by Sam Nda-Isaiah
The last day of last month, 31.07.13, will remain historic in Nigeria. It was the first time that a real merger of opposition parties was achieved in the country without the government decreeing it. In fact, the government appeared to have worked against it.
INEC announced the birth of the long-awaited All Progressives Congress (APC) to a nationwide excitement and media blitz. With the way the news was accepted all across Nigeria, you’d be forgiven to think that an election had just been won. INEC’s rating went up immediately. Ordinary people who are not politicians started sending text messages around congratulating themselves. And I noticed something also curious: some known card-carrying PDP members also joined in the celebration.
I have been an exponent of a political system that has two dominant parties. I am repeating an article I wrote on this page on May 24, 2010, on the matter. There are also several others. I have always advocated that only that kind of system can guarantee the survival of democracy so properly defined in Nigeria. I was beginning to despair that Nigeria would inexorably end up like Egypt or Syria or Libya if the trend continued. These countries had a single leader or family at the helm for decades and it was the frustration of the people, in spite of the fact that the leaders provided good leadership, that inevitably led to the implosion.
In the case of Nigeria, it was not a single leader but a single bungling political party that has threatened to enslave the country for 60 years. The PDP held Nigeria on the jugular using its overwhelming spread to rig elections and steal the nation’s resources, using the EFCC to kidnap opponents, and sometimes impeach duly elected governors with impunity. It was clear that the Nigerian nation was inching steadily towards an implosion worse than the Arab Spring by the time the merger eventually happened.
On the obverse side, people were frustrated with the nation’s opposition which did not even appear to know that their best interest and that of the nation lay in their fusing to form a platform that would be strong enough to win national elections. National elections are won by strong political parties and not by alliances of puny groups. Individually, it was possible for them to win local elections and even a few governorship seats. But there was no way they could win the presidential election the way they were. People despised the opposition and many Nigerians saw no reason in coming out to vote in presidential elections because it was clear to the discerning that the opposition did not have the critical mass to win at the national stage. The PDP didn’t need to rig to win presidential elections but they rigged anyway. Winning in politics is about simple arithmetic and perception. People would come out to vote and most importantly defend those votes if they thought the political party they voted for had a chance to win.
But the Nigerian situation was even more straightforward. All the opposition needed (and still needs) is to find an anti-rigging formula that works countrywide. And this should not be difficult to find with a little more thinking and strategising. The PDP is already dangerously unpopular and the 2015 presidential election is APC’s to lose. The APC quickly needs to present itself to the Nigerian people as totally and completely different from the PDP, and, fortunately, that should not be difficult to achieve at all. In the next election, it must not be a choice between PDP and a new PDP. APC must be decidedly different. The APC must make itself the party the people can fight for.
But it will also be important for the godfathers of the APC to know that the party can lose very easily in 2015. I have a friend who despises the PDP people for all they have done to Nigeria since coming to power in 1999. But he has not shown any excitement since APC was registered last week. When I asked him why, his candid response was that he would reserve his excitement until he sees the APC’s presidential ticket at the due time. The majority of the nation’s critical elite still have this mindset. But, again, if APC leaders who have done so well so far by agreeing on a name, party symbol, slogan, and interim executives are still the same leaders, then it will be reasonable to extrapolate that they will also subsume their personal interests when it comes to the ultimate prize. APC leaders are proudly aware that the Nigerian people have adopted their party as stakeholders and they are enjoying it.
Meanwhile, this is also time for the PDP to up its game and clean itself up. Some of their leaders should stop this nonsense that the APC will not last. Is that a manifesto? They have been saying this since the idea of merger was mooted anyway and the APC has lasted. In spite of the challenges of disparity and essential differences between the merging partners, they have come up with a name – a good one for that matter – agreed on party symbols and slogans, and a good interim executive team to boot. The PDP should stop praying that the APC does not last because that is not the kind of prayer that God answers. They should instead redesign their party to become more people-friendly. Democracy is about competition and that just started. Ladies and gentlemen, the game is on!
A Rascal Should Not Be Chairman Of NPC
In more serious countries, people like Festus Odimegwu do not get near public office. But Odimegwu, who should have been left in his beer parlour at the Nigerian Breweries Plc, has been appointed to one of the most critical national institutions: chairman of the National Population Commission (NPC). He had hardly taken his seat at the chairman’s office when he started saying that the north of Nigeria was over-counted in the last population census. How did he know? Was he among the people that did the enumeration during that census?
Odimegwu spoke with the confidence of one who has been assigned to do a hatchet man’s job at his present station by President Jonathan. If the president did not “send him”, then, the right thing he should do is fire the man immediately. No public officeholder makes that kind of divisive statement in a country that is already delicately divided. And Nigeria should, most definitely, not have a place for such irresponsible people at these uncertain and insecure times. Only people who are fair, just and sensitive should aspire to higher office in this country. And Festus or whatever he calls himself is certainly not a candidate for high office, considering the fact that even the brewery house where he worked had to ask him to resign because of his disgraceful role in Obasanjo’s third term scam. If President Jonathan is not going to fire the rascal because they are in cahoots, then, the National Assembly should quickly wade in to save this country a crisis that it may never get out of.
– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Sam Nda-Isaiah