It was probably the most predictable anti-climax of recent Nigerian politics. I am talking about the collapse of the effort to institute what has come to be known as the ‘mega-party’ by elements of the Nigerian political opposition. Well last week, the leading lights of the multi-sided discussions to build what Osita Okechukwu, secretary of the CNPP, once effusively described as a ‘granite coalition’, all came out to say the effort had failed. General Buhari spoke through Honourable Farouk Aliyu that the effort had been abandoned given the decision of former vice president Atiku Abubakar to return to his old PDP base, warts and all. Buhari did not announce what his next plan, but is expected to retreat into the laager of the Congress for Progressive Change, literally bloodied, in that grand political sense of needing to begin the painstaking process of building a new political movement. But why did it go so wrong? The seeds of the Humpty-Dumpty-like crumbling of the mega-party idea had always been present.
Atiku Abubakar won the empathy of the Nigerian people in the struggle against the Third Term agenda of Olusegun Obasanjo, with his painstaking use of the courts to deepen the democratic struggle against impunity and tyranny, as he serially defeated Obasanjo’s schisms in many landmark court cases. Unfortunately, the fights were bruising, costly and tiring for Atiku Abubakar. He was unable to sustain the prolonged effort which a genuine struggle for democracy demanded and before long, he entered the infamous “dance of witches” secret meeting with Obasanjo. The disappointment engendered led to his loss of the Action Congress party as Bola Tinubu seized the moment. In real terms, Atiku became a political light weight constantly on the run, despite the motion which the ‘mega-party’ initiative represented. The effort would have been worthy from Atiku Abubakar’s perspective, if the movement was not only formed, but he was guaranteed to emerge as the presidential candidate in the 2011 elections. He would not get such an assurance, and in the end, he felt more comfortable returning to his vomit in the PDP. He still has to fight for space, against the stiff opposition of his opponents in Adamawa state and he is not even sure he will get a look in, when the 2011 candidacy is chosen.
At another level of the mega-party Humpty-Dumpty, is Bola Tinubu, clearly one of the most over-hyped politicians in the country today. Tinubu operates a twin-track policy. In the first place, he seized the AC in order to use it as the platform to attain political hegemony in the Southwest; his main focus is regional. He aspires to become the most important political leader in the region in control through his vassals in the different states of the region. He fancies himself the new Chief Awolowo, and cashing-in on the strong regionalist emotion within the elite of the region, he uses his significant media asset to promote the image of being the “Asiwaju” of Yoruba politics. The second track for Tinubu is not stated, but it is really to ensure that the EFCC is not used by the ruling party in the centre to demystify his years in power in Lagos. Tinubu will blow hot and cold but will go just as far as is possible to keep up the mythology of his ascendant power in Yoruba politics. When push comes to shove, he will not genuinely work for a mega-party or rock the boat nationally because he does not possess the immunity of power to fight the PDP at the center. His horizon in real terms is not national but regional hegemony.
This is the general context which conditioned the multi-sided maneuvers which began the mega-party movement and it was ambience which ensured that it was going to be dead-on-arrival! Nigerians truly wanted an alternative platform to the PDP and its do-or-die politics, but it is clear that most of what is the Nigerian opposition lack the vision, conviction and ability to midwife a mass democratic movement. Our opposition is like the proverbial stomach of the African elephant, which contains items of every description: from regionalists like Tinubu; gerontrocrats like Chief Anthony Enahoro with absurd ideas of balkanizing Nigeria along ethnic lines; tired radicals like Balarabe Musa to others in the pay of the ruling PDP. It is clear that despite the presence of the objective conditions for the emergence of a mass democratic platform, the subjective factors would conspire to make it impossible to pull it off. By last week, the strange bed fellows had become sufficiently disillusioned with each other that they chose publicly to go their different ways and in the process, blew the hopes of the Nigerian people, for an alternative. They seemed to have done even more; they have smoothened the way for a PDP victory in 2011. It is frightening but that is the brutal truth of the situation.
So like Humpty-Dumpty, the mega-party collapsed and scattered in all directions and of course it cannot be put together again. Politics will be poorer to the extent that the behemoth of the PDP will ram it down the throat of the Nigerian people as it is wont, when 2011 comes. We have on our hands a classic of a political opposition made up of too many chiefs without Indians; conflicting ambitions, most of which have no patriotic content. In my view, the greatest loser is General Muhammadu Buhari, because he is the one most likely to have expanded his national appeal, if the mega-party idea had really taken off. He now has to re-strategize his national political project in the context of the disappointment. The collapse last week exposed the fact that Nigeria needs new political forces based in the working people, middle class professionals and the poor to rise to the occasion, otherwise, the Nigerian people will face even worse situations into the future. This is the truth of our situation today.