Mni — Last week this column focused on the book launch of the year which held on January 15 2013 at the Shehu Musa Yaradua Centre Abuja. The book was hailed by the opposition parties as a pathfinder to making the 2015 election a meaningful intervention in the sad and unfolding debacle of 'Democracy without Democrats.' The opposition parties for whom the agenda was developed include 'those parties, beside the PDP which have Governors and Members in the National Assembly and State Houses of Assembly. These are the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN, Congress for Progressive Change CPC, All Nigeria Peoples Party ANPP, Labour Party, APGA and PPA. Of these, the ACN holds the leading position with six state Governors and 90 members of the National Assembly. The author questions the extent to which these parties are playing the classical role of opposition parties. He singled out the ACN and the CPC as closer to it; even then he saw is more as reactions than a 'systemic agenda-setting strategy' that would strengthen the opposition.
All the guests at the high table who represented the various political parties spoke in support of a united opposition. In his contribution, Dr Kayode Fayemi the Governor of Ekiti State said the '2015 Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition presents us with engaging perspectives. It argues in a unique but courageous way about what needs to be done to be able to build a strong opposition party. Its selling point is its strong recommendation for the development of a political movement that would be anchored on strong party organization managed by very skilful and committed Nigerians. It logically argued for a paradigm shift in our political culture from a situation where our politics is driven by individual ambitions to one driven, first and foremost by committed membership.'
The book reviewer, Dr Osagie Obayuwana of the National Conscience Party highlighted the main thrust of the book, which is a guide for political action for opposition forces within the time frame of 2013 and 2015. The author Salihu Mohammed Lukman criticises opposition politics stressing that the dominant politics is 'devoid of clear cut ideologies and edifying values which inevitably results only in contests of personalities in the promotion of primordial sentiments to attain the selfish goals of such personalities. Religious, ethnic and regional leaders hold sway, tending to lead to discord and national fragmentation at levels never before witnessed. All this in the face of unemployment rate as high as 24%, poverty rate over 70%, illiteracy rate not too far behind, side by side with an over 800% increase in Federal government spending between 2000 and 2012 with not much to show for it. He concludes that the legacy of the PDP which has been in control of the Federal Government and most of the states for the past 13 years is that of incompetence, treachery to national aspirations, deliberate poor management, wholesale graft.'
On the way forward Salihu Lukman drew a map for the opposition to use for direction to success in 2015 elections. Among the urgent tasks identified by the author are;
-The imperative of mobilizing mass organisations in the country -Translate the popularity of the CPC into membership of the party.-Translate the membership of professionals in the ACN into a working partnership with professional groups.-Consult and partner with the NLC, TUC and Civil Society groups. -Identify specific interest groups in the country to partner with -Formulate and adopt a women and youth mobilization program. Doing the above will in addition to leading to advances in fund raising and political education, it would put an end to passivity and docility of credible Nigerians and increase the size of the pool from which credible candidates may be selected.
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu the Chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria said they have not convincingly stated their case. 'Thus, we must begin to draw a clear distinction between the conservative elitism of the current government the progressive reform we offer to the people. We must do more than criticize the PDP failings. The people already know them for they suffer under these failures and mistakes every day. What the people need from us is the assurance that we have an intelligent, attainable vision for reforming our political economy.' Although they are the leaders of the leading opposition parties, the Asiwaju said 'the book harbours too much on the alleged competing personal ambitions of General Buhari and myself.. He charged all card carrying members of the opposition parties to play their own role in making their merger a reality. He said 'everyone must assess their role in the coming alliance and identify how they cannot only help bring it into existence but give it the fortitude, strength and ballast needed to navigate the difficult waters to electoral victory.'
Asiwaju Bola Tinubu then set the opposition train in motion. He declared that the two opposition leaders, General Muhammadu Buhari of CPC and the ACN which he represents support the merger. 'Here, I can say for myself and I am sure I also speak for the general in this regard. It is not in our hearts to sacrifice the national wellbeing in order to fulfil any personal agendas. Whatever responsibilities that need to be assumed or sacrifices needed to be made to consummate a progressive alliance, we shall do.'
The Governor of Osun State Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola rounded it up when he said 'the level of poverty in the country is unbelievable and unacceptable'. He commended the author and all those who have supported him, particularly his wife and mother. He paid tribute to his mother who attended the event for the training she gave the author. He also asked his wife Hajiya Amina Salihu, an activist, orator and accomplished development worker to stand up for recognition but for the first time I saw the shy part of Amina who preferred not to be seen on this occasion and remained seated at the back row. To the opposition political parties we say the ball is now in your court.