By Salihu Moh. Lukman
Nigerian politics has been stagnant with practically the same features since 1999. It has remained about individual aspirations, vote buying, use of thugs for political campaigns, ballot box snatching and rigging during elections.
Our politicians, with very little exception, are the promoters of these vices and our political parties the precursors and reservoirs. Issues and ideas are blatantly ignored. Therefore ideology and values are non-existent in our democratic practice. The result is that the only contest is that of personalities. What the personalities represent is often influenced, determined and controlled by ethnic, regional and religious considerations.
The consequence of this reality is the absence of nationalism or patriotic commitments. Thus, we are a nation without nationalists or patriots, only religious, ethnic and at best regional leaders. These ethnic, religious and regional leaders employ primordial sentiments as rallying point for mobilization in a self-serving manner. In the end, the problems of low living conditions have remained unattended to, and in some cases worsened. Take the case of the unemployment situation which the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) estimated at 23.9% for 2011. This means that 24 out of every one hundred Nigerians who are actively seeking for jobs but cannot find any. The import is that one out of every four Nigerians is unemployed. This is a problem that affects every family, irrespective of religious, ethnic and regional background.
Partly on account of the absence of income earning opportunities, low incomes and combinations of poor living conditions as reflected in expensive and inaccessible healthcare, educational and welfare facilities, poverty incidence in the country has remained unacceptably high. The NBS reported that national poverty estimate was 69% in 2010 and projected that it would have increased to 71.5% in 2011. This means that 7 out of every 10 Nigerians are poor, irrespective of religious, ethnic or regional background. But our politicians have religious, ethnic and regional interpretations and solutions.
Unfortunately our worsening reality as represented by high unemployment and poverty rates has manifested against a backdrop of exponential increases in government spending as is evident in the Federal Government annual budget, which has increased from N598 Billion in 2000 to more than N4.7 trillion in 2012 – an increase of more than 800%. This also reflects vast increases in government revenue, and of recent, massive borrowing. The only logical explanation to our socio-economic problems is poor management of the nation’s resources. The managers of these resources – politicians – cut across all the divides and there is equity in their contributions to the mismanagement and pillage of the nation’s resources across all the divides.
With respect to the coloration of our political parties regarding assessment of these problems, they follow the same religious, ethnic and regional contours. Opposition politics today is predominantly expressed with references to differences in religion, ethnicity and region. Our political parties have no countervailing strategy or approach – just as no attempt is made to discourage religious, ethnic and regional politics. If anything, our parties, in many ways, rationalize religious, ethnic and regional politics.
The consequences are today’s reality where sadly, only the ruling party, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is visible across all our six geo-political zones, the 36 states and perhaps all the 774 Local Governments. Divisive approach to politics in the present dispensation was catalyzed in the first four years of the return to civil rule (1999 – 2003) when some state governments under the opposition All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) introduced Sharia legal system. This ignited religious tension between Muslims and Christians in the country, resulting in violent uprising in Kaduna, first in February 2000 and the second time in April 2001. The polity is yet to recover from the destabilizing effect of the introduction of the Sharia legal system.
With very high increases in resources managed by our governments at all levels, and given the fact that our politicians convert these resources into their personal holdings to the detriment of the vast majority of our people, our politics is soiled with our politicians becoming desperate to remain ever-present in government. Their objective is self-serving and basically a struggle to retain access to public resources. Every four year cycle, Nigerians are reduced to spectators in a game where they are supposed to be the determinants. At best, they only end up endorsing the continuation of the old order which revolves around individual aspirations, triggering the vices of vote buying, use of thugs for political campaigns, ballot box snatching and rigging during elections while the frustrations of Nigerians continues to grow.
Today, our nation has been fragmented beyond mention. We are in a state of undeclared war with no objective and predictable targets. The main army is the large pool of unemployed poor Nigerians. On account of the difficult, largely self-created security situation, the Federal Government security budget for 2012 is officially estimated at N971 billion. In fact, independent assessment argued that it is over N1 trillion.
In the midst of all these, the only political discussions taking place in the land is about how a section of the country, on account of the ‘Boko Haram war’ – the North – is undermining President Goodluck Jonathan; why power must return to the North in 2015; why it must be the turn of the South East to produce the President in 2015, etc. In terms of governance issues, the most pronounced debate so far is the discussion around the review of revenue allocation formula and the unending probes of activities of Federal agencies by the two legislative chambers – Senate and House of Representatives. With the results we have seen on the fuel subsidy probe, pension funds probe and the ongoing capital market probe with all its drama and twists, the question is what next? Ultimately, therefore, whether with reference to participation or distribution of benefits, our politics has retained a narrow outlook.
