Buhari, 2019 elections and different shades of opposition - NIG

Attention of New Independence Group (NIG), a socio-economic think-tank, has been drawn to the speech made by a former President, Mr Olusegun Obasanjo, to consummate the mainstreaming of his movement- Coalition for Nigeria Movement (CNM) into the African Democratic Congress (ADC), and marking the emergence of what many refer to as the alternative platform for the evolution of a Third force.

We note with pleasure that the speech recognized the need to channel, in his words, “palpable anger against current misgovernance, poor performance, condonation of misconduct, incompetence, destabilising nepotism, cluelessness, denial and scapegoatism, lack of understanding of dynamics of internal politics which have led to greater disunity, inequity, injustice, senseless killings and destruction’’, to a coordinated end of organizing to seek effective way forward through coalition and cooperation in order to truncate this era of unprecedented impotence and disunity.

We equally appreciate his land-marking of the recent ugly past, from when K34 held sway, to the current epoch characterized by political leadership’s arrogant gloating and revelling in incurable misgovernance, as well as the taking of Nigerians for granted even in the face of abject poverty, chronic nepotism, and unprecedented insecurity.

NIG is aware though, that there are other forces plotting to wrestle power from incumbent APC government, out of frustration with the disappointing performance of a government that promised so much but is delivering little. This brewing, diverse opposition is more remarkable given the fact that it is mostly made up of those who supported the current government in its quest for power.

A significant number of such supporters appear sufficiently convinced as of present that the country can, and ought to be doing better than the indices indicate under the current government.

In a way, the emergence of these numerous opposition to APC-led government is a welcome development, as it is bound to stimulate deeper engagements of the people in the political affairs of the country ahead of the next election, a welcome though gradual and marginal departure from the apathy largely characterized the past. It is refreshing to see relatively young presidential aspirants holding townhall meetings, engaging students, artisans and other sections of the citizenry about how to build a nation of which the people are truly desirous and deserving.

We however strongly feel that the trajectory of engagement so far bears so much in common with past experiences, the heightened frenzy notwithstanding. Whereas we are witnessing an uptick in the level of engagement, the sameness of pattern evokes a sense of deja vu, in a manner that foretells that the drastic turnaround the country needs may not come soon, whether the incumbent retains power or gets replaced.

Nigeria is a country whose litany of problems has been told times over. As a matter of fact, many of the anomalies reeled out by Mr Obasanjo, while correct, reflect just a more recent phase of what has been a tumultuous, better forgotten past. In fact, some of the misdeeds of recent governments were spillovers of the preceding era, including the 8 years that he held sway as President.

For instance, the monetization and corruption of the internal democratic process of Nigerian political parties were equally a dominant subterranean feature of the teleguided internal democratic processes in Obasanjo’s two attempts at the Presidency, and the eventually massively rigged elections as midwived by Mr Maurice Iwu, which was so bad that the last beneficiary had to self-introspectively admit it as being flawed in a genuinely heart thawing and contrite manner that essentially inspired a reconciliatory optic and galvanized national sympathy to his leadership. They were even more prominent in the legislative scheming for his infamous and botched third term agenda. Of course, it suffices to presume these are part of the egregious records of PDP he nurtured until his recent abandonment. Yet, it is safe to say that the emergence of PDP, and indeed the entire crop of political leaders in the current Republic, is in itself symptomatic of the more fundamental issues that have been ailing the nation over several decades.

These issues explain why governance has not assured inclusive growth over the years but instead heightened fiscal indolence, parasitism, prebendalism, economic infertility, flagrant disregard for welfare of the poor, ethnic and religious bigotry, and provincial desperation for power grab. It is essentially a systemic issue, even if it has continued to rear hydraheaded symptoms. There is a relationship, directly in many cases, and indirectly in a few, between the structural defects of the architecture of the Nigerian State, as well as its numerous crises of governance and underdevelopment.

While we are therefore not opposed to the emergence of alternative platforms, as is being witnessed at present, we are of the view that if the first principle, which is a fundamental restructuring of the country, is not made the most important talking point and addressed before the next election, the challenges are likely to persist.
The numerous platforms emerging are exciting in their own rights, but two deductions are easy to make from what is so far observable.

First, the limited, individual nature of these efforts makes it more likely for the incumbent to retain power, in spite of the level of public discontent. If the motivation is indeed altruistic and about the survival of the Nigerian nation, the mushrooming oppositions will need to close ranks and present a formidable and credible opposition to the current government.

Second, a significant number of emerging platforms have been offering messages of hope to a citizenry already battered into despondency by prevailing socioeconomic realities. A number of the remedies being proposed merely scratch the issues on the surface, while many others are quite likely to be mere promises crafted to woo voters, without any realistic chance of implementation. Therefore, a victory for the opposition, singularly or collectively, is likely to leave Nigerians unsatisfied, and justifiably so, in the next four years. Already, the incumbent government has demonstrated remarkable reluctance in reconfiguring the structure of the State for efficiency and effectiveness.

The point then, is that victory for either APC government or any opposition under the current framework of engagement is inimical to the needed turnaround Nigeria needs to experience.
We therefore at this juncture implore Nigerians to, at this moment, when politicians would come again with all manner of gimmicks and subterfuges, exploiting their insufferable situation, hypnotizing them to a state of a familiar empty frenzy aimed at mere power grab, to be more circumspect. We recommend that coalitions or parties, groups or individuals whose activities are suggestive they understand the imperative of restructuring as the central kernel to achieving regional symmetry and inclusive development for the nation should rather be considered, engaged and interrogated for the pragmatism of their ideas and their integrity to seeing them through, if voted into office.

What Nigeria needs now is a bold, inclusive and participatory government that realizes the increasing irrelevance of the current structure, modelled on a consumerist ideology, in an age that the world is relying less and less on natural resources, especially crude oil. The Nigerian State needs to be reorganized into one made of viable and productive components that are strong enough individually to guarantee collective flourishing. The present arrangement in which progress trickles down on a monthly basis from the top, is increasingly unsustainable. With a population rate rising at a level that ranks among the fastest in the world, and the diminishing relevance of crude oil, which has for so long kept alive the wasteful structure even as it has stagnated its growth, the expediency of restructuring is both economic and political.

NIG encourages members of the political class to see beyond the election cycle and begin to articulate a vision for the long-term survival and progress of the nation. The time to get it right, after too much prevarication, is now.

• For and on behalf of NIG by Akinyemi Onigbinde, Convener

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