Political History of Party Alliances and Challenges for the Progressives By Odusote Oluwakayode
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Muhammadu Buhari, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, Chief Bisi Akande, Tom Ikimi name s synonymous with the spirit of progressive politics, founding fathers of the All Progressive Congress (APC). Over the past months, these set of men had caused ripples in the camp of the People’s Democratic Party with their activities of grouping to defeat the acclaimed largest party in Africa. The intrigues are mounting; the antics are building as the powerful politicians’ device means to outplay each other. It’s interesting so far the power play does not turn violent.
The power play will also be adjudged interesting if the war is primarily focused on the ideological field of battle, where issues concerning the governed are intellectually debated with critical areas of our economy subjected to transparent debates. The beauty of such debate is that, the electorates are given a platform to choose a preferred leader.
This is not the first time in our political history that alliances will be announced. In the First Republic, the Northern People’s Congress which was led by the Sardauna of Sokoto, had political dominance and influence in the Northern Regions and principally dominated the government at the centre. Due to resentment of and the need to wrestle power from the Tafawa Balewa led government, a coalition called the United Progressive Grand Alliance (UPGA) was birthed.
The alliance comprised Obafemi Awolowo’s Action Group, Nnamdi Azikiwe’s National Council of Nigerian Citizens, Joseph Tarka’s United Middle Belt Congress and Aminu Kano’s Northern Elements Progressive Union. The NPC did not relax to watch the display of mergers; it quickly moved to form the Nigeria National Alliance (NNA). The hype of the whole political drama was the merger with the Samuel L. Akintola’s Nigerian National Democratic Party of the Western Region.
In the Second Republic, there were six dominant political parties also segregated along ethnic lines. There were serious allegations of massive corruption, unemployment and incompetence leveled against the Shehu Shagari led government. So dire was the polity that another alliance was born, the Progressive Parties Alliance (PPA). Shagari’s National Party of Nigeria launched a divide-and-rule strategy in the loose-knit PPA. Zik’s Nigeria People’s Party and Kano’s People’s Redemption Party reeled under divisions, with factions emerging and some merging with the NPN. Awo’s Unity Party of Nigeria was impregnable as the north star of the west. The resultant effect of the massively rigged election was the military takeover by the Muhammadu Buhari led regime.
In the aborted Third Republic, decisions to make the parties people driven accounted for free and fair elections especially during the June 12 Presidential election in which the people voted for the candidate of their choice irrespective of ethnic or religious sentiment.
The fourth republic is referred to as the “revival of the second republic”. The long years of military dictatorship negatively impacted on the democratic orientation of Nigerians. This pattern of orientation affected party structures which existed in form of party indiscipline, mutual suspicion and conflict between Party Executive and Party Representatives in government, as well as poor political leadership as a result of non-submissiveness of elected political office holders to the political party’s leadership. Just as of old, the Nigerian Fourth Republic is scourged with interest articulation. This is because the parties are more focused on building power bases to exert authority and control state resources at will.
The quest for political takeover through merger had never worked well for Nigeria. The historical references ended with political turmoil that led to bloodshed and eventual takeover by the military. The references to the past do not however mean that forming a political coalition can’t work. It all depends on the genuine reasons of the merging parties, their ideological compatibility, their respect for transparent Democratic Party and astute leadership.
The idea for anticipating leading must be well spelt out in a form of party manifesto. The ideas by the emerging APC to lead at the centre must be clearly defined. Now that history does not favour mergers, the challenge for the APC is to wisely learn from past mistakes. The alliances of the First and Second Republics failed largely due to internal wrangling and selfish ambitions. If those endemic traits could be buried, the current alliance of progressives can win.
Most of the internal issues that must be clearly solved are the perceived wrongs between various stakeholders of the ANPP, a party that General Buhari jettisoned to form CPC. Just as a PDP engage in bitterness and battles over ambition of members, the APC could be submerged in the individual interest of its members.
The ACN’s battles are numerous. Though the PDP as the opposition party in the dominant ACN states have allowed grave internal problems rob its voice in the south west. The presidency noticing the weakness of the PDP may have devised a means as alleged to sponsor Dr. Fredrick Fasehun, the founder of the Oodua People’s Congress, a Yoruba self determination group to match the might of the progressives in the south west.
The ACN had quickly expressed concern and ask questions that “Is it true, as it is being alleged in certain quarters, that the essence of the contract is to recruit 30,000 youths who will ostensibly protect the pipelines, but in the real sense are ready hands to foment violence on demand in the southwest? Is it true that the so-called revival of the UPN is to provide a platform for anarchists and end-gamers in the southwest to infiltrate the ranks of the progressives and throw the region into chaos?
That is the sort of the political game ahead of the 2015 general elections. The ACN have just of recent had to battle with another internal wrangling within its ranks when Sen. Opeyemi Bamidele declared his intention to run as governor of the state in 2015. The fall out of this declaration has resulted in the Action Congress of Nigeria in Ekiti State accusing the National Chairman of newly formed Unity Party of Nigeria, Dr. Fredrick Fasehun and a member of the House of Representatives, Mr. Opeyemi Bamidele of acting out the plot of the Presidency to destabilize the party.
The party said, “We know the antecedents of both Fasehun and Opeyemi as opportunistic politicians and crumb-eaters from the Abuja table and they should stop fooling members of the public with their fake progressive claims.
There are numerous threats to the emergence of the APC but if carefully managed, the opportunities for the opportunities are wide and extensive. From the current crop of the progressives, the resources and force needed to uproot the ruling party is in place especially going by the continued internal crisis within the PDP.
Above all, the emerging APC and the members must first realize that voter’s need the reassurance that they are concerned enough to clean the mess created by the PDP and not to add more “salt to injury”. The present opportunity and its timing can be used to augur the much-needed change.
If it is merely used (The formation of APC) to remove the irritant called PDP, it will show that self-interest is more important to political parties than bringing necessary dividends to the governed, then the usual regrets by the electorates. History beckons.
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