A movement promoted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 was launched in Abuja yesterday.
In a widely publicised ‘Special Statement’ to President Buhari last week titled ‘The Way Out: A clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria movement’ Obasanjo asked Buhari not to run for a second term, accusing the president of poor performance and nepotism.
Yesterday’s event was billed to be a gathering of top politicians including serving governors and national assembly members.
However, only few recognisable faces turned up at the event. They were ex-governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State and Donald Duke of Cross River State, as well as former national chairman of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) retired Col. Ahmadu Ali.
Obasanjo himself was absent but his spokesman, Mr Kehinde Akinyemi said the former president returned to Nigeria late from Addis- Ababa, Ethiopia where he attended the AU summit.
“He will register tomorrow in Abeokuta, Ogun State,” he said.
But hundreds of youths clad in the Coalition for Nigeria vests and face caps besieged the venue of the event with banners and posters, some bearing a map of Nigeria supported by two hands.
During the ceremony, the ex-president’s political associates said Coalition Nigeria is meant to dislodge APC-led government in 2019 with a credible alternative.
In his opening address, former Osun State governor, Mr Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who is Acting Chairman of the Coalition described the group as “a movement with the task of setting Nigeria free from the clutches of bad governance.”
Oyinlola, a one-time National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), noted that Nigeria was drifting into extinction until Obasanjo woke everyone up from slumber.
He said Obasanjo’s “Special Statement” led to the articulation of the third force.
According to him, the movement will provide equal opportunities for Nigerians especially women and youths, to put their creative endowments to good use.
Oyinlola, however, dismissed claims in some quarters that the movement is a subtle ploy by Obasanjo to dominate the political space after retiring from partisan politics.
“To say that we are legitimizing Obasanjo’s legacies is a bit off the mark. There is no one who can fault the issues raised in Obasanjo’s letter. Forget the messenger, let’s discuss the message.
“What he has done is to stir us from our slumber to the reality of what is happening in Nigeria, to take charge and take action.
“Are there no other leaders sitting around and watching how things are going? I think we should give some kudos to him for being able to address Nigerians on the ills of the society which requires attention,” Oyinlola said.
The ex-governor also declared his willingness to quit his chairmanship position of Board of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to make CNM a success story.
“This is a part time Commission which means I have only four meetings in a year but get it straight. I joined a political party to serve my country and my service in NIMC is to my country and countrymen.
“We’re not a political party, at least, for now,” adding, “We recognise the facts that by the dictates of the Constitution, you can only contest on the platform of a political party.”
In his remarks, former governor of Cross River State, Mr Donald Duke who is also a co-convener, said that the movement had received overwhelming support since it came on board, adding that the “present hardship” in the country is as a result of long years of maladministration.
“We have spokesmen across the country, in every senatorial district. They will also go back and replicate what we are doing here.
“If we can get the critical mass, then it is worth being a political party but if we can’t get the critical mass, then we will go to the next stage.
A board of Trustees Member of the APC, Buba Galadima also declared his support for the coalition, saying it does not contradict his membership of the ruling party.
“It is not a political party; it is a movement being put together to salvage our country,” he said.
On whether he would support the re- election of President Buhari in 2019, Galadima said, “If the President wants to be re-elected, then he can show us empirical evidence that he has performed in putting infrastructural development in the country, that he has put food on the table, that he has managed to unify this country; then we will all be prepared to vote for him but if those indices are not available then he does not deserve a second term,” he said.
It’s no threat to us – APC
National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Mr Bolaji Abdullahi dismissed the gathering as a non-event. In a phone interview, he said: “Did you attend our own event today? We are busy doing our work.
“How many months to the election? At the function, how many governors did you see there? How many senators did you see there? How many House of Representatives’ members did you see there?
“When a part of the PDP left for the APC in 2014, how many governors were there? At least five governors were there. How many senators? We have more than 40 senators.
With due respect, let them continue to do what they are doing. We are busy. They are not even a political party. If they are not a political party, how can they be a threat to us? Civil society organization can’t contest election in Nigeria,” he said.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Mr Kola Ologbondiyan in a text message promised to call our reporter later but did not at the time of filing this report.
But a PDP BoT member and former Minister of Education Mr Tunde Adeniran, told our correspondent in a telephone interview that CN would make significant impact if its handlers are men of integrity, God-fearing with good intentions for Nigeria.
He added that the success of PDP in 2019 would be determined in the next couple of weeks when he said the party would have sorted out all issues relating to internal brawl.
In a related development, the Nigeria Intervention Movement, (NIM) will launch its “emergent Third Force umbrella rainbow movement” at a major national political summit to be hosted by the movement at the last week of this month in Abuja.
A statement by Deputy Director General of NIM, Mr Naseer Kura, said the summit was agreed by the national leadership of the movement as contained in the time table of its Action Plan adopted earlier in the month in Abuja for the consolidation of the third force initiative.
He said among those to be invited for the event include: Nobel Laureate, Mr Wole Soyinka, Mr Abubarkar Umar Dangiwa and Mr Emeka Anyaoku, Mr Adamu Ciroma, Mr Pat Utomi, Mr Alani Akinriade, Mr Donald Duke, Mrs Najatu Mohammed, Mr Olisa Agbakoba, Mr Balarabe Musa, Mr Garba Adamu, Mr Femi Falana, Mr Attahiru Jega, Mr Fola Adeola, Mr Nuhu Ribadu, Mr Tunde Bakare, Dr Obby Ezekwesili, Mr AbduJalil Tafawa Balewa, Mr Fela Durotoye, among others.
The statement also unveiled what the handlers called its zonal coordinators in the six geo political zones. They are: Mr Buba Galadima (North East), Mr Rabiu Suleman Bichi (North West), Mr John Darah (North Central), Mr Uche Onyeagocha (South East), Mr Olu Agunloye (South West), Mr Ikpe Obong (South South).