There’s been some talk in the Nigerian media lately about a new opposition party taking shape in the background. PDP factional chair Ahmed Makarfi has set up a committee to liaise with politicians in other parties who might be interested in formation talks. Specifically, reports say the faction is working to join forces with APC bigwigs Atiku Abubakar and Bola Tinubu, even though these people have denied the reports.
There’s clearly something major going on here, but what are the challenges for politicians proposing to form a new opposition party going forward?
Getting the leadership right is critical to the proposed formation. We’ve got politicians coming from fractured parties and trying to find a structure they can work with. So the merger will need leaders who can unite the people and run affairs in a way that’s fair to all sides. If they don’t get this right, a division is imminent—probably even before the merger gets off the ground or at some point afterwards. Just take a look at what’s happening with the APC these days and how its current problems at the top can be traced to its foundation.
Those floating the merger idea already anticipate there’ll be obstacles to incorporating the entity, and these obstacles will originate internally in their camp and externally as well. For instance, we’re learning that there’s been some disagreement in-house about the nature of the entity. Will it be other politicians joining the PDP or the PDP faction and their allies in other parties leaving to form an entirely new party, or will they leave their current places to join a new party and turn it to a mega party?
That issue will take time to address within the formation camp, and will present an obstacle. Externally, the proponents will also likely face an obstacle trying to set up with INEC.
A lot of talks must be going on in the formation camp right now about choosing a formidable candidate that can challenge President Buhari and the APC in 2019. Some names have been thrown around already, but it’s important for the merger proponents to factor in the Nigerian people who will be voting. A candidate’s political stature makes a great difference, but the challenge for merger proponents will be deciding on a credible candidate whose reputation will appeal most to the Nigerian people.
Politicians will also have a difficult task finalizing on who gets to be on the merger’s ticket for the presidency in 2019, plus agreements on how subsequent picks will be made (e.g. rotating among six geopolitical zones or alternating from north to south). This month for instance, proponents reportedly solicited former president Olusegun Obasanjo’s support and he gave the condition that his foe Atiku shouldn’t be on the merger’s ticket.
The constitution is silent on what happens when the president or a governor defects to another party, but Section 68 says a defecting MP will lose their seat except their defection is a result of division in (or a merger involving) their previous party. Merger proponents in the PDP who are MPs can claim there’s been a division in their party, but MPs in the APC interested in defecting face more difficulty here. This constitutional requirement will be a challenge for the formation camp.
The proposed merger will likely face legal and regulatory setbacks (e.g. court disputes), but if it succeeds, we should expect a person from the political establishment, probably from the north, will emerge as its presidential candidate. Meanwhile the current political circumstances in the country provide the breeding ground for the proposed merger to emerge and thrive, considering the infighting in the two biggest parties and the growing public disapproval of the present government.
Adedayo Ademuwagun is an analyst with Songhai Advisory, a business advisory firm based in London and Accra. Follow @adedayonigeria on Twitter.