Redefining Opposition Politics in Nigeria


Since the advent of the fourth republic, opposition politics in the country can best be described as adversarial. The politics of winner takes all and losers lick wounds has made every electoral contest a ‘do-or-die-affair’, to borrow the coinage of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo.
In order not to be at the losing side, politicians, both in the ruling and opposition parties, have perfected strategies to beat the system and more often than not, every political trick is being employed. But in every contest, there must be a winner and a loser.
Since the baton changed hands from the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) to the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), a new brand of opposition politics has been introduced. Fundamental human right guaranteeing freedom of speech has been taken too far as opposition politicians have crossed the proverbial ‘red lines’ threatening the sovereignty of the country by desecrating the characters of those in power and sometimes, institutions.
Opposition politicians have become somewhat reckless by abusing the constitutional guaranteed right of freedom of speech in such manner that one would think decorum has gone out of fashion. What is however appalling is that those frontline political and opinion leaders, who are supposed to be role models of political nobility, have failed. Having lost out in the power game, they have exploited every avenue to debase the system in apparent bid to discredit the ruling party ahead of the 2019 general elections.
This destructive opposition politics came to the head in the run-up to the 2015 general election where political leaders employed abusive languages against individuals, groups and even ethnic groups. With the election over, one would have thought that civility would return but certain elements have continued to employ uncouth language better described as hate speech.
Hate speech is at the root of the ethnic and religious tension currently threatening to tear the nation apart. Freedom of speech and association have been overstretch and there are fears that the fragile peace in the country may snap if nothing is done to curtail the excesses of the ‘renegades’.
It is with this background that one will find patriotism and wisdom in the declaration of indissolubility of the country by the President in his latests national broadcast. Before then, the Vice President has made efforts to criminalize hate speech by branding it as another genre of terrorism.
Therefore, last week brief meeting Buhari had with the joint leadership of the APC and PDP was instructive and significant in the nation’s search for responsible opposition politics in the country.
In short, apt but loaded sentences, the President defined clearly the role of the opposition in modern politics when he said “Multi-party democracy is a very tried and tested form of government. Opposition does not mean hostility, enmity or antagonism. Democracy needs opposition, one which is vibrant but responsible.”
Obviously convinced of the need to play responsible opposition politics in tandem with modern democracy, Chairman of the National Caretaker committee of the PDP and former governor of Kadun state, Ahmed Makarfi, committed his party when he said “Mr President, I want to reiterate our offer and assurances of PDP’s cooperation with the government on any programme sincerely designed to take Nigeria to higher levels.
We identify with, and will continue to support the fight against terrorism as well as other crimes that have sneaked into our consciousness like kidnapping and banditry, as well as farmers/herdsmen clashes and other crimes camouflaged as such and all other anti-social vices that slow down our nation’s wheels of progress.”
This Makarfi’s commitment, of course, signals the end of adversarial criticisms from members of his party and it is expected that those individuals with venomous tongue would be put in check. Policies of the Buhari’s administration should be the focus of criticism and not individuals in his government.
The PDP boss equally demonstrated the needed patriotism when he stressed that Buhari remains the symbol of national unity adding that his health could be substantially linked to that of the country.
Like the President pointed out, opposition criticisms must be robust and corrective but should not be ascerbic. Buhari’s meeting with the leadership of the opposition has therefore helped in charting a new political course towards the stability and progress of the country. His government, with the latest assurance of cooperation from the opposition PDP, must remain focused in its determination for delivery of democratic dividends and good governance.
The Federal Executive Council (FEC), chaired by President Muhammadu Buhari, has assigned the task of negotiation with the leadership of the striking Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) to the Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo.
Botched negotiations with the lecturers had earlier been undertaken by the Minister of Labour, Chris Ngige.
This is coming as the Council also approved the award of a $ 5.792 billion Mambila power project contract to a joint venture with a Chinese company for the engineering contract, including civil and electromechanical works.
Briefing State House Correspondents after the weekly FEC, Ngige said the Council resolved to assign the negotiation task to the Vice President in order to hasten the resolution of the ongoing strike action by the lecturers.
The Labour minister, who empathize with students and their parents mostly affected by the strike, said “Government is leaving no stone unturned to make sure that we reach a conclusive agreement with ASUU so that they can go back to the class room.
“This is the first national strike that this government is facing and we want to discuss. At council today, the Vice President has taken over some of the aspects of the negotiations and discussions.
So, we are continuing the meeting in his office and when we finish meeting, we will get back to ASUU for another round of meeting and we are hopeful that we will be able to go to an appreciable extent to solve some of the outstanding issues that is preventing them from going back to work.”

Read more from the publisher: Peoples Daily Newspaper

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