In praise of the Third Way
By Issa Aremu
Understandably, most reactions tend to analyze the messenger; OBJ at the expense of the content of his Tuesday, January 23rd, 2018, essay, entitled “The Way Out: A Clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria”. Having been on Nigeria’s driving seat for decades with all of us as his passengers, we are all understandably somewhat afflicted with OBJ messenger-message syndrome! Jide Ajani in his historic insight entitled Between OBJ and PMB (Vanguard Sunday 28th of January) has shown that the difference might not be as clear between the two Generals.
The spectacular picture of Muhammed Buhari and General Olusegun Obasanjo in warm embrace in AddisAbaba further confirms that it is not a war fare after all but good governance for a new Nigeria . As illuminating as most comments are, the two eyes must be on the ball, not on OBJ’s legs as a player. Am excited that there is a renewed national and even global concern about Nigeria. This is a welcome worthy departure from the saturated run-on-the mill parochial shouting match stuff in both the main and social media. Indeed for better, for worse, the third way is an idea that is already here with us! OBJ has commendably raised the noise level of the need to reinvent Nigerian nation.
This is one of the main objectives of National Intervention Movement (NIM). I have been overwhelmed with calls by many compatriots since NIM was announced few months ago with demands for new national perspectives and new national actors. The calls are even more strident in the last few days.
The legendary African great author/story teller, Chinua Achebe, once reminded us that “There was Once A country”! Indeed there were once compatriots regardless of diversities who fought gallantly against British colonial imperialism compelling a significant independence in 1960. Nigerians fought against military dictatorships of varying hues with enormous sacrifices in the 80s and 90s. Since 1999, in quantitative terms, Nigeria is truly an election destination with a remarkable democratic retrenchment of incumbent Jonathan Goodluck two years ago!. Almost 20 years after, this democracy needs quality control with new political parties and movements with visions and pan-Nigerian development agenda. We must return to ambitious nation building project like other countries.
In the last few days Nigerians are commendably out of the self-imposed cyclones from binary divisive “we” versus “them” unhelpful narratives caused by governance crisis. It’s refreshing we are agonizing and organizing on Nigeria and its positions in the contemporary world. That is what the third way is all about; neither “North” or “South”, “West” or “East” but functioning, fairer, just and productive Federal Republic of Nigeria and invariably working Africa.
There is no “Christian” or “Muslim” uninterrupted electricity supply. With the lowest energy per capital in the world (5,000 megawatt for 180 million people), this is a dark country of believers. We are all regrettably united by energy poverty! It’s time we all rose in bipartisan political way to match for power abundance. I envisage soonest a national mass rally against uninterrupted power supply and for energy abundance. That is third way; neither the old two discredited ways; national bed room lamentation and corrupt official excuses! There can’t be industrialization without electrification! Nigeria must just add value to its abundant raw materials, build industries like China or perish like South Sudan! And there can be no sustainable jobs without sustainable industrialization made only possible by electricity supply. We should soon match on the streets for immediate beneficiation to all raw materials. We should stop being dumping ground for smuggled and imported goods.
There is no “Muslim” poverty nor “Christian” poor unemployed. The few billionaires, (most of them corrupt without visible value adding enterprises!) lack religious labels. National Bureau of Statistics, rightly does not profile the 73 million unemployed and underemployed along their tribes. All unemployed have certifications; diplomas, multiple degrees, Bsc, B A, Msc, MA, PHD but lack the real “degrees” to terminate income poverty: JOBS and JOBS! The new slave returnees from Libya (scandalously after 300 years of abolition of slavery!) hold Nigerian not “village” passports. We must reinvent functioning Nigerian labour market to absorb this abundant human energy for development, and development. Lest we also forget; there are no good “PDP” or “APC roads,”. Ask the FRSC; all Nigerians, child and mothers are instant death statistics on national death traps called roads. Unacceptably, few governors, senators, president and Vice President elected to fix the roads fly in chattered flights! Some charitable commentators including the Minister of Information, Lai Muhammed have acknowledged the patriotism of OBJ with his latest intervention. But again lest we forget.
The national anthem we recite by route every day opens with six opening inspiring words; “ Arise, O compatriots, Nigeria’s call obey”. With 180 million fellows, men and women, Nigeria has the highest number of compatriots in sub-Sharan Africa!. OBJ should therefore not necessarily be the only compatriot standing. No more fashionable cynicism and pessimism on the side lines with attendant paralysis by analysis. Let’s us all do “an OBJ” and engage “at conversation with the centre, not sides” in “The Art Of Thinking Together”. Today Nigeria is confronted with an urgent challenge to unify its wonderful great diverse peoples, particularly the millions of the oppressed poor, frustrated business men and women, youths and women in the re-construction of a common platform for development, for a just and egalitarian society free of all oppression.
Third way tasks our energy to ensure the preeminent participation of all its great people especially women and youths. A 48 hour response by presidential information mill (judging by the standard of Buhari slow motion government! ) as articulated by Minister Lai Muhammed and with self confession that the administration took OBJ’s constructive legitimate suggestions in good faith is refreshing. Third way means a radical departure from present additive procrastinations while the nation is on its kneels. It means elected officials talking to Nigerians with humility not through arrogant and often incompetent, unelected or unelectable proxies. Third way also calls for competency test for those who want our votes; their perception of Nigerians as citizens, not subjects. So much for apologetic governors “without apologies”! We must make the point that this is a Republic of citizens with constitutionally guaranteed rights not a preferred “Shit-hole” of the rouge President Donald Trump of (sadly!) America. Minister Lai Muhammed dignified the administration as well as all Nigerians with government score cards (even if some are not impressed). That is the third way; its neither the usual dismissiveness of the government in office nor the predictive unthinking cheer mob reactions of the so-called opposition.
Comrade Aremu, mni, is a Vice President of NLC, and General Secretary of the National Union of Garment and Textile Workers of Nigeria.