By Ace Omozuwa
The advent of Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP) simultaneously evoked elation and frustration among many insightful political watchers. It elicited frustration, because, the democratic significances of previous coalescences of disparate partisan political groups and parties were short-lived and unable to foster national unity and sustainable development. On the other hand, it evoked elation because it could be a veritable platform that aids the oppositionto effectively perform its watchdog function, provide credible candidates, and make the 2019 elections competitive.
The appearance of CUPP in our political firmament brings to mind the events of 6th February, 2013. On that day, manyNigerians who were world-weary, because of the anti-development politics of the People Democratic Party (PDP) were happy beyond description. For, the coalescence of three major political parties, which culminated in the formation of the All Progressives Congress (APC),potentially spelt the end of oppressive misrule in Nigeria. However, after three years in the saddle of power and the unstopped devaluation of human life by security challenges, Nigerians are becoming despondent as they were during the “clueless” era of ex-presidentGoodluck Jonathan.
The well-timed alliance was a masterful stroke that secured the electoral victory of President MuhammaduBuhari. Evidently, without the structural support and organizational acumen of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), which lacked functional structure and national appeal, would have been unable to garner the 2.6 million votes that made the presidential aspiration of Buhari a reality.
APC pre-election demonstration of strength and unity of purpose aroused the faith of Nigeria in her ability to render transformational leadership. However, it seems time, insularity, the wine of victory, and the politics of cronyism conspired to thaw the unity of purpose that prevailed in APC when she was an opposition party. On 9th June, 2015, the epic ploy that fostered the emergence of Dr. Saraki as Senate President made a mockery of APC’s much-vaunted notion of party supremacyand revealed the cracks in theirhastily built superstructure. Sadly, the cracks were allowed to deepen and widen beyond repair as a result the R-APC emerged. It is instructive to note that the flagging unity and blurry purpose that have pushed APC to the cusp of disintegration are not historical misnomers in Nigeria’s political culture. Recall that shortly before independence the governing parties of the East,National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons(NCNC),and that of the North, Northern People’s Congress (NPC), formed a coalition. The alliance was inevitable since none of the parties won absolute majority in the parliamentary election of 12th December 1959. Out of the 312 seats, NCNC won 89 and NCNC won 134. As it is well known, the coalition became a recipe for debacle.In part, it paved way for the first coup d’état in Nigeria, which occurred on January 15, 1966.
In a similar fashion, during the Second Republic, to consolidate their strength in the House of Representative,the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) formed an accord with the Nigerian Peoples Party (NPP). The accord made NPN to cede some ministerial slots to members of NPP. When the accord failed in 1981 due to cancerous corruption, many of the ministers moved over to NPN in defiance of NPP’s instruction that they should resign from their offices. Sadly, the alliance could not consolidate democracy and the military struck again.
One common reason why these political merges failed in our historical past is because; they were not driven by altruistic purposes and ideological affinity. Rather, the need to whittle down the strategic influence of opposition parties and consolidate power led to their formation. Evidently, any union found on desperation would most likely get strangulated in the web of internal conflicts. Implosions do occur when there are no unifying mission objectives that nurture fraternal cooperation and counteract the hideous influences of cliques.
It is difficult to affirm that the point men of CUPP are sufficiently guided by history to sidestep the pitfalls of alliance of oddball politicians and forward-thinking,self-sacrificingleaders. If political harlotry and hunger for power for power sake are the driving forces of the emergence of CUPP, it will lack a doable model of development, if it succeeds at the polls. I suspect that the strategic reason for the formation of CUPP is to defeat APC in the forthcoming election. Our flawed concept of democracy as mere contestation for power in electoral battlegrounds has gravely undermined our capacity to be the authentic pioneer of development in Africa. It has also hindered issue-driven politics, and inadvertently made personality politics captivatingly alluring.
If CUPP can make development the centerpiece of politics in Nigeria, it would mean the dawn of a new era. It is doubtful if they can. First, they do not have a historical model to replicate. Second, their extremely short gestation period may not have allowed them to formulate a development paradigm that is knowledge economy compliant and sensitive to the peculiarities of Nigeria’s political economy. More importantly, some of their arrowheads are part of the locust army that senselessly weakened Nigeria’s capability to be at the vanguard of global development. To ensure credibility deficit does not ruin the aspirations of CUPP, her frontline must not be populated by idea-deficient recycled politicians.
Our historical reality has taught every Nigerian that democracy and politics are intertwined. However, it cannot be affirmed indisputably that our democratic history has taught everyone that democracy and development are inseparable. It is even doubtful if the majority of actors in Nigeria’s vast political landscape walk in the consciousness of the fact that true democracy means development. If they do, their agenda for humanand infrastructural development does not reflect that. Otherwise, Nigeria will not be slouching in the backwaters of human development in the 21st century. This is a blessing in disguise for CUPP.
If all the 39 political parties that are integral parts of CUPP can rise above parochialism, and be animated by altruistic purposes, Nigeria will become stronger and better. Towards this end, she should exercise good judgment and resist the temptation to exploitatively politicize the security challenges confronting Nigeria or embark on the campaign of calumny that led to the decapitation of PDP in 2015.
A simple formula will help CUPP to relegate APC to political limbo: Demonstrate the capacity to develop Nigeria by the power of innovation and eschew the politics of “it is our turn to eat.” Nigerians will know if the cardinal aspiration of CUPP is to have the proverbial knife and yam or it is to provide transformative servant leadership.
The politics of double talk will not boost the credibility of CUPP or advance her interest. If her political narratives and campaign promises are intended to ignite the firestorm of delusion, she will enjoy groundswell support, albeit, momentarily. Implosion will inevitably be one of the aftereffects of the dissipation of such smokescreen. So, CUPP should endeavor to adhere to the folksy wisdom and speak “out of the abundance of the heart.”
CUPP should demonstrate wisdom and not make that group Ruben Abati characterized as “yesterday’s men” the poster child of architects of new Nigeria. Spent men struggling under the yoke of corruption allegations cannot strategically harness the opportunities that abound in the world of digital economy and take Nigeria to higher planes of existential bliss and sustainable development. Nigeria needs enlightened thinkers deft at working at the speed of light, not serpentine politicians that do not know the primary responsibility of government is the protection of lives and property.
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