by Stanley Azuakola
Nigerians have needs; they will remember whoever (whatsoever) meets those needs.
When hares roar like lions, it can only mean one thing: You’re being told a fable.
And we’ve been told a lot of that recently, haven’t we? Visit social media sites especially and one argument you can’t escape goes something like this: the PDP is such an unpopular disaster right now that 2015 is all but certain to be for it, a year of untold losses. Well, for starters, 2015 in the political universe is still ages away and the unpopular scoundrel you loathe today can morph into the people’s hero tomorrow.
As far as I can tell, there’s never been a time when the PDP was not unpopular, yet they manage to remain the dominant party. Despite the groundswell of public discontent, if 2015 was to arrive suddenly and elections are held, there’s nothing to suggest that Nigerians are ready to entrust the opposition with power.
The evidence stares us in the face in Adamawa and Bayelsa. Governor Nyako of Adamawa was so unpopular as governor that there were celebrations on the streets of Yola when a Supreme Court ruling swept him and 4 other governors out of office. But guess who was smiling on 5th February when the result of the re-run poll in the state was announced. Nyako? You bet!
In Bayelsa, President Jonathan publicly repudiated the former governor, Timipreye Sylva (let’s ignore the fact that less than a year ago, he’d raised Sylva’s hands as a performing governor.) The point is that by calling Sylva’s PDP government in Bayelsa a failure, the president was inadvertently indicting his own party. Ordinarily, that should have dimmed the lights on the chances of any PDP man aspiring to occupy Creek Haven (the Bayelsa seat of government), right? Wrong! Seriake Dickson of the PDP not only won, it was a landslide. The PDP also won Sokoto and is also widely tipped to win the Cross River gubernatorial re-run polls.
I’m not a fan of the PDP, or any other party. In past elections, I’ve rooted for both PDP as well as non-PDP candidates. But I recognise that there is the place of a strong opposition in every healthy democracy. We don’t have that here and as long as things remain unchanged, the PDP would not only retain Aso Rock in 2015, but also increase their overwhelming majority in parliament and in the governors’ lodges.
To stand any chance in 2015, there are a few things the opposition must immediately begin to do. Starting up with starting now. I’ve mentioned that 2015 is a long way off and in the world of politics anything can happen in a jiffy, but seeds not sown now will never become harvest. This is the time to start building structures, being known for something and mobilising at the grass roots.
Let Nigerians in different localities recognise the various parties for different interventions. Nigerians have needs; they will remember whoever (whatsoever) meets those needs. If the opposition waits to get out its message few months to the elections, at about the same time as the PDP, they stand no chance of “out-shouting” the PDP. They simply would not have the money, media and men to compete. Also, this is the time to do everything possible to shed negative stereotypes (like being known as regional or religious parties.) The Action Congress of Nigeria blew a golden chance with the just concluded Adamawa polls.
I’ve argued and some have disagreed that the Adamawa election was the A.C.N’s to lose. Had the national heavyweights of that party given it as much attention as they give to elections in the South West they would have carried the day. The PDP was on the defensive but the A.C.N didn’t go for the kill.
I always wonder why we only hear about plans for merger between parties months (sometimes days) to the elections. Little wonder such fire-brigade arrangements always meet certain failure. Looking at the Adamawa polls simplistically, one might argue that it made a good case for the major opposition parties to unite and come under one banner to present a formidable alternative platform to the ruling party. The combined votes (349,000) for the CPC candidate, Buba Marwa, and the A.C.N candidate, Markus Gundiri, was 46,000 votes more than that of the PDP man, Murtala Nyako.
The argument is that if those two men had come together, the consensus candidate would have convincingly defeated Nyako (that argument does not consider other factors that came into play like religion.) Personally, I’m not an advocate of merger at all cost. If opposition parties feel that their visions for Nigeria and ideologies are too dissimilar, then they shouldn’t merge, otherwise we’ll end up with another monster. However if they must come together, then the earlier the better.
One thing opposition leaders must understand is that if Nigerians want PDP, they’ll simply vote PDP. Of what use is voting for the opposition if in every aspect apart from nomenclature, they are PDP. In no regard is this more glaring than in their choice of candidates. For instance in the Bayelsa elections, Dr Imoro Kubor of the Change Advocacy Party (CAP), who was the surprise runner-up, was a former PDP man who decamped to A.C.N before decamping to CAP where he contested. Get your own men, build them up yourselves if you have to, but by all means show that you’re different.
Finally, the young should grow. The CPC for instance is epitomised by its candidate in the last elections, Gen Buhari. Buhari, in my opinion, is a man with real love and passion for Nigeria and would have made a satisfactory president. He had my vote in 2011. But Buhari would not win any future presidential election in this country. CPC has to realise that; he wouldn’t. The general should still be active in politics, not as a candidate but as a mentor. That’s why I find worrisome the statement of former FCT minister, Nasir El-rufai confirming that they are persuading Buhari to run again in 2015.
The general would be 73 by 2015. Are there no other credible people in the party, who while not as popular as Buhari can start immediately, with Buhari’s support and gain ground before 2015? Buhari’s last great act of patriotism should be sticking with his decision not to pursue his presidential ambition in 2015 for the greater good.
These suggestions are by no means exhaustive. There’s still reform of campaign finance rules, getting people out to vote on election day, and many others. I won’t touch all those today, but the point is clear. Every single day that passes without opposition parties taking steps to get these things done, is another day closer to their loss in 2015. Then we’ll hear more fables about hares that roar.
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