2015: Whither Opposition Parties?

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In the First republic, even though the now defunct Northern Peoples’ Congress (NPC) won the election and went into an alliance with the National Convention of Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) to form government at the centre, it did not stop the NCNC that won predominantly in the eastern region from maintaining its opposition party toga. Ditto for the Action Group (AG), that held sway in the south-west.

It was the same scenario in the Second republic. The only thing that changed was the political parties nomenclatures. Besides the alliance between the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) and the Nigeria Peoples’ Party (NPP), all the parties which included the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Great Nigeria Peoples’ Party (GNPP) and Peoples’ Redemption Party (PRP) signposted a strong and virile opposition to the ruling NPN.

Even in the aborted Third republic, where the military had decreed into existence only two political parties – National Republican Convention (NRC) and Social Democratic Party (SDP), opposition was virile. Except for the first four years of the present Fourth republic, the numerous opposition parties have all fizzled out, as it were, paving the way for a possible one-party state. CHUKS OHUEGBE writes.

Death of parties with regional background
The first four years of the Fourth republic experienced robust politicking because of quality opposition. The then Alliance for Democracy (AD) made a clean sweep of the electoral positions in the south-west geo-political zone of the country. It was the same story for the then All Peoples Party (APP) that controlled most of the core northern states.

The Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) had a better spread as it won in the majority of states in the north-central, south-east and south-south geo-political zones. This development led to a healthy rivalry between the parties. At the National Assembly, records show that debates, resolutions and legislative and executive arms of government rivalry was at its best during the 4th session of the national assembly.

The reason is not far-fetched. There was a healthy competition among the law makers. Their respective parties philosophies were the driving force coupled with the fact that they wanted to impact positively on the lives of the electorate on whose mandates they were voted into office.

However, the ruling PDP’s machination in the run up to the 2003 general elections to muzzle the opposition political parties marked a turn-around in the nation’s political fortune. The rank of the APP which was later rechristened ANPP, was infiltrated by moles sponsored by PDP.

Ironically, all the then national chairmen of the party were originally members of PDP who were sponsored by the presidency to stifle the growth and survival of ANPP. Somehow, ANPP from 2003 continued to shrink from the control of nine states to only three now.

It was a terrible experience for the AD who in 2003 fell for the ethnic card the then president Olusegun Obasanjo played in hoodwinking most of its political leaders with the devious objective of integrating the south-west into national politics. This explains how all the south-west states with the exception of Lagos state, were won by the PDP.

The entrance of the All Progressives Grand Alliance in the run up to the 2003 general elections had put PDP on its guard in the south-east. APGA presented an alternative platform to politicians from that zone. In spite of PDP’s stranglehold on the zone, APGA still controls two of the five states in the zone.

The point has to be made that if the political class is desirous of saving the polity from becoming a one party state, there must be a resolve by some of these parties to form a platform from where they will take off.

There is nothing in our statutes that implies that all the registered political parties must be national parties. The aggregate of the elective positions these parties are able to muster during elections will go a long way in firming up the opposition.

Governor of old Kaduna state, Alhaji Lawal Kaita obviously unimpressed with the conduct and outcome of the just concluded national convention of PDP and the new permutation that President Goodluck Jonathan is setting the stage for another term in 2015, remarked that the North will resist the move.

“We hear rumours all over that Jonathan is planning to contest in 2015. Well, the north is going to be prepared if the country remains one. That is if the country remains one, we are going to fight for it. If not, everybody can go his way’.

The internal workings of the PDP should ordinarily not worry the opposition. The consensus view is that the opposition should bother itself with uniting itself towards achieving a common goal, which is winning election and forming government at the centre.

It is an incontrovertible fact that the two leading political figures in the country today are General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. By a twist of fate, both of them head the two leading opposition political parties in the country. The question however, is: why is it impossible for the opposition parties in this country to unite?

Buhari who was the presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) in the last general election rued the missed opportunity of his party forming a merger with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), that has Ahmed Bola Tinubu as its national leader and other opposition parties under the umbrella of National Democratic Movement (NDM).

His words: “Although the NDM did not succeed in its stated objective, I strongly believe it opened a window of opportunity of cooperation for opposition forces which must never be shut if our people are to get out of the evil grip of those who do not mean well for Nigeria.

There is no doubt in the minds of all patriots that our country can do much better than it is doing at the moment, given a proper leadership that can put the interest of the people of the nation above the selfish and parochial interest of politicians.

All forward looking men and women must not give up on our country until we achieve a fully democratic nation where the rule of law reigns and good governance becomes the norm’.

Explaining why the merger between ACN and CPC collapsed, Tinubu who had served as a two-time governor of Lagos state said, “To be honest with you, lack of sincerity and lack of strong commitment were responsible for the botched unity the CPC and ACN wanted to form to challenge the PDP in 2011. We did everything we needed to do with sincerity.

“We were willing to put symbols together, recreate names and we would change every other thing to consolidate the marriage and the relationship. It didn’t work because it didn’t work. But we learnt a great lesson from that. For us, we started early because the ruling party wouldn’t want us to unite’.

A few days ago, Mr. Macky Sall led the opposition parties in Senegal to defeat the incumbent, the 85-year-old Abdoulaye Wade which is an indication that it is achievable even in our clime.

Even former military president Ibrahim Babangida in his tribute to Tinubu when the latter turned 60 had remarked thus about opposition politics, ‘I am kind of imagining how it would have been, if your group had not created the opposition Action Congress of Nigeria, to provide a platform to other Nigerians who are not in agreement with PDP’s exclusive politics.

You are not only doing the country a great deal of good, you are creating a political ideology that is driven by convictions to make democracy more attractive to the discerning and ordinary minds.’ Analysts are of the view that wrestling power from PDP may not be a walk in the park, nonetheless, it is an achievable project given the despondency in the polity.

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