For so long, the opposition wallowed in moral incoherence. After announcing repentance, it failed to change its ways and reinvent itself. The PDP spent seven years masquerading as the opposition, making excuses for corruption and slamming the ruling party for playing holier-than-thou. In confessing the endemicity of sinfulness, the PDP failed to inspire any except the most cynical and bigoted.
It was, in a sense, inevitable. An opposition championed by Wike and Atiku cannot muster self-righteousness. So the PDP lazed around, drawing moral equivalences, and urging the electorate to punish hypocrisy. The morally flabby opposition felt comfortable waiting for the electorate to divorce the hypocritical ruling party. The opposition couldn’t adumbrate the future the people dreamt of.
An authentic opposition party must present itself as an alluring electable alternative. It must project itself as morally appealing. It must strive to claim and occupy the moral high ground. If an opposition fails to distinguish itself from the ruling party, it blurs boundaries and denies the electorate clarity and choice. An authentic opposition must have its distinguishing messages in 3D, clear and relatable. The electorate can be wowed with conspiracy theories and hyperbolisms, but an opposition party worth its salt should know that the scramble for hearts and minds must employ superior moral reasons.
In 2015, the APC used Buhari. It presented a vision of Change, a departure from disorder, indolence and corruption. It reminded the electorate of Buhari’s uprightness and the 1984 wars. It made the public long and hope. In 2015, the APC dissociated itself from the politics of brigandage and prebandalism of the PDP. It promised a new country. In 2015, the APC made the ruling party struggle and drown with the yoke of sinfulness.
For seven years since 2015, the PDP laboured for a vision and, failing, found into the tabloidization of sensitive national issues. When it wasn’t working hard to pitch one section against the other, it stoked religious fires. At some point in its nihilism, it appeared the opposition didn’t mind the country going up in flames or smashing to smithereens. So desperate and shallow was the opposition that its topical message became Nobody-holy-pass.
But the emergence of Obi has rekindled hopes of an effective opposition. Obi has a moral message. His vision of a productive and thrifty Nigeria resonates with the people. His movement has started walking the talk by embracing volunteerism rather than the prevalent ‘agberoism’. Obi has only been at the helm of the Labour Party for only a few weeks, but the party has become the party that claims moral superiority. The ruling party now plays catch up. Rather than dismiss Obi and the Labour party as filthy and corrupt, as it did to the PDP, the ruling party has only struggled to label Obi and the Labour party as Pharisaical. Rhetorically, Obi and the labour party are where a serious opposition should be. The opposition should always be the party wearing long white robes and pointing at thieves and rogues. But an opposition led by a bunch of Barrabasses can’t do this.
After claiming the moral high ground, the emerging opposition must now develop and present to Nigerians a three-dimensional picture of that Nigeria the ordinary man dreams and yearns for. A morally enchanting portrait painted in its unique colours of NO-SHISHISM would have originality. So rather than mouth tired slogans of the older politicians, this opposition must enumerate symbolic and substantive changes it would introduce into the polity. A new name for the country should be considered.
While redefining and working out its moral superiority, the opposition must remain clothed with sanctimony. It is not that unscrupulous. And that is why that argument and slogan, ‘Obi is better’ should be changed. It’s tame. The slogan should be ‘Obi is different’. While Obi acts out humility, his supporters must continue to ascribe sainthood to him. Though his past may be filled with the same foibles found in many other politicians, Obi’s supporters must find the courage to define Obi in terms of his promise. They must say, “Obi’s is now clearly different; in the past, he was only better.” Messianism always helps. Having embraced the picture of Nigeria conceived in the hearts of ordinary Nigerians, the emergent opposition must begin evangelizing imminent new dawn. And fortunately for it, as with Buhari in 2015, the people can glimpse bits and pieces of their dream in Obi’s simplicity and apparent self-righteousness.
Power corrupts and sullies. In Nigeria, politicians are unknowable. And more so when they are in power. Obi’s righteousness can only be tested when he becomes president. If it proves deep and becomes actual righteousness, then his party won’t be like the typical luxury bus patent medicine dealer that uses prayers to sell fake drugs. Since the Igbo say the taste of the faeces can be deduced from the pungency of the heralding fart, Obi can do a bit more than mere posturing. The authentic opposition often possesses visible good faith. A taste of the pudding in how they manage the smaller offices they occupy around the country.
In 2015, the APC used Fashola. So it didn’t look like a roadside patent medicine dealer touting a fake drug that could cure every ailment in the world when it preached Change from the rooftops. Obi and company are not in government anywhere. But they have a party. They must use their party affairs to preach, not in words but deed.
However, they must remember that while struggling to match words with actions, they must maintain their occupation of the moral high ground. Because, in truth, sanctimony can signify the presence of an honourable aspiration, the beginning of righteousness.