Consumers get many benefits when businesses have to compete for market share. The pizza market has become so competitive in Lagos that Pizza Hut gave out free pizzas during its Ikoyi store's opening. Consumers weren't enjoying free pizzas or getting a 'buy one get one free' deal when Debonairs didn't have to compete with anyone. But how things change.
Similarly, when ten market stalls are selling similar tomatoes, consumers gain as market sellers try to outdo each other both in price and quality of tomatoes.
Lack of competition can allow businesses to charge higher prices and provide low-quality goods and services. And one service that is currently of low standard in Nigeria is government policy.
Can we make our politics more competitive to improve government policy and give consumers a better life?
In politics, opposition parties keep the ruling party in check. The opposition party is there to offer free pizza to the population to acquire votes. This, in turn, forces the ruling party to do a much better job to stay in power (assuming they can't just rig).
For 16 democratic years, Nigerian governments ruled without strong opposition. It wasn't mathematically possible for any of the individual parties such as Action Congress (AC) or All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to unseat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). With this lack of competition and many other factors, Nigerians paid the price and received poor quality governance.
The coalition of the All Progressive Congress (APC) was the strongest opposition in Nigeria's democratic history. It took the PDP by surprise, and the competition was fierce. At the peak of APC's strength, Goodluck Jonathan attempted to provide a better life for citizens and surprisingly tried to eradicate Boko Haram. This was after years of downplaying terrorist group.
So what happened to Nigeria's political competition when APC won?
It wasn't great. Many have forgotten the state of PDP post-2015 elections. They had lost control for the first time, and they had no sense of direction. The party had many factions, and even up until 2017, the issues were not resolved as Ali Modu Sheriff 'replaced' Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi as the PDP Chairman. The Supreme Court then sacked Sheriff for Makarfi. In the end, Uche Secondus led PDP to the elections.
APC did not need to fight for our votes during its first term. Why else would the Governor of Oyo state, Abiola Ajimobi, tell students that there was nothing strange in a university being closed for eight months and insist they had no right to protest? As far as he was concerned, his power, including senatorial ambitions were certain - there was no competition. Imagine such behaviour from a market seller who needs to sell you her tomatoes before her neighbouring seller.
Ajimobi lost his senatorial bid in the end. After their 2015-2017 struggles, PDP pushed for a strong comeback during election season and created competition again. And how did APC respond? APC was accused of finally paying salaries and embarking on a nationwide social policy program - TraderMoni - to buy votes. And in typical election mode fashion, Buhari visited all 36 states.
Election Season Competition
It was a little too late for PDP. The result was a defeat worse than in 2015. The Nigerian population was not convinced that Atiku and PDP could offer anything better. They didn't gain trust or give Nigerians a good idea of their alternatives in the years before the election.
Two things happen that lead to ruling parties doing a better job or more popular policies in election season. Firstly, citizens decide their political fate and secondly, opposition parties ramp up the competition. If there is no competition - and a win is already guaranteed - you don't get good policies in election season.
In theory, the way to always maintain good policies is to have that election type competition all year round.
The British political system is the best example of this. One of the ways in which election competition manifests itself is via presidential debates - Nigeria just about got there last year. However, in the UK, the Prime Minister and the Leader of the Opposition debate in the House of Parliament every week. The Prime Minister answers Member of Parliament's (MPs) questions every Wednesday.
The public gets to see opposition MPs question the government's policy decisions, thereby giving the population a clear sense of what their other option is when elections come up. More importantly, the government has no choice but to carry out due diligence in policymaking. You either carry out informed and successful policies, or you face political embarrassment week after week, which can lead to losing power when elections arrive.
This competition is further emphasised with other British structures such as a shadow cabinet. In Nigeria's case, this would mean the opposition party having its own ministers who shadow the actual ministers in the government. For example, we would have a known PDP finance minister with no real powers but will argue against the current APC minister and always outline to the public what his or her alternative policy would be. Constant competition.
While the UK and Nigeria have different political systems, having more competition at all times would go a long way in improving the quality of government policies. It is not enough to have your favorite party in power. It is in our best interest to have a strong opposition party; one that does more than 'reporting' to Donald Trump and The UK embassy on Twitter.
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