The battle for the Presidency was lost before it started. The failure of the opposition parties to close ranks saw to it. Jonathan’s victory at the polls did not need any sooth-sayer.
The opposition themselves knew that the moment they failed to reach a compromise. The recently concluded Presidential election was a no-contest. Forget all the punditry. Bury all the political gyrations and analysis that a run-off was in the air. I never for once bought into any of it.
The inability of the Bola Ahmed Tinubu led ACN and the Buhari led CPC to strike a deal for the sake of history and in favor of the Nigerian people who so much yearn for change translated into a meltdown for the opposition. From accounts in the papers and the finger pointing, there seems to be enough blame to go around. We have had the two leaders speak out more openly about what happened. The most forth coming about why the alliance or is it merger failed has been Tinubu and that is understandable. He is one political gladiator who has much at stake. His investment in the re-birth of the opposition is huge and his ability to knock together political groups and compromises is remarkable. But I guess Buhari and the CPC turned out a little too stubborn for him. If we are to go by his revelation that Buhari’s camp was unwilling to compromise and work for a merger rather than an alliance, then we know that the sun is about to set for the opposition. And what about Buhari? Why the so rigid position. Why is the feet of the CPC set in wet cement when clearly it lacks the numbers and the political spread to dictate? Politics is about compromises and the closing of ranks just as election is a game of numbers. Without the numbers and the clout, you do not own all the aces. All the talk about working for the people rather than for self seems like hogwash. We have witnessed personal ego take the place of what’s best for the people and for our body politic.
The intent of this piece is not to make a judgement about who is responsible for the failure of the opposition to put forth a consensus candidate to slug it out with Jonathan Goodluck. This piece is about soul searching. About the fact that a rare opportunity to finally thrust Nigeria’s opposition to the center stage of power was lost on a platter. For millions of voters, the failure of the opposition to close rank and fight a good fight was a letdown. We all had wished for a real contest between candidate Jonathan Goodluck and Candidate Buhari. We had in our crystal ball the scenario of a possible run-off and an exciting photo-finish for the 2011 presidential elections. But alas that was not to be.
The opposition like the Americans love to say, ‘had no skin’ in the battle for the presidency. Buhari and his camp saw the tree for the forest and in the process left the opposition holding the short end of the stick. More importantly, it left Buhari a distant second in the race. This was a race that would have being better fought. And if it was not won, it would have opened a new chapter in the annals of our history and put the ruling party on notice.
The failure of the opposition to build on the success it has recorded with the re-birth of progressive politics has unfortunately handed the trophy to the other side and left it licking its wounds. We can only ask now-wither the Nigerian opposition? The value of a virile opposition in both developed and developing democracies has been well documented. Our democracy is in dire need of a robust opposition able to provide a counter weight to the excesses of the ruling party. Nigeria needs an opposition bold enough to call out all those in the ruling party and in power who are messing up our lives and violating Nigeria’s constitution. Capturing power at the center would have given a fillip to this desire. A united opposition under the ACN umbrella or by whatever name called would have been able to check the parliamentary rascality of the ruling party. For now, I guess, these wishes will only remain mere wishes because in a winner takes all political situation, the looser is either disarmed or left with looking back to see why it failed instead of the empowerment of looking forward and marching forward to more electoral battles and victories.
It’s being a long journey. A long cold night. That is for the Nigerian opposition. From the days of Chief Obafemi Awolowo to date, the opposition has battled to wrestle power at the center from the dominant party and the tribe of renegades who have continuously held Nigeria down. Just when the prize was within reach, the two leading opposition parties could not agree. In political negotiations, you can only give what you have and take what you are given in the interest of achieving a bigger goal. Failure to take a cue from the waves before sailing can only spell political doom. Tinubu, the man with the stronger party seemed to have imbibed the best of political survival rather than cast his lot with an hamstrung candidate.
Now we know Tinubu read the cards right. Buhari was not viable. Jonathan was. The recent ACN sweep of the governorship elections in the South-West has settled for all time ACN’s viability and of course confirmed Tinubu’s prowess as a political strategist. He has rekindled hope for the opposition when all seem lost.
The opposition cannot hold out for too long. Nigeria needs leaders who can practice politics of principle and employ tenacious courage. Leaders ready to make the required adjustments and bold enough to take the road less travelled so that the opposition can finally make the journey into power. Nigerians need an alternative. For now, its soul searching season.