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Much ado about coalition of opposition parties

Much ado about coalition of opposition parties

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Friday Musings with Ayo Olukotun

[email protected], 07055841236

“So, let nobody come and deceive you on corruption, they (The APC) are more corrupt than any government I know since 1999…Fighting corruption is not the only responsibility of government”

 Former Vice President, and presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, July 11, 2018.

Anyone who remains in doubt that political campaigns, with their heated rhetoric and partisan narratives, are in full bloom only needs to read the charges hurled at the ruling All Progressives Congress, quoted in the opening paragraph, by a former member of that party, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar. A speech made on the hustings does not enjoy the coherence and comprehensiveness of a university term paper; so, Atiku did not have to offer proof for his assertions. Even then, he paid defence to persuasiveness and clarity by hinting that he would soon reveal evidence of monumental corruption within the President Muhammadu Buhari administration. However that may be, like it or not, the race for the nation’s top job is gathering momentum seven or so months away from the presidential poll.

Raising the political thermometer, similarly, was the announcement of the formation of the coalition of opposition parties led by the Peoples Democratic Party. The number of parties operating under the umbrella of the Coalition of United Political Parties is not known as different figures ranging between 20 and 30 are cited. What is clear however is that several political parties have come together for the single purpose of unseating Buhari in 2019. Several analysts have likened this development to the way and manner in which the APC was created on the eve of the 2015 elections to wrest power from former President Goodluck Jonathan. The analogy is roughly accurate, except that the coalition still has a long way to go to become what the APC was in the last election season. For instance, no sooner was the announcement made than some of the parties spoke up to dissociate themselves from what appears to be a hastily cobbled alliance. That apart, the coalition so far has majored in a game of numbers, in which every party no matter its real weight or following is counted as having come on board. To be sure it is early days yet, and it is possible that the association will firm up its identity in the coming days to become the united force that it claims and seeks to be. For now, it is pretty much unformed with its dominant actors being former members of the PDP who defected to the APC and have used the auspices of the National Assembly to get back at Buhari. In other words, it is a resurrection more or less of the old PDP before 2014. Beyond that, and as some have queried, how viable and cohesive is an amalgamation, which expresses itself, not in an inspiring governance agenda, but in terms of the sole objective of getting Buhari out of power? So, what happens after the sole objective is achieved? Would this development, even if it results in success, not echo back to the travails of the nation under the APC, which found itself scratching its head after it has successfully wrested power from the PDP? For now, we know pretty much what the coalition is against; we are yet to be told what it is for.

At this point however, this writer digresses to bring in two short takes.

Most of us have been delighted at the clarity and lucidity, flavoured by her British accent of Mrs Kemi Adeosun, the Minister of Finance. For sure, she is not an Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala whose scholarship and umbilical links to the Bretton Woods Institutions are part of her forte; nor is she a Chukwuma Soludo, whose policy experience was foregrounded by top flight preparation and understanding of the discipline of Economics. Nonetheless, Adeosun held her own adroitly by carrying out engaging conversations about Buhari’s economic policies which suggested that she knows her onions. It is for these reasons that one was distressed about the recent revelation alleging that her National Youth Service Corps exemption certificate may have been a forgery, or one obtained through the thriving backdoor which defines Nigeria’s black market.

True, the matter is reportedly under investigation but the curtain appears to be closing in on her, increasingly putting a brilliant public career in the balance. It does not help matters either that unlike in the British tradition where she trained, she has so far maintained a not so golden silence. Of course, a case can be made for Nigerian students educated abroad, holding down careers abroad to be exempted from the NYSC without going through slippery short cuts. Unfortunately however, that case has yet to be made, let alone becoming a policy. In any circumstance, no case can be made for forgery. My take is that even if Adeosun rides out the gathering storm, the echoes will reverberate long enough to haunt her and subsequent attempts made by her for public office. The best possible scenario is for her, advisedly, to throw in the towel by resignation, so that she can avoid allegations of sitting tight in the face of a raging scandal. Alternatively, she can be eased out in a long delayed cabinet reshuffle, even though that is getting rather late in the day. These are admittedly hard choices but it is difficult to think out any alternatives in the circumstances.

 Increasingly, it is becoming less important who wins tomorrow’s election in Ekiti State than whether the election will hold decently, freely and fairly. The current militarisation harks back to what happened in 2014 when President Goodluck Jonathan unwisely deployed troops to the state, some of whom were used, it later became clear in rigging the election. Does this mean that the nation has learnt nothing from the sad events of 2014, and is therefore condemned to repeating its unhappy history? The appeal is that the much traumatised Ekiti electorate should be allowed to decide their fate for the next four years at polls that are held, without a filibustering law enforcement employing scare tactics to disempower any of the contestants.

To return to the initial discourse on the conclave of opposition parties, it is important to emphasise that merely grandstanding or making the right political noises is not enough to give an incumbent party a good run for its money. The coalition must go beyond its current limited perspective to build a solid, rather than skeletal aggregation, for it to be taken seriously. It should also, for the edification of Nigerians, come up with constructive alternatives to the failures of the ruling party; and go beyond this to broach ideological opposition to mainstream policies. In the advanced democracies, the beauty of two-party dominant systems is that they allow the voter to differentiate one party from another by policy and ideological positions which define and mark them out respectively.

To this extent therefore, more work needs to be done for an opposition party movement to gain traction, and to demonstrate to Nigerians that they are willing to outpace the Nigerian tragedy of politicians seeking office for narrow egotistical reasons, rather than for service and the uplift of the nation.

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