In this piece GABRIEL EMAMEH x-ray’s the intrigues surrounding the coalition of political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
The July 7 multi-political party coalition involving PDP, rAPC, a faction of the nPDP and no less than 30 others, re-enacted what some have described as an already ‘‘existing trend’’ in Nigerian politics; the politics of merger or coalition, depending on the nature and circumstances leading to the political agreement. The mission of the PDP-led coalition is primarily to oust the APC-led administration.
But while that arrangement was being concretised, another coalition, tending towards the APC was hatched. In this camp comprising 20 parties, are some who were not in the list of parties who signed the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) but claimed that they have pulled out of the pro-PDP alliance. For these set of parties, the resolve is to ensure the APC-led administration gets another term in office.
As such, ahead of 2019, the bulk of the 68 political parties have grouped themselves behind either of the the two major parties, APC and PDP. But the nature of these alliances bare a clear semblance to how most of these same parties aligned behind either the PDP or the APC in the build up to the 2015 general elections. The ‘smaller parties’ had split themselves behind the two major parties during the debate over whether or not the 2015 general election should hold in February as scheduled by INEC.
Although the scenario is different now, the concerns have remained the same for analysts, who wonder whether the core values, norms, practices and purpose of the parties coming together to form an alternative government will be sustainable enough to serve the interest of the people.
This situation readily brings to view the nature of the APC formation. The 2013 merger of ACN, CPC, nPDP, ANPP and a faction of APGA that formed the ruling APC is still struggling to take root largely because of the failure of the party structures to properly blend along lines of common values of governance on the one hand and the inability to address individual ambitions on the other hand.
The belief in some quarters is that events from the last four years reinforce the perception that mergers or coalitions have always been driven by the tendency to get power over and above party ideology and programmes.
As such, while some pundits view the burgeoning alliance with little or no enthusiasm based on the antecedent of the current breed of political actors, others aver that the incumbent administration which enjoyed the backing of same political actors is yet to meet the expectations of the masses.
‘‘Going by history, I do not see anything good coming out of the so called coalition or whatever they call it’’, said Retson Tedheke, a social commentator.
‘‘Look at the faces leading the coalition. Are they not the same people who could not manage the country at the best opportunity they had to salvage it? Are they not the same faces who left the former ruling party to form the APC? What were there reasons? They said PDP was corrupt and had failed Nigerians- the same reason the same people are still giving to Nigerians about the APC.
‘‘What does that tell an average mind? These men have no clear political ideology but power mongers who want to continue to remain politically relevant. You heard one of them saying when they were signing the CUPP MoU, that he would rather remain politically relevant than committing a political acrobatic.
‘‘To me, they are broke and want to remain politically relevant, added Tedhke who noted that the coalition may be another fraud as most of the political parties involved, even if were registered, are shadows.”
Citing the political engagements between 1962 and 1966 and others that followed, Mr. Andrew Johnson, a teacher, told LEADERSHIP Sunday that all political marriages, both past and present, were primarily knotted for the sole purpose of power politics and less about the welfare of the people.
‘‘This will continue to be the bane of political and democratic development in the country as long as our political class continue to put the cart before the horse’’, he said.
Some have blamed the situation on the political culture laid down by the founding fathers of the country’s democracy, citing the purposes and manner in which political merger were formed in the past and why they failed.
Coalition in the first republic
The incidents and circumstances leading to formation and collapse of political party’s coalitions or mergers are not far fetched from what is obtainable in the polity today. The 1959 parliamentary elections held to elect the first post-independence national government in October 1960 were inconclusive because there was no clear cut winner as the NPC won 142 seats, the NCNC 89 seats and AG, 73 seats.
None of these parties including NPC with 142 was able to meet 2 /3 majority seats required to form government. This however necessitated the need to form a coalition government which would enjoy a comfortable majority in the House of Representatives; hence NPC/NCNC formed an accord.
Due to breach of trust and high power politics, two years after the coalition, the coalition between NPC and NCNC became a marriage of strange bed fellows. The political scheming and manipulation in the relationship manifested by NPC flagrant violation of most agreements made was believed to have threatened the very existence of the nation in the subsequent years.
As part of the preparation for the 1964 federal elections in the First Republic the NCNC and AG consummated their understanding by forming what was known as United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) as a counterpoise to the Northern People Congress (NPC) which similarly established Nigerian National Alliance (NNA) with Nigeria National Democratic Party (NNPP) and others. Again, the NPC led NNA dominated the political scene. The UPGA merger failed because the leaders of the merger did not reach a compromise on the choice of who would lead the party.
In a semblance to the politicking in the previous republic, the NPN, just like the NPC, dominated the Second Republic.
Alhaji Shehu Shagari won the presidency, defeating Azikiwe in what was described as a controversial margin with his party, NPN also clinching 36 of 95 Senate seats, 165 of 443 House of Representatives seats and took control of seven states, which included: Sokoto, Niger, Bauchi, Benue, Cross River, Kwara, and Rivers respectively.
