As things stand now, the third force is dead on arrival. I believe we can all agree on that. I’m not sure how they let ego get in the way of what seemed like a good prospect. Instead of uniting to fight against the status quo, they chose to fight against each other, thereby splitting their support base and demoralising the rest of us rooting for them earlier in the campaign. As a Facebook friend said recently, a vote for any of the third force candidate is a wasted vote. I agree with him, sadly, and if you think anyone other than Buhari or Atiku stands a chance, then you need to wake up and smell the coffee. 

I have written about this a number of times on why I don’t think any of the new candidates can win. If you have a minute, take a look at “Six reasons only Atiku or Buhari will become the next president of Nigeria, By Suleiman Ahmed.”  Google should be very helpful in this case. 

This is not me being backward or anti-progressive, it is me being a realistic, albeit frustrated, Nigerian. Make no mistake, if we get either Atiku or Buhari next month, it will not be the fault of the average Nigerian, rather, it will be the fault of the supposedly educated candidates ‘with a lot of ideas’ who were unwilling to make certain compromises for a greater goal.

Even if all the educated, middle-class voters voted for Moghalu, Ezekwesili or Fela, it would still not be enough to get them anywhere close. Firstly, they’re divided, and secondly, they were late to the party and have been unable to penetrate the base with the numbers needed to make you president.

The Debate

It doesn’t matter how many debates they organise – you think debates win elections in Nigeria? From my observations and as many have also pointed out, only those desperate for attention (not a bad thing) attend debates. That was why Buhari eagerly attended the 2011 debates as a CPC candidate (when he desperately needed the airtime) and snubbed it in 2015 and 2019 (when he wasn’t in need of it). In 2015, he had the powerful establishment behind him, and his chances were high. Why risk it? Same with 2019, he’s a sitting president, his administration hasn’t been great, why take the risk? Atiku, seeing that Buhari was not going to be present, quickly saw his risk level spike and decided to bolt. 

Whether Atiku attended the debate or not, it wouldn’t have changed the numbers. Everyone has already made up their minds at this point. Forget all their rantings on Social Media. The undecided group aren’t that many to affect the numbers. The poor, rural people who make up the numbers don’t watch debates. The educated class who watch debates don’t affect the numbers that much. Also, if you’ve been observant enough, you’d have noticed that the candidates who snub debates end up winning the elections – because debates don’t do nothing to your chances. At least, not yet. 

Recommendations, moving forward

I would like to see a merger of all the new parties with similar ideologies. Once that’s done, this new party should focus on gaining as many small victories as possible: house of assembly, local council chairman, councillorship and so on.

These little victories will embolden them to contest and win bigger and more expensive elections. The experiences gained from these grassroots elections will also be very helpful in running for governorship, house of reps, senate and even the presidency. It’s going to take a few years and a lot of patience, but it is possible. This is the only way I think they can pose any real threat to the current establishment. Except, of course, they’re not serious about changing the status quo, but only interested in having their names on the ballot and a ‘Former Presidential Candidate’ title on their CV – which is the best they can get out of this adventure of running in the 2019 presidential election, anyway.

Suleiman Ahmed, a Software Engineer and Writer, is the author of Trouble in Valhalla. He tweets from @sule365.

The views expressed in this post are those of the author and in no way reflect those of Nigerian Diary.