wide acceptability among Nigerians but the refusal of these parties to come together has been a major obstacle.
Led by Chief Olisa Agbakoba, foremost human rights lawyer and activist as well as other notable Nigerians who formed the NIM, the PT, widely seen as the Third Force movement, has been criss-crossing the nation telling Nigerians why it is the best alternative to the APC and PDP.
In a recent interview, Olawepo- Hashim also dismissed the possibility of stepping down for any of the two leading candidates in the forthcoming Presidential election in the country, saying the two political parties had been tested and failed to take the country to the promised land.
“Nigeria is a very interesting country, and I don’t know any country where other parties candidate are pressured to step down. I think it’s a coinage here because, in a multi-party democracy, nobody steps down, you win some seat and on the basis of this you can form a coalition based on the programme after the election”.
“The presidential election is not about party but about candidates and the future of this country and the two parties have failed in that regard. But we give hope that if we come in, Nigeria will be better”.
Also speaking on his chances, he said ““Some few days to election more than 70 per cent of the electorates are still wondering who they are going to vote for. They have been examining the candidates they are going to vote for and what these candidates promised to offer and among all the alternative parties, the PT is the biggest. But I can tell you that this election is still very open even though its ten days to the election.
“This is one of the reasons i said if elected we will form a government of National unity which will include the good people in the APC and PDP.”
When asked to comment on claims in some quarters that that the presidential elections are already concluded and that that the results are known, Olawepo- Hashim said “I’m not scared by all these noise that some people have already concluded the election. I’m not scared about that. We had only five parties when Abacha concluded his election by making sure that all the five available parties endorsed him. What was left was for him to be coroneted as President. But did he become President? He didn’t become President”.
“So, it’s just that people forget things easily and some people have short memories. Nobody can play God in the affairs of Nigeria. My advice is that let us be responsible people and know that power is transient. Let us also know that we owe this country a responsibility to improve the situation in which we have found ourselves”.
Speaking on the economic blueprint of his party “The economic strategy of People’s Trust is a bold agenda and plan aimed at changing the present economic structure of dependence. It is revolutionary and massive. We are to exit monolithic economic and technical dependence. We are to fast track and expand indigenous technology at least for the production of what we consume. We are eliminating poverty by fundamentally reordering our national economy. We will stop “Mickey-Mouse” economy which parodies the Nigerian economy presently by expanding it (Nigerian economy) exponentially”.
“The critical issue facing Nigeria, beyond all other assessments, is that the size of the economy is abysmally small and therefore incapable of stimulating development, tackling poverty or creating national prosperity. An annual national revenue of US$50 billion or thereabout is inadequate to finance meaningful development or take the nation to new development height” he said.