SOUTHEAST/SOUTHWEST QUEST FOR POLITICAL ALLIANCE
Formation of political alliances in Nigeria resembles every fine idea that has been mooted in this land - usually they're fine on paper but weak at execution and implementation. Good ideas in Nigeria, as if we are cursed, usually end with predictable result of pitiable failures. Vision 2020 sounds good - visionary, radical and progressive in concept and on paper but wait until we begin to say why it failed from 2021.
We are weak at implementation. Our national soccer team will always hold its opponents from anywhere to scoreless 85 minutes only to let in goals within the remaining five minutes to concede ignoble and avoidable defeats. Case of willing spirit but weak flesh. What of the Bureau of Public Enterprise scheme? Operation Feed the Nation, sounds right. Universal Basic Education Scheme? Yes, that sounded fine too.
But where is Nigeria on the scale of things, education for the kids wise in the twenty-first century? So when a group of people wake up from their slumber to think, to assemble the press to announce a new political strategy or concept that would make 2015 a sweet dream for them, you're forced to yawn in derision and say with understandable resignation loaded with skepticism: we have trod this path before.
The last time Nigeria tried a two-party political set up it, worked. The last time Ghana tried a two party system; it worked and is still working.
The United Kingdom has almost forever lived with same, while the United States and France are the two other countries that have institutionalized the two strong political party methods. In all the countries mentioned above, it does not absolutely mean that there do not exist other fringe political parties or even independent candidacies. Or that the formation of other political parties had been legislated out. Far from it, in the places we're talking about, the emergence of two-party political set up happened by evolution. It could happen here whether tribally, regionally or religiously motivated.
By point of historical records, here in Nigeria, it was during the time of our former military president, General Ibrahim B. Babangida aka IBB, the Maradona, that the idea got deliberately mooted as a government policy. It got currency, prosperity and an instant hit. The politburo had recommended it and the then ruling junta had accepted it.
With two parties, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) on one side and the National Republican Convention (NRC) on the other, Nigeria became poised for a political breakthrough that would have paved the way for the de-emphasizing and or the removal of ethnic, tribal, regional, religious consideration in every facet of our body politic.
Yes, it may have been a deliberate attempt to foist ideologies on political parties, but surely it was a way of doing for the polity that which it was not able to do for itself during the period under consideration. It was a revolution of sorts which result produced the annulled election of the nineties which we still romanticize as the best that never was. It was a revolution of sorts in which one of the parties' candidate - Moshood Abiola, a Moslem blind to dictums of ethno-religiosity, which has almost kept Nigeria down forever, chose a fellow Moslem as his running mate.
And the populace loving what they saw through their votes approved. We still romanticize the era because in addition to the home grown novelty that was the style, it also laid the foundation stone for another unique voting innovation named option A4 - a made in Nigeria original open ballot voting method that helped to proclaim the winner right there and then even before the indelible voting ink on the fingers of the voter dried.
Question is, if that era worked and worked well and the election of the time which we praise for being free and fair worked, why have successive administrations not been able to be bold, and make it a blueprint for further elections in the country? Why did the emergent military era that fashioned the constitution of 1999 and the follow up electoral act not lift segments of that document as blue print for future elections?
This now brings us back to the subject of this essay. Recently, a group of south-east politicians eager to reinvent the two-party political wheel in Nigeria and with their eyes set on 2015 came up with a position paper on the need to corral two existing tribal leaning political parties into one. According to reports, the ambition of these politicians and thinkers, is to see to it that the All Progressives Grand Alliance APGA (a south east predominant political party) and the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN (a south west predominant party) merge to form a strong party that would in the years to come, give the ruling party - the Peoples Democratic Party - the PDP – (supposed northern inclined party) a run for its money. If this materializes (I have my doubts), it would automatically set up a new emergent party which already smells as if it has the aura of a progressive and a natural alternative to the PDP which by whatever discernable yardstick, is ultra-conservative.
There can no doubt be that, this is an idea that is overdue and its realization ought to be pursued with a singleness of mind. If it works, it would no doubt, mimic our political days of the 1990s as epitomized by the waves created by the NRC and its counterpart, the SDP. If it does not work, it will go the way of former spirited attempts in the past to unify political parties of similar ideological bent. The failed efforts by the ACN and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to forge an alliance as late as one month before the last general elections are still fresh. Or the littered paths of failures witnessed in the past by such attempts like the botched attempt by the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN); the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and the Abubakar Rimi's faction of the Peoples Redemption Party, to form an alliance in order to fight the then octopus National Party of Nigeria.
While we do not have to dissect the immediate reason(s) behind the move by the group of southeasterners who reports likened to political Turks with youth and vibrancy, it is worthy to note that the idea is very germane. It will strengthen the polity and the union. It will help the Independent National Electoral Commission immensely in its near futile efforts to organize hitch free elections. My personal worry and fear though is that the idea may be hijacked, or given a different coloration and interpretation by those who may not wish the country well.
For example, I can already see members of the PDP firing from both cylinders accusing the yet to be formed party as ethnic-oriented. I can see the PDP justifiably use every ammunition in its armory to descend on the would-be party as that of ethnic jingoists and tribal irredentists. The reality on ground should suggest otherwise if the would-be party spreads its operational tentacles nationwide as no political party ought to have a monopolistic claim to loving Nigeria more than the other. It should for example try as much as possible to capture the interest of like-minded persons from the central geo-political areas of Nigeria as well as reach out to the southern minorities. Nigeria as a whole should be seen as a political football turf where every politically minded ought to operate without hindrance.
Postscript. Someone please remind the southeastern Turks it surely would have been better if the whole states of the southeast are completely APGA before any thought of a viable alliance with the ACN is deep rooted. Any alliance between the two or three parties right now would definitely, make one a junior partner and the other definitely a senior. Southeast or southwest, who wants to be junior partner in an alliance? And that right there would be the beginning of the smell of trouble and the crumbling of an alliance before it even lifts off the ground. Quote me!