19 February 2013

Nigeria: APC Versus PDP


The recent formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC) from four opposition parties in the country - ACN, APGA, ANPP and CPC - may be the last chance to head off a one-party state. The ruling PDP should not try to scuttle the merger, as alleged in some quarters. If this democracy must be sustained, there should exist at least two strong parties with near-equal chances of forming a government after each election.

PDP has continued to rule Nigeria through four general elections which it won in most cases by a wide margin. It has gradually taken states in the north that were ANPP. It was only in the last election that the party lost ground in the south: AC gained ground in the south-west and Edo while APGA made a bold statement in the south-east. Within this period, Nigeria has almost turned a one-party state.

Whenever PDP chieftains say that there is no vacancy in Aso Rock or that their party would rule for 100 years, they only help to undermine democracy. If the ruling party had done well and truly deserved the votes of the electorate, it would be democracy in action. However, it is known that PDP has continued to manipulate the electoral process; its leaders have sworn to win at all cost or considered elections as "a do or die affair". Electoral fraud has been the main culprit in the post-election violence that led to great loss of lives and property in 2011. No doubt, the outcome of the election in certain states of the north, where a state of emergency was eventually declared, would have been different if the atmosphere necessary for the democratic process had been conducive enough.

PDP has not been the only party hat rigs elections, but it has taken advantage of the existence of many mushroom political parties, and, likely, some of these parties were working for the PDP. Thankfully, INEC has wielded the big stick by suspending several parties that failed to meet the necessary requirements.

We know the PDP is determined to do all that is within its powers to hold on to the leadership of this country. It will not give up to the opposition on a platter of gold. The opposition must therefore employ all strategies and tactics to wrestle power from the ruling party. What is most important is for the electoral umpire to ensure a level playing field that is necessary for democracy to flourish. Let the people decide the winners.

Knowing that the PDP has enormous powers and may use all possible means to scuttle the merger, the APC should gird its loins for a real battle. Already, the talk of the town has been that the new party harbours yesterday's men who are not likely to work together. Who is spreading this rumour? Obviously, detractors will infiltrate the new party to cause confusion and ensure that the merger does not last. Is the APC awake? The ruling party has thrown a challenge; let the opposition take it.

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