analysisBy Samuel Ogundipe
As Nigerians were wrapping up their activities for the day, a sudden development broke on the political front that could fundamentally reshape the electoral map in 2019: former President Olusegun Obasanjo, leader of the Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM), announced his group’s decision to collapse the movement into an existing political party.
The integration of CNM into African Democratic Congress (ADC) Thursday appeared as a rapid move that could leave many people confused.
For political observers, though, Thursday’s development might not come as a surprise. The CNM emerged shortly after Mr Obasanjo circulated a caustic essay he directed at President Muhammadu Buhari, listing a slew of his personal misgivings about the ebbing administration and asking the president not to stand for re-election.
The CNM, which has a sizeable number of politicians, business professionals and academics in its fold, aimed to redefine Nigeria’s political space by presenting itself as a third force, a major political bloc that could harness the vacuum created by the failings of the two-largest political parties which millions of Nigerians are increasingly disillusioned by.
Socio-economic development, steady economic growth, equality and transparency are amongst the main prongs of the movement. Although both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) currently have these listed in their respective working documents as some of their key promises to the citizenry, the CNM strongly holds that neither of the two has been able to live up to its words.
Consequently, Mr Obasanjo, whom critics accused of trying to run away from his records as a two-term president under the same PDP he now condemns, urged members of the movement to explore a political party through which they could actualise their goals as required by the constitution.
For several weeks, members of the movement mulled the possibility of eventually aligning with an existing political party, but kept the specific name to themselves until Thursday evening when Mr Obasanjo made the announcement at a press conference in Abeokuta.
Mr Obasanjo said the decision to persuade CNM loyalists towards the ADC “is neither based on the immediate past, condemnable records of PDP as a ruling party in Nigeria nor on the present disastrous and destabilising performance of APC.” Yet, he clarified that he will not be an active member of the political party or the movement, going forward.
With that in mind, here is an overview of what we know about the ADC:
The African Democratic Party, one of Nigeria’s 67 political parties, has its headquarters in Nyanya, a satellite community about 15 kilometres west of Central Business District, Abuja.
The party was registered in 2006 and stood for elections in 2007 with economist Pat Utomi as its presidential candidate. Mr Utomi scored about 50,000 votes at the time. The party also participated in the 2011 and 2015 elections with different candidates.
Although he supported Mr Buhari’s election in 2015 and actively held several town hall events on the behalf of Mr Buhari and the APC, Mr Utomi has been a major proponent for the emergence of a third political party capable of winning elective offices, especially the centre.
He was amongst the earliest members of Mr Obasanjo’s CNM and had repeatedly lashed out at Mr Buhari for his handling of the economy.
Mr Utomi’s role in the CNM probably positioned him to convince Mr Obasanjo and other members to embrace the ADC as a platform.
Ralph Nwosu, a leadership scholar and politician, founded the ADC and has remained the party’s chairman ever since.
In mid-2017, PREMIUM TIMES visited the ADC office as part of the paper’s profiling of all political parties in the country, but it was starkly deserted.
The only female member of staff who was said to be keeping the small office space the party occupies in a plaza did not show up for work during the two visits by PREMIUM TIMES at the time.
In his reaction to our findings at the time, Mr Nwosu said the ADC was “active in the field,” adding that the office would relocate to a new office in readiness to take over from APC at the national level, come 2019.
He said the party had undertaken some activities in the recent past, one of which was the “Failed State Conference.” Mr Nwosu said the December 2016 conference was held to decry the state of the nation under the APC, blaming the ruling party for its own crisis.
“The ruling party hijacked our change advocacy and slogan to win the 2015 general election,” Mr Nwosu said. “Unfortunately, since then, they have torpedoed.”
Mr Nwosu told PREMIUM TIMES Thursday night that the ADC has only one elected officeholder who is a member of the Bayelsa State House of Assembly. He said the party had claimed victories in past elections, including two House of Representatives wins, but they were ‘hijacked’ by either of the two-largest political parties.
But with Mr Obasanjo now expressing open support, the ADC would have a better showing in 2019, Mr Nwosu said.
“Before Mr Obasanjo joined us, we won elections but the big political parties hijacked them, but that will not be possible again now because we will have the personalities and the resources to defend ourselves,” Mr Nwosu said. “This is the time for passion and complete dedication for the Nigerian nation.”
Indeed, the ADC has been around for years but has never been more noticed perhaps than the last few hours, but political analysts are warning that the party may need more than just a break from its obscurity to becoming a major political force.
“Unless they want to deceive themselves, members of the ADC still have a lot of work to do to constitute any serious threat to either the APC or the PDP,” political analyst, Shola Olubanjo, told PREMIUM TIMES during a telephone conversation on Thursday night.
“They have a former president and maybe some former governors here and there, we also expect even current political officeholders to decamp to the ADC in the coming weeks because of Mr Obasanjo,” Mr Olubanjo added. “But all that would just be the beginning of any serious effort to topple either of the two established parties.”