The Many Neutral Perspectives to 2015: Part 1; BY Umar Mukhtar
Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the APC, goes into nationwide polls for the first time in 2015, being the fourth republic’s fifth democratic transition after the four successful elections from 1998. The APC faces the ruling PDP which has been in power at the national level since the return to democratic rule in 1999 and which has maintained dominance in terms of numbers of State Governors, National and State Assembly Members and of course by extension, Local Council Heads and Councillors. Going by such spread in political office holding, PDP is one party with a truly expansive outreach.
For the first time in Nigeria’s leading opposition history, the APC controls at least one state in each of the country’s geo-political zones; that being a result of election victory, political party merger and decampment of political office holders. It is on record that APC is also the first opposition party to have in its midst, 2 former Chairmen of the ruling party, both being at the helm at the time the party coasted to victory in two different elections (Audu Ogbeh 2003 and Kawu Baraje 2011).
In the test of strength of the ruling and opposition parties, one has to carefully consider the medium through which the political offices currently held by both parties came about and how they are likely to influence the 2015 elections. The PDP currently holds the Presidency which was won through general elections in 2011 as well as all previous elections; no opposition party in Nigeria from 1998 has been able to secure 25% votes in two-third of Nigeria’s state’s even without gaining simple overall majority, while the PDP has consistently secured at least 25% in at least 30 states of Nigeria in every Presidential contest since 1999.
The PDP currently controls 21 states (South East 3, South South 4, South West 2, North West 4, North East 4 and North Central 4) out of which 20 were won at the polls, while one (Ondo) is said to be recently won through defection. The party also lost five states to defection (North West 2, South South 1, North Central 1 and North East 1) and has re-captured one of the five via impeachment (Adamawa), awaiting the verdict of the polls on October the 11th.
Looking at the strength of the APC on the other hand, the party came into being in June 2013, as a coalition of opposition parties which had mostly earlier broken away from one another, then coalesced back into one party while adding a large spice of decampees from the ruling party. The APC netted more decampees their way entailing a roll call which includes five sitting Governors, 3 former Governors (sitting Senators), about 50 parliamentarians, 2 former National Chairmen, a former National Secretary and former Zonal Chairmen. The PDP also received former Governors, legislators and 2 former opposition Presidential Candidates (Shekarau and Ribadu). However, the defection wave has greatly favoured the APC, ensuring the party’s wider national spread.
A school of thought is of the belief that 2015 elections should be in the back burner of national discourse while a broad-based strategy on tackling insurgency and its spilling effects should be the pre-occupation of all those who call themselves politicians. The ruling PDP, however insists that a large component of the country’s insurgency is aided by the opposition, largely depicted as a disgruntled Northern Nigeria. Such depiction by the ruling PDP amplifies its justification to holding on to power beyond 2015 as against handing over Nigeria to a “Janjaweed” ideologue group, as they mostly refer to the opposition. The opposition APC however, insists that the lethargic approach to tackling armed insurgency in Nigeria (as acknowledged by foreign nations) is a clear indication of PDP’s complicity or incompetence and uses such claims to justify the campaign to end PDP’s rule.
Going back to the depiction of APC as a “Janjaweed” (barbaric militant) group by the PDP, as one mainly adored and followed in the predominantly Muslim core north, the actions of the country’s opposition parties and supporters too have not helped ward off such claims over the years. Very few analysts notice the fact that the opposition in Nigeria post-1999, on all 3 occasions has always fielded a Muslim Northerner as Presidential Candidate (ANPP ’03, ’07, ‘011, CPC, ‘011, AC’07, ACN, ‘011, DPP, ‘07), giving the PDP the latitude to continue affirming the region and its people’s so called “born-to-rule” posturing.
Barring any major political turn-around (which is highly unlikely) the new opposition coalition, APC, is also likely to thread unto the same path in 2015. The PDP on the other hand has fielded a Southern Christian from a majority tribe, a Northern Muslim from a prominent family and a Southern Christian from a Minority tribe (even though the circumstances are greatly arguable). In 2015, the discourse will be formed as to which party appears to be more Nigerian, more tolerant of diversity and more focused on holding Nigeria together; the views therefrom are unlikely to be objective, but are likely look at history and skew conclusions.
The second part of this article will follow soonest.
Umar Y. Mukhtar
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