Opposition Parties; Does Manifesto matter? By Issa Aremu



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Posing a rhetorical question; if political manifesto does matter for any  political  party or an oppostion party in particular further underscores the increasing decline of our democratic politics. As undergraduates and avtivists in the early 80s, (which was also during the Nigeria’s second Democratic Republic) , we almost by route learned the programmes and ethos of each of the then five leading political parties. There was the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN)

whose manifesto projected housing-for -all. We had the opposition parties, namely Unity Party of Nigeria, (UPN,) the electoral vision and misssion of which emphasied free education, Peoples Redemption Party, (PRP) with decisive agenda for peoples redemption out of poverty and want and Great Nigeria People party (GNPP)with soft value of politics without bitterness. The National Advance Party (NAP) which promised with thoughtful political homour  that captured national imagination with the ultimate goal of flushing out rats and cockroaches out of the

body politic (read; anti-corruption) . Of course, these political parties paraded scores of strong party personalties (note; not notorious godfathers as we dignify them today). They included consummate nationalist politicians like late Aminu Kano, late Nnamdi Azikwe, late Chief Obafemi Awolowo, Alhaji Shehu Shagari, late Adisa Akinloye, late Alhaji Waziri Ibrahim, late Hadjia Gambo Sawaba, Dr Tunji Braithwaite and host of others. Significantly the mass followers of these political parties  identified as much with the visions and missions of the parties just as they fanatically celebrated their respective leaders. The bane of the current political dispensation is that chieftains dominate the political parties, while there is abysmal paucity  of political ideas and visions.

 

My brother and comrade Salihu Mohammed Lukman recently turned 50. As part of the activities marking his golden jubillee birthday he creatively and commendably came out with the golden idea of compiling some thoughts on Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Parties,; ACN,ANPP, CPC, LP and APGA. Inadvertently Lukman has provoked a political nolstagia for all the critical forces of change willing to reinvent Nigeria’s democratic politics in 2015. Certainly manifesto matters for any political party and more for a Nigerian oppsition party. The truth is that it

would have been unthinkable to remind politicians of the needed visions and missions in the first and second Republic because for them sloganeering was no substitute for an  agenda for socio-economic transformation. Lukman’s near 200-page handy compendium is a good narrative of the country’s narrow political outlook, orientation of political arties and evolution of opposition parties.

 

I agree with Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti state governor, who in his Forward writes that; “2015 Manifesto of Nigerian Opposition Politics is a wakeup call for all patriotic Nigerians about what needs to be done to return our dear nation, Nigeria, on the path of democratic development. Democracy is not an abstract concept.  It must be relevant to people’s lives. If democracy is not capable of curbing corruption, guaranteeing transparency and improving people’s well being and quality of life, it is at best an empty concept, at worst a sham. Poverty and despair, oppression

and humiliation, economic and social insecurities are breeding grounds – even if not the only reasons – for violence and conflict and as much as Nigerians want democracy, they also want to see concrete evidence of democracy making a difference in their lives.”

 

Manifestoes remain  the primary documents with which  the electorate can differentiate the political parties especially with respect to parties’  positions on a wide range of developmental issues democracy is tasked to address. In fact no political party should be so-called or ascribed an opposition status if it lacks alternative implementable policy ideas on re-electrification of the country, re-industrialisation, insecurity, unemployment, minimum wage and pension payments

and deployment of troops in crisis spots such as Mali as well as scores of other challenging national and international issues of the day.

 

If what defines opposition is contestation by persons and chieftains, PDP is better defined as an opposition party given its serial internal periodic implosions over spoils of office than policy disagrements. No party is more self-opposed than PDP. Thus the opposition parties must come with alternative ideas, otherwise the difference will not be as clear. The point cannot be

overstated therefore that political manifestoes by political parties should be the benchmarks to asssesss parties. Manifestoes of political parties have dramatically changed the directions of nations for better for worse for centures. Witness  the global historic impact of notable historic political manifestos like the United States Declaration of Independence (1776), the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizen (1789) during the French and the  Communist Manifesto (1848), by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels. We should therefore encourage Lukman and others to further deepen the thoughts of the opposition parties on alternative governance ideas. It is refreshing that his sated goal “is to contribute towards a radical change in the political culture of opposition politics in Nigeria”. But can this long time goal be limited only to 2015? While the author identifies absence of clear cut ideology as the bane of the polity, he funnily remains ideology shy-too.

Are we proclaiming an end of ideologies for the parties? Are the opposition parties for the continuation of the current primitive robber/kidnapper capitalism or a social democracy that balances the roles of the state and the market with bias for local production and fairer income distribution? Can we also think of best practices of opposition parties  in the continent and how they eventually got to power? What happens to pan-Africanism in the age of globalization

(sorry;Americanization). Thanks to Lukman for providing the basis for future reflections on opposition parties. Lastly  at 50 it’s time for my brother to stop “opposing”. It’s time for him to be  “opposed” , that is, transforming from being a non-state activist to a state actor, a journey he has rightly started with partisan contest at the last election, a worthy experience that certainly inspires the Manifesto. My belated Happy birthday Lukman!

 

Issa Aremu mni ([email protected])

 


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