By Morenike Taire
While the deepening state of confusion in the country continues to drive more and more unrest in every geopolitical zone, it has also meant a deeper socio political awareness across board.
And while this awareness does not necessarily translate to growth and development in the political sphere and in the polity in general, it does raise hopes that we can get our national compass flickering once more.
This glimmer of hope begins to dim when opposition to government policies, rather than being seen as a necessary impetus for the flow of ideas, justice, fairplay and accountability, is squashed and silenced in a manner reminiscent of the most brutal military dictatorships: the darkest days in our national history. When the rule of law suffers under a military dictatorship, it is a state of affairs only to be expected.
Brutal as they are, military dictators were in full control of their affairs and would hardly be sloppy in their execution of them. No one voted them in; therefore no one has any superior expectations of them. Moreso, if there is nothing else Nigerians are agreed upon, they are certainly agreed that military dictatorship is not an acceptable form of government and reject it in the very strongest terms.
But when elected personnel are put in positions of power by the people to preside over the affairs of government, there are certain standards expected of them by the very people who put them in positions of power and of authority.
These expectations- and perhaps trust- are violated when elected officials use this same power to squash opposing voices and make themselves the greatest enemies of free speech. It is bizarre, to say the least, that the system can be abused in the punishment of opposing voices in 2018, just as easily as it had been in 1988, with no consequences whatsoever.
The lack of consequences has always been the greatest enabler of the dearth of the rule of law in our country; and consequences only happen when the opposition is as powerful, if not more powerful, than the people in authority at any particular time. This is more so in the political sphere, where the oppositions, having tasted power before, are relatively familiar with the loopholes and pitfalls in navigating the political space. It is therefore baffling that while the ranks of the opposition swells in leaps and bounds in Nigeria, there is not a concomitant swelling in the ability to provide checks and balances in the system.
Regionally strong opposition parties such as Accord, APGA, Labour Party and SDP are particularly guilty, as their voices are rarely ever heard unless it has to do with the propagation of their politics or elections are round the corner.
When any criticism of government policy is offered, it is neither thorough nor sustained. Experts in the area being criticized are rarely engaged, and superior alternatives are rarely offered. The reasons are not far-fetched and the impression clearly given to the electorates strongly suggests that the opposition is not as passionate about fixing Nigeria as it is about winning elections.
Naturally, winning elections is very, very important, and is in fact the raison d’etre of a political party’s existence. All the party ideology in this world is of little use if political power is not harnessed in order to bestow them on the rest of us. Yet political power cannot be gained unless the proper distillation and channeling of ideas is done, as this is what will endear the electorate to their ideology. If the cart of winning elections is put before the horse of convincing the people that they have their interest at heart, why would the people give them a chance? Complex as the Nigerian political space is, it is really as simple as that.
Meanwhile, chief opposition party, the PDP, has shown itself more guilty than others of putting its hunger for power before its liability to its electorates. This is probably why political pundits have declared that the party is joking in its bid not only to unseat the incumbent at the presidency but at the various State Houses as well. The party’s hunger and desperation to get back power is so glaring that it has become a complete turn-off to the electorate.
Yes, money politics still carries the day, but unknown to the leaders of our political parties, adversity has forced and is forcing the Nigerian electorate to become much more sophisticated, and nowhere will this be more obvious than in the 2019 general elections.
Unknown to the leadership of the political parties, the criteria that will influence the electorates in 2019 will be significantly different from what they are prepared to serve. With pressure from youth groups and the young at heart as well as well as women pressure groups, the nucleus is shifting and the power dynamics are being altered significantly, but ever so subtly. Lining up a business-as-usual crowd of Northern accomplished and elite politicians as possible alternatives to the incumbent is the joke of the century.
Unless the PDP does something drastic like putting forward a woman or a youthful personality, they will get the shock of their lives in 2019. No one cares anymore what the combination of the tickets is.
One factor that has not changed much is that we desperately need the opposition to function in our favour but most unfortunately, we have generally been bestowed with the worst opposition possible since the beginning of the 4th Republic.