GABRIEL EMAMEH, in this report, assesses the preparation of the opposition parties ahead of 2019
The 2019 general election is shaping up to be one of the most keenly contested polls in the history of Nigeria. As political awareness of the voting class keeps increasing by the day, watchers expect that it would reflect in the outcomes of the forthcoming general elections.
The agitation for a fresh political movement to herald a post-2019 government is getting loud. The yearning for this ideological shift seems to be gaining traction. This, according to pundits, might not be unconnected with the notion that the people are tired of the current political system as they now perceive the two leading parties, the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as almost the same.
The clamour for fresh hands to run the nation’s affair has been said to be influenced by the desire to stop the recycling of politicians who have sustained themselves and their cronies in the corridors of power for decades.
Former Minister of Education, Dr Oby Ezekwesili, has in one of her recent tweets, ruled out the PDP as an alternative while discrediting the ruling APC, saying they are birds of same feather.
“It is neither APC nor its twin brother. Yes, how does 6 differ from half a dozen?” she tweeted.
The former minister might have struck a raw nerve just as the ruling APC continues its battle to fulfil some of its campaign promises. More so, the ruling party has been accused of same actions, or inactions, for which it had in the past, criticised the former ruling party, the PDP.
The recent visit of the APC governors to President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, amid terrorist attacks, had recently stirred up fresh criticisms among Nigerians from all shades against the party.
They queried the timing of the visit, saying that the action of these governors portrayed them as prioritising the party’s desire to remain in power beyond 2019.
The scenario seem like a déjà vu of sorts, as the APC had in the build up to 2015 general elections, criticised former President Goodluck Jonathan, for opting to continue with a political rally in Kano State despite a major attack in Yobe State.
Second Republic Lawmaker, Junaid Muhammed, who has constantly remained a Buhari critic on the killings in some parts of the country under his watch, had again condemned the president and the APC states governors over their insensitivity on the killings in Zamfara State.
Kassim Afegbua, spokesperson to former military president, Ibrahim Babangida, who has recently become a critic to the Buhari administration, had also tongue lashed the APC government for its lack of value for human lives.
Afegbua, who is also a former commissioner of Information in Edo State, said such act is enough for him to withhold his vote in 2019.
According to Afegbua who wrote on his facebook page: “They were burying 73 victims in Benue, my president was having dinner with already overfed APC chieftains. They were burying 41 victims in Zamfara, my president was having talks with APC governors.
’’Trump addressed America over 17 victims of a gunman. Actually it may not be about age, but value system, exposure and leadership style. There is no value for human life in this clime. And the government of President Buhari is making matters worse. Do you need further evidence why I should not withhold my vote in 2019?”, asked Afebgua.
But the APC is also battling to evade a looming tsunami that may sweep it out of power in 2019 due to the myriad of internal crises within its fold across the states. Signs that the Presidency was worried over the situation manifested when it commissioned the APC national leader, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, to embark on a peace and reconciliation mission in the party.
The internal party crisis however seems to be escalating, despite Tinubu’s frantic reconciliatory efforts. The recent imbroglio in the Kaduna State chapter of the APC comes to mind.
Some power brokers who are no longer comfortable with the way the party is managed are half way out of it.
But, despite the current challenges of the APC, whether the opposition can muscle out the ruling party in 2019 is another matter. Some pundits opined that the PDP and other political parties seem ill-prepared, considering the time frame to the general elections.
It is less than a year to the country’s general elections, the opposition political parties in the country still appear to be hibernating, barely hoping to capitalize on the mistakes of the ruling party.
While smaller opposition parties barely get heard of, the former ruling PDP which is projected to lead the takeover is seen by some analysts as being yet to bring on board anything new to assuage their taste for alternative leadership.
There have not been roadmaps to convince Nigerians that they can provide an alternative. They have not been able to give convincing reasons to sway the loyalty of some Nigerians away from their tents and even to those who still remain.
Although some political parties are planning a coalition or merger, the inability of the opposition to put out a purposeful driven opposition gives room for scepticisms.
With the merger that brought the APC to power, still grappling to address the daunting challenges it promised to tackle within time lines, the suspension is rife that some of the political parties, now proposing to come together are only out to get a grip of power as the interest of the people still remain secondary.
“How altruistic is whatever alliances that will emerge be? An alliance for power sake or one that thinks Nigerians will give them second thought?” an opinion leader, Efe T. Williams, had asked.
What if the coalition works, with less than a year to the general election what time have they to address and harmonise the differences in their parties manifestos? If the APC which was formed two years before the 2015 general elections failed to harmonise before the kick-off of the Buhari led administration leaving the party divided along lines of the individual parties, what difference would others make in less than a year, analysts have asked.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND, the acting National Chairman of Justice Must Prevail Party, Mr. Segun Ijagbemi, said Nigerians must understand that playing the opposition, particularly for newly registered political parties is very difficult.
He said, “It is a very difficult tax for a new party to just come from nowhere and be able to confront a ruling party all over Africa. Before they can make the public to hear them, it costs a lot of money.
’’We have been going from newspaper house to newspaper house nobody has ever published our stories. Not even a single minute has been given to us on television. These are examples of the limit to the chances of the opposition party coming up.
“But what JMPP is bringing on board is a unique one. It is like the story of David that was never reckoned with. When he even told the people that he could confront Goliath, he was never taken serious but when he came out, he could not use all the armouries Goliath had but stones and a sling.”
