Nothing better underscores that Nigeria has entered the political season than last week’s announcement of a new political coalition known as the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP). It is being forged by a splinter group of the ruling All Progressives Congress(APC), which christened itself the Reformed All Progressives Congress (R-APC), the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and others. The political stalwarts had signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with 37 other registered political parties.
The coalition would work together toward producing a single presidential candidate for the 2019 presidential election.
History appears to be repeating itself because in a similar and almost identical fashion, it was the realignment of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and a section of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) which came together in 2013 and agreed to fuse into a single party which became known as the APC. The APC became an instant hit and was amply rewarded at the polls by winning not only vast majorities in the National Assembly; it also won the plum prize, the Nigerian Presidency, and became the ruling party. Indeed, former Nigeria’s Foreign Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi, who hosted in his Abuja home the essential meetings for APC formation, though he later was soured with the party and quit, was last week the spokesman for the new CUPP.
The excitement of a new, boisterous political season should be tempered by the sober realisation that these alignments did not arise out of any kind of ideological convictions or persuasion or out of any higher ideals for service to Nigeria. They are a function of the internal contradictions of the ruling party, the rebellion of the malcontents in the party and in many cases, genuine grievances of members who have noticed the shortcomings of the party, its incompetence in the management of its success in several areas and the proverbial poetic justice that what goes around, comes around.
When the nPDP bolted out of the PDP in 2014, the immediate objective, of course, was to oust the then incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan and it moved heaven and earth and ensured that Dr. Jonathan was voted out of office. Now the R-APC seems not to be imbued with similar passion and energy, but seem eager to coalesce and merge, which is permitted by the Electoral Act (2010). The only condition is that the merger must take place 90 days before the election and the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) must be notified provided also that the party chairman of each of the merging parties must sign the petition for the merger, furnishing INEC all the necessary details including the new names, acronyms, and so on, in good time to get the new party ready to contest elections.
We also see the pull of the two-party system which has been historic and consistent. The positive effect of the two-party system, when it is permitted to work, is that there is always a viable option for the electorate at any moment, which serves as a check on the incumbent and, in effect, promotes responsible and accountable government. We would have celebrated the new alignments had they not been fall-outs from broken family disputations tinged with incidental personal acrimonies.
Even so, we accept that political choices are part of our fundamental human rights and freedom of association. We are appealing to the new coalition not to do anything to endanger the peace. The MOU must merge the coalition’s interest with that of the country. The general state of insecurity in the country is dangerous enough without additional tension from politics and politicians. The key to remaining in power is good governance. The unprecedented insecurity, which prevails in many parts of the country, is a national calamity because as the 1999 Constitution unequivocally states, the security and welfare of citizens should be the primary purpose of government.