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PDP and the opposition: Between agenda and Style
From Emmanuel Onwubiko, Abuja

LAST week, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) senators boycotted the session, which confirmed the ten electoral commissioners of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) sent to the Senate by President Olusegun Obasanjo. Despite the walkout, the Senators are challenging the matter at the Federal High Court, Abuja, as they say that the nominees are members of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

Since the inauguration of the current government, the recent walkout is the latest in a string of oppositions to the PDP government.

The results of the 2003 General Elections had formed the basis for opposition mounted by the other parties against PDP. The ANPP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) for example are currently in court to contest the victory of the PDP at the presidential polls.

Vexed by the emergence of Obasanjo as the winner of the polls, APGA and the ANPP have, besides going to the courts to challenge the PDP, also fashioned other strategies to oppose the victory and be seen as the opposition parties.

The ANPP is also in court contesting the circumstances that led to the emergence of Senator Adolphus Wabara as the winner of the election in Abia South Senatorial District after the ANPP Elder Dan Imo was declared winner by the INEC.

Justice Samuel Wilson Egbo-Egbo of the Federal High Court, Abuja had made two ex-parte injunctions, which okayed Wabara as the winner of the elections. Believing that Egbo-Egbo's interlocutory ruling has not foreclosed its chances of reclaiming the only Senate seat it 'won' in the South, the ANPP, through a team of fifty lawyers led by Chief Mike Ahamba (SAN), went to another Federal High Court, Abuja seeking the removal of the Senate President.

In the opposition camp, two divergent tendencies have emerged - the National Consensus Forum (NCF) led by the expelled presidential flagbearer of the National Democratic Party, Gen. Ike Nwachukwu and the Conference of All Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) led by Alhaji Balarabe Musa.

While Nwachukwu is touring the country canvassing for constructive opposition coloured by dialogue and co-operation with the ruling PDP, the CNPP has refused to recognise President Olusegun Obasanjo as the winner of the polls.

And while the NCF attended a recent parley with the President on finding a solution to the problem of pipeline vandalisation in the country, the CNPP boycotted the meeting on the ground that the court has not resolved the litigation over the April 19 presidential poll.

The major characters that have sustained the activities of the CNPP are Alhaji Balarabe Musa; Maj-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari; Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu; national chairman of APGA, Chief Chekwas Okorie; and Charles Nwodo among others.

As for APGA, whose presidential candidate, Odumegwu-Ojukwu came third in the presidential polls, forming a credible opposition platform is perhaps inevitable. Chief Chekwas Okorie said recently that APGA would surely provide the long desired credible opposition to the PDP so that Nigeria does not become the dreaded "one party state."

Okorie said: "In fact, we have not seen the type of opposition that APGA is going to present to the PDP government. Not even in the time of the late leader, Chief Obafemi Awolowo did we have a real shadow government. This time, we are going to have a shadow government complete with shadow cabinet and all the other features that will enable us tackle the judiciary and the legislature effectively.

"We are going to give close marking to this government policy-by-policy, every inch of the way. For every ministry, we are going to have a directorate. We shall have a leader of opposition and this will be extended to the state level.

"The idea is to serve as a check to the government. We intend to oppose and criticise constructively all the excesses of government. We have since concluded that the National Assembly may not be able to offer the check and balances we need. The legislature has almost been emasculated, the PDP government has almost conquered the citizens, and as for the judiciary, well, I don't know.

"How many times are we going to expect the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to call our people out on strike. I guess that the NLC may not even have the courage to call another strike in five to six years. This is their maximum, and Obasanjo was right when he said that he would wear them down. He actually did that because the N34 new pump price is the best that we could have got for all the sacrifice and loss of lives.

"So, if we don't provide the type of opposition that we have designed for Nigeria, the country is finished. But before we even mount that, we have to exhaust the legal options. We still do not believe in the legitimacy of this government. That is why we are in the Supreme Court. That is why we are also at the Court of Appeal."

But one problem that the APGA will contend with as an opposition party is the lack of funds and Okorie knows this.

He admitted: "The key issue is resources. We have thought about that. It is a very enormous project that requires a large amount of money. The human resources are already there. As we voiced out our readiness to set up an opposition government, you will be surprised that we have far more than very able and qualified Nigerians who parade qualifications as good as or even better than most ministers.

"As regards the financial resources, while I will not want to expose our strategies, I can say that we have worked out a survival packaged that will keep the struggle on. For example, we are going to have our radio station and certainly a newspaper."

