Obasanjo’s Statement; In praise of the Third Way

Understandably, most reactions tend to analyze the messenger; OBJ  at the expense of the content of his  Tuesday January 23rd 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 complex, OMMC! 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. Therefore, for , 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 strident in the last few days.

The legendary African great author/storyteller, 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 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 abundance. I envisage soonest a national mass rally against  uninterrupted 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!) 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 number of compatriots in sub-Sharan Africa!. OBJ should therefore not necessarily  be the only compatriot standing. No   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.

Issa Aremu mni