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Saturday, December 2, 2023

Dearth of Opposition in Our Democracy – By Sanusi Muhammad



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The essence of establishing Elections Petitions Tribunals is primarily to address cases of electoral malpractices associated with elections is fast getting eroded by acts of corruption and other vices that lead to compromised judgments and its aftermath. Losers in elections with the financial clout are awarded victories for fee robbed from original winners who are then transformed by the tribunals to losers.

The practice contributes immensely to the dearth of opposition in a democracy leading to one party system and subsequent dictatorship.

The essence of the democracy is tethered not only to governance but to a vigorous opposition. As Trantidis contends, the very definition of democracy hinges upon the contestability of government by an efficient opposition—–a sentinel safeguarding against arbitrary governance while championing the citizenry’s interests.

Regrettably, Nigeria, amid soaring living costs, escalating insecurity situation, sharp corrupt practices and a display of autocratic leanings by the administration, witnesses a resounding silence from its anticipated opposition parties and civil society organizations, pressure groups including labour and professional unions as if they don’t exist. They only exist when their interests are at stake, threatened, ignored or affected by obnoxious government policies but not the interest of the generality of the people.

The unparalleled dearth of opposition, an unanticipated vacuum in Nigeria’s democratic history, leaves the populace bereft of a resonating voice. The camaraderie between opposition factions and the ruling party paints a grim picture foreshadowing potential disaster.

The recent policy shifts of government—–fuel subsidy removal, currency floatation, and diminished tertiary education funding culminating in exorbitant student fees —-have inflicted profound anguish on Nigerians. This suffering is compounded by the pervasive uncertainty surrounding the Tinubu administration’s intentions.

Whether these hardships herald a transient discomfort for a greater good or signify the administration’s lack of direction and focus. Amidst this tumult, the glaring inefficiency of the opposition is laid bare. It falters in holding the government accountable for policies breeding suffering and uncertainty.

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The escalating cost of living, burgeoning poverty, and hunger besetting Nigeria speak not of monetary pains but of an existential crisis demanding salvation. Even the outspoken NLC and other civil society groups faltered to address the people’s dire plight until the NLC national president faced assault, a stark irony when compared to the hunger plaguing the masses is not a greater assault to the NLC.

The government and opposition’s collective silence in the face of escalating insecurity further exacerbates the nation’s woes. Instances like the abduction of students from Federal Universities Gusau and Dutsin ma and the appalling discovery of over 80 bodies in Abia, met with dead silence, underscores a lack of national concern to the plight of the people by a government that claims legitimacy.

The absence of opposition scrutiny on these crucial matters is a dereliction of their duty to represent and safeguard the interests of those who vested their trust in them.

The recent events related with elections in Kogi and Imo states cast shadows on the opposition’s ineptitude. The apparent ascent of the ruling party, be it genuine popularity or autocratic suppression, only underscores the opposition’s weakness. The southeast, ostensibly ‘anti APC’ the ruling party, at least on social media, was said to have granted Hope Uzodinma an overwhelming 90 percent of votes in the concluded Imo state gubernatorial election, prompting questions about electoral legitimacy or manipulation, both scenarios emblematic of the opposition’s recklessness.

The major opposition parties in Nigeria continue to languish in limbo due to lacklustre leaderships spiced with greed and a myopic grasp of the prevailing circumstances. As the nation teeters on the brink of chaos, they remain embroiled in internal strife.

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Social media now hosts a semblance of opposition, yet it lacks cohesion and authority, rendering it toothless and in the face of government in power. This vacuum emboldens those in government to dismissively address Nigerian citizens without fear of reprisal.

A prompt remedy is imperative. Structural and Electoral Reforms are needed to correct the ongoing wrongs within the polity where electoral trophies painstakingly won are corruptly snatched and awarded to losers under different guises by those in privilege positions.

A robust and organized opposition operating within a reformed electoral system is indispensable for Nigeria’s democracy, especially given the feeble checks and balances among government institutions. A government unchecked is a catalyst for disaster.

From the antecedents of the various Elections Petitions Tribunals so far, it appears Nigeria does not need their services any longer to strengthen the democracy. What Nigeria needs is reformation of its legal system not what is obtainable presently where looted public resources are channeled to tribunals for purchase of favorable judgments. The unwholesome situation is becoming a breeding ground for escalation of violence and other criminal acts. How can a truly certified winner of an election through massive votes from the electorates be denied such victory on flimsy excuse of technicality or other shenanigans? The situation is becoming more worrisome and source of concern while the favored are celebrating the snatched victories of others? You cannot be rejected at the polls and expect loyalty from those that rejected you!

Muhammad is a commentator on national issues

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