Fellow Nigerians, we are fast approaching the eve of another election and unfortunately, there is no 3rd force anywhere! We are still going to rely on the often criticized APC and PDP to produce the next president. This is the reality as of today, and I dare anyone to challenge this almost incontrovertible fact. With all the talk about the 3rd force that will give the 2 major parties a formidable run, there is nothing concrete to suggest that this imaginative force that is only heard and seen in fiery political speeches will be able to pull any weight in 2023.
The failure of the 3rd force can also be equated to the failure of the youths to make any bold attempt at coming close to power, not to talk of taking over. The end SARS protests happened and many thought that it will usher in a more deliberate attempt at political awareness and action amongst the youths. This didn’t happen. The message of the end SARS protests is almost forgotten as of today. As I write this, many youths are planning to work as thugs for some of those who have held this country down for years. At this point, I will want to draw your attention to the story of a certain Julius Malema.
Julius Malema was the ANC youth leader in South Africa. He was expelled from the ANC in 2012 at the age of 31. In July 2013, he formed a political party called the Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF). In 2014 the party contested in the parliamentary elections and won 25 seats out of the 400 seats available. In 2019, the EFF won 44 seats and has become a major opposition voice in the politics of South Africa. When he was expelled from the ANC, Malema didn’t jump to form a political party so as to contest for the office of the President. His party started from the parliament and today, they have more than 10% of the available seats in the South Africa parliament. I have decided to relay the story of Julius Malema to drive home my point about the reasons why the much talked about 3rd force in Nigeria has never worked and may not work unless we change the mentality of the young people who are interested in politics.
Like the Malema example, the young people in politics in Nigeria must not begin from the office of the President. There are various layers of political participation that can open the youths up to higher roles in the future. In 2019, 73 candidates contested the presidential election. Where are all those political parties today? Where are the candidates? What impact or contributions have they made in the political space since after the 2019 elections? Imagine if all the young people who contested for the office of the President in 2019 had come together to collapse their structures to form a political movement driven by the youths. At the counselor, chairmanship, house of assembly, House of Representatives, Senate, and governorship level, we can begin to make our presence felt and gradually take over with time.
Recently, council and chairmanship elections were conducted in Abuja. All the seats available were either won by the APC or PDP. Where were the smaller parties? Why couldn’t they form a coalition? Isn’t it laughable that a political party or an individual that cannot win an election at any of the lower levels will wake up one day to say that they want to contest for the office of the President? Again, the Malema example comes to mind here. Why can’t we have political parties mobilizing from the grassroots? This is a cheaper and more strategic option than going to contest for the office of the president with all the attendant costs and logistics. How many of these parties have offices in the 36states of the federation and the FCT?
Politics in Nigeria is a capital-intensive project that also requires deep structures. Most of the smaller parties do not have the resources or the spread to win a presidential election in a country like Nigeria. They must subsume their egos and agree that a formidable coalition is the only way to break the ranks of the two behemoths. In 2011, Chief Dele Momodu the founder of ovation magazine contested for the office of the president under the National Conscience Party (NCP) which was formed by the late Gani Fawehinmi. While the NCP has not been deregistered and will gladly offer Chief Momodu the ticket to run for President again, he has now decided to join the PDP to actualize his dream of ruling the country. In all honesty, how many people outside Lagos know of the NCP as a political party? In 2015, Senator Shehu Sani was elected into the Senate under the APC. Following a series of issues with the Kaduna state governor, he decamped from the APC and joined the People Redemption Party (PRP) to contest the 2019 election. He lost the election and has now joined the PDP.
As st today, simply because the APC and PDP are still shadow boxing as to where their presidential ticket will be zoned, the entire political space is at a stand-still. The southeast that is demanding for the presidential ticket to be zoned to their region is talking about the APC and PDP. If all the other over 70 parties come out today to say that they have zoned their tickets to the southeast, nobody will take them seriously. The political temperature of this country still rests with the APC and PDP. One is then forced to ask; when will this 3rd force come alive?
The point I am making is that no 3rd force will come alive if all the young people in politics want to be president. No 3rd force will come alive if the young people are still the ones who constitute the bulk of the political thugs in the country. No 3rd force will come alive if we do not collectively decide to start from the state level and then grow into a national movement. Contesting for the office of the president shouldn’t just be for the fun of it.
Do the youths in Nigeria have a rallying point?