Nigeria’s Opposition: Amid Unification at the Top, Potential for Fragmentation in the Middle

In the first half of 2013, major Nigerian opposition parties have initiated a merger in hopes of defeating the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 national elections. The PDP has won every presidential election and swept most legislative and gubernatorial contests since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999. The new opposition alliance is called the All Progressives Congress (APC). This month, the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), two parties with strength in the north, formally joined the APC, which also includes the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), whose political strength lies in the southwest. The APC could be the most serious challenger the PDP has yet seen.

But this report from Niger State, in Nigeria’s “Middle Belt,” caught my eye:

A major crisis may be rocking the Niger State chapter of the All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) as two factions of the party have emerged with each claiming to be in a merger talk with the newly formed All Progressives Congress (APC).

One of the factions led by a former member of the State House of Assembly, Afiniki Dauda, who claimed to be the interim chairman of the party in the state, had last week at a press conference in Minna appealed to all the party members to forget their grievances so as to ensure that the merger talk with the other political parties went ahead without any hitches.

But Tuesday in Minna, another faction led by the former Chairman of the party, Hajiya Jumai A. Mohammed accompanied by two other State Zonal Chairmen, Samaila Yusuf, and Tanimu Yusuf, at a press conference, described the Afiniki-led interim committee as illegal and lacking in both legal and moral basis.

The story makes me wonder whether opposition parties’ efforts at unification create incentives for middle-tier leaders to break ranks, launch disputes, or otherwise position themselves within a shifting political order. Pre-existing leadership struggles, moreover, could be exacerbated by speculation that the opposition might have a chance at taking national power. Worth recalling here is that the CPC is itself in many respects a breakaway faction of the ANPP, making the CPC-ANPP rapprochement under the APC banner seem a bit tenuous.

As the APC sets its sights on taking out the PDP, in other words, the new alliance will face potentially destructive fights within its own tent. It will be important to see if Niger State’s experience is replicated elsewhere.

2 thoughts on “Nigeria’s Opposition: Amid Unification at the Top, Potential for Fragmentation in the Middle

  1. A few points about the opposition.

    1. Many of us looked forward to a serious alternative to the PDP, the signs aren’t encouraging. For example, the opposition hasn’t presented any serious ideas on how to deal with Boko Haram and other serious national security issues.

    2. There might be “unification at the top”, but these are still early days. Tinubu will bring most of the finances & Buhari has most of the numbers, but these are two very strong personalities, may not be a good sign.

    3. Opposition is strong in the South West, North West & North East, but has very little appeal elsewhere. In fact, this is shaping up to be another ethnic struggle (even worse than 2011).

    It is difficult to see how Northern Christians will back an alliance containing ANPP & CPC (given post-election violence and the presence of “Sharia champions” like Yerima in the party).

    The opposition is a motley crew with even more problems with cohesiveness than PDP.

    4. PDP can give a respectable showing all over the nation, but the opposition barely exists in the South East, Niger Delta & large parts of the Middle Belt.

    5. I fear the “whisper campaign”. You already hear that the opposition is an “Islamic party” (Tinubu & Buhari are both Muslims). One might laugh that off, but given the tense ethno/religious atmosphere in Nigeria & the ability of politicians to play on those differences, we shouldn’t.

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