Nigeria: Party merger, defections reshape political landscape in 2013

posted in: Africa

Chief Adebisi Akande, chairman of the All Progressives Congress

Lagos, Nigeria (PANA) – The Nigerian political scene this year witnessed undoubtedly its biggest transformation since the advent of the current democratic dispensation in 1999, with the merger of political parties, defections of elected officials, and the crisis in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) stoking the change.

The coming together of a number of opposition political parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP) and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) – produced a mega opposition party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), which is now challenging the 14-year dominance of the ruling
PDP in the nation’s politics.

Already, in a sign of things to come, the PDP, which once controlled 28 of the country’s 36 states, majority of the 774 local government areas and held an undisputed dominance of the bi-cameral federal legislature, has started feeling the heat, losing its majority in the lower House of Representative, about to lose control of the upper Senate, if the statements credited to some opposition politicians are anything to go by, and losing many of its governors to the APC.

The PDP, which once dismissed the APC as a conglomeration of strange bed fellows, must now be ruing the day it decided to downplay the decision by the smaller opposition parties to come together.

First, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) registered the new party, to the chagrin of the PDP, and then the new party became the haven for many dispirited PDP members, after the crisis in the ruling party exploded and the party itself started to implode..

At the root of the crisis in the PDP is the expected decision of President Goodluck Jonathan to seek another term in 2015, and the seeming determination of some of his party members to prevent him from running and, if he runs, to ensure he doesn’t win.

Also momentous is the President’s faux pas in supporting a losing faction of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF), which has split the body down the middle and contributed to the decision of five PDP Governors to defect to the APC.

The defection itself was preceded by the decision of the aggrieved PDP members to form what they called the New PDP, which has now merged with the main opposition party to further spell doom for the ruling party.

In 2013, APC as a party is undoubtedly the main beneficiary of the crisis in the PDP, which – going by indications – may become the minority party in the National Assembly in 2014.

“This is not the first time parties will merge and at the end of the day it will not bring the desired result. But this time around, it is a bit surprising that all the party involved were able to shed their differences, not minding the different ideological background they are coming from, to formulate a political agenda, to the extent of forming a political party and registering it,” a political analyst, Gbenga Fatureti, told PANA in an exclusive interview.

”What the merger portends for the 2015 general elections is that we might have a change in the voting pattern. It will not be election as usual because where you expected the PDP to win they might not win, because all the opposition party like the defunct CPC, ANPP, ACN and the faction of PDP have their strongholds.

”Definitely, with the merger, they will be able to pool resources and make a head way. It (2015 elections) will be keenly-contested in the sense that Nigeria is gradually drifting to a two-party system and that is good for our country,” he said.

However, not everyone shares that optimism. Public Affairs Analyst Paul Onyegbula said the merger of the main opposition parties into the APC would not make any difference in the body polity.

”Whether you are a member of the one that calls itself the largest party in Africa (PDP) or you are in APC, Labour Party, APGA or whatever, all of them are one. If politicians or representatives of various political blocs give to their zones, wards, states, local government and Nigeria at large what is due to them without diverting (such) to personal use, then we can say we are developing. But once what is for a group of people is not given to them, it will negatively affect democracy and the people,” he said.

Some other analysts said the coming together of politicians with different ideologies – including conservatives and progressives – might eventually be the undoing of the new mega opposition party.

But a member of the APC, Mr. Olorunfunmi Bashorun, disagrees, saying: ”We cannot be talking of progressives and conservatives now because when you look at the political parties, I think they were compelled to align for the sake of Nigeria and to save Nigeria. I am very sure with the changes taking place, we will soon get there. Both sides must have considered their position and the position of those they are joining forces with before the merger,” he said.

PANA reports that whatever one may believe, there is no doubting the fact that the political scene underwent a momentous transformation in 2013, and that the events of the year will have a tremendous impact on what happens in 2014 and then shape the events of 2015, when the country is due to go to the polls to elect new leaders.

Photo: Osundefender.org