Category: sunday column Written by Murtala OPoola Hits: 3343
Many would be gladdened that effort by other political parties to present a united front and coalesce into one formidable party that would stand toe to toe and as they say, look the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the eye and dare it, has at long last materialized. Named All Progressives Congress (APC), the promoters include the Action Congress of Nigeria, easily about the largest party in the merger enterprise because it is in power in all the states in the South West, except Ondo state, where the Labour Party is in control. There are also the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) which is in power in Kogi and Zamfara states; the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). The spokesman at the announcement of the merger, Mr Tom Ikimi told newsmen that he expected more parties to join the new party.You do not have to be a card carrying member of any of these parties to know that they stood no chance in unseating the PDP at the centre if they remained the way they were – small groupings controlling small enclaves, sometimes as in the case of the ACN with intense ethnic following. Whereas on its part, the PDP which commenced as a huge nationwide movement at inception prior to the 1999 elections, has continued to consolidate on its spread across the nation and positioned itself as a veritable pan-Nigeria as opposed to sectional party with sympathy across the nation. It is understandable therefore to expect PDP’s superior nationwide structure to always translate into electoral advantage over the other smaller parties whose appeals are only strong in the enclaves they control. Though sometimes this assumption encouraged the PDP to take matters into its own hands by seeking to win in a ‘’do or die’’ manner, for example, its dubious ‘’victories’’ in Ekiti and Ondo states in 2011 had to be reversed by election tribunals in favour of ACN candidates.
Now that the realization has dawned that the PDP’s stranglehold on power at the centre can only be broken if the other parties showed a seriousness to band together as one equally strong party, Nigeria’s democracy may be entering a new and interesting phase which would mean parties win or lose on the strength of their performance. Political pundits have always held that in Nigeria political parties tend to evolve and coalesce toward the emergence of two dominant parties; this notion influenced the then military strongman, General (RTD) Ibrahim Babangida to create the National Republican Convention (NRC) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and told politicians to fall in line according to their choices. It was thought that by creating two major parties under which the 1993 elections were fought, Babangida was merely helping the political process to cut short a tortuous route to the eventual formation of a two- party system. Its abortion denied the country the opportunity of witnessing how it would have played out.
It is also believed he pre-empted the political process with the two parties because he feared the emergence of a party espousing radical views capable of galvanizing the Nigerian people whom at that time had grown tired of military rule and the cul de sac it had ran the country into. This point is lent credence by Babangida’s famous ‘’no undue radicalism’’ warning to those angling to take over from him, and in the way he designed it, the NRC was supposed to be ideologically a ‘’little to the right’’ while the SDP a ‘’little to the left’’. But then he needn’t have bothered or worried about radical taking power through the ballot, because by that time the ranks of the ‘’left’’ both in politics and in the academia had been thoroughly compromised and discredited, as Babangida himself saw to it that most of them, particularly those from the academia were co-opted into his government, given choice portfolios or government agencies to superintend and proceeded to look the other way when they helped themselves generously to huge unearned money. And so the modest gains made by the emergence of radical governments in Kaduna and Kano states under Balarabe Musa and late Abubakar Rimi in earlier civilian dispensation in 1983 couldn’t be sustained.
The APC, if it is able to clear the electoral commission’s hurdle of registration would now give effect to making Nigeria a country of two dominant parties. The reason many people are enthused that this time around these parties were able to bring their merging ambition to fruition is that now another equally strong party and hopefully with wide acceptability is about to emerge. Hopes of Nigerians were dashed when an earlier plan of these parties to prosecute the 2011 elections under one umbrella had floundered badly, ostensibly over who would become its flag bearer and what name it would be called, thereby paving a roller coaster way for the PDP to win victory at the polls. Apparently this time around, better counsel that individual and group interests should be subsumed under the collective and noble one of giving the long suffering Nigerians a credible alternative in those to govern them, was heeded.
The PDP has had control at the centre for more than a decade now; it is regrettable that the power in its possession and the huge resources it commands had not amounted to much in terms of over all development. As the years went by, its members grew more and more arrogant with some of them telling Nigerians that the party would rule till eternity, whether they liked it or not. So arrogant was one former president that he even attempted to subvert the Constitution by scheming to run for a third term, in the process popularizing the term ‘’do or die,’’ which in plain language of the man on the street means winning at the polls by hook or crook. That statement, it must be underscored, was most unstatemanly to issue forth from one that had ruled over Nigeria.
Under PDP’s watch, virtue was thrown to the dogs as corruption and impunity took centre stage, with no concerted action to combat them. Those who steal billions are merely given a slap on the wrist in form of light sentences by the courts or through plea bargaining most of them go virtually scot free after forfeiting a miniscule of the loot and there after laugh all the way to their banks. Meanwhile, the poor man found in possession of a goat is clamp in jail and the keys thrown away, literally into the ocean, left to rut and die in incarceration. Such is Nigeria today. Naturally, all this has given rise to an unwholesome sense of cant and catch as catch can, and totally torpedoed cherished mores upon which society has been built over the years. Any wonder therefore that Nigeria is threatened by all manner of anti-social and criminal undertakings, including armed insurrection, armed robberies, kidnappings and extortions etc. that have made it a laughing stock in the eyes of the world.
Hence, an alternative strong party capable of wrenching power from the vice-like holds of the PDP in order to put the country on firm road to moral and ethical regeneration is most imperative. It is necessary to strengthen democracy as well as building a virile economy.