Newton’s third law of motion – “for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction”. Indeed, history is replete with evidence to this, even in governance and politics. There exists an ‘Opposition’ (or some form of such) to every party/government in power.
First of all, let’s get operational definitions out of the way. The opposition in Nigeria has so far loosely referenced any persons or group with public demonstration of antagonism towards the incumbent government. Every major political party that loses at the ballot box automatically assumes the ‘Opposition’ status. At the federal level, the Nigerian ‘Opposition’ is predominantly the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP), now merged into the All Progressives Congress (APC). On the regional front, the PDP (yes, the People’s Democratic Party) has also assumed the ‘Opposition’ title primarily in the South West. Is this all there is to what the Opposition should be? A bunch of losers and antagonistic entities? Certainly not.
Merriam-Webster defines the Opposition simply as “a political party opposing (fighting back) and prepared to replace the party in power”. Asides formal definitions, the typical expectation is that the Opposition keeps the serving government ‘in check’ consistently, in terms of policy formulation and implementation, rendering themselves as auditors of governance, critiquing failures, applauding successes.
The Opposition is not a passive inheritance or title, rather a proactive stance, a positive offensive. It should be a body of people with an ideology, common principles of governance and politics, who are willing and determined to bring these to the fore, demonstrating a leadership example to the serving government.
Yet, more often than not, what we see is a resultant, reactive Opposition that emerges just because they lost elections. This is not rocket science. In business, rivals exist because there is a market to rule, a prize to win. Similarly, a resultant, reactive Opposition arises primarily because there are resources to fight for – human, natural and financial resources! The scramble for these resources creates a winner (the serving government) and the jostlers (the emergent, reactive Opposition).
As long as the Opposition remains in this reactive mode, limiting itself to the mode of continuous criticism becoming a bother to the electorate, the chances of wresting power from the incumbent remain slim. Any business seeking to dominate the market must think and play ahead of the rival/competition. Similarly, the strategic Opposition must proactively get ahead of the incumbent.
The strategic Opposition must move beyond reacting to policies and political decisions, to developing, implementing and publicizing progressive ideologies and initiatives – gradually instigating a paradigm shift in national politics by centralizing public sentiment around issues… the politics of ideology and principle.
Likewise, the strategic Opposition must advance from identifying and flogging issues to proffering ground breaking solutions. These solutions must be intrinsic to the Opposition’s manifesto and sold to the public as their competitive edge. They must strategically demonstrate that where the rival has met a brick wall, they have identified a breakthrough point. Previously implemented projects and successful initiatives should be leveraged as pilots for nationwide development. There is no reason why the ‘Opon Imo’ educational tablet concept should not be aggressively leveraged as a nationwide developmental program, void of corruption and typical public procurement shenanigans. The strategic Opposition will fully conceptualize this initiative, presenting it as an educational enhancement bill to the National Assembly via their representatives and senators.
The strategic Opposition must go where its rival will not. Embrace leapfrog technological innovations, create mobile tools to empower the common man, use technology to restore true governance to the people. For example, a simple mobile platform that allows ordinary people report common everyday issues from power failure, to bad roads, security breaches, illegal roadblocks, water shortage, fuel price hikes, pipeline vandalism etc. should be developed, incubated and implemented with periodic analytical reports generated and published in national dailies, including resolution recommendations. Initially, these periodic reports will serve as an Opposition driven counter- scorecard but subsequently will add value through suggested resolutions to identified issues. Such initiatives also strategically position the Opposition closer to the people, their needs, desires and behaviour. Where a business draws closer to its customers, understanding their behavioural patterns, what remains is the creation of appropriate products to meet these needs.
Comparative advantage. The strategic Opposition should not battle the rival in its area of strength. The incumbent is a multi-regime veteran in money politics, with deep pockets and numerous treasure chests. Take the battle to the weak points, the Achilles heel….accountability in governance, budget implementation, project execution and controls, communication and involvement.
While there remains no guarantee of winning elections where the recurrent practice of rigging is predominant, a need still exists for a true and credible Opposition, not a label or resultant, rather the strategic Opposition, a positively offensive force, gradually restoring hope to an expectant populace.