The relationship between the presidency and the opposition has become increasingly dominated by mistrust, abuse, and outburst. The past week saw a lot of this awful politics of paranoia, as the government and the opposition grabbed the headlines in an epidemic of mutual invectives.
Leaders of the opposition merger initiative involving Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Congress for Progressive Change, and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance opened the explosive exchange during the ACN convention on April 18 in Lagos. Expectedly, the Peoples Democratic Party-led federal government was the subtext of every speech, as speaker after speaker tried to justify the change the opposition craves.
The ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said, “In over 14 years that the ruling party has been in power, not only has it failed to deliver on its promises, it has also infected all institutions of the state with its aversion for the rule of law and entrenched monumental corruption.”
He said due to the massive corruption superintended by the PDP government, Nigeria had “become a society where the safety of lives, private properties and public installations is at its lowest ebb. It also explains deepening level of poverty, which is now at its highest. It finally justifies the reason our countrymen are waiting patiently, but with latent breathe, to see the successful outcome of the merger talks. We must never let them down.”
ACN National Leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, accused the ruling party of chronic non-performance, saying, “Where the road is bad, they budget for it, still the road gets worse. Where the road is impassable, they offer excuses and empty promises. Our billions are embezzled and shared to cronies. The slogan of the ruling party is ‘power’, but corruption is the fuel that powers their government.”
Tinubu said, “The current government’s trademark is to throw empty words and hollow actions at our problems.”
CPC leader and former military Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, said the opposition parties were merging into the All Progressives Congress “to avoid a state of anarchy and disorder in Nigeria, our own fatherland.”
The opposition believes Nigeria is teetering on the brink of collapse under PDP’s watch and the Dr. Goodluck Jonathan presidency cannot be trusted to pull the country back from the precipice. Continuing with PDP, they say, is taking a leap of motiveless faith into the unknown, while embracing the opposition APC is a rational escape from the perilous situation Nigerians find themselves.
But Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, in a swift reaction last Sunday, addressed a news conference in Lagos where he said the PDP government would not be distracted by “empty” criticisms from the opposition. Okupe virtually picked out every one of the opposition leaders for rebuke.
“It is evident that the proposed merger revolves around two personalities only, Senator Tinubu and General Buhari. Unfortunately, both are heavily burdened political liabilities,” Okupe said.
He followed up with even heavier comments on Tuesday during a visit to the THISDAY corporate headquarters in Lagos. Okupe predicted doom for the proposed opposition merger, APC, saying, “It is a politically defective and weak organisation, and by coming to the national stage, the wind is going to blow them open. If they don’t crumble and disappear by 2014, don’t call me Okupe.”
That outburst was unnecessary and, in fact, illogical. Nigerian politics would gain nothing from the failure of the opposition. It would, in reality, lose so much of its surviving credibility.
Besides, many Nigerians feel the same frustrations the opposition emphasises and they blame the PDP presidency – even though some within the opposition camp are also part of the problem they now believe should be wholly laid at the door of the ruling party. Nigerians expect the Jonathan administration to deliver the primary purpose of its existence, which is the security and welfare of citizens. The citizens certainly have nothing to gain from the presidency’s frenzied keenness on winning arguments with the opposition.
As for the president’s handlers, silence can be a coin of choice – if they cannot restrict themselves to a sincere representation of what their principal is doing to better the lot of the people.
The mutual diatribes between the government and the opposition underscore a politics of paranoia that seems to define political relationships in the country ahead of 2015. The president seems so frightened of opposition that he believes every perceived contender must be summarily dealt with. And his template, it appears, includes both newfound enemies within PDP and those perceived to have existed from the pre-2011 presidential election preparation days. Governors Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State and Murtala Nyako of Adamawa State are currently suffering the consequences of that perception. So are former President Olusegun Obasanjo and his supporters. Others like Governor Sule Lamido of Jigawa State, Governor Babangida Aliyu of Niger State, and many others appear to be on the “watch list.”
That may just be the tip of it. The country may see a constant stream of more draconian reactions as the climate of fear and mutual suspicion gets more intense ahead of 2015.
The president should make a conscious decision to tone down the bellicose course of politics.
The opposition, too, can take lessons from the inclement chorus of doomsayers about its emergence and prove that it is not the unserious bunch that elements within the ruling party tend to see. Like Okupe said regarding the opposition promoters, “I expect that when you post an aggregate of people of that calibre, who want to run government, by now they must have a policy statement on power, agriculture and employment and not just talking about PDP leaving.”
Culled from Thisday Live