by Atom Lim

Yes, they want to REPLACE the PDP but in most cases, the grand plan for doing so is to beat the PDP at its game; match thug for thug, godfather for godfather, dollar for dollar, rigging for rigging, selection for selection!

As the proposed merger between the nation’s three major political parties reaches its final stages, some of us are already wondering what form and shape the new party will take.

Among Nigeria’s young social media users, the debate is on. Many believe this new party will only swell in numbers in attempt to dislodge the PDP without bringing any real change. Even among the few staunch members of the opposition parties, there is no sense of the party’s structure or how it will be significantly different from the PDP. Everyone involved seems to have one agenda; remove the PDP from  the Presidency.

Yet, in this mad obsession with removing the PDP, it is young PDP members or sympathisers among us who continue to serve as the opposition’s voice of conscience. Every now and then, they throw up the hard questions about whether the PDP is the problem in Nigeria’s leadership crisis or it’s the Nigerian factor. They ask what the opposition will do differently when it assumes power at the national level. They rightly point out internal conflicts in the ACN, CPC, and ANPP stressing similarities between these parties and the PDP. They conclude, and rightly so, that all Nigerian parties currently have the same practices of candidate imposition, godfatherism, mediocrity, lack of ideology, etc.

In response, opposition sympathisers simply say “any other party but the PDP,” failing to address those very important issues. Well, some of us are growing disillusioned with and tired of the opposition in this country. No, sir, I no longer believe any party but the PDP is enough. I want something more concrete. I want clear evidence that this new party has a plan to wrest power from the PDP but more importantly that it has a structure to consistently give us better leadership. Anything short of this is unacceptable.

The concerns about the opposition as a viable alternative to the PDP are real and should bother every Nigerian. For years, we have let down our guard in our scrutiny of the opposition. If there is a Bode George in the PDP, we shout and cry how much of a crook he is and how the PDP is a party of thieves. The moment he crosses over to any of our opposition parties, he is baptised and born again. The PDP demon in him would automatically be exorcised. He becomes as clean as our dear Buhari. I could list these ‘born again’ progressives but I am sure we already know them. This is the nature of our opposition politics today. The question, however, is how does this hypocrisy amount to a viable alternative?

As things stand, I do not think any opposition party has been positioned to be different from the PDP. Yes, they want to REPLACE the PDP but in most cases, the grand plan for doing so is to beat the PDP at its game; match thug for thug, godfather for godfather, dollar for dollar, rigging for rigging, selection for selection!

Nothing I have said here is new. The only difference is it is coming from a supposed opposition sympathiser this time. But even that is not new if someone will just label me a hired hand for the PDP out to damage the opposition’s reputation. This label alone will make it impossible for any anti-PDP person to reflect on the issues I am rehashing.

When is this hypocrictical and blind following going to stop?

I believe the PDP is not Nigeria’s biggest problem. Any opposition member open-minded enough to see the facts knows the PDP is not the issue. Anyone willing to admit it will tell you opposition parties, in fact, have a worse culture.

First, for 15 years, the PDP has remained the only national party in contrast to opposition parties which have remained fixated on their regional agendas. This alone is an achivement in a country deeply divided along ethnic and religious lines.

What unites the PDP thus? Some say it’s corruption. They forget, however, that even at inception in 1998, the PDP was national in its composition. Clearly, the PDP was designed and framed to want the national cake! Now, 15 years later, opposition parties are realising they want the national seat?

Who has a regional agenda and expects to win a national election?

Opposition parties need to start learning from and improving on the PDP’s good policies instead of focusing on its rigging and thuggery. Apart from having a national agenda, the new party needs to focus on credible primaries. Over the years, nothing has destroyed parties more than the imposition of candidates. One can already expect this to be a challenge in the new party.

Last week, Buhari was quoted as saying he will run in 2015 if he is given the ticket. I read that and laughed. Truth is, we in the opposition already know the issue of the 2015 ticket is the basis for negotiations in the merger talks. If indeed the talks go through in April, it will be almost certain who will be the new party’s Presidential candidate in 2015! Is this the kind of party we want going forward? A party whose presidential candidacy is negotiated behind closed doors by half-a-dozen leaders and known years before primaries? How different is this from what the PDP did in 1999 or 2003 or 2007?

If the new party is serious about its credibility or indeed offering reforms that alternate the PDP’s way of doing things, it must now set structures for the conduct of credible primaries.

I have a suggestion, the mega party’s constitution should reflect that the conduct of its presidential primaries shall be in two phases. The first phase would involve five days of televised interviews in the areas of government and administration, history and general knowledge, economics and development, foreign policy and national strategy, security and conflict management. The interviews on each of these subject areas should be conducted by a paid panel of experts in the area. The candidates will each nominate an expert of their choice to make up the panel. After the televised debates, party delegates would then vote in the second phase. This too would be televised.

Yes, I know I sound naive. But isn’t it because we have refused to be naive that we now have someone we  like to call clueless for president?

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Atom Lim is a Nigerian media and communications practitioner. He worked at NEXT publications as a sub-editor before joining the Africa Leadership Forum as web and publications editor. Atom is a regular social commentator, he tweets from @atomlim

 

Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.