On parties’ merger and realignment
The ultra-democratic supposition that majorities necessarily midwife the truth has few enthusiasts these days. We can be grateful that almost the sum of Nigeria’s opposition parties have thus far averted many blatant errors in their bid, this time around, to merge as a progressive party to replace Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP), but there is always the danger that it could someday force a compromise that will prove fatal.
The history of all the parties involved in the ongoing merger talks abound in examples of this process of merger cum renewal. The Action Congress (AC) under the leadership of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu before the 2007 Presidential and gubernatorial elections absorbed and gently domesticated the populist impulse that gave birth to the ACN. Much later, the ACN after 2007, co-opted most of the views that had been championed by Asiwaju Tinubu’s progressive thoughts and action in that year.
These were the acts of a party out of national power, seeking to make fresh alliances for the struggles ahead. It was not surprising, therefore to find certain elements in the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) South-west zone, in the early 2007s during a period out of power, reaching beyond its previous power bases and seeking to join hands with new socio-political forces in the South-west.
The evidence is fast accumulating that the time for a party realignment that will accommodate the progressive elements within the PDP may at last be ripe. In the National Assembly especially, the failure of the present ruling party to reflect adequately the political desires of a majority of voters is painfully manifest.
Since the beginning of the Fourth Republic in 1999, the Peoples’ Democratic Party has had majorities in both the Lower House and the Senate, yet this overwhelming predominance has resulted in few policy initiatives that can with any seriousness, be regarded as expressing the will of a majority of the Nigerian people, or even any specific proclivities of the party. The opposition parties with the National Assembly spectrum reaching from ACN to CPC and others have stood for just about everything for our nation, while the PDP in their generality have responded by standing for practically nothing. The result has been that neither of them, taken all in all, has stood for much of anything.
In presidential terms, the performance of the ruling party at the centre has been proved to be the worst in the annals of governance in Nigeria.
Might not a realignment of the parties be brought about in which the “liberal/progressive” values endorsed by so substantial a proportion of the population find expression in a party specifically designed to express them?
It is not a new idea, on the contrary, I shall demonstrate that exactly such a political movement has been on the very verge of success in this country slouching around Bethlehem, as it were, trying to be born. Once it came to the brink of realization only to be thwarted by the black mischance of the PDP assassin’s bullet. On another occasion the liberal/progressives themselves, momentarily yielding to the temptation of what appeared to be expedient compromise, threw away a golden opportunity. The attempt being made now for all the liberal/progressive forces to unite and promptly sweep everything before it is welcomed as this is certainly the right time to build a new party together to reflect the true distribution of political forces. Many observers believe the time is opportune for a new major party consciously designed to free PDP’s hold on the jugular of the Nigeria masses’ vein.
Ideally, the new party to be announced with whatever name that will be attached to it, should originate and grow spontaneously, without reference to the presidential candidacy of any particular individuals. Certainly it must never be allowed to become merely the lengthened shadow of a single man. But in practical terms, the party ought to be able, almost from the very outset, to point to reputable and responsible individuals who at least might, if the circumstances were propitious, accept its presidential and vice-presidential nominations. “You can’t beat somebody with nobody” is one of the oldest and soundest rules in politics, and such essential tasks as recruiting personnel and raising funds for the new party will be well-nigh impossible if there is no one visible on the horizon who at least might make a plausible race for the presidency under its banner.
Above all, let us restore to generations yet to come, the old and all-but forgotten pride in this country and its heritage. Let us give still further solid and visible grounds for that pride, by making the nation’s streets safe, eradicating corruption from our systems, and let there be light perpetually in the country. Let us make way for ability wherever it exists and remember our obligation of compassion, where it does not.
We reject the counsels of demagogues who promise something for nothing, and will speak instead the truth, even when it hurts. Above all, we will restore to the Nigerian political process some part of the joy and optimism it has lost.
For if we succeed, we will have accomplished a mighty thing. We will have reversed in Nigeria, where it counts most – the whole downward-spiraling tide of the 21st Century. There is no reason why this century’s great experiment with freedom must end in failure. It was men and women who created the opportunity, and they who have botched it; and they can rescue it, even now, if they only will. It is up to us, and the means are at hand, a large and devoted majority of the Nigerian people, and a new majority party, under tested leaders, ready to express their will. Together they can save, and formidably reinvigorate our beloved and imperiled country.
• Engr. Shoyebo is the author of the book: “WANTED – Genuine and Patriotic Nigerian Politicians”