It’s very difficult to beat an incumbent president in a general election, never mind a primary election. But the current widespread insecurity in most parts of Nigeria which has taken on a largely criminal face as manifested in banditry, assassinations, kidnappings and thefts, pose a crucial test to the vibrancy of the All Progressives Congress administration of President Muhammadu Buhari.
And this, in turn, coupled with the mediocre performance of the federal and most state governments in the vital areas of food security, employment, infrastructural, educational and general economic development is reflected in the day-to-day life of the Nigerian people and their striving for the future.
In conscious democracies all over the world, the APC would be no more than a sitting duck carrying this burden to any future elections.
Unfortunately, most Nigerian voters don’t have anything like coherent preferences. Most of them pay little attention to politics; when they vote, if they vote at all, they do so irrationally and for contradictory reasons.
Ordinarily voters need to have preferences about what the government ought to do; they should then elect leaders who will carry out those preferences and vote against those who will not; in this way, in the end we can have a government that more or less serves the majority.
In Nigeria, even the few voters who pay close attention to politics are prone to biased decisions because most of them make political decisions on the basis of social identities and partisan loyalties, not an honest examination of reality.
Sadly too, the opposition package today is itself full of hypocrites, some ashamed, many proud. There is no silver lining here, no appeal to a just system that has been thwarted by most of the same corrupting forces; it is simply the same class of bad people using democracy as tyrants use tyranny.
So far, there is some indication that someone like Atiku Abubakar or Senate President Bukola Saraki could challenge President Muhammadu Buhari in 2019. However, it remains doubtful if any of these efforts will come to fruition, as of now, because President Buhari is still very popular among ordinary Nigerians.
In addition, an incoherent opposition always reflects on the democratic mutations of any country. Democracy needs an opposition with consistent criticism whilst providing alternatives to faulty government policies.
But for evident reasons today, we have a problem because we have a weak and divided opposition that is demoralized and not coherent with its declarations. This is worrisome.
If the opposition forces are really serious about putting up a joint fight against Buhari in particular, they ought to demonstrate their sincerity by forming a grand alliance. But this is almost unlikely as they persist in individual quest for ascendancy while the clock ticks to their disadvantage.
For instance,, Makarfi, Bafarawa and a host of others have no business aspiring to beat Buhari in 2019, because they can’t. Atiku and Kwankwaso can make a good try, but only if they genuinely join forces which they can’t, because they don’t appear to be willing to.
With this possibility still a long way away, it may not be possible that after such a shattered start, the opposition could still unite effectively against the incumbent elite.
Alternatively, the younger generations of Nigerians and the masses of the people must have to begin to work towards finding a more enduring national development alternative to this arrangement by which society and even partisanship matter less to both incumbent and opposition than the thirst for power.
Unless this alternative could be considered seriously urgently, power is bound to remain with, or oscillate to the same people who tend to turn the Aso Presidential Villa into a hypocritical sanctuary for high-functioning power-addicts, a place where people who don’t like to be controlled can gather and try to control others up till 2023 and possibly beyond.
Another alternative is to move further left and consider the selection options offered by other platforms with considerably more consistent frameworks.
If we look at the history of Nigeria since Independence, only the NEPU and later PRP – even if one didn’t share its views – was always coherent during the first and second republics. This doesn’t exist in today’s opposition arrangement which looks as if it is suffering from individualism and the lack of human resources.
One asks why is this? Perhaps it is because there has been so much expansion lately that talented individuals are preferring to make the best of the present circumstances for economic and social reasons rather than pursuing a political career.
Suleiman, a journalist, writes from Abuja.