• Saturday, February 24, 2024
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BusinessDay

Fractured opposition, fragile democracy

Electoral tribunal verdicts and the future of democracy

The Supreme Court verdicts finally put to rest all the agitations around the outcomes of the 2023 presidential elections, and the All Progressive Congress, APC, pops champagne and celebrates over the presumed landmark judgement while the opposition grips the jurists by the jugular of being undertakers of democracy.

From whatever prism one looks at the judgment, presidential electoral jurisprudence became enriched rightly or wrongly because it dealt with some pesky issues, however contentious they were, stemming future agitations.

However, since the first republic, the country has not had the fortunes or misfortune of having the victory of a declared winner in the presidential race, upturned by the Supreme Court either because the jurists were complicit and connived with the presumed winners as alleged by some, or the oppositions have not lived up to the billings of proving their cases beyond all reasonable doubts.

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After all the drama in the courts, some few discerning minds contemplated if the opposition was strategic in their pursuit to uproot the incumbent right from the word go, and for career politicians and opposition with serial losses, it was expected the battle should have long started before the primaries with well-coordinated infiltration of the incumbent camps, extensive background checks on prospective candidates that will emerge, and plant mercenaries like what the ruling party did in the opposition camps, do further damages with hard facts during the campaigns running up to the polls and collate an irrefutable body of evidence in preparation for the Tribunal however what did we get, an opposition fixated on caricaturing the ruling party aspirant on health grounds and poor management of presumed certificate infractions. The entire process and outcomes question their readiness and bid to wrestle power from the incumbent.

Can democracy truly thrive with feeble, uncoordinated and tactless opposition? Unequivocally, the vibrancy of the opposition is the barometer or a true reflection of the health of any sound democracy and its absence, sponsors leadership failure, and society collapse- hence, democracy without consistent, persistent, rugged and engagement of the opposition is the beginning of dictatorialism and the emergence of a democratic monarch, especially in the African milieu.

The opposition during the first republic was very vibrant and kept the political space fully charged and sometimes spilling into unnecessary violence, but there was an opposition that bestrode the political landscape.
At the height of its glory or infamy, the handlers of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, boasted the party would rule the country for 60 years uninterrupted, and such assertion was based on the arrogance of success and driven by the sheer grip of incumbency but unfortunately encumbered with endless policy missteps and massive corruption spiralling into a loss of faith by the people.

Consequences for such gambling are usually not fetched because when incumbency crosses the Rubicon, any novice can wrestle power and coast to victory. These were simply the playbook strategy of the ruling party while still in opposition. A Buhari could never have become the president of Nigeria if he had stuck to his gun as the emperor of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC. Under that party flag, he wept after serial defeat until the opposition regrouped, reset and trounced the PDP mercilessly.

Pre-2015 elections, the PDP was fractured and infiltrated, wounded, and conspiracy was the name of the game as religious, ethnic and regional proclivities wrecked the party’s boat – the masterstroke was the fusion of opposition parties driven by a common goal to boot out the incumbent by all means necessary, and the plotters of that trajectory, see all as fair. That was how to be an opposition!

It throws up some learning curves in the coffee book of President Tinubu and on the tortuous sojourn of how an opposition with extremely remote chances can embarrass the incumbent and dominate the political space. If the declaration of President Tinubu about becoming the president of Nigeria as a lifetime ambition was anything to go by, and his eventual success in his pursuit, then the man must be commended as one of the most resourceful political strategists from the South West, if not for our time.

Since he stormed the political landscape in 1999, he patiently nursed that ambition like a patient vulture waiting for its time, never shifted grounds as opposition but built bridges across and, during some crucial moments, provided shelter for those regarded as outcasts, hence, among his contemporaries, he may be one of the few politicians who never jumped ship irrespective of the political atmosphere or dwindling fortunes – providing a body of knowledge of how to stay focused, maintain grit and be single-eyed to a vision.

The nation was ready for a change of government in the February 2023 presidential election – but the chief opposition had a blurred view of the bigger picture and egos imprisoned reasoning if not what business does an Iyorchia Ayu, the party chairman, had not sacrificed his office for the greater good of the party if stooping down to conquer was anything to go by.

The entire party went on an ego trip to prove what point precisely, losing sight of the prevailing mood that it was time for the incumbent to self-implode because it was in a big mess, a condition precedent for a total shipwreck.

The sitting president was against the candidacy of Asiwaju, the party chairman was not pretentious about it, and the Senate President drafted into the plot for purely ethnic manoeuvring. The CBN governor’s naira redesigned policy was merely doing the bidding of his paymaster and, President Buhari destroyed the economy and was worse than where it was before the 2015 elections, so Nigerians were ready to answer the big question for a change but, the PDP, the face of opposition as it were, came to the rings without its boxing gloves – leaving a newly no-structure Labour Party flagging a Peter Obi with little national relevance as the toast of Nigerians within a few months of the election – what a tragedy for our brand of opposition.

So, when Atiku Abubakar told the leadership of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC, yesterday that the opposition should regroup and form a synergy to unseat the incumbent, it came as a call in the right direction because if you cannot defeat a Tinubu outside Aso Rock who fought the tide of his party against him, you may not be able to unseat him as a sitting president with haphazard, egocentric, greed-driven and fractured opposition and after all, the man may court over to himself half of the strategic membership of the opposition before the expiration of four years because when Tinubu was through with Lagos, the opposition went extinct, he knows the game and plays it with uncanny mastery.

Read also: Supreme Court judgement has destroyed fabric of our democracy – LP

So, if the opposition goes into silent mode and hopes to resurface three and half years later to disturb our peace, sadly, democracy will remain fragile. As usual, the opposition is currently nursing the pains of defeat, so committing to giving the incumbent a run for their money by promising to shadow the ruling party activities for the next four years is a mere fallacy because if you have lived long enough in this country, you will understand that after the docility of followership, the porosity of the opposition is another bane of democratic development.

Nigerians want to see virile opposition, know what a shadow cabinet looks like, and the key actors remaining persistent in the political space for the next three years reasonably interrogating all the policies and projects of the ruling party. The masses crave the opposition to sponsor investigative inquiries into the business of governance and expose any form of infractions, corruption and dislocation of our collective patrimony, and as a matter of duty, must provide credible alternatives to critical national issues with clear roadmaps and solutions – not fair-weather opposition that has been the norm and the nation has suffered untold calamities.
In the next six months, can the present opposition provide the kind of leadership Nigerians hope for? And, it is worth the mention, Your Excellency, the Waziri Adamawa, President Tinubu cannot kill the opposition, but, historically, the opposition self-sedate almost to a coma and hurriedly resurfaced a few months before the next election and hopes for a landslide.

Are the key players in the opposition ready to sacrifice their ambitions if it takes that to unseat the incumbents? Is the opposition willing to ignore personal aggrandizement and party gains to rescue democracy if they feel it is captured or imprisoned by the incumbents? Before APC in this fourth republic, what we have seen as the opposition was a bunch of jokers in a merry-go-round that promptly fused into the whims and caprices of the ruling party, and we hope a repeat is not looming.

It behoves the leadership of the opposition parties to truly approximate the ramifications of political opposition and spare us the charade of resurfacing every four years without pounding the pavement for the desired results.

The opposition should sincerely regroup and reset because President Tinubu is not a non-performer and does not take captives.