By Olayinka Oyebode
Exigencies of the moment, including the confusion surrounding the leadership of the country have thrown up the need to build a platform that will match the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) as political forces prepare for the 2011 general elections. This is more important within the context of the recommendation of the Justice Muhammed Uwais-led Electoral Reform Committee for a reversion to a two party arrangement.
These factors are likely to bring slight changes to the make up and the amount of energy each of the political parties devote to political activities. Much energy would, no doubt, be deployed towards synergies, networking and bridge building, in an attempt to reposition ahead of the 2011 general election.
When the two party structure was experimented in the Third Republic, it brought politicians from different political tendencies and ideological backgrounds together on two major platforms- The Social Democratic Party (SDP) and the National Republican Convention (NRC). The experimentation was well received and ultimately led to the successful conduct of the 1993 presidential election, which is considered the freest and fairest in the country.
Prior to the recommendation by the Uwais panel, some prominent politicians, including former Governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Prof Pat Utomi, had consistently canvassed the reduction of political parties in the country to two or three. This, as they explained, would not in any way deny others their existence. But like the American model, where the Democrats and the Republicans are the major parties, but which allows other smaller parties to participate as well.
The country currently has 55 registered political parties, many of which exist just in the register of the Independent National Electoral Commission. (INEC).
With more politicians and civil society groups, expressing support for the actualisation of the Uwais panel recommendations, the clamour for a two party system has gained further momentum,, thus compelling political parties to look inward and fashion out a likely workable partnership arrangement with one another.
While the mega party arrangement, which is a project aimed at building a mass- oriented political party that can match the PDP in size and clout could be a short cut towards realising the two party structure, poitical analysts beieve it cannot stop other poitical parties from working out suitable alignment. The is even as the promoters of the mega party have said that they would preer that individual politicians and groups jointhe mega party than for parties to see it as an alignment of party forces.
Just as it has been since the return to civil rule in 1999, the PDP has in the outgoing year, stuck to its winner -takes -all approach, using its vast majority in the National Assembly to lord things over the citizens. The development is causing some political rethink and strategising, which will inevitably form the character of the parties in the new year.
Peoples Democratic Party
Even with the penchant of its leaders to refer to it as the biggest party in Africa, the PDP in 2009 was not as invicible as its leaders would have all believe, as factional crises and intra party squabbles within some of its state chapters, robbed it of the much desired progress.
Analysts believe that rebuilding the party, should be pursued withan equal passion with which its N10bn secretariat project is being pursued.
Sine the party is the main target of the various alignment of political forces that will come in the new year, it would have to buckle up for greater challenges in the new year.
With about four more governorship and counless assembly cases still pending at the tribunals and Appeal Court, analysts believe that the ruling party may still lose one or two more seats in the new year, while also retaining some as direction of some of the cases have shown.
The recurring intra party crises in many state chapters of the party, including Ogun, Anambra, Edo, Lagos, Niger, Oyo, Bayelsa, Rivers Cross River, Enugu, Abia and Imo remaied a big challenge. And this could affect the party’s preparations for the 2011 elections.
Since the party may not likely be considered a beautiful bride worthy of being wooed when the realignment of forces possibly takes effect, the party would be shooting itself on the foot, should it fail to strengthen itself ahead the coming alignment.
Other factors that will define the fate of the party this year include how it resolves the fallout of issues arising from President Umaru Yar’Adua’s medical trip abroad, the emergence of new power blocs within the party, and the leadership crisis that has fractured some of its state chapters.
With the continued participation of the All Nigeria People’s Party in the Government of National Unity, (GNU) the AC has remained the most visible opposition party in the country. it is perhaps the only party that is putting the ruling party on its toes, by challenging some of its activities, considered as obnoxious.
Expectedly, the party is seen by many as one that would galvanise others through the alignment of political forces. By that singular role, focus would be on the Chief Bisi Akande-led party in 2010.
As affirmed by its national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in a recent interview, the AC would not be joining the mega party arrangement. Rather, it will be willing to be the rallying point for the alignment of forces.
One other agenda of the party in the new year could be to win the electoral war s it is waging in Osun and Ekiti States. The two cases arose from the 2007 governorship election. while Dr Kayode Fayemi, its candidate in the Ekiti governorship election is challenging INEC’s declaration of Governor Olusegun Oni as the winner of the April 25, 2009 governorship rerun, its Osun state candidate for the 2007 governorship election, Rauf Aregbesola is back at the reconstituted election tribunal seeking its intervention to declare him as the validly elected governor of the state. The case which had reached the appeal court level, was returned to the lower tribunal for retrial.
All Progressive Grand Alliance
The party ended 2009 with some measure of hope, as INEC recognised its candidate and incumbent governor of Anambra State, Mr. Peter Obi, as its candidate for the February 6, 2010 governorship election in Anambra State. INEC’s position is seen as a tactical approval for the Chief Victor Umeh –led faction of the party.
The party’s ability to test the laws of the land can only be matched by AC, which also has a rich history of getting the judiciary to interpret knotty issues that are against its interests. Having succeeded in getting Governor Peter Obi’s tenure determined in 2007, the party has never looked back in putting the laws of the land to test.
Apparently fired by the success of the Obi’s case, the party is redirecting its energy to the judicial resolution of the governorship tussle involving its candidate, Martins Agbaso in Imo State.
