Where are the opposition parties?

Following the general economic hardship, Nigerians are making more demands on the All Progressives Congress-led federal government, accusing the opposition political parties of not playing their role of being the voice of the people. Associate Editor, Sam Egburonu and Assistant Editor, Dare Odufowokan, report on the factors that may have muzzled the opposition in Nigeria

NIGERIA recorded robust opposition politics before and during the 2015 General Election. But since the then major opposition party, All Progressives Congress (APC), floored the then ruling party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), in the presidential election, the drama and the intrigues that punctuated political activities then have changed so much that some democrats now express concern over the development, lamenting that in the Nigerian political theatre, opposition may have died.

They assert that vibrant opposition is needed for Nigeria or any other democratic government to serve its main purpose of putting the interest of the people first, as it helps to ensure that the system regularly experience checks and balances.

But , since the emergence of President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressives Congress (APC) in government, about a year ago, opposition politics in Nigeria has nosedived in spite of the new status of the erstwhile ruling party and self-styled largest political party in Africa, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), as the frontline opposition party.

Like other major opposition parties, including All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), the Labour Party (LP), Accord Party (AP) and the United Progressives Party (UPP), the PDP, after 16 years in charge of the affairs of the country and most of its states, has allegedly failed to live up to the people’s expectation as the opposition voice.

The Nation investigation however shows that peculiar circumstances which surrounded and aided the emergence of APC as the ruling political party in the centre in 2015 may have helped to muzzle the opposition in the past one year. This apart, we gathered that each of the opposition parties seem to be experiencing special developments that have not only hindered their development but have also informed their seeming reluctance to offer vibrant opposition in spite of the biting economic hardship.


Rather than put behind its unexpected loss at the 2015 general elections and positon itself towards giving the country a virile opposition voice, the PDP, since the defeat of former President Goodluck Jonathan by the APC, has been embroiled in a seemingly unending confusion and leadership tussles, which had made it to concentrate on fighting internal battles instead of tackling the ruling party.

Besides, the incessant crises have continued to indicate a possible implosion as party chieftains and groups battle for the soul of the troubled party on a daily basis. Within a spate of one year, the party had had more than five chieftains laying claims to its national chairmanship seat at different times.

Across the states, internal wrangling and power struggles have weakened the PDP immensely. As at midweek, even party members were not certain as to who is the national chairman of the party. With about three or four persons laying claims to the leadership of the party, pundits say the party’s hands are too full managing its own crises for it to have time to check the activities of the ruling APC.

Chief Mrs. Oluremi Adiukwu, former gubernatorial candidate in Lagos State and leading chieftain of the PDP told The Nation that the party, plagued with internal issues, has been unable to champion the opposition as it should have done since it lost the federal government to the APC.

“It is obvious that the PDP is not concentrating on its very important role as leading opposition party. And my fear is that if we allow this to go on, the good people of Nigeria will suffer. Democracy without opposition is incomplete. We still have a very important role to play in ensuring good governance in the country.

She offers insight into PDP’s lack-lustre performance as the leading opposition party. “The major impediment to PDP’s performance is the internal crisis within the party. As a democratic system, it is understandable that after our unexpected loss last year, man y people are seeking to be allowed to come forward and reposition the party. This is good but we must remember the party is greater than all of us.

“Once the PDP is able to resolve its internal crisis, the opposition in Nigeria will be revived and given more bite. PDP remains the leading party in the country not just in opposition. But we are yet to provide leadership for other opposition parties as it is required of us,” she said.

In spite of Adiukwu’s optimism that the PDP will still be able to offer virile opposition to the ruling party in no distant time, the confusion in the party continued during the week as factions continue to bicker over leadership.

On Thursday, loyalists to the head of the National Caretaker Committee, Ahmed Makarfi, chased the National Secretary of the party, Prof Olawale Oladipo, out of his office. The pro-Makarfi supporters who stormed the party’s headquarters as early as 7.34 a.m. protesting the takeover of the party’s leadership by its embattled leader, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff and some members of the dissolved National Working Committee sacked during the party’s national convention in Port Harcourt, Rivers State on May 21, invaded the offices of the former National Secretary of the party, Prof Olawale Oladipo, and chased him out of the building.

