By Ehichioya Ezomon
Politicians are devising strategies towards clinching power in the 2023 election cycle. They’re forming campaign structures; holding nocturnal meetings; criss-crossing the country for consultations; and building alliances and bridges of understanding.
A striking scenario to the scheming is a search for an alternative political platform, to upstage the All Progressives Congress and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party at the general election.
Surprisingly, the arrowhead of the crusade for a “Third Force” of some sorts is a prominent founder of the ruling APC, a former two-term governor and Senator representing Imo West.
Owelle Rochas Okorocha is the “lone voice in the wilderness” calling for the formation of another major political party to challenge the barely six-year power-hold of the APC, which took over from the 16 years of PDP’s governance of Nigeria between 1999 and 2015.
He’s advocating for a new formidable political party on the premise that the existing order is populated by unscrupulous politicians without ideological bent and interest of Nigeria at heart.
Okorocha, delivering his “political homily” in Port Harcourt, said: “There are very bad people in APC and there are very bad people in PDP. So, I think the good people in APC and the good people in PDP must come together for the purpose of making Nigeria great.”
To his host, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, Okorocha said: “Just imagine that I join forces with Wike; something will happen! Governor Wike, this is my hand of friendship. Let us bring like-minds and all the great people of Nigeria, and those that are complaining, let us make this nation greater.”
Polity watchers will welcome another platform to the dominance of the political terrain by the APC and PDP, which are capable of exchanging the baton with themselves alone. Yet, the quest for “good people” can only generate more questions than answers.
Can Okorocha show Nigerians the “good people” among his governor-colleagues – past and present – and his peers at the National Assembly?
Can Okorocha and his colleagues, on the basis of accountability as a cornerstone of democracy, tell Nigerians how much they received, or receiving, as security votes in four/eight years as governors, and how they administered the humongous funds?
Can Okorocha and his legislative colleagues, for doing little work, and appearing at plenary for limited times in a year, tell Nigerians their total emoluments, which are shrouded in secrecy?
Can Okorocha tell us how many of his “good politicians” were businessmen and people of means before becoming governors, and which resources they’ll deploy to prosecute the “2023 war” if not funds stashed away from the government of their states?
The New Telegraph of Monday, February 1, 2021, ran an in-depth analysis on the kind of Nigerians Okorocha is ostensibly looking for, to form a ‘Third Force’ to rival or supplant the APC and PDP.
Titled: “Established, emerging dynasties strategize ahead of 2023 polls,” the piece outlined how the political godfathers had cornered government and power to favour their families, friends, colleagues and cronies, and disadvantage majority of the citizens that good leaders and governments cater to in a democracy.
The ‘Okorochaworld’ is among the identified political dynasties planning to take over the reins, and employ the system of cronyism to install themselves, their children and associates in elective and appointive positions in the 2023 election season.
As the saying goes, “Charity begins at home.” Can Okorocha tell Nigerians if he’s a “good politician”? If he could, with a straight face, we’d revisit his governance of Imo State, and ascertain how he fared with the perks of office to Imo people or to his inner circle.
Recall that in his governance of Imo, Okorocha appointed members of his family into positions, with his younger sister as Commissioner for Happiness and Couples’ Fulfillment – an uncommon feat on how not to use power for self-interests.
Nigerians of good conscience would conclude that Okorocha was at the wrong arena, ingratiating himself with Governor Wike, in search for his saintly politicians, to usher in a blissful 2023.
Wike obviously saw through the gambit, and didn’t respond in kind to Okorocha. Will Wike, the PDP “pillar” of strength, dump the party and chase after a ‘Third Force’ to play second fiddle, perhaps, to Okorocha or any other powerful politician?
Isn’t Okorocha cleverly looking for where he’d be the king or “kingmaker” because non-members, “who came for congratulatory message,” had “hijacked the APC and became lords”?
This was after the APC was formed in 2013 by four legacy parties of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Okorocha’s faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
Going by the merger and formation of the APC, Okorocha became a major stakeholder. He participated in the presidential primaries of 2015, and falling short of the ticket, reverted to his governorship bid, which he won for a second term in office.
Okorocha fell out of favour with the APC when he wanted his son-inlaw to take over after his eight-year tenure as governor. And failing in the endeavour, he persuaded his son-inlaw to join the Action Alliance (AA) to ride to the Government House in Owerri.
Has Okorocha forgotten how, due to his divided loyalty to the APC and AA, the APC presidential campaign rally was almost marred by the antics of the rival AA in Owerri for the 2019 elections?
This isn’t about Okorocha per se, but an infestation of the political class that inhibits finding “good politicians” among the lot. It’d be like looking for a needle in a hay sack. A fruitless effort!
The #EndSARS protests of 2020 show we can hardly find “good politicians” in Nigeria. Otherwise, why would state governments hoard billions of COVID-19 palliatives meant for their people traumatized by fear of the global pandemic and the accompanying lockdowns that affected mostly the vulnerable in the society?
If there’re any “good politicians” in Nigeria, they’d be those who hadn’t been part of the governments at whatever levels. But the sooner they’ve that opportunity, they’d join the bandwagon!
It’s as well that Okorocha realizes, as an astute politician, that he’s no place in the APC or PDP in the run for 2023. So, to advance his presidential ambition, he needs an alternative platform.
It’d be a plus for him to rally like-minds in the behemoth APC and PDP that behave as twins. Like the PDP, give the APC 16 years in the saddle, and the party may not fare better overall.
The PDP, drunk with power, boasted it would rule for 60 years before ceding some of its powers. But that arrogance was cut short in 2015 by the efforts of four parties that formed the APC in 2013.
Can Okorocha gather such an amalgam from the disparate forces outside or within to challenge the APC and PDP in 2023? Will individual ambition not put spanner in the works before take-off?
Will some not sell out, as in 2019, when the major promoters of a ‘Third Force’ later endorsed one of the presidential candidates they’re to stop from taking over from the incumbent?
This isn’t to discourage Okorocha from his “John the Baptist” mission. His lone voice may resonate, and gain the traction for a showdown among three strong parties in the 2023 polls.
If well-received by Nigerians, who’d lived through the 16 years of the PDP era, and the near six years of the APC regime that people are clamouring to change, Okorocha’s search for an alternative ruling elite could be within the reach of the agitators in 2023.
But there must be a change of strategy: From looking for “good politicians” to like-minds, to wrest power from the APC and prevent the PDP from regaining the presidency after eight years in limbo.
Mr. Ezomon, Journalist and Media Consultant, writes from Lagos