By Olulana Alofe
Shortly after Muhammadu Buhari was sworn in as the President of Nigeria in 2015, in an essay published in Skytrend News I lamented the sub-par opposition PDP was delivering at the time and noted it probably was due to inexperience just as APC’s fumbling could be attributed to. Someone asked me to focus on the party in power and leave PDP alone in a comment. I was aghast that anyone would miss the import of a dearth of quality opposition in a democracy as it is my belief that the success of a democratic nation depends on the quality of its opposition!
In totalitarian governments such as those in Russia, China and North Korea, though there have been great strides in various endeavors such as military might — North Korea’s nuclear program, global economic expansion — China’s status as one of the top economic superpowers if not the greatest in the world today and global military influence — Russia’s rising profile in the Middle East and other regions, the plight of their citizens shows how the lack of any credible opposition leads to an oppressed people. Take away fundamental human rights, especially those which deal with freedom of expression and what is left is a cowed people! No matter how successful economic indices state their nations appear to be, the average person there is only living an existence they have to tolerate but do not want. This we know from testimonies given by those who have been lucky to “escape” from such nations.
The quality of the opposition is a ‘barometric measure’ of the standard of living in any nation. Where the opposition is mediocre, expect people to live mediocre lives behind the facade of prosperity if the nation is rich. Libya and Saudi Arabia are two examples we can point to. A peek behind the ‘richly embroidered curtain’ we were — in the case of Libya and are — with respect to Saudi Arabia, presented with is necessary. The reaction by large of Libyans to the removal of Gaddafi shows how oppressive his regime was. The effect of the vacuum left after his murder is another thing entirely. Do not conflate the two. Those who have been able to express their opinions about life in Saudi Arabia know that many would love to be able to gain the freedom of expression denied them by its totalitarian government — a monarchy, ruling that nation with an iron first.
Where the opposition is vibrant, expect the average man, woman and child to be able to have their vigorously pursued dreams come to life regardless of individual financial circumstances. Think of Japan, India, Korea, Sweden, Germany, France, Australia, Canada, the UK and the USA amongst others. I find it hard to place a single Africa nation in that list as an example. East Africa with Tanzania, Kenya and Ethiopia is leading the way now but we need a few more years of consistency from them to show this is not an aberration. Do not forget that the focus is not on the government but those opposed to it in those nations. How well are they faring?
Nigeria needs an opposition beyond just a name for its democracy to yield expected dividends for her people. However, what we are experiencing now is beyond the pale. The opposition is supposed to check and balance the government which then has to always look over its shoulders — in this case, a very good thing! Once a government feels confident that it has no rival, that is bad news for those being governed — you, me and our loved ones! None of us should be satisfied with the prevalent scenario in Nigeria today. The happiness of us all depends on the opposition standing on its own feet and raising its voice on our behalf!