This has understandably generated intense interest among many Nigerians. There appears to be a general consensus that the new party’s registration is a positive step towards deepening Nigeria’s democracy.
For long, the opposition has mostly been lame and fragmented, at least at the national level enabling the ruling party to go into any presidential election almost certain of victory. With the registration of APC, a credible alternative to the ruling party has thus been formed. This is good for the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) too, because it would ginger it to put its act together. It is also good for leadership recruitment in the country as competition will force both parties to present qualified and viable candidates for elective offices. In this sense, the registration of APC not only sets the tone for an interesting contest in 2015 but will also more likely affect the contours of leadership recruitment in the country.
The key drivers of the processes of registering the party deserve praise for their tenacity and perseverance. Not many people gave the merging political parties that gave rise to APC any chance of success – especially given the strong personalities that were involved in the negotiations, the political history of the country where perennial talks of the opposition parties uniting to present a formidable electoral force had always come to naught and, of course, the suspected spoiler roles of agents of the ruling PDP. APC’s registration should trigger a process of consolidation among the numerous ‘briefcase’ parties that dot the country’s political space.
The fact that it is now in INEC’s register should not be considered ‘mission accomplished’ for the leadership of the new party. There are probably more challenges ahead than the new party faced during the processes and intrigues that surrounded its application for registration. APC must, for instance, not underestimate the challenges of building a membership that will be loyal to it rather than to the leadership of the parties that fused to form. It should equally not assume that the public fatigue or disenchantment with the ruling PDP or even the good press now enjoys will automatically translate into electoral victories for it. The new party for instance needs to produce a winning manifesto that will tap into the frustrations and desires of ordinary Nigerians, just as it also deliberately needs to set itself apart from some policies of the PDP that many may consider unpopular. It should work to ensure that internal democracy flourishes in its fold.
To translate these into electoral assets and victories, particularly with 2015 round the corner, the new party really needs to go on a charm offensive because despite the euphoria that greeted its registration, it is electorally disadvantaged. For instance, while the PDP has 23 governors, APC has 11. Similarly while the PDP has 75 senators, the APC has 30. The story is the same in the House of Representatives, where the PDP boasts 204 members compared to APC’s 135. In fact, the PDP appears stronger now than it was in 1999 when it won only 21 states. This means in essence that while it is possible to prevail over the PDP in future elections with proper planning and strategies, the new party must never underestimate the enormity of the challenges that this will entail.
Despite such challenges however, APC could be a turning point in the country’s political history, because with it, the perennial dreams of a viable opposition party has become realized. How it manages the challenges will determine how serious it should be taken as a credible opposition party and a reliable alternative ruling party in waiting.