In Nigeria, elections are considered as events rather than a process. Probably in line with this notion, political parties usually go to sleep as soon as elections are over. Against this background, GABRIEL EWEPU takes a look at how opposition parties in Nigeria negate their primary role of providing vibrant and objective criticism on the activities of the ruling party.
it has become a sort of tradition in Nigeria’s political terrain for political parties to evaporate after elections, and nobody hears about them until another round of elections. They tend to be awake when they are gradually putting their activities together; organising kangaroo conventions, coming out with stooge candidates for the elections, embarking on shabby campaigns with confused manifestoes, and form ungodly alliances.
Carefully taking a look at the scenario of every election conducted by the Independent Electoral Commission (INEC) since May 1999, it has been a known fact that political parties and their candidates only flex their muscles during campaigns to intimidate their opponents with manifestoes, personality profiles of candidates, parading their financial strength and paid supporters.
Most of these political parties are mere shadows of themselves as they are out to show-off with largely unexplainable characters, ideologies, claims concerning their intents and capabilities, but all the much ado ends after the election.
In the April 2012 general elections, over 50 registered political parties by INEC participated, but they were not known to be in the race because they were not out to convince the people and grab their votes. More or less their impact was not felt before, during and after the elections.
It is pertinent to ask why political parties in Nigeria easily lose their bearing after elections as they disappear from the political radar? Critically examining these mushroom political parties with their appearing and disappearing syndrome, it is traceable to the poor political ideology and concept formulated by some of the founders who do not understand the intrigues involved in the political process, and have failed to maximise the experience as politicians. It has made most of the parties to end their political struggle at the point of contesting elections. This has been the case since 1999, and was also repeated that in 2011.
The basic approach to campaigns by parties has been a challenge to their success in general elections. Most of these parties fail to have a grand strategy to effectively campaign and enlighten the electorates, and win their votes because they do not know the ideology, mandate, manifesto, and candidates of these parties. Moreover, these parties do not have offices at the state capitals and campaign directors at the state, local, ward and unit levels to effectively register their presence and be known by the electorates.
When political parties go to sleep after elections, it is obvious that most of them do not have any good political ideology to keep them afloat to continue. Some of the ideologies of political parties in Nigeria are not well articulated for their members to understand, because most of these ideologies do not have bearing with the socio-economic realities in the country. Even when such ideologies are explained, the electorates hardly understand them because they are alien to them. The question is, how many political parties can present in clear terms their ideologies, and how many Nigerians understand them?
Over 30 years, Nigeria’s political system was subjected by the military. In 1998 and subsequent years, some these military men metamorphosed into politicians and founded political parties. Most of them now are political dictators, who do not consider the interests of other members, because they are the financiers of the party who discard internal democracy to select stooges who are also unpopular to contest elections, and at the end the party fails to win. This has been a serious challenge in the murky waters of Nigerian politics as a selected few override the opinion of others, and it has made internal democracy to be weak, thereby making its members to decamp to other parties, and eventually the party goes to perpetual sleep.
Most political parties become silent because they easily compromise their ideologies and roles as opposition parties. The reason is because most of them lack the integrity to stick to their stance on some salient political issues as it affects the citizenry. When they consider their selfish gains in participating in governance, it tends to contradict the earlier statements made against the ruling parties. This has been the bane of politics in Nigeria, which has not helped to strengthen democratic tents of the country’s democracy. That is why the voice of the opposition is not heard as expected. A proverbial statement says that if an individual deficates on the road he or she followed, to return on that same way becomes difficult, because of the irritating odour from the excreater.
Some of these parties sleeping today were the hope of the ‘common’ Nigerian when they started initially, but now the drum beat has changed as the dance steps are no longer the same. Every offer for forming a unity government after elections by the ruling party is hurriedly accepted without shame; they even lobby for some so-called juicy position in the cabinet with the names of their candidates. The ruling party has always used this strategy to silence most of these sleeping political parties, including the bigger opposition parties who also comfortably share in the ‘loot’.
This was the case in 2007, when late Alhaji Musa Yar’Adua of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP)said he was forming a unity government after some days he was sworn-in as the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. He called on the opposition to be part of the government, as he realised that they were out to go to any length to unseat him through legal means, because of the alleged massive electoral fraud that characterised the elections that brought PDP to power, which Yar’adua himself acknowledged during the inauguration of his government after the 2007 elections. To the surprise of Nigerians, the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) was among the political parties that accepted to be part of the Yar’Adua led government. Despite the acceptance by some of the ANPP leadership, one man stood out, Gen Muhammadu Buhari who was its presidential candidate refused to accept it, even ignored the persuasion of the leadership to drop his suit challenging the election of Yar’Adua at the tribunal. As a result he was left alone to continue the case, and eventually he left the party with his supporters to form the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). Nigerians have not been hearing the voice of ANPP criticising the ruling party as it had been doing.
In the past, several alliances by political parties have been formed to outwit the ruling party which became futile, because at the end they had failed to reach a compromise, and also failed to continue for the fear of dominance and the battle for supremacy. When such fruitless alliances are formed, it affects the bases of the parties to remain relevant in the political arena. The alliances are with an ulterior motive to silence others who have begun to win the hearts of the people, and are becoming a dominant force in some parts of the country. Eventually, they disappear in silence.
The Nigerian democracy has continued to suffer a serious deficiency in its growth as it lacks the nutrient of a strong opposition to accelerate its growth and development from the multitude of political parties; therefore this has made the ruling party to always have an easy ride during and after elections. In fact, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo said that PDP will continue to be in power beyond 2020. It is an indication that political parties on the other side of the divide are appendages to the PDP, who serves as an extension of the party.
It is becoming glaringly clear that the Nigerian democratic system is tilting towards a one party democratic state, where the opposition parties are part of its band-wagon. The slumber of the political parties will continue as they persist in endorsing candidates from the ruling party and decamping only to join them.
It is not strange for the multitude of parties to remain comfortable with the political situation in the country, because majority of them are mere stooges to the ruling party, as they are formed to ungodly enjoy the subvention from INEC, and are out to seek political appointments and contracts, and serves as instruments of election manipulation.
The deep sleep befalling most political parties in the country is as a result of selling their birth-right to the ruling party for a pot of red pottage. Most of them also lack sense of discipline and integrity. They also lack ideas to enlighten the people to change their perception about them, whereby they can win their hearts and mandate in subsequent elections, as a result of no early preparation to elections.