Before 2011 elections Nigerian opposition parties have made serious efforts to form a united alliance to dismantle PDP from 16 years on the grief of power. These efforts did not yield desired result, eventually they all parted their ways.
After 2011 elections proper, it became clear had the opposition articulate their positions and galvanized the goodwill of Nigerians across various strata and divide, they could be able to at least forced INEC to conduct for the first time a run-off of elections in Nigeria.
In the current dispensation the opposition are at the helm of affairs in Lagos, Ogun, Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Ekiti, and Osun in the former Western region. And controlling Imo and Anambra in the Eastern region. And Yobe, Borno, Nassarawa and Zamfara states in the North. Virtually holding sway in one third of the country.
In less than a year after failing to capture power at the centre, the opposition is now gearing up early to forged a common front and re-engineer their platforms to have an alternative and effect a positive change to the current political set up in the country.
The parties apparatchiks are making headway to formed a new party between CPC, the party that came second in the last presidential elections, ACN the party which sweeps all Yoruba dominated states and ANPP which had controlled many states in the North since 1999.
The aim of the fusion and the idea of single entity with national outlook is for progressives to come together to push out Jonathan government and end the misrule and bad governance of the PDP, which according to them has failed Nigerians in all sectors. There is no employment for the youth, no security, and no power and above all the rate of corruption has increased and highly placed Nigerians can’t even be touched.
Now the vexing question is, which option is better for the oppositions in true sense, a strong and formidable alliance or total merger? Joe Igbokwe spokesman of ACN in Lagos says “The merger is at an advanced stage, it is going to work and all the needed measures have been put in place to ensure it works.” Also in one of the several interviews he gave to press, National Chairman of ANPP, Chief Ogbonnoya Onu said ” The whole thing is on the table, you come, we discuss, though the ultimate thing is for us to get a merger. But if we can’t get merger, then coalition or alliance, as some people may call it.”
But Shekarau, the Chairman of National Re-building and Inter-Party Contact Committee of opposition parties has move further in foreclosing any option of alliance. ” The merger plan will be concluded not later than the first quarter of 2013 so that we would have at least two years to go into every nook and cranny of the country before the 2015 general elections” According to him the new identity of the merger is to be unveiled in 2013 taking a symbol, a flag and any other identity from the parties, so that every party will have a sense of belonging or all will just forget their identities for a new one.
It seems former Kano state governor and presidential flag bearer of ANPP Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has accepted the idea of merger hook, line and sinker. Likewise ACN leaders and strongmen of CPC.
Even though, there are insinuations in some quarters that in the first, second and this republic experience has proved that alliance is not the best option. But looking closely we will noticed that all previous coalitions were built on shaky foundations culminating in their failure. Also taking into cognizance our democratic past during these periods all efforts at alliance were only marriage of convenience both NPC/NCNC after elections in the first republic, there was no similar alliance before elections in the presidential experience of the NPN era in the second republic and the PDP rule in the fourth.
That is why I doubt much in the feasibility of these forces to converge as a single entity and defeat PDP in the forthcoming 2015 general elections. This is after considering two factors; enormous influence of Buhari and his interest in CPC, his party, which is highly enmeshed in crises across all its stronghold in one hand and that of interested parties in ANPP/ACN on the other hand.
My fear is when opposition came as a single body they risk being an easy prey to the ruling PDP. Whenever PDP used hammer at the right position, it will wound the opposition and may even killed it. It is simpler for it to confront an enemy with gigabytes of internal liabilities and local problems. But if a working relationship was build between various fronts and which is sustainable, even if PDP was able to penetrate through backdoor the impact will be minimal and can be tackled from many angles.
Shekarau’s committee and other party leaders should developed a frame work for the opposition parties to retain their states and formed an alliance through these suggested scenarios. Firstly, the parties should concentrate on finding a suitable presidential candidate from North West geo-political zone and his running mate from South West Zone. This is because CPC is very popular with the conservative Northern electorate, it is also easier to cheap on its popularity. Similarly, since South West zone have the culture of voting en bloc conceding vice presidential candidate to the area will translate to huge votes and patronage.
Secondly, established opposition parties which are not in government of the state and who are willing to participate in the merger should collapsed all their structures and people in the party of the government. What in intended to show is DPP, CPC, ANPP, APGA, LP in Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Edo and Osun should collapses into ACN. But if there happen to be a strong candidates of either NASS or state assemblies from other parties than the leading government of states then should be given chance to run on the platform of ACN. This arrangement should apply in Nassarawa state for CPC and also for ANPP in Zamfara, Borno and Yobe states, LP in Ondo state. If its effected, the other parties should use their energies, resources and give their full support to the success of the leading opposition party in the state. But this should be with a proviso that when successful, a unity government will be formed were all will participate in the development of the state.
Thirdly, states were in the previous elections have performed well or were able to formed government and currently have either members of NASS or state assembly, other parties should collapsed into the leading opposition. For instance, in Kano ACN, CPC should merge into ANPP, but if there are strong contenders for elective offices with capacity to win in CPC/ACN they should be allowed and given chance under the banner of ANPP to be the flag bearers. Using this formula, Sokoto as a stronghold of Bafarawa should be handed over to ANPP the rest of parties to follow. Also since national chairman of ANPP hails from Ebonyi, other parties: APGA and PPA should submerged into ANPP. But in Katsina, Kaduna, Abuja , Bauchi, Gombe, and Niger states all other parties should collapsed into CPC as the party has a strong outing in the previous elections and there followers are still intact. In Plateau, Benue, Jigawa, Kogi, Kwara, Adamawa, Bayelsa and Taraba ACN should be given a field day there. Imo state and other states of Igbo land with the exception of Ebonyi here APGA should be allowed to lead others. In the remaining South-south states Delta, Rivers, Akwa Ibom and Cross River any party that came second in the most recent elections, its aspirants should be supported wholeheartedly.
May be this simple political arithmetic will assist opposition parties and serve as another option to consolidate their local gains at the centre. This calculations was based on its practicability with little casualties, and to avoid and address mass grievances that may arise in the cause of merger. To further and strengthen internal democracy. Also their structures will remained firmed and intact, even when there are need for reshufflement, accommodation of new members with their established leanings and groupings, in the alliance will not be as cumbersome as if a new party is formed.
The essence of this method in all, is to defeat PDP in 2015 elections, first at local level, then at national. The moment opposition were able to capture power at the centre there parties should came under one strong umbrella for effectiveness, control and stability. It is here after consolidation of power the issue of frame work and structure of total merger will come up for deliberation, adoption and implementation, not now!
Bello Muhammad Sharada
resides in Kano and can be reached