Donald Duke, a former governor of Cross River State and one of the leaders of the Coalition for Nigeria, the platform proposed by former President Olusegun Obasanjo, has debunked concerns that the newly-formed political movement could ultimately benefit President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019.
“I don’t see how this would favour him,” Mr. Duke told PREMIUM TIMES Wednesday afternoon in Abuja.
The former governor spoke on the sidelines of the formal launch of Coalition for Nigeria Movement at Yar’Adua Centre, where he was joined by other politicians like Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State.
Mr. Duke’s comment was aimed at disabusing claims that the group might end up achieving the opposite of what it was founded to do by unwittingly returning Mr. Buhari to power in 2019.
Some political commentators have accused the group of lacking basic fundamentals of politics that could portray its members as persons with clear and fresh ideas about Nigeria’s political future.
Critics say the group, which has yet to be formally registered as a political party, might end up playing a spoiler role in 2019 elections by spreading the votes of the major opposition parties.
“It is not a spoiler,” Mr. Duke said. “We’re not here to help anybody.”
Mr. Duke said the coalition’s anger is directed more at the incumbent than any other political force in the country.
“In fact, we’re here to express our frustration. We’re all frustrated people,” the governor added.
At the launching of the movement in Abuja Wednesday morning, Mr. Duke and other politicians present said the plight of ordinary Nigerians was at the core of their goals.
Mr. Oyinlola said he had been a political player for too long to be interested in running for political offices or taking actions that would be for his own selfish interest.
He urged Nigerians not to see the coalition as a political party for now, but acknowledged that consultations were underway about whether the movement should be registered as a political party.
Kennedy Angbo, a political analyst, took a vicious aim at the movement’s composition, describing it to PREMIUM TIMES as a group “occupied by the same set of people who have moved from the PDP to the APC with their poor record in public service.”
“Their dissatisfaction with Buhari might be genuine like all of us who voted for him but are now clearly against him,” Mr. Angbo said. “But there’s no disputing the fact that they’re the same politicians without ideological traits.”
“They’ve moved from the PDP to the APC, once their bread is not buttered at the new coalition, they’ll still move from there,” Mr. Angbo added.
The analyst recognised that Nigeria is in dire need of a fresh political movement, but said Mr. Obasanjo and others who have so far shown their affiliation to the Coalition for Nigeria are not the answer.
“There’s a need for a new coalition but it must be people-driven, not by the same old people like Obasanjo,” he said. “It must be led by persons of genuine character, although this does not mean I hold any grudges against the former president.”
Demola Olarewaju, a PDP strategist, described the Coalition for Nigeria as an offshoot of the major opposition party.
“The Coalition for Nigeria is an offshoot of the PDP,” Mr. Olarewaju told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone.. “It’s engagement in 2019 will depend on who emerges the PDP’s presidential flagbearer.”
If the candidate is someone favoured by President Obasanjo, then the movement may tilt towards the PDP. Otherwise, the movement would likely work against the PDP, but not necessarily for Buhar,” he added.
Mr. Olarewaju, who currently consults for former Jigawa State Governor Sule Lamido, said Mr. Obasanjo favours his principal and others like Ibrahim Dankwambo.
Mr. Dankwambo, the incumbent governor of Gombe State, is seen as a potential aspirant on the platform of the opposition party.
“I understand that apart from Sule Lamido, Ibrahim Dankwambo is also in the good books of Mr. Obasanjo,” Mr. Olarewaju said.
Atiku Abubakar is seen as a front-runner for the PDP ticket, but his muddled relationship with Mr. Obasanjo could prove a major hindrance to his ambition, analysts said.
President Buhari has not openly disclosed his intention to run in 2019, but his recent comments and those of his aides have made it difficult for his political analysts to remove him out of the equation.