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Folarin Sagaya: The grand opposition merger – a game changer?


Folarin Sagaya: The grand opposition merger – a game changer?

by Folarin Sagaya

It’s been a week of miracles some might say, Pope Benedict XVI resigned – an act that hasn’t happened in some 600 years and the Super Eagles came home with a trophy – another uncharacteristic event. The latter has allowed President Goodluck Ebele Jonathan’s supporters and detractors to mend fences, for a time at least acrimonious words have been set aside and Nigerians are playing nice.

Anyone who caught the Nigerian Television Authority’s substantial coverage of the banquet in honour of the football team would have witnessed a president basking in as much of the afterglow as possible. And who can blame him? After all it’s been a tumultuous start to the year for the inhabitants of the Aso Rock Presidential Villa. If Nigeria had an accurate polling system in place their approval numbers would make for interesting reading.

January brought us the Channels Television exposé on the Police Training College in Ikeja. The scenes of squalor and decay at what is supposed to be an elite training centre were very disturbing if not surprising to those more familiar with the state of some of our public institutions. When the images captured in that documentary are stacked up against our standards of policing then certain questions are incontestably answered. Certainly the president was moved enough by it and the ensuing outcry to make an “unscheduled” visit to Ikeja.

The first month of the year also saw the airing of the interview by CNN’s Christiane Amanpour which provided that rare instance of an unencumbered journalist asking the seat of power pointed questions. It will be fair to say the result wasn’t flattering and many Nigerians have giggled with glee since. So when Stephen Keshi and his men hoisted up the trophy at the final whistle, there were some who undoubtedly let out a sigh of relief totally unrelated to football.

The bubble of jubilation was just as quickly pierced though, with the news that the opposition parties have all but formalised their merger to counter the might of the People’s Democratic Party.

Depending on who you ask this move will either enact swifter reforms or guarantee its players larger slices of the “proverbial national cake”. The new All Progressive’s Congress (APC) is set to comprise the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA). Apart from an element within APGA, who aren’t giving this union their blessing, the collaboration has been smooth and surprisingly quick.

Whilst we await their official manifesto the 10 governors from the now APC states recently met up and released a social democratic platform right out of Scandinavia. Their primary policy areas for 2015 will be agricultural development, job creation, free education, affordable healthcare, infrastructural development, adequate power supply, eradication of poverty and corruption, rapid technological advancement, and industrialisation.

If we overlook the use of “adequate” to describe their proposal on power generation this is quite an inspiring list, and from a public relations perspective they have come out swinging.

Now this is Nigeria and these are our politicians, many of whom have actually been governing for years now, so what the reality will amount to is debatable. It is also a staple for any leader, actual or potential, to outline what they want to do for a country and how to right previous wrongs from the get-go, even those we’ve had via non-democratic means passed that standard.

In the run up to the elections however the idea of a credible opposition party with an ideological backbone might just be what we need. Many have ascribed the lack of political accountability in the country to the lack of a unified and powerful opposing voice providing an alternative vision. In keeping with the times it is an adage in sports that without actual competition the players become sloppy. This new shift in our politics might not provide us with the Left versus Right dimensions of other countries but if it’s sincere it should at least show us who has the capacity to govern and who does not. It should also galvanise the electoral process, giving hope and encouragement to those unmotivated by and disappointed in the status quo. Finally when in power, it should in theory hold the feet of the leaders closer to the fire.

Alas this is Nigeria, and if we continue with the belief system whereby elected officials are de facto monarcs who do us a favour by governing then all of this might not matter.

Only time will tell if APC can withstand the pressures of having such disparate factions within its rank or if their progressive platform can sufficiently beat back the claws of special interests, but they have started on a high note and need to beat that drum loud and clear for all to hear.

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