The opposition’s strategy is to steal the Sout-West and the North from PDP by presenting a northern favorite through CPC and a South-Western winner through the ACN. The plan seems foolproof and might work in the end but there are a few holes in this strategy.
The fight for the presidency has begun with the usual suspects jostling for the chance to dazzle Nigerians. The election for the presidency is always filled with intrigue and dramatic twists and this year promises to bring greater drama. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is currently in court to decide whether President Jonathan is allowed to contest for the upcoming election. The opposition is preoccupied with joining three disparate groups. Naturally they oppose everything that the PDP stands for and its personalities are busy bargaining for who will get the chance to run against the PDP.
Nigerian presidential politics often dominates the media and everyone cares about who becomes president. While this is valid as the presidency is endowed with immense power, one can make the case that this is the cause of mad governance in virtually all branches of government. We often forget that there are three equal parts and that these branches were set up to provide oversight and accountability for each other. Unfortunately, recent history of Nigeria shows that the executive branch has been the focused of most analysis with random attention on the other two sections to the detriment of the whole.
What are we to learn from the analysis above to drive practical changes in the upcoming election? What will work for 2015?
The PDP is immense and it has been growing its brand for the last two decades. It can win elections across the country and it often dips its hands freely into federal accounts to win these elections. The opposition’s strategy is to steal the Sout-West and the North from PDP by presenting a northern favorite through CPC and a South-Western winner through the ACN. The plan seems foolproof and might work in the end but there are a few holes in this strategy.
Nigerian national politics is a game of personality and tribe. Most people will vote for the tribesmen and if that is not available they will vote for a big personality they trust regardless of political party affiliations. Nigerian politicians switch parties at will and they create new parties as they wish.
Unfortunately the current heavy players for the opposition are not as big as they think. General Buhari is getting far too old to run and it is not clear if he can transfer his popularity to the other possible Northern flag bearer, Mallam El Rufai. Recent events show that ACN’s proclaimed grip on power in the southwest is beginning to diffuse. Its recent big loss to the Labor Party in Ondo state is a sign that its candidate is not a guarantee. Another possible liability might be that it misreads the popularity of Governor Fashola in the country. Fashola’s recent anti-poor policies in Lagos State will not go unpunished. It may have led to increased crimes and disillusionment among Lagosians, and the middle class will soon feel the unintended consequences of his actions. His recent comments that “non-Lagosians should go back to their village” will certainly not help when he starts to campaign fully.
What will work for the opposition is a focus on the National Assembly. The Nigerian legislature has long served as a glorified rubber stamp for the executive branch. They mostly pass laws that the president wants and the NASS is dominated by the PDP. If the opposition party focuses its resources on driving competition into the National Assembly, regardless of who wins the presidency, governance might improve. A competitive and focused NASS will provided needed oversight for the Executive branch. It can reform the Judiciary by appointing only Judges who are known for their integrity. The national budget will get even more scrutiny and technical ministries will be forced to be accountable to the Nigerian people.
If the opposition is serious about gaining status in Nigeria and improving governance, its best bet is to focus on the National Assembly and drive change through it.
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