By Emmanuel Aziken
The tone of despair that rent the Sheraton Hotel venue of the gathering was not too unfamiliar with the announcement that eclipsed the countryâ€™s second attempt at democratic rule in 1983.
Notably, the chief beneficiary of that military putsch was again in control last Wednesday listing the abnormalities that have in his words skewed the countryâ€™s third serious attempt at civilian rule.
But enrobed now in civilian attire, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.) in his speech to the gathering entitled â€œNigeria: Time to arrest the driftâ€ was determined to this time utilize the electoral box in ousting a regime he described as a failure in its most basic responsibilities.
â€œToday we are talking of a government that has failed in the most basic of functions of governments â€“ maintaining law and order and providing a secure environment,â€™â€™ Gen. Buhari told the gathering of opposition.
Buhariâ€™s next pitch about the administration preceding the Umaru Yarâ€˜Adua led Federal Government was, however, significant.
â€œThis government and its predecessor have failed to take charge of the security situation, which has remained parlous such that no one is safe wherever he is â€“ at home, on the road or even in bed.â€™â€™
Indeed sitting on his right was Atiku Abubakar, the immediate past Vice-President who was for some time the de facto number two man in the immediate past government that was now being assailed by Gen. Buhari.
That contradiction is one of the ironies that had made several persons to believe that such a gathering was inconceivable.
Besides Atiku, several other prominent figures and associates of the immediate past president, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo wereÂ in the hall. Among them were Otunba Oyewole Fasawe reportedly a one time traveling partner of formerÂ president Obasanjo and Chief Dapo Sarunmi who served as a minister in theÂ administration.
Last Wednesdayâ€™s gathering was preceded with much hush-hush apparently to beat what organizers said were the tricks of security agents who might seek to disorganize the meeting.
Indeed reporters were not told the venue of the meeting until three hours to the opening. The suspense was as intriguing as the amalgamation of the political philosophies of Buhari, Atiku and Alhaji Atahiru Bafarawa, the immediate past Governor of Sokoto State who were the three conveners of the meeting.
The meeting was inspired according to Buhari by a visit to him by Atiku and Bafarawa earlier this month where it was agreed that a National Democratic Initiative (NDI) comprising of them and their associates should coalesce their political strengths to battle the ruling PDP.
The plan according to the organizers was to transform the NDI into a broad based national political movement with the aim of salvaging the country from the rot they claim the present leadership has driven the country into.
But the idea of Buhari, Atiku and Bafarawa uniting was incomprehensible to observers on account of the individual pursuit of maximum power by the three national gladiators. All three contested the last presidential elections on separate political platforms.
Having been wounded fairly or unfairly at the poll, Buhari and Atiku have had to face the added problem of losing control of the political parties they belonged to. Buhari even more overtly has been severally disregarded by the national chairman of his All Nigeria Peoples Party, Chief Edwin Ume-Ezeoke who wasted no time in embracing President Yarâ€˜Aduaâ€™s national unity government even while Buhari was attempting to prove the illegitimacy of the federal administration.
Atiku on his part has also had a more concealed problem within his Action Congress (AC). Those who are in the know believe that the former AC presidential candidate and his former political soul mate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu have fallen apart and as such dislocating the internal cohesion of the AC.
Buhari and Atiku in the view of some of people are indeed without political platform and as such have every need to forge an alliance in a new platform, no matter the barriers or personal sacrifice it could cost any one of them.
In the end, Tinubu was absent at the Wednesday outing reportedly on account of the illness of a close relative. Remarkably there was no big surprise as no major element in the ruling party was present at the gathering.
One major face that had been speculated to attend the meeting was the immediate past Governor of Cross River State, Mr. Donald Duke. He too was not present.
Two former presiding officers of the National Assembly, Senator Ken Nnamani and Alhaji Aminu Bello Masari, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives earlier touted to attend the gathering did not show up. Senator Nnamani had prior to the meeting told Vanguard that he was yet to receive the invitation but affirmed that he had great respect for Atiku, Buhari and Bafarawa as democrats.
â€œI have great respect very dearly and I see two of them as democrats. It depends on my schedule and if the invitation has to do with anything that will move the country to a state of good governance,â€™â€™ he had told Vanguard.
