By Timawus Mathias
The emergence of a viable opposition in Nigerian politics is a heart-gladdening development and is worth celebrating.
All keen watchers of our democracy have been anxious that a viable opposition emerged to challenge the ruling party, as this would encourage delivery on promises and mandates for the good of the country. The opinion is popular that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been able to run the affairs of the dear country without a defined agenda and or a manifesto, a situation that the party is at pains to remedy were it to have been without the present internal wrangling. For as long as there does not exist a strong contention to power, democracy, no matter how old it is, remains nascent and lacking in quality and content.
That there is no viable opposition in our politics in Nigeria is a systemic default condition, built in through connivance between those who nurtured the current Republic and them in whose hands power was transferred as a trust. For there is no way anyone can understand the rationale behind accepting the multi party structure that we have if not solely for the purpose of protecting the elements to whom the post military government was being entrusted since this systemic default automatically splinters the opposition, enabling the mighty ruling party to fend off the nimble attempts at challenging the powers that be. This way the political economy status quo is assuredly maintained.
In this regard therefore, there is little to celebrate in the moves that forged the emergence of the All Progressive Congress, and this is regardless of the calibre of the politicians that congregated to found the mega party.
The reason is found in an attempt to define the state of being a progressive within the context of contemporary politics.
Two sore thumbs stick out. One is the primary reason for the congregation, which as has been attested to by the forgers, is to seize power from the Peoples Democratic Party that has ruled the country for the past 13 years. How does this fit being defined as a progressive ideal especially seeing that the offering of the All Progressive Congress (APC) is nothing significantly different from what the Peoples Democratic Party has offered to this nation through the last 13 years?
The sight of Tom Ikimi among the progressives is the other sore thumb. Is this not the same Tom Ikimi that was the indefatigable announcer at the vote count in the Eagle Square PDP congress 2003 that gave President Olusegun Obasanjo the ticket to run for his second tenure? But, of course, he is a co-traveller to Muhammadu Buba Marwa who challenged President Obasanjo and must have left that congress grounds bitter with his experience.
'Progressive' in the Nigerian sense refers therefore to any reactionary that lost out in the PDP scheming for power over time. I am surprised that there is a lot of backhand slapping in celebration in the APC enclave because for all we know the difference between the mega party and the ruling party is same as the difference between APC the drug and PANADOL. The Peoples Democratic Party and the All Progressive Congress are one and the same political analgesics, with desire to conquer the nation's headache - political power and the economy.
The best attempt at advancing the development of democracy in Nigeria to my mind was when President Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida split the political make up of the country - a little to the left and a little to the right. That was ingenious and the result was that it produced the first clear paradigm shift in Nigerian politics as the whole nation unanimously gave victory to Chief MKO Abiola, with clear national spread and support for even a Muslim-Muslim ticket. This beauty was however traded for ashes. Babangida was forced by hawks to scuttle this propitious development and we are yet to recover from the political glitch.
To my mind, the opposition as presently apparent is doomed in the absence of an institutionalised two-party situation. Already we see the runners in the All Progressive Congress tripping over the hurdles, for that is what is happening each time a faction in the congregating parties declare that they are not part of the merger. It is obvious, the Peoples Democratic Party in spite of its upheavals will in due time apply pulls at the APC and its multi-coloured flag will shred into smithereens at each seam.
The Congress for Progressive Change, the Action Congress of Nigeria and the ANPP have actively worked to attain the current merger situation, but how far are they from that point on the eve of the 2007 Presidential election, when a merger would have enhanced their chances of victory even at the Presidential polls? Not quite far because the "federating" units in the merger are owned by individuals - the Achilles' heel in the emergent opposition. We see this on one hand, and on the other hand, we see the Peoples Democratic Party an umbrella for corporate interests tenaciously preoccupied by their conquest of power and control of the economy. Given its incumbency and its control of the instruments of power on which depend the conduct of elections, I fail to see how an association such as the APC can dislodge the reigning behemoth.
The social economy also acts to stunt the growth of any opposition. The entire polity leans on Government for economic survival, and once out of it, it becomes impossible to survive the four years of a winner-takes-all tenure, such that by the end of each first term, the opposition is so lingered by lack, that it caves in to the pittance of "follow-follow" - a strong point in the favour of a ruling party.