As the tempo of constructive political opposition picks up, political analysts remark that Nigeria's political class have at last embraced the age-tested and time-honoured tradition of constructive dialogue as the best option instead of political unrest.

Two public affairs analysts, Chinedu Okeke and Emeka Onwubiko, said that political opposition in Nigeria is gradually becoming as mature as the political opposition platforms in the developed democracies.

Meanwhile, from the ranks of the NCF, the African Renaissance Party (ARP) has begun a project with Africa as a centre-point. The ARP said it has concluded plans to organise an international summit on reparations, which will take place in Kingston, Jamaica on February 23-28, 2004.

He said that the campaign was initiated by the late Chief M.K.O. Abiola and that the current initiative of the ARP is to build on the laudable foundations that had been laid by other Africans at home and in the Diaspora.

Already, the ARP has selected Dr. Emmanuel Omoh Esiemokhai of the Obafemi Awolowo University as the Repertoire-General for the summit. The national chairman of the ARP, Alhaji Yahaya Ndu, said that a lot of work has been done by distinguished African leaders toward the crusade for reparation for Africa in the past.

In December 1990, Abiola convened and sponsored the first World Conference on Reparation at the Nigeria Institute of International Affairs (NIIA), in Lagos, where he officially inaugurated his campaign on reparation. This international conference, which featured prominent people from different parts of the world, did a thorough study on the issue of reparation. The distinguished persons in attendance included Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, who was the then Head of State; Prof. Ibrahim Gambari; the Trinidad and Tobago High Commissioner to Nigeria, Dr. Randolph Peter and Prof. A.M. Babu of Tanzania. Others include Sir Dudley Thompson - the Jamaican High Commissioner to Nigeria, Congressman Craig Washington of U.S., Hon. Bernice Grant of Britain among many others.

At the conference, after a critical look at the reparation issue, a communique was issued in support of the cause. The communique set up an International Committee for Reparation (ICR) with Abiola as its chairman and Mr. Frank Igwebueze as secretary.

Ndu added that: "The reparation cause was taken to continental level and to the old Organisation of African Unity (OAU), which recognised and identified with the campaign. Reparation became a prominent subject of discussion within the OAU. The 27th Summit of Heads of State and Government as well as the 55th Council of Ministers of the organisation, which met in June 1991 in Abuja, passed resolution recognising the injustice to Africa. The resolution affirmed the right to reparation and suggested a Group of Eminent Persons (GEP), drawn from Africa and the Diaspora, to further take action on the reparation issue. The GEP was in June 1997, at the 28th summit of the OAU empanelled formally."

According to him: "The GEP had as members, men and women of proven integrity including Abiola, who as the sole financier of the cause, was elected as chairman, Prof. Ade Ajayi (Nigeria) and Dr. Amadan Mahtar M'bow as co-chairman (Senegal), Ms Mariam Makeba (South Africa), Prof. Ali Mazuri (Kenyan), ex-president Aristide Pereria (Cape Verde Island), Prof. Samir Amin (Egypt), Dr. Quaisan Sackey (Ghanaian), Madam Grace Machel (Mozambique), Ambassador Dudley Thompson (Jamaica), Congressman Roland Dellums (U.S.) and Prof. Rex Nettleford."

"To advance the struggle for reparation to the world level, the OAU Group of Eminent Persons convened the first Pan-African Conference on Reparation in April 1993 at Abuja. The event drew participants from Africa, America, Asia and Europe. Its communique was aimed at redressing the injustice of slavery, colonialism and imperialism in general in Africa, a decision, which if implemented, will obviously contribute in no little way in alleviating Africa's sufferings resulting from centuries of merciless exploitation and inhuman degradation by the West."

Ndu also noted that: "It was from these traumatic experiences of Africa that the West achieved its present development. The argument is that the West must pay compensation to us for the brain, sweat and blood of our forefathers, for the forced labour it enjoyed for centuries from millions of vibrant Africans they carted away from Africa to build the wealth they are living on today."

"The last major event on this reparation cause was the 1993 conference here in Abuja, it is now a full 10 years since then. The ARP is persuaded that it is high time the reparation train was re-engineered," he added.

"We are going to give close marking to this government policy-by-policy, every inch of the way. For every ministry, we are going to have a directorate. We shall have a leader of opposition and this will be extended to the state level.

"The idea is to serve as a check to the government. We intend to oppose and criticise constructively all the excesses of government. We have since concluded that the National Assembly may not be able to offer the check and balances we need. The legislature has almost been emasculated, the PDP government has almost conquered the citizens, and as for the judiciary, well, I don't know. Chief Chekwas Okorie

 

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