With the year gradually winding up and 2015 drawing near, political activities are fast taking centre stage. First was the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the Peoples Democratic Movement (PDM) and the Independent Democrats, which have brought the number of parties in the country to 29. While new parties are springing up, a few political stakeholders have chosen to resuscitate some defunct parties. CHINELO OBOGO writes on these resuscitated parties and their chances in the 2015 elections.
Action Group (AG)
AG was one of the major political parties that ushered in the country’s independence in 1960 but it later fizzled out by 1966 during the first military coup. It was established in 1951 by Chief Obafemi Awolowo. One of the objectives of the party was to prevent the control of the defunct National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons (NCNC) control of the Western region. The party won regional power in the Western region in the First Republic. The Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), which was formed in the Second Republic and the Alliance for Democracy (AD), which was formed in the Fourth Republic, claimed to be offshoot of the heritage of the AG.
Even though AG has long ceased to exist, a well known human rights activists, Baba Omojola, has decided to unearth the relics of the party and breathe life into it. Omojola, who is the Chairman of a group known as Awoists and Progressives, insists that they are the true Awoists and the purpose of the group is to rally people at the grassroots.
But what purpose would a party that has ceased to exist for over 46 years serve in this 21st century, one wonders? The Secretary General of the coalition, Popoola Ajayi is quick to say the existing political parties in the country are not ideology based and the political parties, claiming to belong to the progressives, are a reversal of the present order.
“What makes them different from the ruling party?” he asked. “Nothing. A resuscitated AG has come. For want of ideology based political parties in the country, Awoists, frontline pro-democracy activists, environmentalists and others, who are tired of the failure of existing political parties in the country are poised to register AG as a political party to rally the grassroots.”
Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN)
It was formed in 1978 and it revolved around the leadership of the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo. It inherited its ideology from the old AG and they saw it as a party for everyone. It controlled states like Ondo, Ogun, Lagos, old Oyo and the defunct Bendel. It promoted free education and called itself a welfarist party. Other parties that existed along the UPN were the ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN), Great Nigeria Peoples Party (GNPP), the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP), the Peoples Redemption Party (PRP) and later, the Nigerian Advance Party(NAP), which was formed by Dr. Tunji Braithwaite.
Like Omojola, the founder of Oodua Peoples Congress (OPC), Dr. Frederick Fasehun, has resuscitated the relics of the UPN despite accusations that he is not a political associate of the late Awolowo but is only using the party to cause division in the South-west. Considering Fasehun’s obvious ‘anti-opposition party’ stance, the questions that analysts ask is if the UPN is being resuscitated to challenge the APC in the South-west? Which people are backing the party? Could they be working for certain interests outside the south-west region as alleged by the APC? But Fasheun is quick to dismiss such insinuations, describing them as baseless. He told journalists in his Lagos office that contrary to allegations, he is not working for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), but is resuscitating the UPN because of what Awolowo stood for.
Fasehun is so optimistic about the workability of a UPN government in the country’s political space that he told newsmen that, “It is for this reason that we have resolved to create a platform for those who do not have and create a voice for the generality of Nigerians. A platform of democracy where every member shall have right of expression, unlike the monopolization of power by some powerful cabals as it is today. A lot of well meaning people have expressed some pessimistic tune considering the level of decadence of our polity and grab of power by men and women that have lined their pocket with ill gotten wealth from our money.”
He continued, “But we have confidence in the generality of the people and patriotic business men who are yearning for change to pick up the gauntlet and struggle for their freedom and emancipation given a genuine political platform. It is this platform that we are offering our people to organize in the ward, local government, state and national level to demonstrate that we are capable of establishing a government of the people by the people for the people. We would be a listening government, not a government that has been deafened by the lust of power. And this is why we are offering you what Awo had offered you before – Unity Party of Nigeria. A party that has character and record of success and that would be organized by the people themselves in all the nooks and crannies of Nigeria to enable them establish democratic self fulfillment and actualization.”
Already, they have created 10 committees and constituted a four-man interim executive to accelerate the process of registering the party by INEC. They have appointed some interim national officers, who include Dr. Frederick Fasheun, chairman; Boni Salau, Chairman, Contact and Mobilisation Committee; Ola Olateju, Protem National Coordinator; Abubakar Sokoto, Protem National Deputy Coordinator and Chairman, North-West.
Social Democratic Party (SDP)
After the banning of 13 prospective parties by the administration of Ibrahim Babangida in 1989, a few of the “illegal” associations decided to re-align. The People’s Front of Nigeria (PFN), People’s Solidarity Party (PSP) and the Nigerian Labor Party(NLP) were the three main groups that emerged to form the core constituency of the new SDP. The leadership of the party was mostly dominated by Northern Nigerians, with Babagana Kingibe elected party chairman in 1990 over his rival Mohammed Arzika. On the other hand, the electoral strength of the party lies in the Yoruba states and Imo and Anambra states. The party won 57 percent of the Senate seats in the 1992 National Assembly election, and won 53 percent of the seats of the House of Representatives in the same election. SDP was even more popular when the late MKO Abiola who was its presidential standard bearer won the 1993 elections. After the chaos that trailed that election, the SDP gradually faded into oblivion.
However, a former Presidential candidate of the Alliance for Democracy (AD), Olu Falae, along with some human rights activists have resuscitated the SDP. Falae met in Abuja with the likes of Chukwuemeka Ezeife, a former governor of Anambra State to strategize on how to move the party forward. In a communiqué signed by the interim National Secretary of the party, Dr Abubakar Umar Gombe, the party said that it is prepared to take over governance at all levels. It stated that the party would also be committed in ensuring internal democracy in its fold which they say is lacking in all the existing political parties. those that were at the meeting included, Oladipo Olaitan, Lekan Alabi, Bala Yahaya, Bartcho Lyelong, Austin Nweze, Jacob Afolayan among others.
According to Falae, SDP has been registered and a new certificate has since been issued by INEC. He added that the party has partnership with 16 opposition parties and they are currently trying to establish its presence in all the states of the federation.
When asked about the possibility of the SDP gaining lost grounds, Falae had this to say, “The Social Democratic Party has been revived and it is at the forefront of Nigerian politics. If you don’t belong to PDP or APC, SDP is available. It once ruled Nigeria. It controlled the Senate and House of Representatives, and had 22 governors out of 30. The party is back and registered with INEC. It is available as an alternative to PDP and APC. These parties are going to work with SDP and we are consolidating to make SDP the third force in Nigerian politics. The party is back and registered with INEC. It is available as an alternative to PDP and APC. These parties are going to work with SDP and we are consolidating to make SDP the third force in Nigerian politics.”