Issues: The Benefits of Being in Opposition – By Yinka Chwukuma


Since the emergence of Major-General Muhammadu Buhari as the President-Elect, I have watched with concern, and frankly with disdain, as many of our so-called elite have overnight become rabid fans and supporters of the APC and Buhari. Typical of the chameleonic nature of the political class, many who were hitherto singing the praise of the PDP are today taking out full page advertisements to congratulate General Buhari on his victory. The sad truth about our political elite is their lack of ideological conviction and very fickle minded nature. They are purely driven by selfish interest as against the collective interest of the people they seek to lead, or should I say rule.

In Delta state, the swan song now seems to be that Delta cannot afford to be in the opposition. It would have been okay if this position is being canvassed by the unenlightened and those who do not know any better. But when you hear supposedly enlightened people making such statements, you wonder about the future of this country. Even respected lawyer, Festus Keyamo took out a full page advertisement calling on his “Urhobo brothers and sisters” to vote for the APC because “historically the Urhobos have never settled for an opposition” (Vanguard, April 4 page 17). That was at best distasteful, and at worst, intellectually bankrupt.

The campaign by people like Keyamo and some unscrupulous politicians that Delta cannot afford to be in the opposition, smacks of crass opportunism and a deliberate ploy to hoodwink the gullible electorate for their selfish purposes. In the first instance, it makes me wonder if the clamour of change is for all Nigerians to become members of the APC. Is it that they want Nigeria to be a one-party state? What manner of change is that? Secondly, are we now to believe that people like Keyamo who are supporting the APC today are doing so simply because it is going to form the government at the centre not necessarily because of any shared values and ideology? Does that mean that if in 2019 the PDP returns to power at the centre that these politicians would be making another “clarion call” on the Urhobos to follow the PDP? What manner of change is that?

Secondly, belonging to the same party that controls the centre does notnecessarily add any value to a State. Belonging to the opposition does not stop any state from getting its due from the Federation Account as the procedures for distribution of federal resources are clearly spelt out in the constitution. The truth also is that the PDP and APC have no real ideological differences, and so there are no major policy differences that could possibly counter any federal plans for the state if the federal government genuinely means to move Nigeria forward.

As a Yoruba married to a Deltan, I believe Deltans would be making a very big mistake if they fall for this cheap propaganda that Delta cannot afford to be in the opposition. Having lived most of my life in Lagos, I know that being in opposition can be a blessing in disguise. It is an incontrovertible fact that the south west part of Nigeria is the most developed part of the country. Yet, since the first republic, this is one part of the country that has often been in opposition to the government at the centre, so much so that it proudly wears the opposition tag.

The reason the south west has been able to forge ahead is because being in the opposition compels the leaders to work harder to earn the trust and confidence of the electorate. The late Chief Obafemi Awolowo launched his free education programme and the Odua Investment Company which was responsible for the industrialisation of the region as an opposition leader in the 60s. Being in opposition can be a blessing because the focus is usually on performance as we saw in Lagos during the Tinubu/Fashola era. We can see the same pattern of performance in all the states controlled by the APC.

This is because it is the only way such states can avoid being overwhelmed and overrun by the federal might. Once they are able to satisfy the yearnings of the people for real development, they will enjoy their support even in face of overbearing attitude from the centre. When the Obasanjo-led PDP government withheld the allocations due to Lagos under Tinubu, it only added to Obasanjo’s frustration as the people stood solidly behind the government. The Tinubu administration was then forced to become more creative in its internal revenue generation drive. Today, Lagos State generates monthly internal revenue of N30b as a result.

On the contrary, when states are aligned with the ruling party at the centre it often leads to complacency and a false sense of security. In addition, the political hucksters and prostitutes that inundate the Nigerian political landscape would be falling over themselves scrambling for the federal government largesse, with little or no attention paid to economic development. Ogun State where I come from witnessed the least form of growth and economic development during the eight-year administration of Otunba Gbenga Daniel. We were not only part of the ruling government at the centre, the President was from our state, and yet the state in real terms, regressed during that period. The story was the same in the entire south west except Lagos after Obasanjo fulfilled his promise to “capture” the region in 2003.

The politicians selling this agenda are merely interested in how they can benefit from the largesse at the centre; they are not really concerned about the welfare of the people. If they truly have the welfare of the people in mind they will know that being in opposition is not a death sentence; it will only serve to wake the politicians up from their slumber and make them become alive to their responsibilities. With the fluctuating fortunes in the international oil market, Delta is getting less income from oil. What the state needs now is a governor who knows what is at stake, a governor that can improve the economic fortunes of the state, not an ethnic governor.

*Mrs. Chwukuma is a Lagos-basedd journalist.

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