A movement promoted by former President Olusegun Obasanjo to unseat President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019 was launched in Abuja yesterday.
In a widely publicised ‘Special Statement’ to President Buhari last week titled ‘The Way Out: A clarion Call for Coalition for Nigeria movement’ Obasanjo asked Buhari not to run for a second term, accusing the president of poor performance and nepotism.
Yesterday’s event was billed to be a gathering of top politicians including serving governors and national assembly members.
However, only few recognisable faces turned up at the event. They were ex-governors Olagunsoye Oyinlola of Osun State and Donald Duke of Cross River State, as well as former national chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) retired Col. Ahmadu Ali.
Obasanjo himself was absent but his spokesman, Kehinde Akinyemi said the former president returned to Nigeria late from Addis- Ababa, Ethiopia where he attended the AU summit. “He will register tomorrow in Abeokuta, Ogun State,” he said.
But hundreds of youths clad in the Coalition for Nigeria vests and face caps besieged the venue of the event with banners and posters, some bearing a map of Nigeria supported by two hands.
During the ceremony, the ex-president’s political associates said Coalition Nigeria is meant to dislodge the APC-led government in 2019 with a credible alternative.
In his opening address, former Osun State governor, retired Oyinlola who is the Acting Chairman of the Coalition described the group as “a movement with the task of setting Nigeria free from the clutches of bad governance.”
Oyinlola, a one-time National Secretary of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), noted that Nigeria was drifting into extinction until Obasanjo woke everyone up from slumber.
He said Obasanjo’s “Special Statement” led to the articulation of the third force.
According to him, the movement will provide equal opportunities for Nigerians especially women and youths, to put their creative endowments to good use.
Oyinlola, however, dismissed claims in some quarters that the movement is a subtle ploy by Obasanjo to dominate the political space after retiring from partisan politics.
“To say that we are legitimizing Obasanjo’s legacies is a bit off the mark. There is no one who can fault the issues raised in Obasanjo’s letter. Forget the messenger, let’s discuss the message.
“What he has done is to stir us from our slumber to the reality of what is happening in Nigeria, to take charge and take action.
“Are there no other leaders sitting around and watching how things are going? I think we should give some kudos to him for being able to address Nigerians on the ills of the society which requires attention,” Oyinlola said.
The ex-governor also declared his willingness to quit his chairmanship position of the Board of National Identity Management Commission (NIMC) to make CNM a success story.
“This is a part time Commission which means I have only four meetings in a year but get it straight. I joined a political party to serve my country and my service in NIMC is to my country and countrymen.
“We’re not a political party, at least, for now,” adding, “We recognise the facts that by the dictates of the Constitution, you can only contest on the platform of a political party.”
In his remarks, former governor of Cross River State, Donald Duke who is also a co-convener, said that the movement had received overwhelming support since it came on board, adding that the “present hardship” in the country is as a result of long years of maladministration.
“We have spokesmen across the country, in every senatorial district. They will also go back and replicate what we are doing here.
“If we can get the critical mass, then it is worth being a political party but if we can’t get the critical mass, then we will go to the next stage.
A board of Trustees Member of the APC, Buba Galadima also declared his support for the coalition, saying it does not contradict his membership of the ruling party.
“It is not a political party; it is a movement being put together to salvage our country,” he said.
On whether he would support the re- election of President Buhari in 2019, Galadima said, “If the President wants to be re-elected, then he can show us empirical evidence that he has performed in putting infrastructural development in the country, that he has put food on the table, that he has managed to unify this country; then we will all be prepared to vote for him but if those indices are not available then he does not deserve a second term,” he said.