Opposition unity has been the common graveyard of Nigerian politics. In 1963/4, Nigerians watched helplessly as the NCNC/Awo-AG united opposition – UPGA got trounced across board as their seeming lack of cohesion gave way to the NPC/NNDP governing alliance. The tales of that failed opposition was many years later echoed as a last minute coalition between Awo’s UPN and Zik’s NPP crumbled as NPP was offered dregs of ministerial appointments, and NPN rode gallantly to two election victories no matter how corrupted. The fourth republic also had it shares of presidential alliances and failed mergers; in fact it is so common, that the public was not holding their lungs when the current dalliances started.
The obvious benefit of an alliance is evident for all to see, but the pitfalls are equally lurking. First the urge by the definition to describe its existence strategically along the lines of the traditional divide of conservative versus progressive ideologies. Truth is Nigerian politicians are not ripe for this ideological description. As such I will not hide my disdain for a perpetual attempt by the empty brained elites of Nigeria to describe the current metamorphosis as such.
How for example can an opposition die-hard religious views from CPC and ANPP (the party that birthed Sharia) claim to be progressive? How can a party for law and order, and public-private projects of Fashola’s ACN (remember Lekki concession) claim to be liberal when the thrust of its economic policy is industry in private hands? Honestly, perhaps an establishment (now PDP) versus reform ideology best describes the ideological divide in our winners-take-all political arena of the day.
If the ideological descriptions were signs of trouble to come, the latest reports of infighting between the constituent parties and the jostle for prime positions which may soon ensue may be the Achilles knees of the arrangement. Given the extreme egoistical nature of the average Nigerian politicians, only a revamped and transparent party admission and candidate/officer selection process can save the new All Progressives Congress arrangement from certain death.
First, the idea that the party will and should admit any PDP member seeking to cross carpet is insane and will indicate the first major mistake of the alliance. PDP members including Governors seeking membership will destroy the party’s brand, ensure the public lose quick faith and the same politician will soon run right back after fulfilling their goals of destroying a potent opposition. Nigeria’s contemporary history is filled with the Atiku’s of PDP that run out and no sooner run back when their larger ambitions are not fulfilled. APC is better off setting a high bar for official membership, including banning all PDP past-officials or members within two years of exiting the den of murderers they currently call home.
Secondly, in order to flourish APC, must insist that its membership be grassroots based and automatic for current members of the constituent parties while expanding rapidly to accommodate new entrants to the political space. Prominent citizens and professionals currently on the political sideline must be encouraged to join and stand as bulwark against the corruptive influence of PDP. Also, the selection of officers of the party must be transparent and non-discriminatory against any of the constituent parties. The era of “godfatherism” has to be bided good-bye, but the integrity of political flag bearers must be subject to veto decision of an elders committee to vet contestants before they face-off in primaries. This will ensure balance between quality and inclusion.
Furthermore, the new party must undertake a total rethink of political campaign and electioneering strategy. It can pursue an open primary strategy that allows Nigerians to have a say as to whose its candidates will be, ensuring legitimacy before going to the polls. A series of energetic debates among its Senatorial, Governorship and Presidential candidates across the land, will also engage the political sphere and ensure its candidates are battle ready when the D-day is here. Asiwaju Tinubu was an observant of the Democratic Convention, I’m certain such conventions can be delivered in Nigeria as well ensuring that the PDP’s old school convention represents its image of old and past, as Nigeria welcomes a new party with a new image. Optics is everything in politics!
Aside from Optics, there is great need for hard hitting political advertisement and publicity campaign against the ruling party. If NBC will not approve tough political Ads for TV, the web and YouTube can be utilized outside the boundaries of their realm to hit PDP hard and blackberry network can be used to distribute these clips locally. APC must deliver an interesting candidate, and stand out in order to win. It cannot try to out-PDP the PDP itself. The PDP will have enough rogues to run with, hit them hard!
Last but not the least, the manifesto writing process that has begun better is substantive and direct in its recommendations to get a resounding acceptance by Nigerians. The era of big sounding promises are over. The new party can adapt one or more radical reform program including:
- A constitutional amendment that will allow the current constitution to be replaced wholly after a summit to rethink Nigeria’s structure as is (If CPC’s Buhari agrees the 36 states are unworkable, I think this is a really easy one).
- A constitutional amendment to remove immunity for executive immediately and retroactively
- Commitments to Public Service Reforms, to reduce pay of political appointees, limit the size of cabinet and hangers-on and specify the bureaucratic structure and size.
- A battle ready plan to fight corruption proactively with stings and investigation
- A commitment to tax reforms, ensuring no oil/gas revenue is used to pay salaries
- A commitment to infrastructure development utilizing funds from oil, gas and mining
- An immediate commitment to allow State Police, and reform the Nigeria Police (get rid of those barracks & ugly uniforms, insist on university graduates only, and split the enforcement and investigative arms)
If the opposition has ears, let them hear. They should not attempt to solve all problems, but the most fundamental ones; their focus should be on implementing enduring change in the polity not applying Band-Aid. They must project confidence and eliminate brand dilution to match the PDP in the field. Only when they do these, will the electorate take their bid seriously and perhaps the dark clouds that currently hang over our nation begin to shift. God Bless Nigeria.