Recently, I chanced upon a TV programme in which contemporary national political issues were being discussed. Much of the discourse filtered through my ears except for one statement that struck me. One of the panellist said, “Nigerians are the new Opposition”. That statement is the seed for this article.
The Ancient Greeks gave the world the concept of democracy, later defined by the American, Abraham Lincoln, as “a government of the people, by the people, for the people”. Its embrace of the majority contrasts this form of government with other forms. A majority of the people decide who represent all citizens in the government. As a bipolar occurrence, a majority has an accompanying minority. Although the majority party decides the government’s policies, the views of the minority have to be considered before any decision is made. In this way, in a democracy, the minority serves as a credible opposition, helping to fine-tune the policies and actions of the majority.
From 1999 to 2015, while the PDP held the reins of governance, several parties served as the opposition. With their different strengths and geographical spread, the AD, APP, APGA, AC, CAN, CPC, ANPP, LP and several other parties provided some form of opposition to the PDP. The metamorphosis of some of these parties climaxed in the formation of the APC in 2013, via a merger of the erstwhile CAN, CPC, ANPP and APGA.
Quite a number of Nigerians hailed the formation of the APC against all odds. Nigerians believed that a party of commensurate strength with the PDP would be able to check the perceived misbehaviour of the ruling party. The APC did not disappoint. It utilized every opportunity to criticize the PDP, thereby keeping the ruling party on its toes. Nigerians were happy. It was no longer business as usual. A credible opposition had arrived.
The APC’s success in its opposition role culminated in its success in the 2015 General Elections. The APC and the PDP switched positions. Though a number of Nigerian disliked the PDP, they still wished that it would not disband. To many Nigerians, the PDP was the only party that could provide a credible opposition to the APC, howbeit, with some much-needed restructuring. The PDP’s spokesperson pledged to do just that, with the APC’s spokesperson even offering to “teach” him how to be an opposition spokesperson.
Looking at the state of affairs today, granted that only two months have elapsed, what was expected is not the script being played out. The PDP is doing a bit of its opposition duties, attacking perceived flaws in the new administration, and commending certain acts. However, both parties seem to be in cahoots to share the spoils of war (read, “national resources”).
Events in the national assembly have shown the willingness of members of both parties to join forces in mutually beneficial expeditions. Such camaraderie is praiseworthy in issues that affect the nation’s citizens. However, when such friendliness is triggered by proclivity for personal treasure chests, it is despicable.
The media is being starved of newsworthy reports of deliberations by legislators on issues that would help solve the myriad problems bedevilling Nigeria. However, media reports are awash with news of infighting among legislators. Intra-party and inter-party conflicts make up the daily news highlights. The infamous brawl in the green chambers demonstrated our legislators’ ability to fight, however, not any of Nigeria’s problems.
While Nigerians await a resolution of the current conflicts, we must realize that the people we voted in, or who voted themselves in, have ganged up against us. As long as juicy positions and contracts remain to be shared, no party would bother to check the excesses of the other. As Nigerians, we have to step in to fill the opposition vacuum. As we earlier joined forces with the APC to fight the PDP, we must now come together to fight and encourage both the APC and the PDP. We must fight the APC to govern well, fight the PDP to begin to oppose well, and encourage both parties when they act in line with our national interests.
Just as the panellist said, we are the new opposition. It is in our best interest to take the Office of the Citizen of the Federal Republic of Nigeria very seriously. Our future depends on us.