What manner of Opposition Politics in Nigeria?

Nigerian Politicians were united when they were fighting for transition to democratic rule. Then we had a virile group who acted the opposition all talking with one aim to get the military out of power and allow non-uniformed persons to rule us, make laws that will be to the benefit of the general society and improve the wellbeing of the citizens. Parties were then formed and we mirrored our democracy to that of the United States of America.

As I write, there appears to be 4 viable political parties judging from the states they have contested elections and won to govern. We have the PDP in 23 ?minus 5, APGA 1, APC 10 plus ?5, LP 1. In effect, one would expect that we would have a virile opposition in the PDP states, as well as opposition in the non PDP states.

Lord Bryce an ardent liberal British politician once said "Party system is based upon a paradoxical ideology. It breeds factional elements of disunity, sowing the seeds of diversity, while at the same time it strengthens and consolidates the nation. It proves almost a blessing to a nation when it checks the Government from becoming tyrannical and autocratic, but in its prostituted spirit, tears a nation, into clashing groups leading the country to the worst form of demoralization''.

Benjamin Disraeli's dictum that 'no government can long be secure without a formidable opposition" has been proved true and fully valid for the health and efficiency of a democracy. The Opposition represents an alternative government, and is responsible for challenging the policies of the government and producing different policies where appropriate. Since we operate party democracy in Nigeria, it means wherever there is a government of a political party there is expected an opposition. However, it would appear that talking about opposition in Nigeria only refers to the central government in Abuja. But we all agree that we run a type of democracy with state governors at the helm of affairs of their different states elected on party basis. In every state there is a government and a supposed opposition. But do you find one? Your guess is as good as mine.  

We all agree that the opposition should be the people's watchdog keeping the government on its toes and forcing it to follow the right democratic path. Opposition parties are also expected to play the oversight role by ensuring that the actions of government are in the best interest of the people. Role of opposition in a democracy is much more creative and crucial rather than opposition for the sake of opposition. Its main role is to expose weakness in government policies and remain a vigilant watchdog over the action and inaction of the government. Most political commentators indicate that the right of opposition to oppose the wrong policies of the Government is an inalienable and essential part of the democratic process.

One of the most important jobs of the Opposition is to constantly question the Government. Any Government has to remain answerable to the public at all times, and a good Opposition can put the spotlight on serious issues and have them resolved quickly. But is this the case in Nigeria?

At one end of the spectrum there are occasions on which oppositions agree with the Government. These tend to be where it is simply in the wider public interest that a problem is fixed, where the solution the government is proposing has wide support, and it is hard to disagree with it. This is the norm everywhere except in Nigeria.

The APC was recently launched with a view to becoming an alternative government if they win at the polls at the Federal level. The APC is made up of different parties. If we can find an issue on which all these parties agree, then that will help with the job of forming an alternative government. But we all know that the component parties do not agree in principle on anything except taking over government at the centre.

I am yet to see the alternative policies of the APC. Just recently there was a poll in Anambra state. Did we hear of the alternative policies that would have been better than the current government of APGA?  I listened to one Modibo Ibrahim a political commentator on AIT the other night and could not help but giggle. Modibo believes APC is going to be a formidable opposition. But that is where he ended. What of if APC wins the next election can the PDP provide a virile opposition? That was what he did not think of answering. Of course he carpeted all the parties that they do not have any ideology. Then now, how can there be opposition when there is no party based on ideology? Can we now see the other side of any party that comes up to sing Halleluiah that they are the alternative? Our parties are made up of people who have become like chameleon. They change colours to suit their circumstances and their needs. If you look at the PDP, there are many people who have been in other parties that have moved into PDP when they believe they have been sidelined and could not get their desires. I am very sure there are also PDP members who will move to APC if APC wins. Already even without winning some have moved in and justifying their actions. This is the bane of our type of politics in Nigeria. There are water like politicians who do not believe in anything except themselves and what they will get out of every situation.

It is important for an opposition party to demonstrate its democratic credentials. Opposition parties across the world, under very difficult conditions, do a lot of research and come up with alternative policies. The present situation gives an impression that the Opposition in this country whether belonging to any party have no connection or feelings for either the poor people or their sufferings. That is why Comrade Oshiomole forgot where he was coming from as a masses man to make the kind of mistake we saw on the social media. I read he has apologised. That is good for politics at least many thanks to the social media.  

The opposition cannot prepare itself for a future role in position, after a later election or if the government is voted down, unless it learns from its work in opposition. This does not appear to be well understood in our democracy, not even by legislators themselves.

When a government collapses, as we have just seen in Egypt, if there is no virile opposition, there is no party that can take over, prepared for the role of ruling, based on alternative, responsible policies. There appears to be areas of public policy that are challenging to the PDP government led by President Jonathan. These include security, education, corruption, transport and internal infrastructure amongst a few others. No well- meaning Nigerian will say that attempts are not being made. We all know and believe that change is a constant and change will come when well- articulated. I am sure we do not want change as it is in Egypt.

So the question is what is the opposition policy on these areas that are challenging to the Jonathan led government? Can anyone identify what will change if in the next election APC becomes the party at the Federal Level? Your guess is as good as mine. The way it looks Nigeria operates a multiparty system on paper but one party system in reality because there is no difference in the parties. So whether individual political elements move from APC to PDP or PDP to APC, the compound that is formed remains the same elements when broken down. It is therefore imperative for the opposition to outline what and how they intend to change the status quo because when last I checked both ruling and opposing parties think the same way either at the state level or Federal level. Albert Einstein said “The world as we have created it is a process of our thinking. It cannot be changed without changing our thinking.”