Orientation of Opposition Parties
Against the background of this narrow political outlook, one would expect that our opposition political parties would be very active in contesting the official positions of the federal government through making alternative demands that would expand the democratic space and serve as the roadmap for our democratic journey as a nation. It is the quality of demands and how they are strategically canvassed and employed to contest the ruling party governance agenda that would have given opposition parties a distinct political identity and therefore promote political choices in our polity. The absence of this only makes the opposition parties seem to share the same identity with the ruling PDP, thereby further reinforcing the frustrations of our people and narrowing the prospects for the electoral victory of the opposition parties. The signature of the PDP is simply that of wasteful management, plunder and abuse of public resources. Is there anything that can be done to change this reality? Are our opposition parties in a position to change this reality? Do we even have opposition parties? If we do, who are these opposition parties?
To the extent that we have parties that are not in government, it can be theoretically concluded that we have opposition parties in Nigeria. However, in terms of policy engagements, very few out of the more than 50 registered political parties can be regarded as opposition parties. In fact, most of the parties only come alive during the periods of elections. Many exist as appendages of the PDP and therefore cannot be adjudged to be opposition parties.
On account of policy contestation, out of the pack of more than 50 political parties, few parties can be identified. They include the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC). The ACN emerged in 2006 out of two political groups – the AD led by Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former Lagos State Governor (1999 – 2007); and a group of estranged PDP members led by Alh. Atiku Abubakar, former Vice President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999 – 2007). The CPC emerged in 2010 out of the ANPP. A militating factor was the suspiciously good relationship of the ANPP leadership with the PDP. As a result, a section of the party led by Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, its presidential candidate for the 2003 and 2007 elections broke away and formed the CPC.
The ACN started as Action Congress (AC) and in 2010 changed to Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) with the merger of the AC and Alh. Attahiru Bafarawa led Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). Alh. Bafarawa’s DPP emerged in 2006 also out of the ANPP pursuant to his (Alh. Bafarawa) presidential ambitions partly because he could not contend with Gen. Buhari’s popularity in the ANPP. The other group that joined the new ACN in 2010 was also a section of the ANPP that were together with Gen. Buhari in the ANPP but on account of disagreement in the process of constituting leadership of the newly formed CPC, they again broke away from Gen. Buhari and joined the ACN. This splinter CPC group first operated as ANPP Integrity Group before joining the ACN.
The coming together of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Alh. Atiku Abubakar to form the AC in 2006 gave the party a national outlook. These two personalities were in fact leading members of the late Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) that controlled the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) during the attempted Third Republic in the early 1990s. It was largely members of the PDM that spearheaded the formation of the ruling PDP in 1998.
However, leadership disagreements led to the split in the ranks of the PDM. A section of members of the PDM from the South West including late Chief Bola Ige and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu pulled out of the newly formed PDP and formed the AD. The formation of AC in 2006 therefore could have meant the re-union of the old PDM leaders – Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Alh. Atiku Abubakar. This would have had the potential of rekindling the dynamism and national spread associated with late Shehu Yar’Adua’s politics – dynamism that could have been strengthened with the national spread of the new party.
In terms of leadership of the AC, Alh. Atiku Abubakar was the presidential candidate of the new party during the 2007 elections. Asiwaju Bola Tinubu did not contest for any office during the 2007 elections but provided inspirational leadership to the party’s candidates in the South West. On account of the influence of Asiwaju Tinubu, the AC was able to retain Lagos State. In addition, the party was able to make good impact in Ekiti, Osun and Edo, on account of which it went to electoral tribunal and was to later win back these states.
Notwithstanding the political weight of Alh. Atiku Abubakar in Nigerian politics, the new party (AC) was not able to win any state in the North, not even Adamawa State the political base of Alh. Atiku Abubakar. This factor must have diminished the status of Alh. Atiku Abubakar and to some extent, created leadership dynamics and acrimony. Combined with the pursuit of his personal ambition, Alh. Atiku Abubakar was to later leave the party and go back to PDP. His departure from the party crashed the structures of the young AC in the Northern parts of the country and confined it to the South West and Edo.
Part of the objective of the merger of the AC with the Attahiru Bafarawa DPP and the ANPP Integrity Group was to redress this obvious regional image of the party as a South West party. Unfortunately, owing to absence of a broader support base and good political structures for the DPP and the ANPP Integrity Group, the merger and the emergence of the ACN did not alter the regional orientation of the ACN as a South West party, at least as reflected in the results of the 2011 elections.
In the case of the CPC, its membership base is largely concentrated in Northern Nigeria, especially the North West. After the 2011 elections, it was able to win only Nasarawa State and lost some states in North West, notably Katsina and Kano States on account of internal party wrangling. As a product of the ANPP, it also inherited some of its (ANPP) political baggage, which includes being perceived as a promoter of Sharia legal system and therefore a Muslim party. Unlike the ANPP however, the CPC was able to project opposition to the PDP federal government.
