FRANCIS OKOYE, writes on the dwindling fortunes of the opposition in Borno State over the years
The taste of democracy is in the involvement of citizens in governance, either through the ruling party or credible opposition to make government accountable to its actions.
Borno as a state from the inception of democracy has been yearning for a credible opposition, which has eluded it due to its nature of politics and character of some of the political class.
The bandwagon politics that characterised the state has not been able to put the various governments that had ruled it on toes to bring out the best in governance to the citizens.
From the inception of democracy in 1999 , three political parties had held sway to power in Borno with the All Peoples Party (APP) first leading before it was transformed to the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) which metamorphosed into the present day All Progressives Congress (APC).
While power kept rotating between these parties, the Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP ) had remained the major opposition party in the state from the 1999 to date, despite its inability to provide credible opposition to government of the various parties that ruled and is ruling the state.
The PDP almost made its way to taking over power in 2011 when it fielded a former governor of the state in the second republic, Mohammed Goni, but that chance was marred by intra party squabble and self injury inflicted on the party by moles said to have been planted by the party in power then.
Infact, in the 2011 election, PDP won the senatorial seat for the Borno central, the House of Representatives and two seats of the state House of Assembly, but prior to the 2015 election, all the PDP candidates that won the election decamped to the APC.
Apart from decamping saga that weakens the major opposition in Borno, the party is in the habit of factional crisis erupting within its fold when election period beckons.
Thus, rather than concentrating and mobilising for the election, time is usually wasted on litigation among factions of the party, thereby clearing the coast for the ruling party.
A typical example was in the just concluded 2019 general election where the two factions of the PDP in the state, held primary elections same day in same street along old GRA Maiduguri.
Also, despite the 16 years of holding on to power at the federal level, the PDP has been playing opposition in Borno state, even though that role as opposition party never manifested within the party, owing to the fact that immediately after each election, some party members quickly align themselves to party in power for parochial interests.
So, while the party might be putting blame on the ruling party for its woes in Borno state, political pundits are of the view that the PDP is always nursing self inflicted injuries.
A business Man and politician in the state, Alhaji Ahmed Ashemi who bared his mind on the political development in Borno and the need for credible opposition, noted that any government in power which has no opposing party or powerful individuals that are there to criticise and offer advises will only work the way they feel their whims and caprices dictate to them.
According to Alhaji Ashemi, in Borno, since 1999, the governments that held sway, that is about four governors that had ruled including the present governor, all of them have no external opposition except elements within their own party.
He said for instance, from 1999 to 2003 when Alhaji Mala Kachalla ruled and “I was part of that government “ May his soul rest in peace “, his main opposition came from his own All Peoples Party ( APP ) not opposition from other parties.
“And whenever you see a situation where there are intra – party oppositions, it is not based on issues that will improve governance, but is based on issues of lack of inclusivity and so on and you see, this type of opposition doesn’t add much value to governance
“And after Mala Kachalla , we had a totalitarian eight years of regime of Ali Modu Sheriff, who by nature is contempressor to any opposition, who was so ruthless in dealing with any opposition either directly, overtly or covertly and those eight years was spent by stifling of every opposition outside or inside his party by using forces such as youth thugs or in some cases, he used established law enforcement mechanisms of the state to stifle any opposition.
“And after him came another eight years of former governor Kashim Shettima now a senator, who is more compassionate, more tactful and diplomatic in dealing with opposition. Shettima dealt with opposition through carrot and stick, but with more of carrot than stick. So he was able to rule without any serious opposition.
“And now , we are just beginning the era of prof. Babagana Umara Zulum. His style is yet to manifest, time will tell. But in his own case , I think of all the governors that held sway even as from second republic and so on , I don’t think there is any one governor who came into power with majority acceptance by the people of the state like Zulum, irrespective of party affiliation, religion or ethnic group.
“ So how he is going to take advantage of this situation to provide good governance and succeed in his mission is going to be determined first, by his disposition to power and then , it is going to also be determined by people he brings on board to help him to govern the state . So in abridged form, this is what happened between 1999 to date as far as opposition in Borno state is concerned ,” Alhaji Ashemi said.
While further stating the reason credible opposition is lacking among political parties in Borno and other places in the country, the business mogul cum politician said this is because peoples source of livelihood and their umbilical cord is tied to government.
Ashemi noted that due to poverty and lack of basic needs there is very little formidable opposition to the government because everybody will be struggling to see what to grab from that government despite coming into power through any means.
“And therefore, nobody who expects to benefit something from a government will oppose that government because everybody will turn his or her attention on what to eat from that government. And in Borno state, the party that could have provided credible opposition is the PDP .
“Now the PDP having got good leaders could have provided the opposition because if the PDP have been in power at the centre for 16 years , they could have become more emboldened and courageous, but when you are picked as minister from your state and you don’t come back to empower your people, they will turn their loyalty elsewhere,” he noted.
Reacting on how it has failed to provide credible opposition to the state despite its relevance since inception of democracy, the Chairman of the PDP in Borno, Alhaji Zanna Gadama explained that many factors were responsible for the woes of the party in its failure in the state.
Gadama accused the various ruling parties of wasting a lot of resources to cripple opposition, saying that some of its members are usually planted as moles to weaken the party.
He equally lambasted members and its candidates who are in the habit of dumping the party shortly after every election to the ruling party for selfish interests.
Media is not left out in blame for dearth of opposition in Borno state as the PDP state party chairman accused the various media outfits in the state of undermining the sufferings of the opposition in their reportage.
He cited an instance where the party paid a media organisation for news and advert, but instead of carrying it, it refunded the money paid.
Gadama therefore charged media organisations in the state to stop collaborating with the ruling party in weakening the opposition so the government in power can provide dividends of democracy.
He said:” The present All Progressives Congress ( APC ) , is an extension of the then All Nigeria Peoples Party ( ANPP ). And along the line , a lot was done by ANPP to ensure that opposition is weakened in the state.
“ Most of the members that have won elections under the PDP have decamped to APC , and most of the chairmen of local governments councils of the PDP have moved to the ruling. The governorship candidates of the PDP from 1999 to date have all moved to APC .
“ It is only few of us that are still in the PDP . We are doing our best to ensure that opposition strives in the state. And even upon that, there is a lot of sabotage by the state government to ensure that the opposition does not survive.
“They spend a lot of resources, they bring in mole to the PDP and are doing a lot of things to ensure that opposition is wiped out. But we are doing our best, we have been educating our people and we have been mobilising.
“And even during the 2019 election, we went round all the local government areas in the state. We were received overwhelmingly by the people. People were ready to support us , even though the election was marred with irregularities.
“ So opposition is having a lot of difficulties in this part of the country. The media too did not help matters as it ignored the suffering of our people in its reportage. The media is supposed to be the watchdog, we thought they will be fair and work with us so that dividends of democracy will be given to the people. To be sincere , we are not happy with the media in the state”, Gadama added.
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