For 16 years, the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) was Nigeria’s ruling party since the fourth republic in 1999, when military rule came to an end following the death of brutal dictator Gen. Sani Abacha. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was sworn into office after election in April 1999.
The leadership of PDP would run into a crisis when President Obasanjo attempted a constitutional change that would see him contest for a third term, leading to a rancorous public feud with then Vice-President Atiku Abubakar.
On February 6, 2013, The All Progressives Congress (APC) was formed ahead of the 2015 general elections which saw Muhammadu Buhari elected into power. The build up to PDP’s electoral loss came from the role played by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) founded by former Lagos governor Bola Tinubu. The ACN played a pivotal role as a strong opposition party in Lagos State, spreading to other states in South-Western Nigeria.
The January 2, 2012 protests tagged Occupy Nigeria were not far from the activities of the ACN, which had positioned itself as a party that fought for the masses. The ACN merged with President Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and other parties to form the APC.
According to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), the 2019 elections were contested by 91 registered political parties. Of all these parties, the most prominent is the PDP which has failed in its role as an opposition party. Nigeria’s shrinking civic space, a result of President Buhari’s dictatorship has led to journalists and activists being imprisoned. This action is however not restricted to Nigeria’s ruling party APC.
Two PDP governors, Ben Ayade of Cross River State and Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State have both imprisoned and harassed a journalist, Agba Jalingo and a bank marketer, Michael Itok.
According to a leading Nigerian newspaper, Premium Times, Jalingo was charged with treasonable felony, terrorism and an attempt to topple the Cross River State Government. Itok was arrested for posting “damaging and annoying” articles on Facebook against the governor of Akwa Ibom.
Nigeria’s politics is unfortunately fueled only by elections and opposition parties start making noise during the campaign period. The realisation that both the PDP and APC are two sides of the same coin with no capacity of bringing change to the ordinary Nigerian is not lost on critics and the public. It is more damning that the PDP is silent in the face of repression and is complicit in committing crimes against ordinary Nigerians.
It is more telling that most of the 91 registered political parties only jump into action during elections and return to their business as usual approach after they lose, only to come back four years later clamouring for votes.
This repeated cycle has done more damage to Nigeria’s democracy which has since silenced civil organisations that come to speak out against the government. In Nigeria, there are no opposition parties, just opportunistic parties.