The ANPP was first formed as All Peoples Party (APP) in 1998. It contested the 1999 elections as APP but changed its name to ANPP after the 1999 elections. During the 1999 elections, the party had a joint presidential candidate with the Alliance for Democracy (AD). The AD producing the presidential candidate, Chief Olu Falae and the APP produced the running mate, Alh. Umaru Shinkafi. The APP lost the presidential elections in 1999 to President Olusegun Obasanjo of the PDP but was able to win 9 states, all Northern states and the AD won all the 6 South West states.
With the 1999 elections results, the regional orientation of the new parties was formed, with the APP mainly Northern and the AD South West. The ANPP that sprang from the APP inherited this orientation but its control of state governments was reduced to 7 having lost three states (Kogi, Kwara and Gombe) and won one state (Kano) in the 2003 elections. By 2007, the number of states under the control of the ANPP was reduced to 4 and shortly after the elections reduced to 2 (Yobe and Borno) with the decamping of Bauchi and Zamfara State Governors to PDP. In 2011, with Zamfara back on its (ANPP) fold, it now has three states (Yobe, Borno and Zamfara), all in the North.
The ANPP had three of its former governors defecting to other parties after serving two terms of 8 years as ANPP Governors in 2007. The Governors that defected were Alh. Adamu Aliero, Alh. Saminu Turaki and Alh. Attahiru Bafarawa respectively for Kebbi, Jigawa and Sokoto States. Alh. Aliero and Alh. Turaki moved to the ruling PDP while Bafarawa formed the DPP. Alh. Turaki contested for Senate under the ACN during the 2011 elections. Other former governors of the party (ANPP) that did not defect can be argued to have cordial relations with the PDP. In many respects therefore, the ANPP can be classified as more of an ally of the ruling PDP than a party in opposition. In fact in 2007, it (ANPP) officially joined the PDP federal government to form a unity government under the late President Shehu Musa Yar’Adua.
There is also the Labour Party whose formation was sponsored by the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) under the leadership of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, as President of the NLC in 2002. The party failed to register any electoral victory in the 2003 elections. Interestingly, on account of weak organization, Comrade Oshiomhole contested the 2007 gubernatorial election of Edo State on the platform of the AC. Initially, it was supposed to be based on alliance between the AC and Labour Party but gradually, references to the alliance disappeared.
Remarkably, following the refusal of the PDP to allow Chief Olusegun Mimiko to contest for the Ondo State gubernatorial elections in 2007, Chief Mimiko contested the elections on the platform of the Labour Party. Although initially declared by INEC as having lost the election, Chief Mimiko was to emerge the winner of the election through the verdict of the electoral tribunal. Ondo state is the only state governed by the Labour Party. Not even the national spread of the NLC was to confer electoral advantage and enable the party achieve any electoral victory outside Ondo State. So far, the party is no more than an electoral platform for all aspiring candidates who can negotiate their entry into the party.
Another party is the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), which emerged around 2002. The party was formed by politicians mainly from the South East and based on the officially declared INEC results for the 2003 elections, the party (APGA) did not win any state but through the electoral tribunal was able to win Anambra State. Imo state was to be added to the party’s hold after the 2011 elections. The party is therefore mainly a South East party.
In addition to APGA in the South East, there is also the Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) formed by Chief Orji Uzo Kalu, former Governor of Abia state. The party was formed in 2007 in pursuit of Chief Orji Kalu’s presidential ambition. Arising from the 2007 elections, the party was able to win two states, Abia and Imo. Shortly after the elections, Imo state Governor decamped to PDP. Chief Kalu was to also later go back to the PDP.
In terms of contestation with the PDP, it could be argued that out of all the opposition parties cited above, (ANPP, ACN, CPC, Labour Party, APGA and PPA), ACN and CPC are prominent in terms of projecting an image of opposition to PDP. It can be further argued that the engagements of these two parties (ACN and CPC) are more reactive than a systematic agenda-setting strategy. At that level, the ACN can be argued to be in the lead with more organized public propaganda efficiency that should be expected from a typical opposition party.
If leadership of opposition is to be determined based on election results, two situations would emerge. First, on account of the 2011 presidential elections, CPC is ahead of the ACN. Secondly, based on the control of state governments and number of representatives in national and state assemblies, the ACN is the leading opposition party controlling 6 state governments and 90 members of the two chambers of National Assembly – Senate and House of Representatives.
Opposition Parties and Prospects for Change
We do therefore have opposition parties led by the ACN and CPC. To the extent of existing as political parties that are distinct from the ruling PDP, ANPP, Labour Party, APGA and PPA can also be regarded as opposition parties. Are these parties capable of taking initiatives that would change the reality of our politics? The realities being individual aspiration, vote buying, use of thugs for political campaigns, ballot box snatching and rigging during elections; and regular governance policy engagement through the promotion of alternative policy choices. Discussion of capability would naturally lead to the realm of evaluating the administrative competence of our opposition parties, in particular ACN and CPC.
