Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review XI - A functioning democracy?

The quest for a credible opposition

This must have been one of the funniest blogs [1] I have read in the Economist which started with the line-dancing equivalent of handling a hat and ended with a very serious message. “Democracy does not function without a serious, credible and decent opposition.

That hit home so hard that I crafted and posted the following tweet. "Democracy does not function without a serious, credible and decent opposition." @TheEconomist #NigeriaDecides to do without one.

The gubernatorial elections were conducted in 24 States yesterday with Kaduna and Bauchi States scheduled to hold on the Thursday, the other 10 states [2] (Adamawa, Anambra, Bayelsa, Cross River, Edo, Ekiti, Kogi, Ondo, Osun and Sokoto) were not contested still having partial terms to run.

However, the elections for the State Houses of Assembly in 34 States but Kaduna and Bauchi were held as well as the 19 Senate and 48 House of Representative seats which were postponed from the 1st tranche that held on the 9th of April.

The ruling party rules wide

Nigeria struggles at being a multi-party state with the pervasive representation of the ruling PDP which before these elections had 26 state governors [3] out of 36, 85 out of 109 Senators and 260 out of 360 members in the House of Representatives in the National Assembly [4].

The footprint of the ruling was big and widespread; there was no opposition party or coalition of opposition parties that had the fleeting chance of overturning these thumping majorities.

The best that could be hoped for was to work on unseating the ruling party in many places and thereby reduce their influence in all spheres of Nigerian life but the presidency was still that of PDP to keep for the next 4 years.

A frustrated CPC President

In the presidential elections help just over a week ago, the CPC party mounted a good challenge [5] but technically, to have expected to overthrow PDP at the ballot box in 2011 was close to a pipe dream fuelled with herbs.

CPC, an offshoot of ANPP, had no political representation whatsoever before these elections and having gained some seats in the National Assembly a CPC President of the Federation of Nigeria would have had the almost impossible task of run his agenda through a hostile and aggressively counterintuitive assembly.

The CPC President might will attempt to rule by executive decree and fiat to keep things going with such provisions exist but it would have been a throwback to our old military times as a frustrated president with all his good intentions but lack of powers of persuasion toward a strident legislature would have found and Nigeria would have been so badly served.

Fixing wrong aims

A leading politician needs a working majority but also an effective opposition such that radical reforms would require the persuasion of the some of the opposition through compromise, consensus or deals – that is politics.

In essence, the opposition parties for the 2011 should have had the strategy of extending their reach to a national presence rather than their regional predominance; a feat that they have hardly pulled off and it goes without saying that parties would need to merge to offer Nigeria the semblance of a serious, credible and decent opposition.

The elections

It is against this backdrop that the election violence after the presidential elections was unfortunate and that might well affect that ability for the opposition parties to gain new acreage as people out of fear and terror might have stayed away allowing for the status quo of Nigerian elections to thrive like ballot box snatching, intimidation of voters and observers alike and incredulous results.

The goodwill and praise that mounted after the first two Saturdays of elections seems to have dissipated into fear, acrimony, death and destruction, the fallout has yet to be fully appreciated but its effects will be far-reaching.

Many of the ad-hoc INEC staff comprised of NYSC members failed to show up for duty because they did not receive convincing assurances of safety and security, where they did, some were bullied, harassed, beaten and possibly came to great harm.

Bombs went off in the North and in the South-East there was major unrest whilst in the South-West some political big-wigs strutted around when they should not have and there were signs of apathy again.

The turnout when the figures are tallied might well be lower as reports of voting without accreditation were made on the Twitter hashtag of #NigeriaDecides.

Sitting back

Meanwhile, INEC is yet to declare results for 18 out of 90 Senate seats and 78 out of the 312 House of Representative seats contested on the 9th of April, it shows how much energy has been expended in the presidential elections to the detriment of the elections that really do matter for making an effective opposition.

The next few days would determine what Nigeria has really decided will be its government for next four years, there is really no case to be made to successfully overturn the presidential election results but there is a bigger case to be made for the emergence initially of an opposition coalition of parties with a national representation and hopefully the evolution of that into a working political party where first and foremost the country is put before self.

Sources

[1] The 2012 Republican primary: The field thins | The Economist

[2] 234Next | UPDATE: The April 26 elections

[3] List of Nigerian state governors - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[4] Politics of Nigeria - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

[5] Nigeria: #NigeriaDecides Election Review IX - Analysing the Presidential Results

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