Sherriff on Monday took over the Wadata Plaza’s National Secretariat of the party at Wuse, Abuja, insisting that he was the valid national chairman of the party.

It would be recalled that Sherriff was removed from office following the controversial dissolution of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Committee (NEC) by the National Convention convened in Port Harcourt on 21 May, 2016. Sheriff had argued that his removal was illegal, void and of no effect, as it was not carried out according to the letters of the constitution of the party. He therefore insists that he remains the authentic National Chairman of the party until 2018.

Aside PDP, the other parties’ poor performance as opposition parties have been attributed to several developments



All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), which currently controls one state government (Anambra) and has members at many state assemblies and at the National Assembly is another important party in Nigeria that observers say may have failed to play the role of an opposition party effectively.

Our investigation shows that the party’s inability to offer that role effectively so far may not unconnected with the leadership crisis that has trailed it for years and what a member described as “the betrayal of the leaders, who always sell out for selfish and greedy reasons.”

This was not helped by former governor Peter Obi of Anambra’s defection to PDP after he left office. When Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State joined the team that founded APC, APGA, which controlled two South-East states then only had one in its kitty. But insiders said the then governor Peter Obi held on to ensure the party did not die completely. As he was about to leave office, he ensured the emergence of current Governor Willie Obiano. But according to a source, APGA has never been the same since then, because Obiano is not a politician and may not have fully stepped into the political shoes of Obi, who as the chairman of South-East Governors’ Forum, tried to reach out beyond Anambra State.” As a result of this, APGA, which is the major opposition parties in Abia State and Imo, has found it difficult to fully resolve the leadership crisis, notwithstanding that Obi and former National Chairman of the Party, Chief Victor Umeh, who had strong misunderstanding are no longer directly contesting over control of APGA.

It would be recalled that since the controversial removal of Chief Chekwas Okorie, the founding National Chairman of APGA and the emergence of Chief Victor Umeh, who recently handed over to the current leadership, the political party has hardly had any breather in its continuous leadership tussles both at the centre and in some states.

In April this year, the protracted crisis in the party took a new turn for the worst following the suspension of some members of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party. This created tension across the various state chapters of the party as each of the factional leaders allegedly pulled strings amongst their supporters in the states, leading to multiple factions.

Following the tension arising from the development, the national leadership of the party set up a reconciliation committee headed by a former Commissioner for Information in Anambra State, Chief Maja Umeh. The committee, asked to submit its report by June 30, has as parts of its terms of reference, to reconcile all aggrieved party members that were still in the party, those who had left the party but had not joined any other party and to look into the matters that had not been resolved and proffer solutions to them.

The new National Chairman of the party, Chief Victor Oye, explained that the suspended members, “including Mr. Umeh Nzekwe, were found guilty of anti- party activities.”

Chairman of Anambra State chapter of the party, Chief Norbert Obi, was quoted as describing the sack as a welcome development.

Commenting on Nzekwe’s suspension, he was quoted as telling newsmen: “We do not need his likes in the party if we must forge ahead and enhance the political fortunes of the party. His suspension is in order.”

Observers said the disagreements in the party drew directly from an alleged political rivalry between former Governor Peter Obi and former National Chairman of APGA in Anambra State on one hand and that of the former governor and Governor Willie Obiano on the other.

A group that called itself Concerned Members of APGA, led by Chief Basil Nwosu, admitted that much when it addressed a press conference in Awka and threatened that the state governor, Chief Willie Obiano will not get the party’s second term ticket except he tenders unreserved and open apology to Obi and reconcile with the former governor. This in a way confirmed feelers that APGA may have been grossly muffled by internal rivalries and disagreements amongst its leaders.

