The presence of a vibrant opposition is essential for democracy to thrive in any given system. It is even the more so in societies where free government is still taking root after a long military interregnum such as ours. While it is easy to argue that the long history of dictatorship within a given country and almost an absence of the culture of dissent make it difficult for democratic values, yet the liberal belief and conduct of leading politicians help temper this initial setback. Where there are politicians who sincerely believe in the logic of democracy beyond their lip service commitment, then democratic system stands a good chance of consolidation.
In Nigeria, since the return of democracy in 1999, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) has held sway at the centre and in the majority of the 36 states of the federation, including the Federal Capital. The PDP has been so dominant at the polls and in membership so much so that the excitement of surprises and shocks inherent in elections appear to have been lost in our system. Although it is quite easy for bad losers to claim that the ruling party has been rigging the elections, the fact which nobody can contradict is that the PDP is the only party since 1999 that can boast of nationwide presence and acceptability.
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and later the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) were essentially provincial parties domiciled in the South-west and a few states in the North respectively, while the All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) was an example of a badly administered political party. Thus when the ACN, the CPC and ANPP decided to merge to pose a formidable opposition to the ruling PDP, many people were excited about the option the new opposition party would provide for Nigerian voters.
The fact that the seamless merger of what were supposed to be ideologically different parties was an issue but it did not matter as long as there was a prospect for a stronger opposition to challenge the PDP. This perhaps explains the bang with which the All Progressives Congress (APC) was introduced to Nigerians. The party was started like a house on fire – poaching some disgruntled PDP governors who, in turn, commandeered the majority of other elected officers from their state willy-nilly to the new opposition party. With what looked like the implosion of the PDP, there were not a few analysts who argued that the APC had become the majority party. Yet in forming the APC, its promoter(s) committed a tragic flaw by building the party around one individual. That individual is no other than Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State, Southwest of Nigeria. The fascist origin of the APC has now come to haunt the party.
The overbearing influence of the former governor of Lagos State has now become an Achilles’ heel. Tinubu is said to be running the APC like a personal business without allowing the echoing of any dissenting voice. No one has poignantly painted the former governor’s vice-like grip on the party better than, Tom Ikimi, the man who presided over the process of coupling the party together. In his “reflections” on the APC, the former chairman of the APC Merger Committee, and former foreign affairs minister wrote thus: “Major decisions said to be party decisions now started emerging from this select group who…
They usually congregated at Tinubu’s private parlour in his Asokoro – Abuja residence… Rather than freely open up critical issues to free debate at the Interim Executive Council for democratic decisions to emerge, positions plotted at the notorious Asokoro parlour were being desperately foisted on the party for execution.” Those who have followed the politics of Bola Ahmed Tinubu over the past seven years will readily agree that the self-acclaimed APC leader only pays lip service to democracy and personal freedoms. Since it was whispered to his ears by some of his many sycophants that he could fill the leadership void in Yoruba land since the death of Abraham Adesanya, Tinubu has not ceased to see himself as the next Obafemi Awolowo. Being a very poor copy of the late sage, Tinubu started out by building a huge financial capital for himself of course from the huge resources of Lagos State that he scooped for eight years, if the earlier pronouncements of the former EFCC boss, Nuhu Ribadu are anything to go by.
That Tinubu’s proboscis has remained affixed to the Lagos till under his successor, Raji Fashola, only confirms his dexterity in prebendal politics. With his stupendous wealth, Tinubu has not pushed to advance the frontiers of democracy; instead, he is constricting the public space by stifling any move for internal democracy in whichever party he belongs – be it ACN or APC. As the leader of ACN, the party’s known process for choosing candidates for elections was essentially whimsical and devoid of any popular contestation as democracy prescribes. The case of Opeyemi Bamidele and Babafemi Ojodu in 2011 and Bamidele and Kayode Fayemi in 2014 are just a few of the many examples of how Tinubu endangers democracy.
It is easy to dismiss Ikimi’s complaints as self-serving because he feels aggrieved. It is also infantile and indeed ad-hominem to rubbish his assertions on how Tinubu was running the APC like a cult, by resort to his participation in the Abacha administration. By the way, Buhari, whom it is alleged that Tinubu wants to be vice presidential candidate to, was also a principal character in the Abacha government. That said, no matter how the APC arrays its propaganda machinery at Ikimi, the truth remains that Tinubu’s anti-democratic tendency is already telling on the opposition party. The run of high profile members on the party recently has become very ridiculous and alarming.
Attahiru Bafarawa, Ibrahim Shekarau, Modu Ali Sherriff, Annie Okonkwo, Osagie Ize-Iyamu, Femi Fani-Kayode, Nuhu Ribadu, Ikimi and other high profile members of APC have dumped the party to join the ruling PDP. And there are many more like Segun Osoba still packing their bags, not to talk of those who will defect the very moment that Tinubu’s scheming on the presidential primaries manifests. Those who continue to sing the rhyme-less song of how Tinubu is a democracy activist by referring to the so-called NADECO days should give us a break and realise how they are colluding with one man to destroy democracy in our land.
The presence of a viable opposition remains sine qua non to consolidating democracy. And Tinubu is doing his best to destroy this process of building a credible and strong opposition to the PDP. With the way things are going, Tinubu has all but deprived Nigerians the opportunity to choose between President Jonathan and another credible candidate by running the APC aground!
Article written by Femi Ayelabowo
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