By Henry Eguridu
Let's get this out of the way. Yes, there is a seemingly new opposition party set up to wrest power out of the grasp of the ruling party. But it's always tempting to draw broad conclusions, to spot themes and trends as people salivate or bellyache about this development (positive or negative).
But sometimes you can rush to judgment. For a start, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has been anything but a democratic side and there have been several attempts at toppling it from its perch. So the confederation and fraternity of opposition parties sounds like a welcome development to the behemoth. And for those besotted with the idea that the flagellation of the All Progressives Congress (APC) will bring to a swift end the years of the PDP, it can also be said that rumors of its demise are decidedly premature.
We have had all sorts of political parties in this country with many of them bordering on the most ridiculous of names coupled with the eccentricity of its founders or the dourness of its candidates. Here is a roll call of some of the unknown quantities -- Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN), All Peoples Liberation Party (APLP), African Renaissance Party (ARP). Then the so-called big boys -- People's Democratic Party (PDP), Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). And if their names are usually a misnomer, then the symbolisms they carry are downright laughable with some using umbrellas, brooms, coins et al.
Who can forget the comical display of then AC when Obasanjo visited Lagos State for a rally? The very next day Bola Tinubu and his acolytes went about sweeping him off Lagos with their brooms signifying that the PDP will never capture Lagos State. Laughable as it was, it was a symptom of the inconsistencies that abides in all of them.
But at no point in our shared history have we had a national party that has been cohesive to draw national appeal. They have all been mostly regional or ethnic parties championed by barons whose view is at best myopic, right from the First Republic down to the current dispensation.
Such parties have had to practice or create an over arching strategy of entering unholy alliances which has created strange bed fellows as characters and personalities who were sworn enemies and held divergent views either came together in a marriage of convenience or perhaps moment of necessity.
But these types of arrangements have never been altruistic, rather these contraptions are not just a means to an end- the capture of political power, tools used to achieve the interest of a small clique of persons who acting in tandem with local and foreign actors mostly rent seeking gladiators who perpetuate the shackles of control over the population. But they first position themselves as fighting in the best interest of the man on the street. And so they go about punting and railing against the perceived order of things, but their selfish interests is always the hidden core.
We seen this played over again. The PDP rose out of the ashes of the G 34 group- group of political leaders, eighteen of them originally and later thirty-four who decided to challenges Abacha and his brinkmanship. The death of Abacha became a living room for the political lot, it was akin to a heavy weight lifted from our collective shoulders, it afforded them to once more freely express themselves. So as groups began to strategize on how to get power, the G 34 easily became the nucleus and rallying point of the associations that formed what is today, the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
In forming this behemoth Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Second Republic Governor of Kano State said "we decided that we are going to form a party that is so big and so popular that everybody will join". What a tragedy.
Peopled by big egos and strong personalities, it was able to attract a huge following not necessarily of Nigerians but of personalities using their networks to advance their personal interests.
With such nebulous statements the party was formed. We have since gone on to see its undemocratic behaviours. Obasanjo at the height of his powers openly and systematically disregarded the basic norms of internal democracy. Imposition was his classical weapon to control the party coupled with his crass disregard for the judicial system.
The PDP has struggled with this ghost since then and Nigerians are disillusioned. The APC's entrance however, tells you more about the frenzy of dissonance than about the real issues of national development.
With the quality of characters coalescing to form this opposition party, we see similarities with the ruling party. It might not be so exact, but it's the oddest of the lot. Conservatives and liberals, progressives and neo-conservatives, supporters of the one of the most cruel dictatorships, serial looters and godfathers, military men and bureaucrats. It's a potpourri of the foulest combination yet. Using the PDP as a template, we see men angling for power, positioning for selfish interests and producing nebulous statements.
What really differentiates the APC from the PDP? The culture of imposition runs in both. What differentiates Tony Anenih from Bola Ahmed Tinubu? Both men are perennial fixers and undertakers.
What differentiates Tom Ikimi from David Mark? The cultivation of "yes" men is a stock in trade of both parties which in itself is alien to democratic tenets. Party members are ostracized or haunted out of the party for expressing genuine dissent when the actions of their own leaders are out of steps with the aspirations of electorate and party members. The coalescing parties have often killed dissent and frustrated independent-minded party members who dared to challenge the god-fathers.
Tinubu on one hand has kept a tight leash on his party the ACN, brooking no dissent. Buhari has not been immune from the disease either. The CPC, under him have also adopted the unjust and undemocratic policy of imposition.
The celebrated case of the imposition of Colonel Lawal Ja'afaru Isa as the CPC gubernatorial candidate for Kano State to replace Mohammed Abacha, who overwhelmingly won the gubernatorial primaries in 2011 was one case in point among others.
We can only imagine what General Buhari could have been if he was president. Would he have been worse than General Obasanjo? Like Obasanjo and the PDP, General Buhari, Bola Tinubu and the elite that make up the APC, there is still inherent disregard for public opinion, let alone, respecting the will of the people.
If the APC wants to be taken seriously then it must act directly opposite to the PDP by doing away completely away with unjust and undemocratic policy of imposition, internal democracy must be the watch word. It must respect the will of the people otherwise it will unravel faster than it was put together.
General Buhari's personal integrity is of no consequence if he and his associates in the APC do not do away with narcissistic and autocratic structural systems and have the moral courage to defend the principle of fair play. Charity they say begins at home. Let's stay engaged