But the erstwhile factional leader of the party, who dragged his case to the Supreme Court to be declared National Chairman, Chief Maxi Okwu, told The Nation on Thursday that the leadership crisis in the party has been resolved substantially

According to him, “We have achieved up to 80 percent resolution of the issues. We have accepted the leadership of Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State and that of Chief Victor Oye. Following the resolutions, some of us who believe in APGA have returned to the party even as we await the resolution of the few issues outstanding. We understand that APC and PDP are alternatives for Nigerians who want results and dividends of democracy. PDP did a shoddy job of Nigeria in the 16 years it managed our affairs. So, we resolved to give President Buhari a chance to serve Nigerians better. This is so because we agree that former President Goodluck Jonathan was an unmitigated disaster but unfortunately, at least in the last one year, APC has not delivered on the promises it made to the people of Nigeria. We are disappointed because from what we have seen so far, Buhari seems not ready to offer the true change we all yearned for. Take the anti-corruption battle, which seems to be the focus of his administration, he is not carrying the state governors along; he is not on the same page with the National Assembly. He is just on his own as it has become obvious that even the populace is not with him. So, as the opposition party, we know what to do, we are now prepared to play our role in order to force the government to serve the people well.”

Other parties

Aside PDP, which controls up to 12 states and APGA, which controls a state government, the up to 27 other registered parties now in the opposition, which are not yet controlling any state, are also accused of sleeping. They include the Labour Party, which, until recently controlled the government of Ondo State before Governor Olusegun Mimiko decamped to PDP, the United Progressives Party, Accord Party, Social Democratic Party, Alliance for Democracy, Kowa Party, Democratic Peoples Party, Progressive Peoples Alliance and United Democratic Party, among others.

While Mimiko’s defection halted Labour’s reign in Ondo State, its effort to make impact in Ebonyi State also fizzled out when former governor Martin Elechi withdrew to his shell after the governorship election.

Social Democratic Party, which bookmakers said could become a force to reckon with in Ogun State, also lost steam following Chief Olu Falae’s travails and Chief Segun Osoba’s historic return to APC.

Explaining why the opposition parties seem to have been muzzled, Chief Chekwas Okorie, the National Leader and presidential candidate of United Progressives Party (UPP) in the 2015 election told The Nation on Friday that “primarily, two factors are responsible for the restraint of the opposition parties in tackling the Buhari’s government of APC. One is that the democratic overthrow of PDP was what Nigerians looked up to in 2015. So, APC’s victory attracted tremendous goodwill for Buhari and his party, APC. So, Nigerians resolved to give Buhari the benefit of doubt. The second reason is that it became clear that the overthrown PDP had done colossal damage to the economy and the democratic fabric of Nigeria. As a result of these, the opposition somehow resolved to allow Buhari’s government reasonable time to settle down.”

Okorie explained further that “We in UPP have exhibited restraint so far because we appreciated that Buhari and his team inherited an already appropriated budget of 2015/2016 and so may not be able to do much to change the course until the government appropriates its own budget. So, to us, he would be assessed more critically now that he has his budget.”

According to Okorie, the current government at the centre has however received its most critical opposition from the ruling party itself. “The greatest opposition for this government is APC itself. APC has failed to carry the people along and this has in a way frittered the goodwill the government enjoyed when it came on board. If you read public sentiment, you will observe that Nigerians fear that this government is tending towards dictatorship. As a result, it is now widely believed that what Nigeria needs is restructuring.

“Since this Buhari-led government came on board, what we have given him is what I will describe as friendly opposition. We had expected a broad based government in line with the accord we signed before the presidential election. This has not happened up till now. From what I can see today, it seems obvious that the texture of opposition may soon change radically from friendly opposition to what we may call strong and unfriendly opposition.”

Way forward

Following the alleged inability of PDP and the other opposition parties to play the expected role of checks and balances, there are claims that dissatisfied elders and politicians are already contemplating the possibility of forming a new national party that may take over from PDP as the leading opposition party. Although the alleged proponents of this idea are still working behind the scene, a former senator and party chieftain from the South-South told The Nation that the move is on. “Yes, there is something like that. But this is not the time to talk about it as some of the current opposition parties are in the process of reformation aimed at emerging better parties. I will not name names, but politicians have been meeting and sharing ideas. No one needs to be told that something vital is lacking in our current polity. We can’t continue this way. It’s either the existing opposition political parties buckle up and perform their roles or a new force will emerge to reposition the polity,” he said.