Leadership (Abuja)

Nigeria: 2015 - Reviving Opposition Machine

Ahead of the 2015 general election the opposition political parties are coalescing to ensure that they wrest power from the ruling Peoples' Democratic Party (PDP).

For the opposition, the PDP must be stopped now to rescue the ship of state from sinking. Ahead of the titanic battle, opposition arrow heads, General Muhammadu Buhari of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) are working out an alliance that would probably see both parties presenting common candidates in the 2015 elections. CHUKS OHUEGBE takes a look at the reunion of the old ailies.

Setting the stage

A major problem the opposition political parties have had to contend with since the commencement of the Fourth Republic is the ability to plan ahead. More often than not, they always waited until the last minute before opening talks for either alliance or merger. This error of judgment had always given the ruling party the upper hand in the subsequent elections.

However, it appears that the leadership of the two main opposition parties -Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and Action Congress of Nigeria (CAN), have resolved to plan ahead of time.

Earlier this month, the CPC leader and its presidential flag-bearer in the 2011 election, Muhammadu Buhari visited the CAN leader, Bola Ahmed Tinubu in Lagos to chart the way forward. That visit was significant in that it was the first of such after the breakdown of the merger talks in the run up to the April 2011 general election.

Analysts who are versed in the opposition politics in the country are of the opinion that given Buhari's political trajectory, his early preparations for the 2015 elections is an indication that the opposition want to get things right this time around. It is significant to note that Buhari did not wait to be courted by other opposition parties.

Rather, he is the one who is reaching out to them, which analysts say, it is 'a major breakthrough in the opposition's quest to present a common bloc'.

Though the details of that meeting were not made public, it nonetheless, sends a strong signal to the ruling party that the 2015 elections will definitely not be a walk in the park. Confirming this position, a source at the meeting told LEADERSHIP SUNDAY thus; 'You may recall that both Buhari and Tinubu have repeatedly called on the opposition to commence early preparation with a view to forming a strong alliance that will wrest power from the PDP.

As you know, our past experience has shown that late commencement of talks of any sort, be it merger or alliance, adversely hampered the actualization of a workable alliance among the opposition.

Therefore, it is in line with this agenda and the need to actualize the formation of a formidable alliance that would defeat the PDP that the opposition leaders have started contacts among themselves'.

The danger signal

In the exercise of his fundamental right, one Mr. Cyriacus Njoku had approached an Abuja High Court challenging the propriety of President Goodluck Jonathan contesting for the 2015 presidential election.

A counter affidavit filed by the Counsel to President Jonathan in the suit, Mr. Ade Okeaya-Inneh pointedly deposed that his client (President Jonathan) was doing his first term in office, a confirmation that the president could still exercise his constitutional right in vying for the office in 2015.

"The 1st defendant (Jonathan) is currently doing his first term of four years in office as the president of Nigeria as provided by the 1999 Constitution as amended. The 1st defendant's status and position is formidably backed by the 1999 Constitution.

The Constitution of Nigeria only makes provisions for a president to contest for not more than two terms of four years each. The Constitution recognizes the executive president's tenure of office to be four years," the counter affidavit read in part.

Though the presidential spokesman, Dr. Reuben Abati in a bid to diffuse the tension in the polity had said that his principal was yet to give thought to 2015 elections, the opposition leaders appear to have read beyond the surface. For them, the cat had already been let out of the bag.

The battle cry

By the reading of the socio-economic gauge of the opposition, the PDP-controlled central government have performed abysmally low. The inability of the administration to tackle headlong these problems, the opposition maintain, is a major contributory factor to the security crisis that has almost brought the country to its knees.

For Buhari, this continuous slide to anarchy should be contained by the opposition by offering an alternative government. The alleged rigging of the elections by the ruling party, he said , had robbed the polity of good leadership. He therefore, warned the ruling party that any attempt to rig the 2015 polls, as had been done in the past elections, would lead to disastrous consequences.

His words; " We had decided, together with the party leaders, that by the year 2015, God willing, it's either the government does justice in the conduct of the elections as always claimed by them or it will be a fierce bloody battle.

The magnitude of corruption and insensitivity in Nigeria's leadership is legendary, but there is a storm of awareness. God willing by 2015 something will happen. They either conduct a free and fair election or they go a very disgraceful way". Speaking figuratively, the CPC leader had referred the federal government as 'the biggest Boko Haram'.

The level of corruption in the government circles, especially the petroleum industry and the seeming inability of the president to bring the culprits to book, is of great concern also, to the opposition.

As a one-time minister of petroleum resources, the CPC leader is of the conviction that only a corrupt leadership would watch its appointees commit such crimes without bringing such persons to book. Why the issue should be taken more seriously, the ex-general said, is because the petroleum industry is the life wire of the nation.

"This kind of thing can only happen under the type of Nigeria's current leadership. Nowhere in the world can such things happen now and nowhere in the world can government increase the cost of petroleum product by more than 120 percent. It is most insensitive. Besides the air people breathe, the next important thing to them is petroleum products", the CPC leader further noted.

The time, according to the CAN leader Ahmed Bola Tinubu, does not call for lamentation. Rather, it is time to brace up for action if the situation must change. "We fought for democracy, we won it, they gave it to us and, from 1999 till date, a particular political party is in power and what have we gotten? lamentation, poverty, lack of motion, sorrow, excuses and lack of development.

They should quit. We are tired of lamentation. We must stop complaining; let us come to a market square and confront this government if they are not ready for reform", the CAN leader charged.

Former governor of Sokoto state, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa, a leading light in the opposition camp, is convinced that there is no justice and respect for human dignity in the PDP controlled federal government. The party, he said, is using the agencies of the state to intimidate and force members of the opposition to either join them or abandon their cause.

For instance, Bafarawa said that he has a subsisting case in the High Court of Sokoto state, in which he is supposed to be the complainant, whereas the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) turned him the accused with others.

The former governor's main regrets however, is that the names of some of the other accused persons had been struck out of the charge sheet because, 'they had dumped the opposition party and joined the ruling PDP'.

The former two-time governor on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples' Party (ANPP) shares the same aspiration with his other colleagues in the opposition, that is time the PDP behemoth was cut to size.

Conclusion

Most political analysts are agreed on one point: This is the opposition parties' finest opportunity to form government at the centre. The big question remains; will the opposition parties agree to work for a common goal? Are they paying attention to grassroots mobilization instead of empty media boasts?

Will the right candidates be fielded for the elections, instead of only relatives and close associates of the party leaders who do not have any electoral value? Would their leaders resist the lucre that the ruling party will dangle before them in the run up to the general elections? The pitfalls and landmines are numerous as 2015 beckons.

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