It is commonplace to hear Nigerians compare the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and then conclude hastily and disappointingly too that they are both the same. Such rueful statements usually come whenever there is an argument or analysis about our contemporary unstable political environment but they are more pronounced during electioneering periods and whenever there is cross a defection that has become the norm, of political actors between the two parties. As election approaches, it is usual for media hirelings and agents of the political godfathers to push out such misleading opinion about the two major political parties in the country into public discourse to hoodwink and distract the people.
The pertinent question here is: are both political parties really the same? Yes, they may be the same in so far as you refer to them as political platforms created by Nigerians for the purpose of seeking power but they are not the same in structure, function and basic philosophy. What makes some analysts incline to classify PDP and APC as the same is because of the cross defection of individuals between both parties but that is not enough. Others anchor their argument on the fact that there is no defined political ideology in the country.
Political parties are formed around interest groups and have a set of ideas and beliefs that govern their activities. Political parties have leaders, active members and followers that share their ideologies and operational modalities. So, political party is not just about the individuals that make up the party, but about the ideology, values and operating system. The defection of Mr. X from platform A to platform B does not make both platforms the same. Indeed, Mr. X is still the same person but his behaviour in the platforms will be subject to the rules, framework, culture and belief system governing the platforms. So the system, the structure, the procedures and the basic philosophy of the organisation will determine the conduct of members.
When compared in terms of national outlook and political philosophy, PDP is miles ahead of APC. The founding fathers of PDP are known political thinkers and statesmen that believe in the pan-Nigerian project and made commitments and enormous sacrifices to promote national unity. Chief Alex Ekwueme, Chief Solomon Lar, Alhaji Abubakar Rimi, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. Dr. Chuba Okadigbo, among others, were the known political gladiators that formed PDP. In shaping the party’s operational mechanism, they were guided by history and our cultural diversity.
They knew that NPN won the presidential election in 1979 despite the presence of political heavy weights like Zik and Awo because the party was pan-Nigeria in philosophy and structure. The people saw Zik’s NPP and Awo’s UPN as Igbo and Yoruba party, respectively. Those who founded PDP were avowed democrats who fought very hard to sustain the democratic ideals including combating President Obasanjo’s dictatorial proclivities and schemes that went against the party’s philosophy and democracy but in APC, no attempt whatsoever is made to challenge Buhari’s excesses instead, they applaud and celebrate his anti-people policies that have polarised the nation.
APC, on the other hand, is like an amorphous political organisation put together by disgruntled elements within PDP that are looking for outlet to vent their anger and frustration on PDP. While PDP has well-defined spatial structure across the nation and defined method for sharing power and political offices APC has none. APC is obsessed with the desire to grab power, destroy PDP and smother other political platforms and turn the country into a one-party state. In sharing power and political offices, PDP takes into consideration our multicultural features but APC is insensitive to that.
Thus, the classification of PDP as being the same as APC is misleading,. The danger here is that it leads to voters’ apathy because it seems to make people think they have no real alternatives since both parties are assumed to be the same. Secondly, it promotes electoral malfeasance and vote buying. When one feels that he has no alternative, he may not care about selling his vote to the highest bidder as well since he assumes he has nothing to lose by doing that since both parties are the same. No doubt, one of the greatest problems confronting this nation is the credulity of the Nigerian public that tends to make the people believe without question rumours, hear-says and outright falsehood especially coming from those they perceive to be opinion leaders.
Irogboli, an economist, novelist and public policy analyst, writes from Abuja via [email protected]