NPN however lost the governorship of Kaduna State, but secured control of the Kaduna legislature. It also failed in its bid to win Kano, which deprived it having the majority in either the Senate or House of Representatives.
Consequently, it was left with no choice but to go into a political marriage with the NPP, the successor of the NCNC, the old coalition partner of the NPC.
The NPP had three states (Anambra, Imo, and Plateau), 16 Senate seats and 78 House of Representatives seats. With this number and the coalition with the NPN both parties had a majority in both chambers of the National Assembly.
Invariably, there were clashes of interests between the two parties which saw the NPN calling the shots in most situations even at the expense of the alliance of both parties. The constant rift was believed to have further undermined the strength of the coalition.
While the Third Republic was hailed as the perhaps the golden moment in Nigerians democratic and political party experience, it was cut short by antics of the military hierchy at the time. However in the build up to the 1999 elections, a number of political associations fused into forming the PDP. Political groups like PDM, People’s Front came together to birth the PDP.
But the significant alliance that has so far defined this republic is that of the APC. The cosy affair involving the CPC, nPDP, ANPP, and faction of APGA was consummated and eventually metamorphosed into APC. While they edged out the PDP, the parties never had it smooth again as the scramble to form the government began. Power tussle, personality rifts, appointment saga, and selfish ambitions got in the way.
The last minute Intervention.
For many pundits, the reality or otherwise of the PDP-led coalition will depend largely on the actions of the APC leadership vis-a-vis it’s ability to ensure that it’s members don’t defect.
Just three years after its formation the APC finds itself dividing along lines of the Buba Galadima led rAPC in cahoots with the nPDP.
The aggrieved members had persistently complained of being sidelined and harassed and intimidated by their government.
The lingering face-off between state governors and federal lawmakers of the party, culminated in the frictions that trailed the APC wards, local government and states congresses and perhaps the June 23 national convention in Abuja.
But in an apparent move to forestall the reported planned defection of some party big wigs ahead of the 2019 general election, President Muhammadu Buhari last week met behind closed doors with Senate President Bukola Saraki and some governors of the All Progressives Congress ( APC ) at the presidential villa. The governors at the meeting were Ibikunle Amosun ( Ogun ) , Atiku Bagudu ( Kebbi ) , Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara) and Aminu Bello Masari ( Katsina ).
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo and Ekiti State governor- elect , Kayode Fayemi , were also at the meeting . The meeting had as part of its agenda the speculated defection of the Senate President to the PDP.
It was learnt that the meeting was convened at the instance of President Buhari who invited Saraki to discuss issues bordering on reports suggesting that he was planning to dump the APC.
A source at the meeting told our correspondent that the president demanded to know from Saraki whether he was planning to defect and what his reasons were if it was true.
The source who did not want his name in print said, “ President Buhari is the leader of the party and as such would not fold his hands and watch very important and influential members leave the party . So , he spoke to the Senate president concerning his purported planned defection and told him why the action might spell danger for the APC and the polity ahead of the 2019 general polls . “
The governors at the meeting also tried to convince Saraki to see reason why leaving the party at this time would not augur well for the change agenda and the polity. They reminded Saraki of how central and vital he was to the APC government , and I think the Senate president may have seen reason with them , though his stance was still not clear as at the time the meeting ended” .
When approached by journalists , Saraki who arrived the presidential villa at about 4: 18 pm declined comments on the crux of the meeting when approached by State House correspondents.
But the meeting was very instructive as it comes against the backdrop of alliance between the nPDP which Saraki belongs to, and the PDP. But the intrigues escalated last week as rAPC members met with the leaders of the PDP in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital last Wednesday.
Although the rAPC leaders were said to have gone to the state to commiserate with leader of the new PDP, Alhaji Abubakar Baraje , who lost his mother recently , it was learnt that a meeting was held to consolidate the return of the new PDP /rAPC into the PDP.
Those who attended the meeting were Senate President Saraki and PDP national chairman , Prince Uche Secondus , who led members of the party’ s National Working Committee ( NWC ) . Governors at the meeting included Samuel Ortom ( Benue ) , Aminu Tambuwal ( Sokoto ) and Abdulfatah Ahmed ( Kwara ) and Nyesom Wike ( Rivers) .
Pundits await to next line of action for Saraki and other rAPC members in the coming days.
But which ever way it goes, the struggle for political power among the leaders of the parties that formed alliances has always led to frictions, inevitable as they may seem. It was always difficult to arrive at a compromise on the flag bearer of the merged political parties. This has often led to division and eventual collapse of the mergers shortly after their inaugurations, analysts have said.
‘‘This trend will continue to be the cog in wheel of the nation’s political and democratic development, the strength and development of political parties, especially merged parties, into mega parties capable of providing alternative government to the people who are often at the receiving end’’, said Efe T Williams, a political analyst.
He however maintained that making references to the past does not necessarily mean that merger or coalition ‘‘cannot work if there are genuine reasons among parties to the alliance and there are ideological compatibility, respect and understanding of each other’s ethnic and political value, transparency and astute leadership’’.
But quite significant too is the culture of defections by politicians which is seriously taking a toll on the strength and development of parties.
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