Three influential opposition figures have hinted at the coming of a mega party that will challenge the All Progressives Congress, or APC, in the 2027 general election. These are Prof. Pat Utomi of the Labour Party, a former governor of Kano State and the presidential candidate of the NNPP, Musa Rabiu Kwankwaso, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the former vice president of Nigeria and PDP candidate in the last two presidential elections.
For Nigeria’s democracy to flourish and become functional, the need for a mega opposition party has become inevitable. The other seventeen political parties, many of which are merely existing in names and do not even hold a council seat to their name; have failed to function effectively as legitimate opposition parties.
The PDP in particular is still mired in a leadership crisis that invariably cost the party the 2023 presidential election. This was due to the departure of G5 governors, including Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, and Peter Obi, who took millions of votes away from the PDP in the presidential and other polls.
The PDP has been experiencing a crisis of credibility, and Nigerians continue to hold the main opposition party—which ruled the country for 16 years—responsible for the coming of APC and the problems that have plagued the nation for almost ten years. Nigerians’ hostility towards the PDP has rendered the party an unlikely platform for coalition building as opposed to merger.
In addition, the Labour Party does not now function as a national party; Mr Peter Obi’s entrance is the only factor responsible for the Labour Party’s sudden rise to prominence. That implies the LP would start over if Peter Obi left the Labour Party today.
What is more, by trying to outdo the APC and the PDP as an elite party, LP has further demonstrated its lack of commitment to labour and mass-oriented ideology. For instance, it is selling an N30 million form for the Edo governorship race, which is even more than the PDP’s charge for its guber form for the same election. One wonders where the Labour Party expects the millions of naira they demand from the workers and the masses they say they represent will come from.
The same is true for the NNPP, as it was Kwankwaso’s arrival that energised and elevated the hitherto inconsequential party. Despite having a governor of Kano State, Kwankwaso’s suspension or expulsion from the same party has severely damaged NNPP’s credibility and viability. Without Kwankwaso the creator of the well-known Kwankwasiyya movement, which is the NNPP’s mainstay, the NNPP, may soon fade away.
The argument being made is that each of the opposition parties is too weak on its own to anchor an alliance that would include all of the opposition parties. Regretfully, the PDP will be unable to serve as that veritable platform to accommodate the other parties, and even in that case, it would still be preferable for the seventeen political groups to unite into a single mega-opposition party.
The five historical political blocks—ACN, CPC, ANPP, newPDP, and a fraction of APGA—did not form an alliance for the 2015 presidential election in 2013, but went straight to form a mega opposition party, which culminated in the arrival of APC, and that put them in a position to challenge the behemoth PDP, which at the time controlled the centre, even if each of the five blocks had at least one governor. At that point, ACN and ANPP each had roughly five governors.
Based on the APC’s stellar example as an opposition, and the disastrous record of political coalitions for elections—such as UPGA in 1964—the development of a mega party, as opposed to an alliance, will offer the opposition a strong chance to win the presidency. It would assist in winning over Nigerians’ trust and fostering the sense of a new beginning that the nation sorely needs right now.
Since 2015, the APC’s glaring failures have led to frustration, a rise in various forms of insecurity, and a need for self-help throughout the nation. General Muhammadu Buhari (retd), who tragically led Nigeria from 2015 to 2023, presented the opposition with the best chance to retake central government. But it was destroyed by the PDP’s fractionalisation, which divided its traditional base into Labour and the PDP. This happened because the PDP was unable to prevent or delay Peter Obi’s departure, which resulted in a significant number of party members defecting to Labour and turning Labour into a formidable opposition party. As a result, LP remains, more or less, a faction of the PDP.
Even worse, the G5 governors of the PDP, led by Nyesom Wike, became a third faction within the party by fighting against the PDP at the presidential polls. Atiku Abubakar of the PDP and Peter Obi of the Labour Party combined won 13 million votes in the 2023 presidential election, while President Tinubu of the APC received more than 8 million. Therefore, the PDP would have been the clear winner of the presidency if it had been able to maintain order in its house.
It’s time for all opposition parties to come together and form a single mega party, just like the All Progressives Congress (APC) did in 2013. At that time, five different political parties and political blocs came together to form the APC, which was able to defeat the then-ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and was able to take power from incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.
Alongside the mega party plan, two points need to be brought up right away. The decisions made by Atiku Abubakar, Peter Obi, and Rabiu Kwankwaso will determine whether or not it succeeds. James Freeman Clarke once stated, “A statesman thinks of the next generation; a politician thinks of the next election.” The three gentlemen must pay attention to this. It all comes down to giving up personal ambition for the common good. Will these three prominent opposition figures work to rescue democracy for the benefit of Nigeria and Nigerians?
The three gentlemen should be aware that, despite their constitutional right to run for president, if they do so as they did in the 2023 election, they will all lose and Tinubu and the APC will return with a larger lead in 2027 and possibly beyond. If they insist on a simple coalition, which hasn’t succeeded in the history of the country, the same outcome will occur. Only an outright merger will suffice for 2027.
Finally, it is strongly recommended that one of the three should be the chairman of the mega party, and the other two running for president and vice president. The three must cooperate for the sake of the nation and democracy. The question however is: can the three get off their high horse and provide Nigeria with a legitimate opposition, a substitute platform, and a competitive ticket for 2027?
It is also crucial to remember that the opposition should work at the same time to amend the 2022 Election Act to establish the necessary legal framework to ensure a free, fair, and credible election. If this is not the case, the opposition will probably perform worse in the general election of 2027.
As I mentioned a few days ago, before any discussion regarding the likelihood of a legitimate, free, and fair election in 2027, four important legal issues must be settled: amending the Electoral Act to One, mandatorily requiring all polling units’ results to be uploaded before manually compiling and declaring the results at any level; the second is wrapping up election lawsuits before swearing of declared winners; Third, the Tribunal must get proof from INEC, not the petitioner, detailing how the commission determined the winner of every election it held. Lastly, among other things, legal criteria should be set for INEC’s “substantial compliance with the Electoral Act”.
Effective preparations for the 2027 presidential election are already running behind schedule for the opposition parties. The mega party may take up to two years to dig and kick in. It will also take time to change the Electoral Act in 2022 to reflect the prescribed changes.
Thus, the issue still stands: what precisely are the opposing parties holding out for? Is it possible for someone to alert them to these demands required by a genuine democracy?
·Dr. Law Mefor, an Abuja-based forensic and social psychologist, is a fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thoughts; [email protected]; Twitter: @Drlawsonmefor.