Early Warning Signals to The Nigerian Opposition

by Peter Claver Oparah

The present altercation over the registration of the All Progressives Congress should alert the opposition in Nigeria of the type and nature of what to expect as the ruling PDP grapples to extend its rule in 2015. The unfolding scenario where the Independent National Electoral Commission is embroiled in very controversial intrigues, ostensibly forged by the PDP to deny registration to the APC should be enough to inform the gathering opposition that it needs to gird its loin for battle if it must dislodge the PDP in 2015. It is enough to ready the opposition for what should be a hectic battle to deal with the challenge of dislodging a party, notorious for its penchant to sex up every election since Nigeria happened on what has turned a dysfunctional democratic experience in 1999.

For those who might not know the facts surrounding the present shenanigans, the facts are very clear. Opposition political parties in Nigeria worked on a merger to challenge the stranglehold of the PDP on the nation in coming elections. They have launched a new party, formed out of the merger between the major opposition parties in Nigeria and they have adopted the name, All Progressives Congress,agreed on the logo and all other accoutrements of the party, in readiness for registration by INEC. Out of the blue, INEC came out with a stealth notice that the acronym had been registered by an aspiring political party. Smelling big rat, the All Progressives Congress challenged INEC to disclose details of the so called registration and all INEC could come out with was that a certain unknown political party applied for registration as African Peoples Congress. Further challenged to name those behind this new party, INEC balked and waxed incoherent of how they cannot disclose such details. This leads most Nigerians to wonder if there were no grundnums for political party registration in Nigeria. Further, Nigerians want to know why INEC is so shy to disclose the identity of the facilitators of a political party that probably wants to challenge for power in Nigeria. Nigerians wonder when political parties have become secret cults, run by unknown people, with no details. They wonder if political party registration is not grounded on fulfillment of certain provisions of the electoral law and wonders which of these have been met by whoever is behind the African People’s Congress.

Nigerians wonder if what it needs to register a political party is just transmitting a letter of intent to INEC and pronto, a party is born. Nigerians want to know when INEC has become a spokesperson for shadowy secret political groups and why the INEC leadership should offer such prurient defence of a party it is so shy to disclose its facilitators. The details of that sordid incident is still unfolding and one of such unfolding drama en route 2015 is that a certain lawyer transmitted a letter to INEC stating an intent to register a certain African Peoples Congress and that was enough for INEC to mount a solid defence of such porous alibi for this obviously phantom party. As revealed by Leadership newspaper on Wednesday, 13th March 2013, while the identity of the said lawyer that wrote the letter remains only known to the plotters in INEC and PDP, the name of the chamber, Legal World Chamber was not located in the address stated as from where the letter was routed. The address is fake as no such chamber or person exists in the claimed address; Suite 1007, Block B, Anbeez Plaza in Wuse Zone 5, Abuja. This is a clear reharsh of the dirty political contrivances and plots that pockmarked the ABN days of Abacha. The sordid events are getting messier and these cast deep slur on the already questionable integrity of the Jega’s INEC.

Good that the opposition and indeed a majority of Nigerians are not fooled by INEC’s guile in this present issue. They have located the source of INEC’s present tricks in the desperate effort of the PDP to stymie any form of solid opposition in its bid for perpetual power. Nigerians have been trenchant in their insistence that the latest intrigue is planted by the hierarchy of the PDP to serve notice of its unrepentant commitment to retain power by any means possible and that shadowy political party is nothing more than the insensate forgery of the PDP to frustrate the emerging opposition front. That the INEC leadership should willingly lend itself to that shallow intrigue is where the worry lies for if a supposed electoral umpire should so get voluntary mired in the petty contrivances of one of the parties it umpires for, then there is no hope for the coming elections. The grey issue in INEC’s prominent role in the unfolding scandal is that it shreds it of any vestige of impartiality in the conduct of elections in Nigeria. Not that it had made pretensions previously of its non alignment to the interests of the PDP. It removes any scintilla of doubts from the poignant indictments of Jega’s INEC as irrevocably committed to the whims and caprices of PDP and in this jaded form, it cannot be trusted to see through a process where the opposition stands the chance of upstaging the ruling party.

I believe it portends good for the opposition that this scandal is breaking at this stage of their present metamorphosis. For one, I believe that whichever angle the PDP and INEC twists the registration saga, APC still can make amends and forge on. I believe that it is good for the country’s opposition that the INEC is showing its hands so early in the life of the present challenge. It is a blessing in disguise that the party is revealing its partiality so early for the opposition to take note and take effective steps to secure for themselves and for Nigeria an electoral process that is not manipulable by any party in power. So what INEC’s present pranks suggest is that the opposition must bandy together and demand, as a right, an independent and corrupt free INEC that is not subjected to the idiosyncrasies of the party in power. Good enough, General Muhammdu Buhari, a leading opposition light in the country alleged recently that PDP does not need any more merger as it is an indecent merger with INEC, the police and the judiciary to rig every election in Nigeria. That INEC should be so brainless as to provoke this scandal some days after this allegation confirms that INEC is so committed to this unholy merger and it gives no damn about it. If INEC has lost the confidence of any party in an electoral contest, it loses the moral verve to posture as a credible umpire. The best option for such leadership is to resign but in the type of adamant impunity that rules public office in Nigeria and the readiness of the PDP to continue sustaining such biased umpire for its own selfish ends, it behoves the opposition to present a collective demand for a credible and independent electoral body to midwife elections in Nigeria. This is within their constitutional and legal rights and insistence on that minimum grundnum remains their prerogative that must be attended to or else no election. The opposition must start the process of mobilizing Nigerians around this imperative and must urgently start the demand for the adoption of the Mohammed Uwais Electoral Reform Committee Reports, which the PDP dumped in preference of the present vice ridden and inchoate order where they appoint and dictate to the electoral body.

There is no doubting the rightness of the moment in the task of ensuring Nigerians decide who governs them. And much depends on how the opposition makes use of the unintended indicators the present PDP/INEC instigated registration crisis portends and push for the reformation of the seedy electoral process we are having in our hands at present. The frightened and scared visages the PDP had been betraying since the formation of the APC has led to series of unending machinations that has further added to the angst of Nigerians against the barren harvest they have experienced in the fourteen sorrowful years PDP had been in power. PDP knows when the end is nigh and having failed to

prevent the kind of historical momentum that birthed the APC, there is no doubt that they will try many audacious ways of compromising the electoral process and remain in power to the continued distaste of Nigerians, should they fail in their next assignment which is to sow insurrection among the members of the opposition during the office sharing stage of the merger. The registration brouhaha is just one of such intrigues and the opposition must get prepared for many such other schemes as 2015 nears. The opposition must anticipate these intrigues and work to deal with them as they arise, especially as it involves employing the tainted and malleable electoral body to sanction the many dirty plots the PDP wants to unleash en route 2015. Most importantly, they should sleep with two eyes open as the PDP in dubious cahoots with the Jega INEC grapples with the best possible ways to deal with the emergence and widespread acceptance of All Progressives Congress. So, let the Nigerian opposition see the present contrived roadblock to its registration as enough signal to wear the battle garb, put Nigerians at the alert, demand for an independent INEC and anticipate the many foul tactics the PDP will throw into the political space to retain power in 2015. The incident should be perceived as a blessing rather than an impediment to the country’s gathering opposition as the day of decision inches closer.

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