The new alliance on the block
The news media are awash this week on what appears to be an interesting development in the ardent quest to replace President Muhammadu Buhari in Aso Rock with a new face come next February. PDP, SDP, R-APC and 36 other mushroom parties are said to have formed an alliance for the holy or unholy purpose (depends on how you look at these things) of making Buhari a one-term president.
On the face of it, the alliance looks formidable, intimidating, even. But below the surface, it is any thing but (a ruse). I do not think Buhari is beginning to lose sleep over it. Too early though, seeing as we do not yet know the strength of the alliance.
And so, I am compelled to return once more to my pet subject: the fluidity in our party politics that makes it impossible for our politicians to commit to building and sustaining strong and viable political parties, able to drive democracy, good governance and national development. There is nothing strange in political parties forming alliances in election seasons if doing so is considered the most pragmatic step towards making them collectively the sharers-in-chief of the booties that are the natural dividends of victory at the polls. But there is always a but, a big but, in delicate matters of this nature.
A political alliance is the unacceptable face of politics sans political ideologies. The constant re-alignment of forces is merely aimed at reaping the benefits of opportunism. Sadly, in our country, it is the way the game was played, is played and will be played for ever and anon.
There is something patently funny, for want of a better word, about this new alliance. However, it is too serious to greet it with a titter. A chuckle, maybe. I am sure the unreformed APC must have characterised it as a gang up against it. It is nothing more profound than a fishing expedition in search of that ultimate prize in human success – power, political power.
Alliances such as this have characterised our national politics since the generals took it upon themselves to decide and determine the structure of our national politics. You would recall, if you were old enough then, that there was such an alliance immediately after President Shehu Shagari took office on October 1, 1979. The other four political parties formed a loose coalition of progressives, an alliance of the defeated. Their purpose was to give the president hell through the exploitation of their number in the national assembly. By the time we went to the polls again in 1983, only the NPN, the target of the progressives, was actually left standing. The progressive alliance had quickly progressed into the Golgotha where political ambitions are interred in our country.
The current alliance, according to media reports, has one and only objective – to unseat Buhari. I can point to two things wrong with it. One, it is an admission – and I hope an honest one at that – by the other 68 political parties or so that none of them is strong enough or rich enough or popular enough to defeat the thief-catching president. I have argued in this column and elsewhere that the mushrooming of political parties is deleterious to the health of our party politics. I present the alliance as evidence. What democratic or political interests do 69 political parties serve? Not to worry. I have asked my babalawo friend to consult his divination beads for an answer from the gods. I await his report.
Two, alliances are the refuge of desperate politicians. Aggrieved politicians gather under such alliances to a) nurse their wounds and b) plot ways and means of getting back at those in their former political parties who took their self-importance for granted. Alliances after the admittedly unfair and unjust conduct of party congresses have morphed into the culture of our party politics. APC is a prime beneficiary of such a congregation of the aggrieved and the disaffected in 2014/2015. It seems to me that this current grand alliance rests on what was learnt then and can still be applied now. After all, four years after its formation, APC is still a loose federation of disparate political interests united by the first law in nature: survival of commonality of vested interests.
Three, defeating Buhari is a limited objective. What then if the alliance succeeds? Would the alliance turn itself into a strong and viable political party? On the other hand, if it fails to dislodge the president, it inevitably would be the end of the story. The alliance would break up and the parties would once more go their separate ways with some of their leaders jostling for the crumbs that fall from the table of the ruling party. This is a common sight, of course. And it is politics. And there is nothing shameful about it.
I doubt that the success of the alliance would end the nauseating shaky-shaky politics of to-ing and fro-ing in the name of pragmatic re-alignment of political forces in each election season. I thought this alliance, if it is a serious one, should have a grand vision of our national politics and see its role as something much greater than the 2019 presidential election. I thought that no one needed to consult my babalawo friend to see the wisdom of collapsing the other 36 political parties into PDP and SDP with R-APC fusing into either one of them. That way, we could expect some good to come out of the current chaos among the political parties.
I have this uneasy feeling that the alliance appears to be propped up on legs made of akamu. But remember that I am untutored in the shenanigans of politics. Meaning, I could be wrong here. It is probably standing on sturdy legs made of marble. Perhaps, it is actually not swaying in the wind like palm fronds. Still, the alliance must confront its one obvious weakness, to wit, the individual ambition of those who formed it. Its presidential aspirants are mushrooming daily. Each man, some of whom have nursed presidential ambitions for a long time, believes that the alliances offers them the best chance to have a shot at being president. I see this as more or less the defining philosophy of the alliance.
The alliance faces the delicate and critical challenge of presenting one presidential candidate to take on Buhari. It is a sensible approach towards bringing the levers of power within their reach. It is no mean challenge though. Its leaders know this only too well. The president is bound to take one presidential candidate seriously. Were he to face 68 presidential candidates he would only need a fly whisk to swat them into political irrelevance.
Perhaps, the good thing about this challenge is that politicians are used to the self-survival game of compromises. Its success depends on how they rub one another’s back. Negotiations and compromises would persuade some to pocket their ambition in favour of a credible and saleable man to be put up by the alliance. And that would be a good thing; a very good thing.
If the alliance passes this litmus test of producing one presidential candidate, we would have an APC pikin to take on the father. If it fails to do so, it would be a cruel reminder that in politics, some things change suddenly, some things change slowly and some things change not at all. I wish the alliance well.