For over 18 years, Nigeria has been under a democratic system of government. According to the former United States President Abraham Lincoln, democracy is a government of the people, by the people and for the people. There are many characteristics of democracy and among them are equality, freedom of speech and association and tolerance of a virile opposition. In fact, the existence of opposition parties and even pressure groups is an integral part of majority rule.
However, it is widely believed that the current All Progressive Congress (APC), like the Peoples Democratic Party(PDP) before it, wants to muzzle the opposition party from performing its ‘oversight functions.’ In this dispensation, whether by acts of commission or omission, PDP which is the main opposition party, has lost its voice, to the detriment of democracy. Recently, retired General Abdulsalami Abubakar, former Head of State, bemoaned PDP’s quietness because it is not being critical of the present government. By so doing, he lamented that APC is doing as it pleased. However, PDP’s silence is not out of its own making as APC’s sleight of hand is somewhat responsible for its sidon look posture
Right now, instead of improving on the economy, ensuring security of lives and property of Nigerians, providing more job opportunities and generally doing what they promised to do during the last campaigns, APC leaders across the country are still engaging in the blame game. From President Muhammadu Buhari, to Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, including presidential spokesmen Femi Adeshina and Garba Shehu, there is virtually no official statement that will not make reference to the PDP years. Like a cracked gramophone record, Nigerians have become so bored with APC’s penchant for always looking backwards, that critics have asked the government to deliver dividends of democracy or shut up. According to them, it was because things were not going in the right direction that Nigerians voted out PDP in 2015. So, Nigerians are saying that APC should spare them the agony of repeating what they already know.
Apart from blaming the past government, there is a growing perception that APC is using the anti corruption war to stifle the opposition, especially PDP elements that played prominent roles in the last administration. For example, Chief Olisa Metuh who was giving the government a run for its money when he was spokesman of PDP, was allegedly silenced by the Economic and Financial Crimes(EFCC). The anti graft agency has taken him to court for allegedly receiving N400 million from a former National Security Adviser (NSA), Sambo Dasuki, who is being accused of laundering $2.1 billion. Several examples abound, where EFCC was allegedly set after vocal PDP chieftains while some APC members who are being accused of some offences are still going about their businesses unmolested.
Significantly, in its own selfish interests, the ruling party is expected to use all weapons in its arsenal to frustrate the opposition. However, the fact that PDP allowed itself to be boxed into a corner without a fight is what most Nigerians find worrisome. Maybe the fact that it was factionalised for a long time, due to the infighting between Senator Ali Modu Sherrif and Senator Ahmed Makarfi, had diverted its attention from its role as the most dominant opposition political party in the country.
Now that it has put its house in order, Nigerians expect a very robust and formidable opposition party that will put the ruling APC on its toes. To do this, PDP has to strengthen its internal democracy to put an end to impunity in its rank and file. When this has been done, PDP will then assume its opposition role by questioning the government of the day and holding it accountable to the public. When it begins doing that, APC and the government should not see PDP as a nuisance but a necessary partner in democracy. Governments that tolerate and listen to opposing voices have every tendency to do far better than a government that stifles them. Opposing the opposition is akin to opposing democracy.