To be diplomatic is to argue that all of them have weak and perhaps ineffective administrative systems. With reference to activities of the parties at other lower layers of government, states and local governments, to the extent of lack of coordination, synergy and competent drivers, it can be argued that there is a lack of capacity. The reality is that it is capacity at this level that is needed to raise the hope of citizens and make politics attractive.
Partly because of the lack of capacity at this level and the limited conduct of leadership of opposition parties with respect to the challenge of capacity development for functionaries at states and local government levels, there is complete absence of policy engagement and to that extent, no political choices for citizens. This only serves to reinforce individual aspirations of political office holders – governors and local government chairmen – with the attendant consequences of resorting to vote buying during elections, use of thugs for political campaigns, ballot box snatching and rigging to achieve their aspirations.
Is there anything that can be done to change this reality? This situation cannot be changed based on individual aspirations. Unfortunately, all our parties are founded and configured around individual aspirations. Individual aspirations here qualified to mean aspiration to hold key public offices. If these individual aspirations are expressed based on interest to control political parties and in the process enforce the regulation of activities of states and local governments managed by the parties, individual aspirations could lead to a new governance framework directly centered around the control of governmental machineries and resources at their disposal – local governments, states and federal government.
The inability of individual aspirations to center around the control of political parties has resulted in a situation where there is little or no direct correlation between process of managing governmental activities and political party administration. Instead of parties to regulate the conduct of functionaries of government, functionaries of government regulate the conduct of parties including determining their leadership. Today, on account of this distortion, heads of governments are the leaders of political parties.
A major factor that limits the attraction to positions in political parties is the fact that resources at the disposal of political parties are meager and determined by contributions of governments produced by the parties. This is often decided by the government office bearers – local government chairmen, governors and president, as the case may be. The outcome therefore is a situation where these governments’ functionaries, dictate who emerges as leaders of political parties.
In turn, the leaders of the parties limit their focus to only the activities of these functionaries, in most cases only performing public relations functions. On account of this reality, only the ACN and CPC can be regarded as national opposition parties. ANPP, Labour Party, APGA and PPA are mostly conspicuous in states where they produced governors. They sparingly contest positions in the federal government, except where there is conflict between the state governments controlled by these parties and federal government. In which case, party officials naturally take position in favour of the state governments.
Today, the CPC is very active and makes regular criticisms of the federal government. Similarly, the ACN makes regular criticisms of the federal government. And given the regional orientation of these parties, the CPC is more visible in the Northern parts of the country, while the ACN is more visible in the South West and Edo where it is in control of the state governments.
This is what needs to change fundamentally. Changing this will require that the governance framework for our opposition parties are altered such that the direction of control shifts from government office bearers to party office bearers. Based on the new framework, the parties can then regulate the conduct of people they sponsor into government and where necessary lead the recall of government office holders. The existing anomaly accounts for the instability in party membership with party leaders and members constantly decamping once the party loses election. It is constantly a case of decamping from the defeated to the victorious party.
Change will be impossible given a situation whereby party office bearers are professional politicians whose source of livelihood is mainly government patronage on account of their membership of the ruling party and the privileged position they occupy as leaders of the party. To change the direction and make parties command the power and authority to regulate the conduct of public office holders requires a situation where parties are managed by personalities that have independent means of livelihood and therefore free from control of government office bearers.
Being independent will enable the party office bearers’ to wield far greater influence and authority than the governments controlled by these parties. Which means that rather than have our contemporary professional politicians with weak or limited means of livelihood, we have personalities with accomplished career records and good economic base who are not in politics exclusively in search of income and other material benefits.
Wielding greater influence and authority should translate into developing an efficient and effective party administrative system with increased coordination and synergy of activities of all structures leading to proactive and agenda setting governance policy engagement. This would require that our opposition parties must have their own policy commitments that is clearly understood and shared by all members of the party, especially their functionaries. Policy commitments would then be the reference point and the basis for contestation.
Since all our parties are expected to have programmes and manifestos as requirement for registration by INEC, it can be conveniently argued that all our parties have policies. What is lacking is the awareness on the part of members and leaders of the parties about the contents of these policies and how to use them to engage governments, whether as ruling party or in opposition.
The question therefore would be: do we have people in our parties that meet the needed requirement to wield the influence and authority needed to reposition the parties? Across all the parties, these people don’t exist with reference to structures at local and state governments. At national level, it could be further argued that ACN and CPC have some measure of endowments, which are more reflected in two personalities that are the shining lights of the two parties. These are Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and Gen. Muhammadu Buhari.
Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari are the shining lights both on account of their history and contributions to processes of party development. On account of history they are leaders in their own rights arising from past roles as public servants. In the case of Asiwaju Tinubu, being former Lagos State Governor and leader of National Democratic Coalition (NADECO) and in the case of Gen. Buhari being former Head of State. This has enabled these personalities to emerge as the most influential leaders of the two parties.