â€œThey are not inviting me as a party, I am in PDP and I am a member of two sensitive bodies in the party, NEC and BOT and if I am invited to a meeting that will bring about good governance but not as another party inviting me,â€™â€™ he said as he insisted that his party, the PDP did not have a monopoly on the ideas that could save the nation.â€™â€™
Also conspicuously absent were the Nwodo brothers from Enugu State.
The impracticability of the Nwodo brothers attending the meeting was put to the close alliance between the famous family and the present governor of Enugu State, Mr. Sullivan Chime.
One of the brothers, Mr. John Nwodo is the chairman of Enugu Centenary anniversary committee.
Irrespective of the level of attendance, the reality of the dire straits facing the country was well articulated by Gen. Buhari who was the chair of the meeting.
â€œIf the situation of the provision of education is bad enough, that of water supply is even worse. Isnâ€™t it a shame that after expenditures of billions of Naira on water supply contracts and the purchase of water treatment plants and chemicals, there is not a single town or city in 21st century Nigeria with uninterrupted water supply. With respect to power supply, perhaps the less said the better.â€
Flaying the Yarâ€˜Adua administrationâ€™s attitude to corruption, he said: â€In the past we had the dishonour of being one of the most corrupt nations in the world; and since then we have remained among the five most corrupt. Today, with the ever increasing daring and sophistication of its operators and the official blessing that they seem to enjoy, only God knows our real rating. Perhaps the truth, though we may find it very bitter indeed, is that no nation can really beat us.â€
â€œNaturally, no conscientious citizen can remain unconcerned in the face of what is happening today. That is why we are alarmed; but we are tired of sitting and agonizing over what is happening. Therefore, we are here because we want to see change in the direction in which this nation is going. But, by its very nature, change will not come by itself; it has to be brought about. So, we are all gathered here today to begin exploring ways of bringing about that needed democratic change peacefully.â€
â€œIt is in the light of this and in response to the gravity of the situation that we were left with no option but to answer the call to duty and accept the burden that history and the national condition have placed on our shoulders-to initiate and give leadership to a process of extensive consultation on the way to save Nigeria.â€
Atiku in his own comments said:
â€œThis effort is not about any of us leaders whatever our political or leadership aspirations or antecedents.Â And whether we like it or not this effort is larger than each of us.Â It is about Nigeria and Nigerians, the millions of our countryâ€™s citizens who have been serially disappointed and betrayed by incompetent, visionless and absent-minded leadership. It is about the millions of Nigerian children and youth who cannot get good education in our public schools or secure well-paying jobs.â€
â€œIt is about restoring Nigeriaâ€™s position and prestige in African and world affairs.Â It is about building a new Nigeria of which its citizens would be proud.Â And we are committed to working with any and all groups and individuals who share similar objectives and commitment. This country has been punished long enough; it is time for us to fight back to ensure a peaceful, rule-bound transition to genuine democracy and good governance.â€™â€™
The leaders in a communiquÃ© issued at the end of the meeting deposed thus:
1.Â Â Â Â The meeting reaffirmed its faith in the Federal Republic of Nigeria; its indivisibility, and a multi party plural democracy.
2.Â Â Â Â The meeting noted the deplorable condition of the country, which threatens the viability of the Nigerian state.
3.Â Â Â Â The meeting consequently resolved to work together to salvage the nation from probable collapse.
4.Â Â Â Â The meeting agreed to establish the National Democratic Movement to co-ordinate the collective efforts of its members in this broad based patriotic democratic movement.
5.Â Â Â Â The meeting created two committees to undertake contact and mobilization and develop strategy and program in pursuit of the objectives of the NDM
6.Â Â Â Â The meeting further agreed to work together with all groups in the country with similar aims and objectives, like the Mega Party Movement, with a view to harmonizing their positions.
7.Â Â Â Â The meeting called on all patriots and political organizations and groups with similar objectives to join hands with NDM in this task of national renewal.
8.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â The meeting resolved that the NDM shall work diligently to restore our core values and ensure high standards and criteria for leadership.
The ruling PDP was quick to dismiss the gathering describing the summiteers as a band of bad losers determined to wrest power to wreck the country.