The two main opposition parties in Nigeria - the All Nigeria People's Party and the Action Congress Party - announced Thursday that they would take part in Saturday’s presidential election. The ANPP is led by General Muhammadu Buhari while Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the candidate for the Action Congress party. They are the first among 18 opposition parties to break ranks after threatening earlier this week to boycott the polls. So what motivated their decision to contest Saturday’s election and what would this mean for the opposition in Nigeria?
Kabir Mato is head of the political science department at the University of Abuja. He said the two parties’ decision was based on political expediency.
“I think basically what that means is that the two major political parties in the opposition in Nigeria have come to realization that it has never yielded any fruit anywhere in the politics of Africa where political parties will deliberately pull out or withdraw from an election. And as such, it’s better to participate than not participating in an election would mean creating a scenario where you would have complete lack of legitimacy on the part of the government that would come place,” he said.
Earlier this week, 18 opposition parties met and threatened to boycott Saturday’s presidential election if the federal government did not meet their demands to postpone the election.
Mato said he was not sure if the decision by the Action Congress and ANPP parties to compete in Saturday’s election was a unanimous one among the 18 opposition parties who had previously threatened to boycott Saturday’s election.
"I’m incompetent to say it’s a unanimous decision of all the opposition political parties, but what I know is that the AC and the ANPP are the two major opposition parties, and they are the two political parties that have very serious contenders in Saturday’s race. So perhaps it might be the decision of the two parties might have some bearing on what decision the other opposition parties will take,” Mato said.
He also suggested that perhaps the ANPP and AC parties decided to participate in Saturday’s election based on their strengths and status in the Nigerian political system.
Mato said General Buhari and Vice President Abubakar do not stand a chance to win Saturday’s vote because according to him the election would not be free and fair.
“In a free, fair, and credible electoral contest in Nigeria, each of these two candidates is capable of taking the day on Saturday. But the fact of the matter is that I do not give both General Buhari and Atiku Abubakar any chance because in the first place, we are not going to have a free, fair, and credible electoral contest. It is an electoral contest that is going to be more of a symbolism than real actual election taking place,” Mato said.