Asiwaju Tinubu started his career as private sector practitioner and opted for public service in 1992 when he was elected as Senator of the Federal Republic representing Lagos West. He is described as pragmatic, charitable, grassroots person who uses communal services as veritable tools for social development. Following the June 12, 1993 annulment of the election of late Chief Moshood Abiola by Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Asiwaju Tinubu was among the group of Nigerians from the South West that formed NADECO to campaign for the actualization of the June 12 election.
Asiwaju Tinubu’s activities under NADECO, coupled with his grassroots orientation facilitated his election as Governor of Lagos State in 1999 under the banner of the Alliance for Democracy (AD). In 2003, out of the six governors of the South West that emerged on the platform of AD in 1999, only Asiwaju Tinubu was successful in returning as the Governor of Lagos State for a second term. The remaining five states were taken over by the PDP. It is to the credit of Asiwaju Tinubu, that he was able to use his control of Lagos State to build the foundation for reclaiming the rest of the South West.
In the case of Gen. Buhari, he had a successful career in the Nigerian army, rising to the position of Head of State between January 1984 and August 1985. He was the Governor of the old North East in 1975, comprising present North East geo-political zone. He became Federal Commissioner (Minister) of Petroleum in 1977 under General Olusegun Obasanjo. As Head of State, he was known for his tough campaign against corruption and indiscipline. This attribute is what endears him today to most ordinary Nigerians, especially in the Northern parts of the country who nurse the hope that Gen. Buhari could, with his tough stance, sanitise the governance environment as President of the country.
With the return to civil rule in 1999 and given shrinking democratic space as a result of what can be referred to as Obasanjo’s garrison politics, which virtually muscled and trampled all opposition to his government, Gen. Buhari joined politics and emerged as the presidential candidate of the ANPP in 2003. Since then, he has been the leading opposition presidential candidate, contesting in 2003, 2007 under the ANPP and in 2011 under the CPC.
Both Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari are today acknowledged as the leaders of the two leading opposition parties in Nigeria – ACN and CPC. Unfortunately, these two leaders have been unable to work together as a united opposition during any election. This inability to work together partly strengthens the ruling party, PDP and guaranteed its ‘victory’ during the 2007 and 2011 elections to a large extent. A major problem that has arisen in the process of negotiating unity of the two opposition leaders is reconciling personal aspirations.
Perhaps on account of the fact of the political psychology of regional zoning and the emergence of President Obasanjo as President between 1999 and 2007, Asiwaju Tinubu’s political aspirations are not evidently manifest as compared to that of Gen. Buhari. They are however a subject of public speculations and a major reference in the assessment of factors that blocked the alliance of the ACN and CPC before the 2011 elections.
In the case of Gen. Buhari, since 2003, he has been a presidential candidate and his aspiration is the major factor driving his politics and sustaining his support base. It is also his aspiration that is the CPC’s live wire. The major drawback of this is the fact that political opportunists control the administrative and organizational structure of the CPC and Gen. Buhari’s presidential campaign.
This is further facilitated by the poor resource base of Gen. Buhari’s politics. Poor resource base nurture a situation where politicians from PDP and other parties who should be potential spotlights in Gen. Buhari’s effort to cleanse the polity if elected as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria – these same people have wrapped themselves into the Gen. Buhari’s political structure primarily to win elections at other levels.
Unfortunately, since Gen. Buhari has been unable to win election, he is unable to command the needed authority and influence to control the party leadership. This was partly the dynamic that pitched Gen. Buhari against the ANPP leadership and led to the formation of CPC. Sadly, the formation of the CPC so far has not produced a shift in the control structure of the party especially in Nasarawa state where the party is in control of government. So far the new CPC has not produced an independent resource base.
As for the ACN, it is following the dominant practice of governmental structures controlling the party. This is the main reason why structures of the party in the South West and Edo are stronger on account of state government patronage. The process of evolving a national strategy for the development of structures of the party has been very slow. Like the CPC, the absence of independent resource base outside state governments is a contributory factor. But unlike the CPC, ACN has an Asiwaju who provide inspirational leadership not as a candidate for any public office. This inspirational leadership needs to be animated beyond the cycle of elections. Specifically, it needs to be domesticated and embedded as primarily party organizational, development and re-orientation agenda.
Can ACN and CPC produce aspiring party leaders that can reposition them? Both the ACN and CPC can achieve this only if the personal aspirations of the two leaders – Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari are properly directed towards principally development of the structures of the parties. These two leaders need to develop the aspiration of building institutions, starting with their primary political constituency – ACN and CPC. The objective should be to transform the parties into superior political organizations, capable of directing and regulating the conduct of all members, including elected government officials.
At that level, it will then be possible to have a situation where the leadership of these two parties are able to raise the profile of the parties, which can then makes it possible to command greater influence and authority, more than any of the governments they produced. To be fair to the ACN, it is acknowledged that its leadership at national level, represented by Chief Bisi Akande, who himself was a former Governor of Osun State under the AD between 1999 and 2003, commands high measure of authority and influence within the party.
