Dear Segun, I read with interest your two-part back-page article on “The Atiku Abubakar Formula". I also read with deep interest your earlier article on “The Lessons from the Zambian Election” in which you drew attention to your recent Seminar Research Paper at Harvard University. I have accessed the Harvard paper and also read it with considerable interest.
You are very right to invite more public discourses on the use and misuse of the country’s revenue either derived from the sale of crude oil and gas or internally generated from the corporate and personal income tax regimes. I am aware of the well thought-out and articulated campaign views of Turaki Atiku Abubakar on the matter which was greatly assisted by Professor Chukwuma Soludo, former CBN Governor. It is a fundamental approach to the use of public funds the in-house debate of which we unfortunately had to abandon because of Turaki’s loss at the PDP presidential primaries. Being away from the country, you may not have been aware that I too got involved with the Atiku Abubakar Campaign Organisation from the “Northern G4 Presidential Aspirants” following the collapse of the individual project of the four aspirants and their coalescence into the Atiku project.
If the PDP primaries had been otherwise, the Atiku Campaign Organisation would have gone into real details of how to utilise this country’s revenue for productive purposes rather than the prevailing practice of sharing and consuming, but the rest with the Atiku project is now history; and hence, as an aside, we should all keep date and interest in the current maneouvres by the Finance Minister, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala in re-ordering recurrent capital expenditure profile of the country’s budget even in the context of agitations for a proper fiscal federalism.
However, I am presently interested more in your article about the predicament of the opposition in the trajectory of democracy in Africa. Your Harvard research paper is well done, but it is only drawing attention to the necessity of opposition parties in each country to get their acts together, unite even when they are disunited; so as to mount serious challenge to the party in government or to the “African Bigman democracy”. This in your view is the way to displace power incumbents.
I have myself thought about the subject matter, and in May last year I had the opportunity to deliver a policy lecture at the Centre for Presidential Studies at the Igbinedion University, Okada under the title “The Search for Credible Political Opposition in Nigeria”. I hold the fundamental difference of position to the conclusion of your Harvard research. For me, democracy is a limitlessly developmental project in Africa, and, therefore, the opposition simply has to grow and develop and not merely strategise an opportunistic arrangement to defeat the African Bigman phenomenon.
The opposition is a fundamental aspect of democracy. Just as African countries never tire in forging development planning - these days under NEPAD – they should deliberately invest in democratic development. The incumbent Bigman or party in government has to grow and develop the opposition for the sake of sustenance of democracy. The dilemma of the power incumbents and the dialectics of the process in growing and developing the opposition should constitute the kernel of intellectual research and practical concerns. I thank you for always provoking intellectual thoughts in Nigerian journalism.
•Prof. Oyovbaire is a former Information Minister
• This piece was first published in THISDAY on 13th October 2011