Nigerians are truly ingenious. We like to create jokes out of every situation in spite of our often-depressing circumstance. Already some have created some jokes around the merger recently consummated among opposition political parties - ACN, CPC, ANPP and a faction of APGA. I really don’t know who conceived it but one of the banters goes like this: “Because the ACN, CPC, ANPP and APGA have formed a merger, PDP too has decided to merge with INEC.” The import of the joke should not be lost on any discerning observer. For one, it presupposes that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party is jittery over the opposition parties’ merger and can do anything in response to the merger.
In fact, some of the leading lights of the new opposition party - the All Progressives Congress - which emerged from the merger have insinuated that the PDP is actually jittery, a claim the ruling party has also countered. Also, the impression may have been created by that joke that INEC is in romance with PDP, an allegation often made by some opposition politicians without any basis. My view on that, however, is INEC Chairman Prof. Attahiru Jega, has restored integrity to the commission and the electoral process and nothing should be done to disparage him and his achievements as we expect him to further build on such electoral gains in subsequent polls.
But back to PDP and the opposition merger, the ruling party has said it is unruffled by the merger, though it also added that the opposition alliance won’t last. The party’s National Chairman Bamanga Tukur said the merger was formed because of the disparate interests of those involved and that there is no unity of interests and, as such, the merger would not endure. Many are even more scathing in their criticism of the merger. They say the various gladiators that came together to form the new coalition party are strange bedfellows and that the merger is a marriage of convenience that won’t go far.
They could be right or wrong, but let us wait and see how the coalition progresses going forward, particularly as 2015 approaches. I think the merger is a good development for the polity, something we had expected as far back as 2007 or 2011 when ACN and ANPP and later ACN and CPC were engaged in merger talks. The talks fell through on both occasions. In my view, the emergence of APC is a good development because it can help to properly structure our politics. The country has been bereft of true opposition parties in the real sense of the word for some time now and APC’s arrival may just fill that void. It is both good for the country and PDP. It can help rejig PDP, which has been in power since 1999, and wean it of its culture of impunity.
Former PDP national chairman Prince Vincent Ogbulafor told us some time ago that the party would rule for 60 years; others are even less charitable, saying PDP would rule for 200 years. With a formidable opposition party that can give PDP real challenge at the polls, our politics won’t be business as usual again. I have always advocated for a two-party system in the country. The coming together of four of the opposition parties may engender the move towards a two-party structure and halt the tendency towards a dominant one party. This can work for the good of the country, as it would present the people with the opportunity to make real choice between competing ideas and policies.
But it’s yet a long walk to that realisation, as the APC itself has a long way to go. Indeed there are tough hurdles ahead for the merger party. The biggest of such is the ambition of the leaders of the new party. The big question is: how does APC pick its candidates particularly the presidential candidate for the 2015 election? Will such process be rancour-free? Are the gladiators ready to subsume their aspirations in the interest of the coalition? For instance, will Major-General Muhammadu Buhari or Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu be ready to forgo their individual ambition, if need be, in the interest of the party? What happens to the initial platforms of the merging parties? Also, the new party must quickly come up with its logo, emblem, manifestoes and all of that in a way devoid of rancour. The ensuing programmes and manifestoes of the party must be those that can actually bring a change in the lives of the people. The birth complications associated with the arrival of APC must be quickly resolved in the interest of the new coalition.