Shadow Government: For Grimace Or Gain?

January 11, 2017 OPINION/NEWS

Joseph Penney/Reuters



Ebi Robert


No Government can be long secure without a formidable Opposition” – Benjamin Disraeli (1804 – 1881) Former British Prime Minister.



Except for the Nigerian National Democratic Party (NNDP) formed on 24 June 1923 by Herbert Macaulay,[1] that was a rival of itself, following the introduction of the elective principle, other created political parties has been oppositions of themselves and other parties.

Sure, a political party is an opposition of itself. Over the years, after 1923, Nigeria grew to be a nation with a multi-party structure following the formation of many political parties in Nigeria (Adeniran 2015).

Records have it that there are over forty political parties in Nigeria.[2] But this could only be seen on theory, for in actual practice, Nigeria had a one party system dominated by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). It was almost a culture in Nigeria that the moment an aspirant becomes the flag bearer of PDP, he/she was sure of winning the election. However, with the emergence of the All Progressive Congress, after the fall out of some PDP members and the eventual alliance of the PDP members with members of other political parties such as Action congress of Nigeria (ACN), All progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP) etc, Nigeria for the first time had a sitting president removed from office, having an opposition party holding power.

This marked the beginning of the battle for political supremacy in which one can be settled to say, at least, a two party structure operates in practice in Nigeria, not in theory though. This came as a saluted enhancement, because like I stated elsewhere, political party is an arm, functional for checks and balances[3] (CAB). Thus, beyond it being an arm of alternativeness, it is a watchdog for democratic Excellencies. England’s shadow cabinet of the Westminster system, otherwise known as her majesty’s loyal opposition is a good example of checks and balances.[4] But in this wise I speak also of Criticize and Balance, which I shall not particularly speak of. The CAB-function of political parties is intended to check government’s excesses and proffer encyclopedic ideas; it also appeals to the conscience of the citizenry for a possible political overthrow, that is to say, electoral replacement via periodic elections.[5]

This is where the question is asked: Can there be at least a kind of shadow cabinet, or something of such that can be an opposition- watchdog not strictly on fault finding, that is to say, appeal to conscience? I have asked this question severally in my sub-conscious but how realistic is it in this part of the world is another. This is because in Nigeria opposition has always been seen as creation of political distractions. Well, the ruling party is free from blame if they see it so; Nigeria political system has been synonymous with the “Do or Die-Disorder”. Then again, can there be such a watchdog as asked above, in theory and in a little practice?





In my mind’s eye, I have envisaged a type of watchdog different from other kinds of opposition which I call Advisory- oposición, which is ‘Advisory opposition’. This watchdog is basically of two kinds, one which positivism can buy and another which it may not.

Videlicet: Advisory-oposición perfect (ADOP) and Advisory-oposición imperfect (ADOI). The first speaks of a kind of opposition which is an opposition at election and advisory in administration without fault finding, that is to say, malicious criticism which is not of criticize and balance, without laying emphasis on the ruling party’s failure at another time of election, but building upon referenced strength.[7] In this, Advisory-oposición, opposes any party whether ruling or not at the time of election as an opposition by means of antagonism, but an advisory after election.

Sure, some of the advices of Advisory-oposición perfect may be accepted and others not. The fault finding of this kind is not in any way malicious, but a builder upon good ideas; this explains the no-case emphasis of the ruling party’s weakness on election by means of outright mentioning of the party’s name, or any tactics of such but a sound preaching of manifestoes with the power of convincing, which here is tagged “Referenced strength”.

Advisory-oposición imperfect speaks of a kind which is an opposition during election and advisory in administration without fault finding, that is to say malicious criticism but laying emphasis on the party’s fault during election. Here, constructive criticism continues after administration. Whereas, the former does not criticize after administration, the criticism of the first ends in administration. It employs fault finding yet different from the outlook of civilized opposition because its faultfinding is not in any way malicious, hence it projects not its party’s name, at least during governance. While the former (ADOP) would be very difficult to come by, the latter may be finally getting into Nigeria politics, courtesy, Senator Ben Murray Bruce.





The common-sense tips showcased by the Lagos born senator have been making the round ever since he was elected to represent the Bayelsa East Constituency of Bayelsa State. Common Sense has been defined as Good Judgment: Sound Practical Judgment derived from experience rather than study.[8] The Merriam Webster Dictionary and Thesaurus also defined it as a Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts sense.[9] It thus means that common sense is sound judgment one ought to know by virtue of experience and simple analysis. It is not stressed for but obvious. Perhaps this experience must be one that comes around. So far, The Senator has successfully given a series of senses raging from senses such as: Nigeria’s biggest problem, Buy Naira to grow the Naira, Wailing on the Economy, when Election becomes an Execution, etc.[10]  Taking a thorough look at the sense series, one would only come to the conclusion that the deep research done on each sense series and the logic in each analyzing only proves that Bruce’s Common Sense is not common. They are not just sound verdicts to come by.

