The Head of Political Science Department, University of Ibadan, Professor Osisioma Nwolise, speaks with DARE ADEKANMBI on the call for a third force in the country, the merits of such call and why PDP appears to be a dead party. Excerpts.
A section of the political class has been clamouring for a new party that will play the role of a third force and rival the PDP and the governing APC in 2019. Can there be a third force in the real sense of that phrase?
A third force means another political party that will actually serve as an opposition party because as of now, PDP is in a state of coma. It is not performing its duties as an opposition party and it will take the party time to come out of the problem that has engulfed it. We expect the PDP to have reorganised and come up with another name after the 2015 elections, which it failed to win. Changing its name would have made things better for the party rather than hanging on to a big house that is in disarray. The PDP leaders slept on their bed the way they laid the bed, as far as the 2015 elections were concerned. There was a lot of impunity in the PDP.
The presence of a vibrant opposition is critical for the practice and sustenance of democracy in the country. In the Department of Political Science, University of Ibadan, I remember that, when we invited the former vice-president Atiku Abubakar to talk on sustenance democracy party, I emphasised that the PDP, which he belonged to at that time, was not practising internal party democracy. He himself admitted that only two of the national chairmen in charge of the party were truly elected, that others were imposed. Until PDP wakes up, things may get worse. We need a vibrant opposition and if the PDP cannot come out with a new name and rebrand itself then the third force will come up and overshadow the PDP and that will be the end of the party. So, the earlier they organise themselves and rebrand themselves and forget the name PDP, the better for the nation the better for the members. PDP, as a party, as far as I am concerned is dead and gone.
What benefits are there for Nigerians, the political class and good governance if we have a third force?
Without a vibrant opposition, democracy is as good as dead because as of now, only one person or two are speaking on what is going on in the country. There is no opposition not to even talk of a vibrant one in terms of giving constructive criticism that has weight and alternative narrative to what the government of the day is doing. As of now, it doesn’t appear that there is any blue print in the political firmament. Before President Buhari swore in his ministers, I put up an article in the papers expressing the need for him to have a blue print which he would hand over to the ministers as the mission statement of the administration, while swearing them in. That did not happen. Each minister is on his or her own. Each ministry is supposed to have a direction, but as of now, there is no blue print and so the country is wobbling and various sectors and ministry are wobbling too. We need a vibrant opposition to give constructive criticisms, to give advice to the ruling party and to challenge it. If by next year, we don’t have the vibrant opposition then democracy is as good as gone. The ruling party will just be doing what it likes without anybody challenging it. So, for democracy to grow in Nigeria, for democracy to be sustained and consolidated, and for good governance, which is responsive and responsible to the people, it is important we have a vibrant opposition, whether in the form of the PDP rebranding itself or a new party all together coming out and including members of other parties to form a vibrant opposition.
You said earlier that PDP needs to rebrand and change its name but it is the problem with the name of the party?
The problem will not be the name. But as of now, the name PDP is a problem itself, the name is discredited with all the openings on corruption and how money was shared. It is better they change that name completely. I expected the name to have been changed immediately after the election because they really shot themselves in the foot with all the impunity that went on and the dictatorship in the party. The party cannot survive and that was the mistake they made in those days. Some of the leaders are saying ‘look, let’s forget the impunity of the past,” but nobody is listening, more than one year after they lost the election. That means no lesson has been learnt.
We need a party that is responsive and responsible to the people and one which adheres to democratic principles in Nigeria. A party cannot survive without internal party democracy. People will always be moving out and coming in, especially when they are not in power. PDP’s biggest problem now is that they are not in power and there is no money to be shared by its leaders. That is why I am saying they should rebrand because of the type of government they ran was corrupt and there was dictatorship in the party system. Former President Goodluck Jonathan and was not dictatorial, but the party itself had evidences of dictatorship right from the beginning. If the APC gets its act together, it can last as a party. But if they become dictatorial and run a bad government, it won’t last. If PDP continues with its brand name and people still choose the party, it is good. If eventually a third force will come,then the three can match on and eventually Nigeria may go into two big parties and few other ones that can serve checks and balances from time to time.
In other words, you see a quasi-two party state in the future, a system similar to what was decreed by Ibrahim Babangida when we had SDP and NRC.
It doesn’t necessarily mean that if we have two parties there would be free and fair election. What happened under IBB was that there was military supervision of the election. If we have politicians doing their things and we just have two parties, it would not work that way. We need a lot of maturity; we need a lot of statesmen. As of today, the country doesn’t not have statesmen in politics. We keep saying it that politicians don’t bring about change only statesmen do. In APC, we are yet to see the statesmen in the party and without statesmen the party cannot deliver any change. So, we must very clear. It is only statesmen that bring about change because they must carry citizens along and must come out with policies of national integration and not divisive policies and politics.
In the APC we hear that those who are clamouring for a third force are tendencies from the ruling party who are disgruntled and want to join others in the PDP to form a new party. What do you make of the impression that the parties that make up APC are yet to blend?
Of course, they are yet to blend. There is bitterness in the party. I am a student of spiritual intelligence. In the build up to the last elections, there were predictions and prophecies that the party will break up eventually if they don’t take time. With the bitterness that is going on in the party and the divisive policies and actions that are going on now, people will feel disgruntled and move out of the party, just as some politicians and their followers in the APC that moved from PDP.
We need good governance; we need statesmen to stabilise the ship of the state to stabilise the party themselves. There must be inclusive governance. There is no need to operate government of discrimination and vengeance. It is not doing anybody any good. Likewise, is it doing any party any good? We must run away from impunity. Nigeria is getting too old to be carrying out divisive policies and governance.
Why is it that once a party wins an election and forms government, the secretariat of such party is deserted as everybody gravitates towards the nectar of government?
When I gave the lecture to mark the golden jubilee of Colonel Adekunle Fajuyi, I made it clear that the current presidency and the current government need what I called a strategic cabinet. The government already has a kitchen cabinet; it has the political cabinet. The political cabinet has all the minsters and the kitchen cabinet is composed of those close to Mr President. There is a missing link, which is creating problem for the government and the party itself. There is supposed to be a strategic cabinet which should be made up of the president, his vice, the president of Senate, the speaker of the House of Representatives and the chairman of the ruling APC. That is a strategic cabinet that should be sitting down from time to time in the party secretariat, mapping out strategies, inviting experts to talk to them on various issues and taking vital decisions that concern the manifestoes and electoral promises of the party. When they take that decision, they move on to the National Assembly to get an enabling law to pursue the decisions so taken in the interest of the people. But the presidency and the National Assembly leadership are not even in good terms and there is a lacuna. So, the promises of the APC are lying somewhere. There is no emotion connection between the president and NASS leadership. The president is going one way and the NASS leadership in another direction. The centre can no longer hold. As of now, nothing is happening and until that lacuna is filled, the secretariat of the party will remain on sabbatical.