Be it as it may we now have a President for the next four years. He didn’t win because his party has been terrific at delivering the promises of the past few years, nor the seven point agenda, nor for making your power constant, refinery working, universities teaching, doctors treating and Benin-Ore road fixed. PDP won because the party by some magic hand of fate had either rendered Nigerians comatose to react to being grossly maltreated or cynical.
Nigeria will however never remain the same again. For one, Nigerian youths have experienced an unusual reawakening in the last two years and the current crop of ageing leaders better realize they are on injury time. More so, the most important results of the 2011 elections was that of the National Assembly and there the opposition have gained significant clout and influence which they can choose to either flex or as usual disappear into oblivion as a bunch of “has beens”.
It is a great thing that the foremost opposition party in the country, the Action Congress of Nigeria, have begun to sound early warning signs to its members not to sign on to the poisoned chalice of unity government. Indeed, the orientation declarations of ACN leaders if it is anything to count on and not the usual political double talk should send shivers down the spine of PDP.
A focus on true federalism, devolution of power and fairer revenue allocation from the center to the states, are especially welcomed. We look forward to robust debates, and holding the President accountable at every turn of the way from now until 2015.
As a result of the more diverse nature of the new National Assembly, coalition management as such will become the most important element of Executive-Legislature relationship at the federal level in this new “change era”. The national legislature will naturally be divided along the lines of PDP clones and anti-clones.
In the Pro-PDP camp quite naturally the ANPP, APGA and whatever remains of PPA will naturally remain in the conservative wing of Nigeria’s politics. Here they’ll vote for everything that involves privatization & market liberalization, top-heavy budgets and pro-big wig policies. In the anti-PDP camp ACN, LP and CPC prominently will align and will vote together on issues of entrenching true federalism, social projects and transparency; or maybe not.
While the legislative agenda of the later (the true opposition camp) is yet to be made bare, one will suspect their first task is that of coordination and unity. The PDP is notorious for offering bribes for members to defect. So Goodluck in keeping your camp together under presidential pressure and inducements!
If however they succeed, here is how a variegated and diverse legislature may make a difference:
Appointments: A united and more substantial opposition front in the Senate will do a better job of scrutinizing presidential appointments; especially that of Ministers, Ambassadors and heads of very important parastatals. For the Ministers & Ambassadors, insisting on knowing their portfolios will definitely make a difference prior to approval. For parastatals, insisting on technocrats and professionals may finally mean a clueless executive will put their best feet forward to avoid embarrassing rejections. Shrink the Government & Cost: A united opposition, if they are to be believed, will insist the obscene pay of lawmakers stop and that the President do not need 120 special advisers! Taking a look at the plethora of federal ministries, and their usefulness with an eye at shrinking government and not spending 75% on overhead will be a great place to start. Budgeting is a legislative task. Oversight: Aside from confirming appointments and budgeting, the third leg of the legislative work triad is oversight & investigations. With the Public Accounts Committee surely in the hands of the non-ruling party we expect to see more investigations going on in the green rotunda. Gone will be the days when acquiesced murderers drag good men to testify for saying the truth in our National Assembly. We hope to have the energy, aviation, procurement, roads and power sectors/ministries thoroughly investigated for the misdeeds of the past in the first few years.
Ultimately though, the new legislature will not be judged by how many things they opposed or cut, but mostly by what they do when given the chance to govern. The opposition will be doing the ruling party a huge favor in four years if they do not deliver the dividends of democracy as promised. Only this time, the disaffection will spread and hope will give way cynicism.
In the perfect scenario, a new and reinvigorated opposition will focus the new administration on the three priorities of Power, Education and Security. Only then will the legislative and gubernatorial victories of 2011 translate into transformational leadership at the center that is badly in need of one.
On the question on if the opposition at the center will disappoint as they’ve always done since 1999, questioning minds want to know. Over to you folks!