In early 1982, barely midway into the first term tenure of then second republic President ,Alhaji Shehu Shagari,the late Chief Obafemi Awolowo,leader of the then leading opposition party, Unity Party of Nigeria,UPN addressed a World Press Conference where he raised concern over the poor state of the economy which he said is sailing in troubled waters.
Awo known for his strong opposition which dates back to the first republic,spoke extensively about the excessive spending of the then government and proferred alternatives to the economic policies.
But instead of heeding his advice,Professor Emmanuel Edozien, a Professor of Economics at the University of Ibadan and the Minister of Finance together with then National Chairman of the ruling National Party of Nigeria,NPN,Chief Meredith Adisa Akinloye, roundly condemned Awos criticism alluding it to frustration of having lost in previous election two years earlier.
But alas, two months later,it was a troubled Shagari who rushed to the National Assembly with a request to the Upper legislative body then headed by the late Dr Joseph Wayas,Senate President to promulgate an Enabling Bill otherwise known as Economic Stabilisation Act 1982 aimed at rolling out measures to arrest the economy and prevent it from crumbling.
At least they may not have accepted Awos criticism openly and adopt his suggestions on the way out,but it was clear to all that opposition sounded a note of warning.
The Bill was the fastest piece of legislation to be passed into law as it was passed by 10am April 18,1982.
But then, it was too late as that inability to heed Awos counsel
and warning set up series of reactions which led to a wobbling economy that led to a keenly contested election in 1983 and the accompanying military coup in December of same year .
In the aftermath of Awos criticism and evolving state of the economy,University students led by National Association of Nigerian Students,NANS, protested against Edozien, questioned his economic sense and nearly forced him to resign.
That was the stuff opposition was made of then.
Awos opposition role was neither personal not opportunistic but he always raise crucial and germaine socio economic issues which leaders ignore at their own peril.
Today,the level of the countrys opposition parties is nothing to compare with what obtains then .
What obtains now is that opposition party reduce their role to occasional ranting,issuing press statements not grounded in ideology and without deep critical analysis of issues.
Besides,they reduce opposition to mere criticism of government actions which borders more on ethnic,religious and in most cases personal issues against those in government.
When criticism are made, it is either they are not factual enough or too pedestrian as the main parties we’ve had since 1999 are all same of same-birds of the same feathers. The only difference is the name of the parties.. content and form remain same.
Today , politics is devoid of ideological postulation and principles, politicians could hardly be differrentiated as they move from one party to the other whenever their personal interest and goals could not be met in any party.
This lack of ideology renders the political parties like birds of same feathers.
To borrow the late Chief Bola Iges words,”they are fingers of a leprous hand.”
What is more,with any election cycle approaching, politicians easily jump ship into the ruling governments boat preferring to join them instead of providing robust opposition.
Hence,it is incumbent of the three leading opposition parties,the People’s Democratic Party,PDP,Labour Party,LP and the New Nigeria People’s Party,NNPP, to provide the citizenry credible opposition in order to position themselves and indeed Nigerians an alternative should the government fail.
A robust opposition that would make a difference in governance since strong opposition makes ruling governments to sit up and implement far reaching policies that will change the narrative of governance in the country is what is required.
Yes,it is apparent that one of the draw backs of the opposition parties is that they always move from one internal crisis to the other denying them cohesion to play their role well and earn respect of both the ruling government and the people.
With the decision of the two leading parties led by Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi of PDP and LP respectively to challenge the Judgement of the Presidential election Court at the Supreme court,it is incumbent on them to consider setting up parallel cabinet to monitor and provide serious opposition to the ruling government.
Today’s opposition role in any democracy is no more a dinner party as information on governance are readily available with the new technologies which has reduced the world to a global Village.
Since information dissemination which are vital tools for gathering data has become less cumbersome, it behoves on the opposition parties to set up parallel ‘shadow’ government both in parliament and government departments to provide vital information necessary for good governance.
Nigeria with about 47 ministers and over two hundred Ministries, Departments and Agencies, there is much work to do to show citizens lapses in ruling government as facts could easily be interogated for fact finding.
A situation where opposition parties go on holiday after inaugurating a cabinet only for those not satisfied to surface during election period smacks of ‘dead opposition’.
It does not only portend signs of unseriousness on the part of politicians and parties ,it leads to lack of quality Governance for the people.
Rather than being absentee politicians,the likes of Abubakar Atiku, Peter Obi and other should go back to work and interogated government policies and actions which dissection will earn them respect.
The contrary is to wine and dine away only to surface at election period for the usual ritual of making noise without offering the people alternative and credible choices in the next elections.