On 29 May 2018, General Ibrahim Babangida gave the golden words on how we can have healthy democracy and how the opposition can gain power.
1. Two party system
“…It is high time we look once more on the need to build unique two-party structures in the country at this critical period of the electioneering year…”
2. The Importance of Political Parties having distinct Ideologies.
“…Our political parties since May 29, 1999 have no distinct ideologies with internal squabbles and cross carpeting that is not healthy to our democracy…”
3. Adhering to rules of political game. “…It is indeed worrisome that active politicians are not adhering to the rule of the game of politics…”
4. Unity (Politics devoid of ethnic or religious sentiments).
“…As we celebrate 18 years of democracy in our country, democratic governance has been polarised along divisive ethnic and religious lines…”
Did you know if Atiku had maintained Obi as “vice” he probably would win? Do you remember APC as a party is still a conglomerate of oppositions? It is ACN, CPC, Some members of PDP, APGA and other “mushroom” parties. In addition, Obi left to strengthen the LP, which further weakened the PDP.
If we must analyze former General IBB’s second point, “Adhering to rules of political game”, this might not necessarily mean a specific rule but any rule that binds a people together. The rotation of power is not constitutional but it can be considered a political rule for now, in my opinion, pending Nigeria overcoming ethnic importance in politics.
Do you remember Tambuwal stepping down and asking his supporters to support Atiku, which Wike insisted was against the “rules”? Atiku gained Tambuwal supporters but lost Wike supporters, which had strengthened him in the north but not the south.
Atiku refused to compromise by taking Wike as “Vice” or asking Iyorchia Ayu to resign based on Wike’s demand and G5 who mainly were Southerners. That further increased sympathy for Wike and we later saw a strong G5 which felt they had less stake in Atiku’s project. On the other hand, Tinubu calculated the best compromise to help him get significant acceptance in the north was a Muslim-Muslim ticket, knowing that the south-west was less concerned about religion, Tinubu’s highest vote margin came from the south-west, his votes from the Northwest were almost neutralized by Atiku votes alone.
The votes of the North added to give him a win. We can go on and on analyzing the words of General IBB and a lot of wisdom will be extracted. General IBB is one of the most intelligent generals, a distinct pragmatist. Remember he was not ousted, he conducted the freest and fairest election as a way to leave power. When he realized his stay as a military leader has long stayed, he conducted an election as a proxy to hand over to another close ally whose stay in government could serve as a better protection than a democratic government which could be toppled by military men who might not be his ally.
Why all this IBB Story, the man that conducted the freest and fairest election can also best tell us how Nigerian democracy can thrive and how the opposition can win power.