He said his party was willing to work with all the political parties, including the APC but that must come under oath taken involving the Bible or the Quran. “This is the formula adopted by the JMPP to be able guide people to resist temptation to steal,” he said.
Also speaking with LEADERSHIP WEEKEND in an exclusive interview, Comrade Ali Abacha, National Coordinator, Coalition of Civil Society Groups and Transparency and Good Governance, said from his personal observation he doubted if the PDP or other forces coming together are anywhere close to seriousness.
“Less than a year to the 2019 elections, none of them has fully come out to show some level of seriousness in that regard. With this kind of poor showmanship, it would be very difficult for them to take power from the ruling party. They are not ready. I don’t know if they are jittering or so.
’’As for the plan for coalition or merger, he said ’’they are very late. You could recall during the merger of those political parties like CPC, ACN, APGA and others, they had prepared themselves more than two years before the general elections, said Comrade Abacha who maintained his scepticism over the oppositions chances to wrestle power from the ruling APC.
“Their coalition will not make any serious impact to take over power from the APC. If you look at it, despite the crisis in the APC, they are more organised than them both at the state and national levels.
“From my own observation, it is too late for the day”, said Abacha who insisted that the minimum preparation for any coalition or merger to work in a complex society like Nigerians, is two years to give them time to ’’make amendments on parties’ manifestos, sharing formula, consultation with stakeholders of parties in the 36 states and 774 local government areas of the country.
“They are late but this is democracy. You cannot stop people from exercising their constitutional rights because at the end of the day the bulk falls on the table of the electorate who will decide their fates through the ballot,” he added.
On the former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s Third Force Movement, Abacha said it was an act to sabotage the effort of the present administration. He said Obasanjo was acting out of frustration because he had been denied attention to speak with the President.
According to him, “Obasanjo came out because of a little misunderstanding. There was a report that he gathered and he wanted them to come in and make their inputs but the President declined. He couldn’t bear it, so he went ahead and wrote this letter.
“That was unlike of a statesman who had independently run the affairs of this country. While his advice is still very welcome, he should allow Buhari the freedom to run his own administration.”
Mr Efe T. Williams, Coordinator FirstForce Movement and Director of Logistics, Foundation Against Fraud, Indiscipline and Corruption said to “have a strong opposition in a democracy is hinged on a cohesive, organized and forward looking party. The PDP today cannot offer the same opposition APC provided. The party is marred by unending crisis.
“Going into an election year with so much mistrust, internal wrangling, impositions, divisions etc., it will be a political miracle for the opposition PDP to present an acceptable candidate to wrestle power from the sitting APC government.”
He said it was obvious that the opposition, particularly the PDP with millions of its members could not single out one head to fly the party’s banner in less than a year to the much talked-about general elections.
“Who amongst the PDP members would Nigerians so quickly trust? For 16 inglorious years, the party ruled the country in reverse, everything normal was absent. Rather, Nigeria was thrown into the cesspool of unimaginable corruption, the nation was on a life support and the consequences are what Nigerians suffering today.
“In summary, two things destroyed the opposition party’s hope of presenting a presidential candidate, one year into election: PDP’s 16 years misrule and the fear of standing against Buhari.
“In a sound democratic clime with good opposition, the APC would have been running helter-skelter to do things a little better and organised. For now, Nigeria does not have any opposition party, for the PDP is an absurd umbrella of failures.
“Of course, the APC government is filled will challenges and it has made some inexcusable mistakes, but offering alternative answers can only come from an opposition that has prepared itself well and has the requisite integrity.”
On the plans for merger, he said only those who believe in miracle would see any emerging workable alliance in the horizon.
He said, “Mainly because the conditions prevalent before the merger of the APC are not there today. First there are not enough established parties like ACN, ANPP and CPC to form a viable merger in such a short period and there’s no credible figure like Buhari to rally round.
“By the way, which parties will be forming the coalition? Hope not the dead on arrival Obasanjo’s coalition of irredeemable.”
According to Williams going by the history of alliance, merger or coalition, it takes time to bear fruit, it takes sacrifices to have headway and that is a sacrifice the opposition in our clime are not ready to make because grapping power is their primary objective.
“Moreover, how altruistic will whatever alliances that will emerge be? An alliance for power sake or one that thinks Nigerians will give them second thought.
“INEC has rolled out the election timetable; it is left for the party to adhere to the schedules by conducting their primaries within the confines of stipulated laws. For anyone considering an alliance at this time, I wish them luck,” he said.
As it stands, the APC as the ruling party may be banking on two advantages. One, it has in its control all the government machineries and resources to influence the outcome of the presidential election.
Secondly, despite the alleged failing popularity of President Buhari, who no doubt would most likely be the party’s favourite to fly its flag in the next presidential election, he still controls a sizeable population in the North where the party would be banking on again to coast to victory.
However, with the heaps of crises in the country, opinion polls continue to show that the APC may not have it easy this time. From all indications, it is still dicey to rule out the opposition even if their grandstanding looks dampening.
Thus the opposition, led by the PDP must come up with something new to prove to Nigerians that it is not going to be business as usual. They must prove to Nigerians that they are fit to offer the alternative to save the country from its current woes.
Analysts have continued to hype on the fact that the major tripod upon which the APC came to power is security, economy and anti-corruption and these have been largely tackled to some extent.
They said what the opposition should understand is that the difference at play is the trust most Nigerians may have for President Muhammadu Buhari, though the President may have his shortcomings in other areas.
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