HOW FAR CAN THE OPPOSITION GO?
By Ehis Osajie
It might be true that politicians are incurable optimists; yet it will be foolhardy to describe Asiwaju Bola Tinubu's recent statement that Action Congress of Nigeria would chase out Peoples Democratic Party out of power in the next general election in collaboration with other parties as mere rabble rousing.
Those who might be tempted to dismiss it as self-delusion might be dwelling in the past. Today, indications are rife that the Peoples Democratic Party PDP is facing its most critical period since it came into existence in 1999, shedding one feather here and another there. It is like a sheep being led to its slaughter amidst fun while opposition parties wait in the wings to feed from the sacrifice.
Close watchers of the polity, believe that at the rate erstwhile leading government functionaries and founding members of the ruling party are running out of the big umbrella to pursue their personal ambitions in other parties, the chance of PDP maintaining its dominant position looks slim. What is debatable however is the level of implosion the PDP stands to suffer if the current intractable squabbles rocking the party at all levels and the rising profile of some opposition parties are not checked before the next general elections.
The new lease of life in opposition parties, especially, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and All Progressive Grand Alliance APGA, has not helped the cause of the self acclaimed largest party in Africa.
Except in the South -South and North-Cental regions where Peoples Democratic Party appears unassailable, the hegemony of the ruling party has come under unprecedented challenge, so much so that, analysts believe it will take a miracle for PDP to maintain its present domination.
In the South West, the Action Congress of Nigeria, still basking in the euphoria of winning two additional states from the ruling party via judicial pronouncement, has vowed to send PDP out of the region come 2011. True to its threat, the Bola Tinubu led party is making inroads into the remaining PDP strongholds in the region, namely Ogun and Oyo states.
In the gateway state in particular, the resurgence of a formidable opposition to PDP resurfaced recently at the reception organised in Abeokuta to mark former governor Segun Osoba's return to the state. Before the mammoth crowd and personalities that graced the occasion, Osoba, making a veiled reference to the disunity in the ruling party and the readiness of the AC to take over the state, declared: 'Ogun State has no government. What exists now is a sole administrator. No local government chairman, no House of Assembly. What is the difference between that and a military government?'
Oyo State is even more fragile and vulnerable. The intra party rivalries in the ruling party have gotten out of hand with the on going bloody congresses. There are fears that if the acrimony between the Governor Adebayo Alao-Akala and other PDP leaders is not settled PDP might as well kiss the dust in the state.
In the South East, APGA which has always claimed to represent the voice and interests of the Igbo nation is gradually living to its boast with the calibre of persons it has attracted into its fold of recent. Here PDP is practically on shaky grounds, with the distrust in the party occasioned by the rift between the promoters of President Goodluck Jonathan and Atiku Abubakar's presidential interests, thus creating a great pond for APGA to fish.
Today leading and respectable figures in PDP, perhaps fearful of the turbulent and suffocating terrain in the ruling party, have sought refuge in APGA to realise their personal ambitions. The defection of the likes of Prof Dora Akunyili, Sen Joy Emordi, Hon Uche Ekwunife all in Anambra; Rochas Okorocha, Chief Reagan Ufomba and other leaders in Imo, and Abia from PDP to APGA has given the latter brighter fortunes in the days ahead.
The war of attrition in Enugu between the forces loyal to Chief Okwesilieze Nwodo and the state governor, Governor Sullivan Chime, will no doubt whittle down the domination of the ruling party, more so, as the loyalists of both gladiators are dissatisfied with the terms of settlement. While the relative calm in Dr Elechi's domain, Ebonyi State, may be cheering news for PDP, the merchantile attitude of the average Igbo should not be forgotten in a hurry.
In the North- West, Buhari led CPC is spreading like a wide fire in the harmathan, snapping leading members of All Nigeria Peoples Party and the hitherto irrepressible Peoples Democratic Party into its camp. Perhaps the credibility of the Duara born General might have endeared the party to runaways from other parties.
But in key states like Kano, Katsina, Jigawa Sokoto, and Kebbi, factional intrigues and the anger against anti-zoning proponents may have led many disciples of PDP like Hon Aminu Masari, Senator Kanti Bello and former Agriculture and Water Resources Minister, Dr Sayyadi Abba Ruma into CPC . The decision of former governor of Jigawa State, Sen Saminu Turaki to join ACN with some other leading political figures in the state is another blow to the party.
In the North Central the recent withdrawal of support from PDP by the strong man of Kwara polities, Dr Olusola Saraki and the alleged defection of the likes of Sen John Shagaya, Deputy gov Pauline Tallen, former Sports Minister Damishi Sango, other big wigs and substantial members of the state assembly in Plateau State is no doubt a great minus to the party. Add this to the ill feelings former governor George Akume, Dr Iyorcha Ayu and other aggrieved members in Benue State have for the party or the defection of governor Doma's arch rivals: Tanko Almakura and Hajia Rakiya Haruna in Nasarawa State. The ruling party is in precarious state indeed.
Though the North East appears to be a safe ground for the PDP on paper, there are fears that in the final analysis ANPP leaders and Atiku Abubakar's camp of PDP might explore ethnic sentiments to undo the overall interest of the ruling party. In Adamawa for instance, leading lights in the party led by former military governor of Lagos and Borno States Brigadier General Mohammed Buba Marwa, former governor Boni Haruna have joined the opposition. In Bauchi State, the likes of Senators Nazeef Gamawa and Baba Tella are on the exit gate
With the foregoing scenario, analysts are of the opinion that victory might not come easy to any of the parties in the next election. There might arise the need to form one alliance or another for a party to meet the constitutional requirement necessary to form a government. Asiwaju Tinubu might have seen this gap and hence his alliance talks with CPC and APGA, and his boast about upstaging the Peoples Democratic Party from the pinnacle of power. There are even talks of ANPP merging with ACN before the next general election to ensure the total humiliation of PDP.
How things wil pan out is a question of time.