Professor Olutayo Adesina teaches History at the University of Ibadan. In this interview by Deputy Editor, DAPO FALADE, he speaks on the ongoing realignment in the political turf, declaring that a third force remains a pipe dream.
THE year 2019 seems far away but to a discerning mind, it is just around the corner. People are suggesting the possibility of a third force as an alternative to the growing influence of the two political parties dominating the political sphere in the country. What is your view on this?
Well, the third force option has always been a component of the Nigerian political space but as you as are going to see, it is going to be a nonstarter as it used to be and the reasons are very clear. Don’t forget that the tripod that held the Nigerian State by the jugular, Hausa, Yoruba and Igbo, had always found accommodation within a specific political structure. As a result of this, do you want to dissipate the energy of these people in a Third Force? It is not going to work because, when you look at it, what they want to see is that in a particular political party, it is overwhelmingly northern or western and in the other political party, it is northern and eastern. So, what will the third party look like? That spectre is going to be a little bit difficult.
Yes, it can mushroom but it is not going to achieve the kind of successes achieved by the All Progressives Congress (APC) when it became the option to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). As a result of this, it is too early in the day to begin to call for a third force when we are not yet satisfied with the first force and the second force. The Third Force will then be people coming out of the first and second parties to form the Third Force when they have not satisfied us with the examples we have received from the first two parties. The same crowd will go into the third party. I am not sure that Nigerians are ready for that.
How do you see this in view of what happened in the 1960s when we had the Action Group (AG), National Council of Nigeria and Cameroon (NCNC) and the Northern Peoples Congress (NPC) and we were able to identify three major parties? It worked then and if that arrangement had been sustained, maybe we will not be talking of a third force now…
The three major parties, don’t forget, were identified with their regions; only two became identified with the national namely, NPC and NCNC that formed the Federal Government. AG never made it to the federal political space, so to speak. So, what happened in the First Republic is likely to repeat itself with the emergence of the so-called Third Force we are talking about. Two of them will be the larger one at the federal and the third one could be the spoiler or the beautiful bride that will want to be courted.
I don’t see this working now until, first, when we arrive at the level of political maturity and secondly, until we see a new crowd or people emerging. If it is new crowd of people, that will be welcomed and acceptable. But if it is the same people in APC and PDP now moving into the Third Force, I am not sure it is going to be palatable. We are not ready for that.
You talked of new people coming into the political sphere but how do you think the domineering influence of the major players since 1999 can be weakened in the attempt at forming a Third Force?
The nation is now becoming more sophisticated; those who will vote by 2019 are younger and more internet-savvy. They don’t see the world the way see things and so millions of them will become part of the new political force. They see what is going on; they are angry; they are jobless; they don’t even want to identify with ethnic groups. If there is a credible Third Force that is out to create a political platform but is not going to dwell so much on the politics of power or the politics of power play; but is much more interested in development, in progress, you will see a new movement gravitating towards the Third Force. But if it is the same platform or the same narratives, it cannot work.
We want people who will say, ‘we have a vision, we have a grand strategy of ensuring that Nigeria becomes a great nation’, then I will follow and even participate. But if it is still these same characters both in PDP and APC, following the old trajectory of gunning for offices and using the political platform as the tool to acquire power, rather than as a tool for development, then it is not going to work. Leave these two political parties to do what they know best but the Third Force must bring fresh perspectives and whoever is going to create that Third Force, if he or she doesn’t understand the vibrations, the dynamics of what is going on in the society now, then they are wasting their time.
With the unfolding events in the two major political parties, are you not seeing some movements, with some of them coming out to form another mega political party?
This is what we call realignment of forces, as you will remember in the European History. Some people will come out of PDP and APC to join the third party. But what I am seeing is that they are jumping into their death because, at the end of the day, the question the society will ask is, ‘And so what?’ You were here, we didn’t see any change; you were there, we didn’t see any change. A large percentage of those who are in APC today were actually officials of PDP. We didn’t see any change and now they are in APC and we have not seen so much change. Now, you want to create a third party. That will be their political oblivion.
Do you foresee the possibility of divorcing money from politics?
Well, not at the moment but a time will come when ideas will rule. Right now, people are too hungry; they are jobless and people are looking for largesse. So, it may be difficult now to actually divorce money from politics but I am seeing that a time will come when people will say, ‘yes, I will take your money but I have my conscience’ and we are reaching that point now. So, if you think because you are a moneybags, you have to control everybody within the party, people will say no. They will say, ‘yes, you brought money to establish the party, but we have a different idea of what we want to do’. We are getting there. Yes, the moneybags will form the third political party but they are going to lose out eventually; they will lose to the cheetah generation. The hippopotamus generation has money; they will come with their overbearing influences but, at the end of the day, with this one they are planning, it will be to their own self-negation. It is going to happen.
Looking back to history, you see political parties rising and falling. What do you think will be the outcome of the uprising within APC and its major players?
We has said it consistently; there is an emerging realignment. If Senator Bola Tinubu pulls out, it means that he is pulling out the South-West from APC and so, what do you then hope to see? There is going to be a realignment of APC with the South-East. So, whether you like it or not, this political brinkmanship that the Tinubu group is playing will not augur well for the South-West with the way things are going. What they are trying to do is to pull out the zone out of the central government.
If you pull your interest out of that party, it means you have gone with the essence of that party. What will the party do? It will not sit down and cry. It will look for another essence; it will just go to the arms of the South-East and there will be a new realignment. No two historical situations are the same. The historical circumstances that allowed the realignment for APC to emerge were here and it has gone. This space that we occupied now is different and so, you will not replicate that same strategy and that same move to achieve the same result. So, they have to tread carefully and look at things more dispassionately.
Yes, there have been talks that Tinubu is being disgraced; he is being humiliated but if you are the leader of the people, you will take it and then move on. It is not for you to pull out your people. It will be one strategy too many in pulling out his people from APC. I may be wrong but for me, if that group goes ahead to do it, it is a political harakiri.