In his own right, Chief Akande definitely commands good measure of influence and authority that is greater than any of the state governments produced by the party. Debatable as it may be, the fact of his being an independent minded leader and to that extent, being able to regulate activities and conduct of functionaries of government produced by the party cannot be faulted. Internally within the party, he is also able to moderate the positions of Asiwaju Tinubu.
This factor helped in supporting internal contestations within the ACN. A typical example is the fact that the party was able to resolve many internal disputes arising from party primaries before the 2011 elections, largely on account of the strength of the intervention of the national leadership of the party. Some of the results of the party’s primaries that were reflections of the influences of party leaders led by Chief Akande, especially in states where the party is in control of state governments – South West and Edo.
Given the influence and authority of Chief Akande therefore, why is Asiwaju Tinubu very influential, if not more influential? The first reason has to do with Asiwaju Tinubu’s business and political network, which enables him to be a major source of funding for the party. His political network which originated from his membership of the SDP during the aborted Third Republic, his subsequent membership and role in NADECO and being a former Governor of Lagos state where he survived all PDP and Obasanjo’s onslaughts gives him high national visibility. The strength of the ACN today is no doubt a product of good synergy between Chief Akande as the National Chairman and Asiwaju Tinubu as inspirational leader.
In the case of the CPC, the story is completely different. In virtually all cases of disputes arising from the party primaries before the 2011 elections, the party leadership relied more on the judgment of Gen. Buhari. The party National Chairman, Chief Tony Momoh and other members of the leadership do not command the needed influence to broker satisfactory resolution. The process of determining the resolution of most of the disputes within the CPC by Gen. Buhari leads to more acrimony resulting in court cases. These court cases have negatively affected the electoral achievements of the CPC during the 2011 elections. This practically cost the party, Katsina, Kano and Bauchi States.
Unlike the ACN’s Chief Akande, CPC’s Chief Momoh is therefore not as influential. Also unlike Asiwaju Tinubu, Gen. Buhari’s networks are not as resourceful to the CPC. Therefore relative to the CPC, the ACN can be argued to have a stronger leadership. While in the case of the ACN, its influence is not limited to the person of Chief Bisi Akande, the National Chairman, in the case of the CPC, its influence resides only with the person of Gen. Buhari.
Going Beyond Opposition
Can ACN and CPC go beyond Opposition? To the extent of the obvious leadership weaknesses of our opposition parties, ACN and CPC, coupled with their regional orientation they will not be able to mobilize Nigerians on a scale capable of defeating the PDP. The leadership weaknesses of the ACN and CPC to considerable extent reinforces the regional orientation of these parties on account of not being able to introduce initiatives that would endear the parties to Nigerians outside their current stronghold. This leadership problem also had the potential of entrenching injustice within the party without any strong check, which would constitute electoral threat that may weaken current stronghold. The way this leadership challenge is manifesting itself in our national politics is leading to the reinforcement of ethnic and regional identity for our two leading opposition parties.
Unfortunately, as is natural with all human endeavour, the attitude is to be defensive and often indulge in self-denial. Self-denial makes it possible for mistakes to get repeated, sometimes on a bigger scale. Our leaders are often the promoters of the practice of self-denial – most times through encouraging sycophancy and campaigns of self-promotion. In the circumstance, our leaders are being fed with lies about their popularity and the bright prospects of their electoral chances. This situation almost makes it difficult, if not impossible to initiate process of mobilizing support from outside current stronghold.
To initiate the process of mobilization beyond current strongholds require that our leaders take decisive steps to change the ethnic and regional outlook of their politics. For the ACN, it simply means that Chief Akande and Asiwaju Tinubu take steps to change their outlook and become national leaders and not South West Yoruba leaders. For the CPC, it means that Gen. Buhari take steps to transform his outlook into a national leader and not a Northern Hausa/Fulani and, as many perceived him, Muslim leader. The big questions are: is this possible? Can it even be contemplated?
It is certainly possible, but only through partnership with leaders from other parts of the country. In the case of Chief Akande and Asiwaju Tinubu, it simply means reaching out to leaders from the Northern, South Eastern or Niger Delta. In the case of Gen. Buhari, it is about reaching out to South West, South East and Niger Delta. This is where analysis of leadership structure and the confidence they command on their followership becomes important. It also requires assessment of numbers and the electoral advantage it produces.
At the level of these three factors, leadership structure, confidence of followership and assessment of numbers, the two parties have no option but to work together if at all they are interested in going beyond opposition. This is because in terms of leadership structures, as compared to what is obtainable in the other parties, they can be adjudged stronger. Looking at the ACN, with its political control of the South West, any agreement they entered into can translate into electoral victory in the South West. At least, this was the case in 1999. Although, it can be argued that this wasn’t the case in 2011, with Nuhu Ribadu as the presidential candidate of the ACN. The problem with the 2011 elections was the lukewarm commitment to Ribadu’s candidate by the ACN leadership.
