Dr Kunle Olajide is the Publicity Secretary, Yoruba Unity Forum (YUF) and a chieftain of the pan-Yoruba group, Afenifere as well as the Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE). He speaks, in this interview by DEPUTY EDITOR, DAPO FALADE, on sundry issues affecting the polity, declaring that the time is ripe for the emergence of a third force as a panacea for the myriad of socio-political problems bedeviling the country. Excerpts:
NIGERIA seems to be at the precipice once again, with crises bedeviling the major political parties. How do you think we can achieve peace in the polity?
You are right to believe that all is not well with the major political parties we have in the country. There is no doubt about that. But the mode of the formation of most of the political parties, right from the foundation, is wrong. Political parties are formed by people who share the same views and believe and agree on the same methodology of achieving their objectives for a people in any country. You don’t bring strange bedfellows together and you say you have a political party. But do we have that in Nigeria?
Presently, we do not. People use so-called political parties as platforms to acquire power; which platform appears to be more popular or to have more deep-pocket politicians that can fund my elections. Until we get to that stage, and I think we are gradually evolving; I mean 2015 elections are over. A new government has been in place for over one and half years and the disagreements are obvious that the major stakeholders in the ruling party do not have similar objectives and if, perhaps, have a few similar objectives, they don’t agree on the modalities to achieving those objectives. This is why the disagreement is so obvious; it is in the open and everybody can see it.
Can the problem of lack of ideology and ideas be traced to the foundation of the country itself?
The problem really is that the political elite in Nigeria, on both sides of divide, appear to have conspired to impoverish the people. The masses have been impoverished; they have almost been dehumanised to the extent that they do not even seem to have opinions anymore because they are looking for mere survival. So, the moneybags could come and market a particular party and give them money to vote for them and the moment they are voted for, they disappear. That has been the major problem and that is why there has not been ideology.
What I am suggesting in the next dispensation, whether it is a ‘Third Force’ of ‘Fourth Force’ that is emerging or the present political parties, members of those parties must pay subscriptions; they must be financial stakeholders in their political parties. That is the only way they cannot be 100 per cent bought over. For example, parties don’t meet in Nigeria immediately they take over government until the next elections.
You mention the idea of a third force coming into play in 2019, but some people are saying the country is not ripe for one, given the role money play in politics. Thus a third force might not effect the desired change…
I will be surprised if it doesn’t. I don’t agree with them. The world is dynamic; people ran into alliances and formed political parties in haste to remove Goodluck Jonathan from government. Now in government, they are more divided than, perhaps, they were when they were campaigning. They appeared to be one then but as soon as they won, even before the government was formed, you could see visible divisions in the political parties that made up the party. So, they were never a political party; they were merely parties coming together without even agreeing on what they wanted to do in government. That is not a political party. So, for me, we need a ‘Third Force,’ even a ‘Fourth Force.’ Why not? I mean it is the over-centralisation of the polity that has led to the fact everybody is looking up to Abuja. You may belong to a political party and only want to confine yourself to your town or state or anywhere else.
The anti-Third Force elements are looking at how such an arrangement can effectively alter the present arrangement…
The ‘Third Force’ may not alter it immediately nationally, but they can begin altering it from some states. For example, when we had the government of the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) in some South-West states during the Second Republic, there were exemplary in their Four Cardinal programme and in some other states, people were emulating them and forming alliances with them. You begin from somewhere and you begin to grow. But if you expect something to bring a miracle in Nigeria immediately, then we are deceiving ourselves; the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.
As far as I am concerned, we don’t have political parties in the country. The two major parties are sharply divided; they are working at cross-purposes. I don’t know whether they even fill the meaning of association because association says you must agree on certain things or you have certain objectives that you are pursuing.
With the manifesting differences from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), do you see the possibility of a ‘Third Force’ coming out of any alliance by some of the chieftains of both parties?
Why not? They are Nigerians. They have a right to be part of a ‘Third Force.’ You still cannot wish away the influence of the moneybags now because of the pervading poverty we have in the country, particularly in a moment of recession. But I can assure you that Nigerians are getting more and more informed. They will ask questions in 2019. I have no doubt in my mind. The awareness is increasing and, as I said, even the moneybags that are coming, there are some of them already regretting what they did and what they laboured to build in 2013.
So, I am very optimistic that if we have the ‘Third Force’ or the ‘Fourth Force,’ as the case may be, lessons learnt from the 2013 experience will enrich the operations of such a force for the betterment of the people.
What gives you the impression that if this same set of people who have been on the scene since 1999 will be able to effect the desired change?
Sometimes, when you talk of personal interest, it may be for the development of your people and that is the essence of politics. I am aware that some of the major leaders in the party in government, their personal interest is for the development of Nigeria; not enriching themselves. It is easy to take personal interests for self- but they are not the same. What is my interest if I decide to join a political party now? My interest lies in the fact that I want my people to be empowered. I want infrastructure in my area. I want the roads to be well built. I want power; for a minimum of 15 to 18 hours a day so that the hairdressers, the welder and other artisans would be able to work.
So, we must be careful; some people who are disappointed are not merely disappointed because they did not have their cronies in office or something like that. They were disappointed because what they want for their people appears elusive and what they are getting in return is victimisation or political oppression of their people and an attempt to make them irrelevant and which is not right. So, for me, I do not condemn personal interest wholesale because some personal interests are authentic, genuine and altruistic.
What do you make of APC which appears to have been fractionalised into the Bola Tinubu and John Odigie-Oyegun factions?
What I see and I said it two years ago is that APC is going to ultimately end up as an association of strange bedfellows. Perhaps, it would have been better for them if all they had were merely alliances, rather than forming a political party. A political party is a strong association of people who are supposed to think along the same line in achieving definite objectives. But what we have now is CPC and ACN; clearly, there is no argument about that; those were the original parties coming together. APP appears to have fused into CPC.
So, we are back to square one and that is why I sincerely believe that, if any ‘Third Force’ is being formed now, those who were victims of this hasty marriage must have learnt some lessons and they will do a lot of thinking before going into any ‘Third Force,’ otherwise it will end up the same way. There must some intellectual rigour into forming a political party. That was absolutely absent in the 2014 experience; no clear-cut set objectives; no definite positions on the sharing of office. We should learn from that.
You mentioned strange bedfellows, how will it be possible to avoid such in the ongoing realignment process?
In the process of interrogating the new associations, in the process of intellectualising the objectives of the new organisations, the strange bedfellows will fall out because they will not fit in. It will be obvious to them that these people are thinking this way and we are thinking the other way. We will still have some groups of dissidents and so on but, at least, the overall objective will be similar. In other words, we want to develop the people.
I mentioned the defunct UPN earlier. I hope you will remember the Four Cardinal programme of the party; anybody can recite it in the entire South-West then. Call a school boy, he would tell you. Whether you wanted it or not, as the governor of the old Bendel State, the late Professor Ambrose Alli had no choice than to implement the programme.
Also, the political party ought to be stronger or, at least, as strong as the government. But what we have now is that the party had been subsumed under the government. In those days, the party was strong. You had no choice than to implement the Five Cardinal programme, whether you are Bisi Onabanjo in Ogun or Bola Ige in Oyo or Ambrose Alli in Bendel or Adekunle Ajasin in Ondo; that was sacrosanct. What programme do we have now? There is none.
So, I sincerely hope and I hope that I am not being too optimistic, that people will learn from the lessons of 2014 and think differently, this time round, that you don’t go into a marriage without really knowing the intentions, the objectives of your spouse; the two of you must be agreed on what you want, where to live, how you want to settle and how many children you want to have. Nothing like that was done and this is why we are where we are today.