The tag, opposition party in Nigeria actually came in the first Republic when the Northern People’s Congress, NPC, and the National Council of Nigeria and the Cameroons, NCNC, formed the federal government and Chief Obafemi Awolowo of the Action Group left the Western Region as Premier to the centre in the parliament to lead the opposition. That was the period when Nigeria actually felt that the country had an opposition which gave suggestions, and as well condemned, when necessary to put the Sir Tafawa Balewa-led NPC government on its toes.
Needless, however, it is to say that the opposition is a government in waiting if and when there’s a need to do away with an incumbent. In parliamentary democracies, it is far easier to do away with the government and quickly replace it with the opposition, which in most cases, have proven its mettle in providing alternative solution through better governance. It is also possible, even though very tough in Presidential system. That was what happened in 2015, when APC replaced the PDP.
This fourth republic democracy started on a very good footing with strong opposition which the then Alliance for Democracy, AD, provided in 1999 and thereafter. The party transmuted to Action Congress, AC, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and lastly All Progressives Congress, APC, waxing stronger by the day as it continues to change composition, new entrants and name. Despite criticisms, the party needed to change identity to accommodate new entrants and reflect new outlook. The party was so attractive that it became a rallying point for progressives from diverse backgrounds, even from the then ruling party, the PDP. Nasir El-Rufai, Shehu Sani, Rotimi Chibuike Amaechi, are but few of these. They provided virile opposition through intellectual and intelligent opposition. They did not just criticize government of the day but proffered solutions to myriad of problems bedeviling the country. The name APC was then, thus synonymous to opposition.
Some sitting governors were not left out in providing strong opposition to the PDP-led federal government. Very prominent among them is the governor of the State of Osun, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and the then governor of Ekiti State, Dr. Kayode Fayemi. Aregbesola was the first governor to raise the alarm in 2013 on the present financial situation we now found ourselves, even when the then federal government was in denial. The restructuring being mouthed today initially came from Aregbesola, when he picked holes in our faulty federal arrangement, fiscal federalism and unconstitutional bogus office title appropriations.
Subtle opposition came from the then Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, and now the Emir of Kano, Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, his sensitive position in government notwithstanding. Sanusi raised the alarm especially on stolen crude oil revenues. Aregbesola was smeared with all sort of dirty and unprintable acronyms and even almost labeled a secessionist. He almost lost his second term bid, not because his people wanted him out but because the then Aso Rock landlords couldn’t withstand his regular assaults. All federal arsenals including financial strangulation were deployed to make governance difficult for him. But he didn’t yield ground and, to their surprise, won his reelection bid to Oke Fia Government House and Bola Ige Governor’s Office.
John Kayode Fayemi, then governor of Ekiti State, wasn’t that lucky. The machinery then in Abuja was deployed. He was subtly humiliated, tear-gassed and made to lose seat. Fayemi found favour with the new government and was made a federal minister. Lamido Sanusi Lamido was unceremoniously removed from office as Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, but providence gave him the throne to the Emirship of his hometown of Kano as compensation.
Today, and very unfortunately, opposition government has taken a nosedive to the abysmal. It has exposed the level of intelligence, intellect and disrepute to which those men of yesteryears, who held forte in our state and national governments have fallen. The type of opposition we have today is bereft of honesty, patriotism and virility. It is so base that onlookers will be held agape with disbelief. How do you place a former deputy governor, former Senator of the Federal Republic, leader of a major political party throwing caution to the winds by deliberately turning truths upside down such that an international agency, UNESCO, would deem it necessary to refute his claims?
The Workers’ Drive, commissioned last week by the governor, was fully financed through a special fund, approved for use by the state house of assembly. Shortly after, the former deputy governor, who still has cases to answer with anti-graft agents, came up with stories too hard to believe because UNESCO does not release funds for projects. The story was so erratic that the agency had to announce a rebuttal.
If the PDP is a party of people whose integrity matters to them, Iyiola Omisore should have been reprimanded because in wanting to discredit the good works of Rauf Aregbesola’s government, has succeeded in furthering the already battered and tattered images of himself and the party he claims to represent. Osun government and Ogbeni need not ask for any apology because Omisore has also succeeded in announcing to the world, beyond Osun and even Nigeria, the ingenuity and integrity of Ogbeni in funding such a laudable project.