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The All Progressives Congress recently held its inaugural national summit and unveiled a draft code of ethics/manifesto, which may serve as a new beginning for opposition politics in the country, writesJOHN ALECHENU
The opposition All Progressives Congress recently stirred up a controversy when it announced the findings of an opinion poll, conducted on its behalf by KA Research Limited, a privately owned international campaign strategist/research company, based in Brussels, Belgium, as well as Istanbul, Turkey.
Its revelation that the poll scored the President Goodluck Jonathan-administration low on key indices of governance led to a war of words between the opposition and the ruling Peoples Democratic Party. Apart from knocks on the Jonathan administration, the poll revealed areas of APC’s strengths and weaknesses. The document also exposed the party to what members of the public think about its activities. The poll’s results also highlight what Nigerians desire most from the government on a scale of preference.
APC’s Interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who presented the key findings of the opinion polls to the media, described the report as an eyeopener.
He said, “The APC candidate held a 10-point lead over the President. By a margin of 44 per cent to 34 per cent (with 22 per cent undecided), the APC candidate was the clear national choice. When asked, ‘In general, do you think things in Nigeria are going in a good direction or bad direction’, Nigerians responded that the country was going in a bad direction by more than two-to-one margin (50%-24%).
“When asked, ‘What issue would you like the President and National Assembly to focus on most,’ an overwhelming majority (60%) identified job creation as the dominant issue that the government should address.
“When the respondents were asked if ‘Goodluck Jonathan has done nothing to create jobs, and far too many people are still unemployed,’ decisively, 58 per cent of Nigerians found the position about Jonathan convincing.”
The poll revealed that 59 per cent of Nigerians believed Jonathan was doing a bad job in the fight against corruption.
The ruling PDP has since dismissed the contents of the report, describing the outcome of the polls as a prejudiced piece of document, prepared to massage the egos of opposition leaders.
However, what appeared lost in the maze of the debate was the real reason why the APC engaged consultants for this assignment. The party tried to explain that it engaged (foreign) consultants, to improve its electoral fortunes. To achieve this objective, it realised that the old way of doing things would no longer suffice, hence the resort to seeking expert advice.
The opposition party leveraged on the outcome of the research to develop a template with which it prepared a draft manifesto which was unveiled at its inaugural national summit about a week ago.
Mohammed said the results of the poll were realistic, arguing that the company, which handled the polls, had a track record of performance. He noted that the results of the polls never said the APC was popular all over Nigeria. It showed areas where it was strong, weak or simply misunderstood.
This, he said, would enable the party to know where and how to deploy its electoral resources.
Over the years, very little, if anything, distinguishes one Nigerian political party from the other apart from the name, logo, slogan and their financiers.
The APC is an amalgamation of three distinct political parties, which collapsed their individual identities into one, to form what is arguably Nigeria’s strongest single opposition party.
Taking a cue from the shortcomings of previous efforts, the new party took an unfamiliar route. It prepared a manifesto based on public expectations from government as against what obtained in the past where such was based on assumption.
Setting the tone for the public presentation, Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, described the route chosen by the APC as a novelty in Nigeria’s politics.
Fashola, who is clearly one of the poster boys of the party’s promise of service delivery, said the APC was determined to replicate the successes recorded in the 16 states it controls at the federal level.
Fashola said, “We are just not going to talk about change; we’re going to embody change. No party in more than 15 years has done what we’ll do today: publicly, and most importantly, together as a party, tell Nigeria what we believe in at a meeting, not in a rally, not in the middle of a political campaign.”
He had no illusions about the link between corruption and the rising rate of unemployment, especially among Nigeria’s growing youth population.
The governor observed that if the current administration showed a serious commitment to tackling corruption, there would have been enough resources to create jobs and break the circle of poverty.
Fashola further urged Nigerians to make a choice between a party and a government which had demonstrated an unwillingness to be accountable, and one which held a promise to do things differently.
Former presidential candidate of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change, Maj.-Gen.Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in his submission, noted that the key aim of the founding-fathers of the party was to end the growing culture of impunity in governance as well as halt the slide in the management of the nation’s economy.
He added, “We were challenged by the need to get a good leadership to manage the enormous resources of the country. The youths are becoming agitated and we have to mobilise in order to form the APC to provide that needed leadership.”
Another leader of the party and a former Lagos State Governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, said with proper management, the Nigerian government could serve as a “locomotive” to promote the manufacturing of prosperity. He explained that the youths owned the APC agenda because it was their interest the party was fighting to protect. This, he said, the party would do through job creation, sound economic development, and prudent management of resources.
To him, a new Nigeria means having a government that will tackle poverty and underdevelopment.
The party, in its mission statement, said it was committed to a Nigeria that achieves its full potential and promise. That it will work towards a nation that is economically and socially vibrant, peaceful, just and secure.
It also listed 10 principal commitments it is making to the Nigerian people.
They include its commitment to preserve the Nigerian people, who it believes remain the nation’s greatest assets and pledges to do everything possible to protect and preserve human life and dignity.
It also made a commitment to uphold a Nigeria bound by the principle of freedom, justice, peace, unity and the rule of law and promises to pursue its objective of increasing economic opportunity for all citizens, social welfare and progress through a government-led and private sector-driven economy.
While delivering a keynote address at the event, a former Vice President of the World Bank, Mrs. Obiageli Ezekwesili, reminded members of the party that the task ahead was enormous.
While chronicling the nation’s missed opportunities, she said Nigeria had earned and squandered over $600bn over the last five decades without a corresponding development.
Ezekwesili observed that there was evidence to show that most Nigerians were unhappy about Nigeria’s performance over the years.
She hit a raw nerve when she observed that it was easy for many politicians to queue behind and even join the opposition to point fingers at the government in power. According to her, while doing so is easy, we must not lose sight of the fact that no Nigerian can escape the consequences of corruption and its adverse effects on national development.
Ezekwesili urged the party to first purge itself of corrupt tendencies and ensure that it was not seeking to oust the ruling party by all means because the people they seek to govern must live first above all things.
Perhaps, for the first time in our political history, an opposition party, which brings together most, if not all of the major players, is coming on board to articulate a position which gives a bird’s eye view of how it intends to behave if voted into power.
Without a doubt, Nigeria’s democracy, like its counterpart around the world, is in dire need of a focused opposition party. This is not only to keep the ruling party on its toes but also to provide Nigerians an alternative approach to solving national challenges.
For far too long, Nigerian politicians have been more interested in acquiring power for its sake. This is partly responsible for the spate of defections which has become an almost daily affair among political gladiators.
Hopefully, the move by the APC to establish a more cohesive and effective opposition party may give Nigerians the alternative political platform they have always yearned for.
It is also hoped that the ruling party will see the strengthening of the opposition in a positive light, because democracy stands to benefit and Nigerians will be the better for it.
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