Win at all cost, that is the motto of Nigeria’s ruling People’s Democratic Party, (PDP) according to Action Congress Party (AC) the country's main opposition. The opposition accuses the PDP of weakening structures that could open the democratic space for parties and the electorate by controlling the police and appointing the head of the electoral agency – the Independent National Electoral Commission, or INEC.
For its part, the ruling party says the opposition usually resorts to violence and voter intimidation because it has no program to attract voters
“Overwhelming evidence suggests the PDP is to blame for disputes over recent elections. Instead of resorting to thuggery and election malpractice the PDP should support electoral reform," says Lai Mohammed national public secratary for the main opposition AC.
The Action Party wants the government to allow independent candidates and the head of the electoral agency to be appointed by the legislature instead of the president.
PDP, officials deny that they encourage violence and said they are enhancing police protection to prevent violence at the polls.
PDP is clueless
Lai Mohammed disagrees. He says opposition parties in states like Lagos, Abia and Edo have had a huge impact on the lives of the electorate. The federal government controls most of the national revenue, and PDP governors in some states have not used revenue for projects that would help the people. Mohammed says Nigeria needs modern highways, hospitals, power plants and a strong industrial and manufacturing base because the government, controlled by the PDP, has no clue about what it will take to develop the country.
“We believe that the biggest test of democracy is the ability of the people to choose their representatives, and since the PDP has failed woefully in this regard, which is a federal matter, I think the party has failed in one of the most fundamental demands of democracy,” Mohammed asserts.
Opposition has no credible alternative
The government of Nigeria's President Umaru Yar'Adua says the country would have made more progress if citizens, including the opposition, contributed to its development. Officials say the opposition wants to criticize policies without offering credible alternatives. They say the attacks on government programs and officials are responsible for the country’s poor international image, despite its significant strides in improving the country’s infrastructure.
Mohammed counters by saying, "the ruling party is sensitive to criticism because officials know they have nothing to show for their 10 years of political dominance at both the federal and state levels." He says the PDP has no grounds to complain that the opposition does nothing but criticize the government. Mohammed says his party, the AC, always offers effective alternatives along with its criticism.
"People of Nigeria are completely dissatisfied with this government. Two years on [and] this government cannot tell us in concrete terms,in what area they have impacted positively on the lives of Nigerians," says Mohammed.
The opposition will continue to highlight the government’s shortcomings as long as the PDP continues its attempts to weaken the opposition, does not improve services to the electorate, refuses to implement genuine reforms and makes half-hearted attempts at fighting corruption.
Mr. Lai Mohammed hopes the electorate will punish the ruling party in future elections.