Many believe the senator has a political ambition he would like to accomplish; hence the common sense sermon has always been a bit to achieve it. This mentality is not a strange belief, because hardly will any Nigerian believe and trust free services of genuineness, No, not from the opposition. Other argues that his senatorial work lies outside the common sense scope and as such he should only border himself with the task of the house by speaking war on bills and Acts. Few argue that his charity has not been well felt at home, and that he should make that happen for his common sense to indeed make sense. One or two argue that being a Senator from the same state with the former president; he speaks to cover the failures of his brother.

But whether, he launches an ambition of not, which is not known by this writer, the bottom line is that the Bayelsa state Senator has done something different from what has been obtainable in the Nigerian political system of opposition. This then calls for a questioning of the quote of Kenneth Clarke (1940 – ), which is: “The public are usually more sensible than politicians or the press”. The Bruce’s common sense series carry a whole lot of wisdom packed ideas ready to help the ruling government to develop from its flaws to a better position, and this is typical of an Advisory-oposición imperfect, owing to the fact that it is coming from an opposition senator.

Most recently, the Senator in a New Year Message has openly declared his intention to help the government with ideas that would help the ruling government succeed. This is named the ‘Shadow Government’ which will give sound opinions if the government is willing to accept, that will help the nation go forward.[11] But how good is the concept of the Shadow government (Advisory-oposición imperfect)? Does it call for a grimace or a gain? Remember, Edward Wilmot Blyden (1832 – 1912) highlighted as follows: “A man without common sense, without tact, as a mechanic or agriculturist or trader, can do far less harm to the public than the man without common sense who has had the opportunity of becoming, and has had the reputation of being, a scholar”.

There should be no sound dissatisfaction for the shadow government since the idea is not packed with demerits, but many merits which shall be treated as trinity, and some consequence which shall be treated likewise.





  • CHECK AND BALANCES: It was stated above that a political party is an organ for checks and balances. This has been my assertion, although contrary to Chris Weigant’s view, and perhaps others who hold same view. This political concept is not achieved only by the three arms of government. There are other bodies outside the purview of governance that help to achieve this. In contradicting Sarah Palin’s statement of the need for Saxy Chambliss’ presence in Congress as opposition to achieve checks and balances, Weigant argues that Checks and balances are a different thing from the design given it on party’s light.[12] According to him, checks and balances refer to the struggle for power between the three branches of government. He further argues that some powers are given without a check, making reference to presidential pardon which is the prerogative of mercy in the Nigerian Constitution, and other powers checked.[13] In history, some powers have been shifted from one arm to another. Inter Alia, he states and I quote: “Of course, getting 60 seats in the Senate would change the dynamic of one single branch, but that really has nothing to do with constitutional checks and balances…checks and balances do not equate to the relative balance of power between political parties…”[14] Although Weigant’s point sounds convincing because, strictly speaking, hardly does any constitution give power to the opposition to abrogate government ideas by acting a ‘NO”, thus, his argument of it, not constitutional. Nonetheless, logic may say otherwise, even though unconstitutional, and on notice must it be recorded: “that an act is unconstitutional does not make it illegal. Unconstitutional also means the constitution has not spoken about it.” Shall we use a 52/49 score? Let’s say the parliament needs 2/3 majority for a policy. Here 2/3 of 100 should be 66.6, or thereabout. Can that policy be implemented if the opposition disagrees? Is the power of the legislature not checked by itself? Should this be an exception to the general rule of CAB-function being distributed among the branches? Perhaps we can agree that checks can be achieved within a branch. One Fred Gohlke (2016) once argued in Quora: The system of Checks and Balances provided by our constitution is defeated when one party gets control of multiple branches of the government or both houses of congress…” This simply means that government may possibly not be checked sufficiently if a party dominates in the branches with a little exception to the Judicature. Although it can be argued that party members can contradict their own policies, fact is, the tendency is higher on the opposition. More often than not, government implements their party manifesto. Thus, opposition is an instrumentality for a valuable check and balance, criticize and balance.

  • AVAILABILITY OF SOUND OPINIONS: There is no doubt that the number one prayer of most opposition is that the policies of the ruling party should fail. Randolph Churchill(1849 – 1895) once said: “The duty of an opposition is to oppose”. There is also no doubt that in other for political parties to overthrow other parties, they must in most cases employ the services of men who have the know-well to make things happen. These men with sound ideas die with their ideas in their own party, because they do not want to share it with the ruling party. The society may not even benefit from it, in so far as the opposing never gets into power. But with the Shadow government, these ideas become available to the ruling party who will in turn implement them for the betterment of society. After all, government should be a servant to humanity.