What are the possibilities with respect to leadership from the South East and Niger Delta? In the case of the South East, there is no homogeneity in the political leadership of the region. Arising from that, there has been instability in political conduct of the South East leaders. Besides, there is no one political group that can claim majority followership from the people of the region aside the PDP. In engaging this issue, it could be argued that the CPC too has higher level of instability than the ACN. However, it should be recognized that the instability of the CPC is a function of its administrative weaknesses and poor political management. It definitely enjoys mass support in many parts of the North.
In the case of the Niger Delta, the factor of Dr. Goodluck Jonathan being from the region, and with almost all the formal leadership structures supporting his administration, represents a major setback for the prospects of the opposition to mobilize good followership that can guarantee a shift from being an opposition to a ruling party, either with reference to state governments or Federal Government. Are there other entry points to winning the Niger Delta either on the side of ACN or CPC?
Based on bilateral negotiations by any of these parties (ACN and CPC), swaying any section of the political leadership from the Niger Delta away from PDP will be very difficult. However, in terms of multiple strategic considerations involving the ACN, CPC and sections of the political leadership of the region, it is very possible. This is because given an agreement between the ACN and CPC, the political configuration of the country will begin to change. The unity between the political leaders from the Northern and the South West parts of the country would narrow the probability of the party contesting against the union of ACN and CPC to win majority votes and therefore qualify to be declared a winner of presidential election.
The reality is that a well negotiated union between the ACN and CPC will almost guarantee the whole of the 19 Northern states. This is on account of the current strengths of the ACN in Benue, Kogi, Adamawa, Kwara, Niger and Jigawa. A union of ACN and CPC that is able to address properly the religious coloration of the CPC may just be what is needed to win the political leadership of Plateau and Taraba states. Once the union of ACN and CPC deflect the religious baggage of CPC, it will also definitely strengthen the electoral prospect of the ACN/CPC union in Kaduna state.
To enable the ACN/CPC union to win elections in CPC popular areas such as Kano, Katsina and Bauchi would require strengthening the administrative capacity of the ACN/CPC union such that fairness, justice and transparent conduct of the process of candidate selection can be guaranteed. This would create the condition that would lead to electoral victory in states like Zamfara, Sokoto, Kebbi and the other two ANPP states in the North East (Borno and Yobe).
Effectively therefore, a carefully negotiated union of ACN/CPC has the potential of guaranteeing, at the minimum, simple majority votes in all the 19 Northern states and the 6 states of the South West. This means simple majority from 25 states out of the 36 states. This will be the new emerging political configuration. Based on this new reality, political leaders from the South East and Niger Delta would have to negotiate new relevance.
The tendency would be to dismiss the strength of the possibility of the new configuration and work to discourage its actualization. In other words, on account of the potential of the new political reality that may emerge on account of the union of ACN/CPC, sections of the political leadership in both ACN and CPC from the South East and Niger Delta may work against the possibility of such a union. The challenge this poses is for the leadership of both the ACN and CPC to take measures that would strengthen the confidence of the South East and Niger Delta leaders. Strengthening the confidence of South East and Niger Delta leaders would then throw up dynamics that would begin to threaten current political hold of the PDP in the two regions.
How can the confidence of leaders of the South East and Niger Delta be strengthened? This is where the two leading personalities of ACN and CPC, Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari, can be political assets or liabilities to the electoral prospects of the ACN/CPC union. It will be an asset to the extent that it is deployed impartially and fairly. It will be a liability if it is deployed to promote personal aspiration for public office using the new union of ACN/CPC. The only way therefore to ensure that these personalities are assets and not liabilities is for none of them to aspire to be the presidential candidate of the ACN/CPC union.
That way, the presidential candidate of the new ACN/CPC union is thrown open, which is possible only if the two current prominent leaders of the ACN and CPC, Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari disqualify themselves from the race and take the position of building the administrative and organizational capacity of the ACN/CPC union. Any other arrangement that promote any form of aspiration to contest for the position of president by any of these prominent leaders would only engender suspicion and block participation of political leaders from the South East and Niger Delta. In addition, it is also prone to the danger of presenting the ACN/CPC union in divisive coloration, which may undermine the realization of the anticipated strength of the union.
To respond to the question therefore whether ACN and CPC can rise above opposition politics is to state categorically that this is only possible in the context of a carefully negotiated agreement that would throw open the position of candidates, including presidential candidate and running mate. As constituted today, in their individual capacities, the ACN can continue to hold on to South West and Edo. It can, as has happened during the 2011 elections and subsequently, record good results in Benue, Jigawa, Kogi and Adamawa. Whether it can win elections in these states and form the state governments will be a function of the quality of candidates and the strength of the party structures.
