A week is said to be a long time in politics. Last year seems like a century ago in Nigerian politics. Hopes were high that “alternative” politicians a.k.a the “third force” would wrest power from the dominant political parties in the 2019 elections. This dream was buoyed by the signing into law of a meaningless “not-too-young-to-run” bill. It slowly but resolutely collapsed into farce. It is now safe to conclude that the bevy of alternative presidential candidates and their “Mickey Mouse” political parties will have zero impact in the 2019 elections. The parties may end up not getting even one federal lawmaker elected.
“Ultimately, Macron and Trump, and indeed Britain’s Brexiteers, appealed to historically-rooted ideological divisions along which Western politics has long been structured: free trade versus protectionism, free domestic markets versus protected internal markets, global engagement versus isolationism, etc.”
The majority of voters will never be convinced of the chances of a lone wolf sitting atop an unknown party; they probably would not be able to name one thing they have promised or that they stand for. Nigeria may not survive for long as a viable state if the predatory political culture favoured by our traditional political parties is allowed to dominate the next two to three election cycles. What Nigeria desperately needs are political entrepreneurs who can undertake the hard graft of building a formidable “third party” that crafts solutions to the nation’s legion of political, economic and social problems and transforms them into effective political demands through consistent social mobilisation. Not new “ashiwajus” with dreams of riding their tiny purpose-built political vehicles into Aso Rock.
Nigeria’s traditional political parties have remained dominant not because they are so well-organised or because political mobilisation on the basis of economic self-interest can never trump the ideology of ethnicity. (The Peoples’ Democratic Party is so disorganised it cannot even help itself by articulating a clear message on its record of relatively successful economic reforms.) Rather, Nigeria’s alternative politicians have placed the cart of winning elections before the horse of shaping and mobilising opinion as the primary goal of a political party. They have not even tried to build political parties. They owe it to their followers and to Nigeria to begin the task of alliance building and aggressively mobilising Nigerians behind policy solutions to the country’s problems immediately after the 2019 elections. They could within a year emerge as the main opposition party.