Is the Opposition Really Serious?

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Would there be a better time for the Nigeria opposition to take power than in 2015? I don’t think so. I have my reasons. I’ll start with the issue of “change for change sake”.

It just so happens that in many political climates across the world, voters always want something new at a particular point in time, especially when they believe they are not getting the best from the ruling party. The election becomes a case of “anyone but the ruling party”. It happens so frequently in the US and the UK-even in nearby Ghana and Benin. I think this could be a factor in 2015, except President Goodluck Jonathan pulls a spectacular miracle of solving the key issues around power supply, refineries, subsidies, roads and hospitals. Now, that’s a tall order! Even if Jonathan turns water to wine, he would find it difficult persuading Nigerians to drink it.

My second reason is that the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is perpetually in crisis and a well-organised opposition should be able to take them to the cleaners. The zoning/rotation crisis is still there. If Jonathan decides not to run because of the pressure from the pro-rotation group in the party, he will have the power of incumbency to work against his own party at the election. But if he decides to run, he should expect a terrible backlash from the pro-rotation group who may wish to make the country “ungovernable” for him. The key PDP stalwarts could break away to work for the opposition-or may even choose to stay back in the party and work against Jonathan’s aspiration. No matter the decision Jonathan takes, there is bound to be some ripple effects that should favour the opposition.

But is the opposition serious? That, to me, is the real question. The most confounding breed of politicians since the advent of this era in 1999 is the opposition. One thing I have noticed about them, consistently, is that they love to shout and scream, but when it comes to the nitty-gritty of strategising to take power, they crumble like biscuits trapped in the mouth. They are their own worst enemies. I have concluded many times that some opposition politicians are only interested in relevance. The best way to be noticed and appeased, it seems, is to be in the opposition. I also know that the PDP has infiltrated their ranks, such that some so-called opposition figures are actually working for the party in power. Also, some politicians are in politics for bread and butter and it is very easy to lure them into the party where there is a steady gush of milk and honey.

In 1999, the PDP won 21 states; the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) won nine; and the Alliance for Democracy (AD, technically now Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN), won six. That gave the opposition 15 states. That was something to build on, ahead of the 2003 elections. But what happened? The ANPP chairman, Alhaji Mahmud Waziri (now of blessed memory), was appointed special adviser by President Olusegun Obasanjo and he gladly accepted! How can you, being the chairman of a party controlling nine states, agree to be a presidential aide? What was that about? The case of AD chairman, Alhaji Ahmed Abdulkadir, was even more pathetic: he became Obasanjo’s special assistant without cabinet status. By the 2003 elections, the opposition was in disarray. The AD, playing a purely ethnic game, chose to support Obasanjo in the presidential election. It backfired; the old fox, Obasanjo, captured five of the six AD states for the PDP in governorship election. AD became a one-state party, while the ANPP was reduced to seven states.

By now, the opposition would have been stronger. They would have been in a very good stead to flush out the PDP in 2015 if they had played the game with cohesion and strategic thinking. The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) won 12 states in the presidential election last year. But for the violence and infighting that gave an easy ride to manipulation in the governorship election that followed, CPC would probably boast of 12 governors, instead of one, today. ACN has six states. All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) has two. The Labour Party (LP) has one. ANPP has three. That would have given the opposition parties 24 states to PDP’s 12. But the CPC bottled it with the post-election violence and infighting. Party supporters, obsessed with the idea that it was Gen. Muhammadu Buhari for president or nothing else, tore up their voter cards or simply refused to vote again. CPC could not take advantage of the Buhari build-up. It simply fizzled out. So PDP gained control of 23 states while the opposition controls a mere 13. I’m aware, of course, that LP and APGA are pro-PDP, but a stronger CPC, combined with ACN, would pose a credible challenge to the PDP any day.

The laziest excuse of the opposition is that the PDP always rigs the elections. Of course, PDP rigs. But other parties rig too. Let’s be honest with ourselves. Finance and logistics play a key role in winning elections in Nigeria. PDP had a head start over other parties in 1999 because the military establishment backed them with the needed “logistics”. However, if the opposition had been thinking strategically, they too would have built their own “logistics” by now, 13 years after! The more states you control, the deeper your pocket and the wider your logistical coverage. All it takes is consistency and commitment to the cause. I would love to sing the populist song that PDP is a party of riggers, but I cannot do that in good conscience. It takes more than rigging to win elections in Nigeria. In fact, you must be in a good position to rig. (For goodness sake, I’m not endorsing rigging; just making a point.)

If the opposition continues to scream “rigging, rigging, rigging” rather than develop a strategy to win power, I’m afraid the lamentation will continue till eternity.

And Four Other Things…

Jonathan under Fire

President Goodluck Jonathan has come under fire over his trip to Brazil and his refusal to make public his asset declaration. Some believe he should not have gone to Brazil while Yobe and Kaduna were on fire. Many also argue that by failing to make his assets public, he has failed a basic moral test, even if the law did not make it compulsory. Although the president has tried to defend himself, what I enjoy most in this is that the public is showing more than a passing interest in the activities of the president. You see, it is not all about elections and policies. I love it.

Dasuki’s Task

The new National Security Adviser, Sambo Dasuki, is an unusual choice, having not been a core intelligence person. But long ago, it had been suggested that we needed a Northerner to quench the Boko Haram fire; he is more likely to secure the co-operation of the security complex, which we inherited from the military establishment. Dasuki immediately went to meet with political and community leaders in Borno and Yobe. They received him warmly. That means a lot. The former NSA, Gen. Owoye Azazi, could not have achieved that. My next worry: if we tame Boko Haram and the Niger Delta militants regroup, who would rein them in? Another “Southern” NSA? I think we’re in trouble.

Diezani and PIB

Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs Diezani Alison-Madueke, has raised our hopes again. The all-important Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB), she said, has been submitted to the president. It should be with the National Assembly in two weeks. We don’t know the contents of the “revised version” yet but we still assume the PIB is intended to change the way things are done in the oil industry. It must run like real business, like banking and telecoms. Nigeria and Nigerians must benefit more from these resources legitimately. Put simply, Alison-Madueke must push these reforms through. We’re watching…

Brotherhood Indeed

Mohammed Mursi was yesterday sworn in as Egypt’s first civilian, democratically elected president. His party, Muslim Brotherhood-which had been at the receiving end of state persecution for decades-won the popular election after the fall of Hosni Mubarak, former president of the world’s biggest Arab nation. With an Islamic party in charge of the country now, should Egypt’s 8 million Christians be afraid? No, says Mursi-who has, in fact, promised to appoint a woman and a Coptic Christian as his vice-presidents. Now that is the spirit, brother!

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