  • MINIMIZED PARTY FRICTION: Party friction is a kind of conflict which though looks intelligent, has amounted to distrust, nonsensical cross-carpeting and youth restiveness. Advisory-oposición imperfect or shadow government would help improve the relationship between the political parties hence reducing party friction which will lead to peace. After all, all members of political parties are a country’s country-men.



Nevertheless, despite the obvious merits, there happens to be three major challenges Advisory-oposición imperfect would face. Namely:


  • Political pride – Every political party has a pride. It is pretty simple. What shall be our fate in the face of the community having considered a policy cooked in the kitchen of an opposition chef? This is the question asked. Only in extreme cases is this question ignored.

  • Opposition upper-hand – The ruling government is mindful of the fact that when the ruling government implements that opinion of the opposition, stricto sensu, it gives upper hand to the opposition which will not be advantageous on the part of the ruling government.

  • Political distrust- The general notion of opposition working hard to bring down the ruling government clouds the faculties of ruling government. Consequently, every opinion from the shadow government, whether good or bad is subject to the fire of trust. This is a big snare.





The foregoing are snares that can possibly threaten the existence of the shadow government. Thus one is tempted to think that a shadow government may not be realized. This thought would only be misleading owing to the singular fact that politicians do not serve themselves. The interest of the society supersedes that of a political party. Thus, if the above discussed merits are anything to go by, Advisory oposición is a gain and not a grimace. But I speak particularly of kind, imperfect.

Nothing indicates the soundness of a man’s judgment so much as knowing how to choose between two disadvantages – Cardinal de Retz (1613 – 1679).






[1] Olayinka Badmus Macaulay, born November 14, 1864, formed the Nigerian National Democratic party (NNDP) in 1923, following the introduction of the Electoral principle via the 1922 Sir. Hugh Clifford Constitution. Hebert Macaulay is considered the father of Nationalism in Nigeria.

[2] Available at <> Last accessed 5, January, 2017. The report was given by Daily Post on October 22, 2016.

[3] Hereinafter, CAB-Function.

[4] Mary Durkin; Oonagh Gay: “Her Majesty’s Position” (SN/PC/3910) Library of the House of Commons, UK Parliament.

[5] This is a vital feature that determines legitimacy.

[6]  See The Theory of Advisory-oposición by Ebi Robert. (Unpublished)

[7] By Reference Strength, I mean speaking of good ideas upon good manifesto. This is the strength of a good party.

[8] Encarta Encyclopedia 2009.

[9] 1726.

[10] Meet the Senator and his Sense Talks on

[11] Watch the Live stream video on <> Last accessed 6 January 2017.

[12] Chris Weigant: “Political Parties are not Checks and Balances” (HUFFPOST) available at <>  Last accessed 5 January, 2017.

[13] Ibid

[14] Emphasis mine.







Ebi Robert

Ebinabo Robert Fortunee, nom de plume, Ebi Robert, (aka: The Lord of Ink), a graduate of Law (LLB) from the Niger Delta University, was born February 6, 1990. He hails from Egweama (paternal) and Obiata in Nembe (maternal), in Bayelsa state of Nigeria. He is a playwright, poet, essayist and advocate. He writes legal, political and literal articles.

He has written many poems too, some of which have been published in both national and international anthologies and magazines such as: Love, a four letter word, (USA- Creative Talents Unleashed– 2014) edited by Raja William, “Emanation, Foray into Forever,” (USA- International Authors) edited by Prof Carter Kaplan, et al, “Epistles of Lies,” (Nigeria) edited by Adebayo Agarau Adeyemi ,“Tribute to Mandela,” (India) edited by Prof Mitiu Olawuyi et al, Randomly Accessed Poetics (USA- Pen Head Press – 2014) edited by Sarah Gawricki et al, Epitaph (USA) edited by Kriti Sengpta and Williams Peters, Emanation, 2+2 equals 5 (USA—International Authors) edited by Prof Cater Kaplan et al, Muse for World Peace 1 ( India)  edited by Prof Mitiu Olawuyi (JUNGLE POET), Muse for World peace 2 ( India)  edited by Prof Mitiu Olawuyi (JUNGLE POET) to mention a few. The writer was Finalist, Bayelsa State Poetry and Essay Competition, 2007, Winner, E.K Okorodas poetry competition, 2015 and First runner up, Chrysolite Bi Monthly Poetry contest, 2016.

He is the author of “AN EMPTY KINGDOM”, and current acting Director of Peace December, Nigeria, Bayelsa State Chapter. The writer can be reached at:


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