An opposition party represents an alternative government and is responsible for challenging the policies of the government and producing different policies where appropriate.
Dr. Asnake Kefale, a politics professor at Addis Ababa University, Ethiopia postulated that: “In Africa, opposition parties are seen as detractors and enemies of the ruling parties or even the nation”.
That explains the reason why major opposition parties in Africa finds it difficult to defeat an incumbent party in general elections.
In Africa, as at late 1970s most African countries had already gotten their Independence. But military dictatorship characterised the African nations shortly after their independence, in places where general elections were conducted, elections were either manipulated to favour the ruling government or cancelled out rightly, in other instances, opposition parties were banned or where they exist, they lack the wherewithal to challenge the ruling government.
Many factors have been cited for these reasons, the major one is that in Africa, most state institutions like security agencies are directly controlled by the ruling government thereby making it easier to use them and manipulate the electoral process in favour of the ruling party.
It was in the 21st century that opposition parties began to contest and win elections to topple the ruling government, in a keenly contested elections.
Ghana’s main opposition party National Patriotic Party (NPP) broke the jinx on 7th December 2000 and became the first opposition party to record a victory in the African continent in the 21st century.
Followed by Kenya in 2002, Ghana again in 2008, Ivory Coast in 2010, Senegal in 2012, Zambia in 2012 and Malawi in May 2014.
In Nigeria, no opposition party has ever won presidential election since our transition from military rule to democratic government in 1999 and for the first time an opposition party is giving the incumbent government a run for their money in their quest to capture the seat of power.
As Nigeria prepares for next month’s general elections, there have been intense politicking between the two major political parties, People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and All Progressive Congress (APC) over whose candidate among the two parties will emerge the next president.
The incumbent party PDP, which has come under heavy criticism for corruption, insecurity and unfulfilled promises are not giving up, we have seen political parties deviating from issue based campaigns to names calling. Its been war of words between PDP and APC in trying to convince the electorates the party that deserves their votes.
The incumbent party, PDP has adopted many propaganda in discouraging Nigerians from voting the main opposition party’s candidate. The opposition party are seen as detractors that are coming to take the nation back wards and should not be given a chance.
The main opposition party, APC are unrelenting, they have been playing politics according to the progressives, moving from state to state campaigning with their populist statement, “APC is the change Nigeria needs”, according to APC, Nigeria where trust, accountability and efficient leadership are in short supply, their presidential candidate, GMB is not only an option but the best amongst the options. They are assuring Nigerians GMB is the only man that can fight corruption that has been institutionalised in our system. They have also listed out other areas the party had focused on as, security, oil sector, the education sector, economy and job creation.
The ruling party are yet to come to terms with the fact that there are opposition parties everywhere in this world, but healthy political opposition is the fundamental right of politicking.
In developed democracies official opposition is seen as a government-in-waiting and will do all the politicking to ensure they emerge as the ruling party.
In the United states of America, when president Barrack Obama was elected in 2008, he won 95% of the black votes in US. Many political analysts were of the view his election were cast by many on the right as a race vote.
The opposition, (Republicans) are hoping to under mine the ruling party (Democrats) relationship with black voters through the emergence of Ben Carson, a black American and a renowned surgeon who earned International recognition in the 1980s and 1990s for his significant contribution to medicine and surgery as their possible flag bearer for the November 2015 presidential election in the US.
Republican’s unanimously decided to adopt a black man as their presidential candidate in order to get the support of black Americans in the US. The decision is not generating tension, the whites have not gone to the streets to protest of an intending imposition of another black president after president Obama.
Here in Nigeria, it would have been a lingering issue, lives and properties would have been lost in protest, out of favour politicians would have been in court challenging the process.
US politicians don’t see elections as a do or die affair, political parties focus more on issue based campaigns and series of debates on how to move their nation forward.
If their electorates have reservations their votes will speak for them.
That is their level of development, win or lose, they think of their country first before their personal interest. Nobody is raising an eye brow in the US over states that are yet to send anyone to the White House neither are they complaining about Virginia and Ohio producing the highest numbers of US presidents.
Here in Nigeria, many are identifying with the politics according to APC. The ruling party are yet to come to terms with the wind of change blowing from the camp of All Progrssive Congress APC. They are not giving up in trying to frustrate APC. Their wish is for the entire country to rise as one and support the ruling party without opposition.
We have seen the ruling party using security apparatus to subdue the main opposition party on several occasions, doing that has given the opposition an edge over the ruling government, they get all the sympathy and popularity.
Many are identifying with the politics according to APC. Could this be the turn of the progressives? If the progressives succeed in winning the next month’s presidential election, Nigeria will join the privileged few African countries where the idea of competitive electoral politics is gradually becoming institutionalised.
Time will tell.
Joe Onwukeme: Social & Political Affairs Analyst. Writes from Enugu.