The new year will however put to test APGA’s acclaimed popularity in the South East as the party is set to test its popularity in the February 6, 2010 election with the PDP, AC, Progressives People’s Alliance (PPA) the PDP and 21 others. Contesting the Anambra governorship seat with other prominent politicians as Dr Andy Uba (of LP), Dr Chris Ngige (AC), and Prof Charles Soludo (PDP), the coming governorship election is surely an acid test for APGA. And the outcome of the election , will definitely say a lot about the prospect of the party in 2010 and beyond.
Already, the party has opened its doors to possible alignment ahead of the governorship election , with the adoption of Peter Obi as consensus candidate by 12 of the registered political parties.
Progressive Peoples Alliance
With two governors and membership of the GNU initiated by the Yar’Adua administration, the PPA’s profile was very high in 2007, having just emerged as a party a year earlier. But that changed in 2009 with the exit of Imo State governor, Ikedi Ohakim to the PDP and resignation of some of its leaders and the attendant crumbs it got in the GNU arrangement.
Having tasted of the negative side of ‘government magic’ of the PDP, where it is partnering with the ANPP to boost the Yar’Adua administration, the party ended 2009 on a sober note.
Observers believe that the manner of Ohakim’s defection to the PDP, from where he had joined PPA, was enough lesson to the party that there is much strength in number, which can only be got through alignment.
There was an initial arrangement for the party to align with Ngige in the coming Anambra State governorship election, before the arrangement collapsed, leaving the two parties to pursue the election separately.
All Nigeria Peoples Party
With its participation in the GNU and continued snubbing of its Presidential Candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, the ANPP has slid in ratings as an opposition party. It can only hope for a further slide, as there are no indications that the party has learnt its lessons.
The history of the party is a classic study of a party in the throes of crises. in 1999, it won the governorship and state assemblies elections in nine states (all in the north). By 2003, it had shrunk to seven states. four years after, it was five and now only three.
The defection of the Zamfara State Governor to the PDP late 2008 and his Bauch State counterpart, Isa Yuguda, is also seen as a prelude to more defections as the nation approaches the 2011 election. This is moreso as the party’s participation in the GNU has increasingly made its leaders think and act as officials of the ruling party.
Analysts believe that the ANPP would continue to live under the shadow of the ruling party, this year, except there is a change in the thinking of its leadership. Also, if the factional gap is not bridged on time, the party may end up losing its relevance at both the GNU and the build up to 2011.
Democratic Peoples Alliance
The DPA may be in a dilemma this year, following the factionalisation of the Yoruba socio-political orgnisation, Afenifere, which has created a division among some of its leaders.
National Chairman of the party, Chief Olu Falae and many leaders of the party are in Afenifere, while other younger members such as its colourful Lagos State governorship candidate, Mr. Jimi Agbaje, are in the Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG).
Although, many of the DPA chieftains have said that the party issues have nothing to do with the affairs of the Yoruba socio-political group. But, that may not be so easy to achieve.
Observers believe that a possible working arrangement should not be difficult for the AC, AD and DPA as socio, political and economic issues continued to bind them together, especially with many of them getting weary of the Afenifere factional tussle.
Alliance for Democracy
The AD rose from its protracted factional crisis mid 2009 to put its popularity to test in the bye election conducted for the Ibeju Lekki House of Representatives seat in Lagos State. Assisted by AC, the AD candidate lost narrowly to the PDP, Hon Okanlawon Soniyi.
Observers believe that the sudden resurrection of AD may be for strategic reason. It is believed that some powerful politicians, who had since left the party, may be preparing the AD as a “special vehicle” in the realignment that would come later in the year.
Although the National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr Popoola Ajayi, denied such insinuation, the little cooperation between the party and AC during the Ibeju Lekki bye election is seen as an indication of what could happen subsequently.
Fortune smiled on the LP early in 2009 with the validation of the election of its Ondo State governorship candidate, Dr Olusegun Mimiko by the Court of Appeal. The party, through that feat, has ha its profile increased.
Shortly after the governorship victory, the party also got some national and state house of assembly elections resolved in his favour, thereby becoming better fortified in Ondo State.
Conference of Nigerian Political Parties
For the Conference of National Political Parties, (CNPP), the new year is likely going to pose some challenges, as the mega party arrangement is gaining grounds. The birth of the Forum of National Chairman of Political Parties, early in 2009, is likely to give the opposition parties that are not comfortable with the CNPP leadership an alternative platform.
The FNCPP which is being led by Chairman of the Citizens Popular Party, Chief Maxi Okwu, is set to reposition agitation by leaders of opposition parties.
Another school of thought, however , believes that the coming of the FNCPP may make the coordination of opposition parties for the coming realignment a difficult task. The polarity may also be to the advantage of the ruling PDP, which may likely be the victim of a properly coordinated opposition.
Ahead of the re-alignment of political forces or the reversion to the two party structure, some political parties have had some form of understanding and working arrangements that have produced some dividends.
The LP, for instance has an understanding with the AC in Edo State, a development that paved the way for Oshiomhole to contest the 2007 election on the platform of AC. The AC –LP working pact is also working in Ondo State.
with 25 political parties vying for the Anambra governorship seat, alignment of political forces ahead of the election may become inevitable.
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