Taking the analysis further, it can be argued that with respect to Edo, that the capacity of the party (ACN) to continue to hold on to the state government will be determined by factors that include post 2012 aspiration of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole and how the party structures is able to respond to them. A second factor would be determined by the process and quality of potential successor to Comrade Adams in Edo. Unlike the situation in the South West where the influence of political leadership in the region can be deployed to guarantee sustained political control, in the case of Edo, the situation is fluid. Therefore it can be predicted that if the present situation is retained, the ACN may only be guaranteed sustained control of the South West.
In the case of CPC, weak administrative system and poor political management, if unresolved will remain a disaster and continue to undermine the party’s electoral prospects even in the North. Assuming it is able to address these problems, it may be able to win many states governments in the region, especially the North West. It will hardly be able to go beyond the North. In fact, even in the context of the North, it can be argued that the CPC will not be able to make good electoral impact in Plateau, Benue, Taraba and to some extent Kogi and Kwara. Therefore, on its own, the CPC cannot go beyond being an opposition party.
A question that can readily be asked is: can’t the ACN align with other groups in the North apart from the CPC? It is possible but there is no guarantee that such an alliance can produce electoral victory. This is on account of the nature of the politics of CPC. The reality is that it (CPC politics) has all the characteristics of mass rebellion. It doesn’t respect convention or procedure and thrives on a bandwagon strategy. It reaches its peak on Election Day. Prior to that day, everything appears normal and political rallies, other than the ones organized by CPC can attract good crowds. However, on Election Day, this will pave way to intimidation, especially if Gen. Buhari is a presidential candidate. To be fair to Gen. Buhari, one must point out that this happens without his prompting. It is just a reflection of his mass appeal in parts of the North. In so many ways, it provides legitimate and excellent response to PDP’s strategy of vote buying, ballot box snatching and rigging.
The very nature of this reality produces a two-way electoral contest between the CPC and PDP in many parts of the North, especially North West. The experience of Benue, Adamawa, Jigawa and Kogi states under the ACN and Plateau under the Labour Party showed that it is possible to also produce a two-way contest between the PDP and other parties, apart from the CPC. It is possible with very good strategies that would have to adopt some of the less noble antics of PDP and the rebellious approach of CPC.
Do we have politicians outside the PDP and CPC that can provide leadership in this direction? They are very limited. There is however, the prospect of appropriating some politicians that may fail to achieve their personal aspirations to emerge as candidates on the platforms of PDP and CPC. Pursuant to their aspirations, they can find their way to the ACN and contest. This will translate into a situation where the ACN will rely on second hand candidates for 2015 elections in many parts of the country outside the South West. The CPC will also rely on second hand candidates in many parts of the country outside the North. Coupled with its poor resource base, if unresolved, would also lead to a situation where they (CPC) will depend on second hand candidates mainly from PDP to be able to contest the 2015 elections in many states in the North, including areas where the party (CPC) is strong.
Recommendations – Conclusion
There is certainly a bright prospect for the opposition parties led by the ACN and CPC to defeat the ruling PDP in 2015. This is only possible on account of a negotiated union under the joint leadership of Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari. The joint leadership will be founded on a pillar of neutrality that precludes the two of them from aspiring for President. One of the objectives of precluding Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari from aspiring for President is to build confidence in the new union and nurture a strong base for popular participation in the ACN/CPC union.
In the context of the new ACN/CPC, the leaders of the union represented by Asiwaju Tinubu and Gen. Buhari need to give priority attention to matters of party organization and discipline of members as a prerequisite for ensuring that the governments to be produced by ACN/CPC union are regulated and controlled based on an agenda of providing services and promoting national development. As much as it is important to emphasize the quality and credentials of the candidates of the ACN/CPC union, the quality and credentials of the party leadership is equally important.
In the light of the advantage of ACN/CPC union facilitating the emergence of new political atmosphere that can promote national reconciliation, peace and unity, this in itself is enough incentive to require the sacrifice of the aspirations of our leaders. The challenge is essentially how this is translated into programmatic agenda of the new government under ACN/CPC union, which can be addressed by ensuring that national reconciliation, promotion of peaceful co-existence and the unity of the country are include in all political campaign agenda of the ACN/CPC union.
In addition to national reconciliation, promotion of peaceful co-existence and the unity of the country, there are other issues bordering on management and diversification of the economy, employment generation and poverty eradication, etc. This calls for clear commitments based on a negotiated internal party debate and contestation. The practice in contemporary Nigeria is to contract consultants who normally develop party policies that hardly go through internal process of debate. In order to consciously promote a different practice would require initiative in this regard.
Finally, the issue of party funding is critical to the new ideal being envisioned. So long as funding for the new party will be driven based on desire to promote personal aspiration, it will undermine its democratic thrust. The first test for the leadership of the union of ACN/CPC will be the strength of funding arrangement. Suspicions that normally result from the challenge of managing personal aspirations are potential threats to viable and prospective funding arrangements.