2019: Can Opposition Alliance Gel?

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The proposed alliance of political parties ahead of the 2019 general election is reminiscent of 2013, when the merger that gave birth to the All Progressives Congress eventually ousted a sitting president, writes Shola Oyeyipo

In 2011, when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan vied for the office of the president after completing the remainder of the tenure of his former boss, Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, he got massive support among Nigerians. But by the end of his first term, he had lost the goodwill, such that Nigerians wanted him out at whatever cost.

His problem actually started in January 2012, after the announced increase in the pump price of petroleum products. He didn’t recover from the shock that followed that insensate decision, even though it was the way to go if a majority of the problems plaguing the petroleum sector must been sufficiently addressed.

However, relying on the angst against the administration by 2015, when the former president made a run for a second term, some of the strongest opposition parties went into a merger that provided the platform upon which President Muhammadu Buhari contested and won the election.

In Nigeria, a ruling party and an incumbent president are hard to defeat, but the coming together of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian Peoples’ Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and some part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) in February 2013, proved that wrong, because the incumbency weight was demystified – a sitting president was removed by popular vote.

Again, as the country inches towards another general election next year, a similar scenario is playing out. Already, a coalition of 42 registered political parties operating as ‘Committee of Concerned Political Parties’ is already considering the possibility of presenting a joint presidential candidate to contest against Buhari.

And like Jonathan, Buhari too is carrying with him the burden of a fast eroding goodwill among the electorate, but the big question is: can the alliance being proposed be effective enough to remove him from office?
Leader of the coalition, Onwubuya Breatforth, expressed optimism that the ongoing negotiations would sack the ruling APC in 2019.

“We are not forming a merger but we are going to field and support only one presidential candidate. We are talking with different stakeholders and political parties including the PDP.”

Already, Allied Congress Party of Nigeria (ACPN), Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Accord, New Nigeria Peoples Party, Social Democratic Party, Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), and All Progressives Alliance (APA), have been named as part of the alliance talk and they are hoping to sign a memorandum of understanding to enable them work together soon.

While there have been a plethora of opinions for and against Buhari’s second term ambition, some factors remain constant in evaluating the potency of the gang-ups against him, particularly when examined within the context of how Jonathan was stopped.

No doubt, the president has recorded successes in such areas as food supply, security and a recuperating economy, revamping of the agricultural sector leading to 90 per cent reduction in rice and beans importation, exiting worst recession in decades, stabilising the naira against the dollar, increased investment inflows, with Nigeria’s stock market emerging one of the best performing in the world.

Further still, the federal government launched a 701 billion Naira Intervention Fund (Payment Assurance Programme) to support power generation companies. Nigeria also rose to 24th place on the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business rankings, and earned a place on the list of top 10 reformers in the world. The country’s foreign exchange reserves grew by $12 billion, reaching the highest level since 2014 and an additional $250m was added to the Sovereign Wealth Fund. What more, Nigeria’s trade balance is now in surplus.

Nigeria successfully issued two Eurobonds (US$4.5bn), a Sukuk Bond (N100 billion), a Diaspora Bond (US$300m), and the first Sovereign Climate Bond in Africa, raising billions of dollars for infrastructure spending.

The successes enumerated above and several others, including but not limited to the launch of a tax amnesty scheme, implementation of a whistle blowing programme, Social Investment Programme – an ambitious social welfare programme, curbing Boko Haram in the North-east and the fact that the Nigerian Customs Service recorded its highest ever revenue collection, to the tune of one trillion naira mark.

But despite these and the pretence among the president’s handlers, truth is that the challenges of declining political influence and competitive advantages of opponents in his aspirations to lead Nigeria for another term swell by the day.

Notwithstanding some of the arguments against former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s unveiled opposition to Buhari’s second term ambition, he is one opposition too many.

This is because working against Buhari, hand in glove with the likes of former military president, General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida, former Chief of Army Staff, General Theophilus Danjuma, and other notables, the president has a huge task in his comeback bid.

Already, the former leader has launched what he tagged Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) and there are ongoing widespread consultations with the hope to form a formidable force to wrest power from the ruling APC in 2019 poll.
Not only has CNM fused into African Democratic Congress (ADC), reliable feelers are of the view that the political pressure group is not unaware of the ongoing alliances among political parties. At some point, the CNM said it would pursue its agenda to remove President Buhari under the alliance.

Apart from that, there will not be any alternative to APC and Buhari without a formidable opposition party. Similar thing happened during the last presidential election. Without the merger that gave birth to the APC, Jonathan would have had a smooth sail to second term. Therefore, if there is no strong opposition party with an acceptable candidate, Buhari might easily return to office in 2019.

What this means is that with the alliance talks and other political movements being canvassed, not only will the build-up to the 2019 general election be intriguing, the contest will be stiff, because some of those who willingly supported Buhari in 2015 are not just urging him to drop his ambition, they are prepared to vote against him.

For example, the Christian bloc has vowed to mobilise faithful to reject the president in 2019. The Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN) declared that killings by herdsmen across the country will cost President Buhari his second term bid.

Like many other Christian leaders, the General Overseer of the Charismatic Renewal Ministries (CRM), Dr. Cosmas Ilechukwu, made this known, when reading the communiqué issued at the end of the CRM Annual Leaders’ Retreat at the headquarters of the church in Owerri.

The youth bloc that is already warming up for leadership, the restructuring advocates, the poor and downtrodden, the northern leaders and youths as well as many others, who are disenchanted about the APC leadership from which they had expected so much, will surely vote for their preferred candidates on alternative platforms.