31 January 2013

Nigeria: The Risks of Idealistic Naivety


Leaders of Nigeria's main opposition parties, the CPC and ACN, recently set up a committee, led by Chief Tom Ikimi, to work out the modalities for a successful merger to send the PDP administration packing in 2015. That was good news to any Nigerian passionate about change. One problem, however, is the insincerity of the opposition leaders to deal effectively with the challenges of internal crises.

In particular, the CPC appears at greater risk of division than ACN. The CPC doesn't even have state and local government structures to truly be called a national opposition party. For that reason, the CPC should work harder to improve its political fortunes in 2015 and such efforts must start from within.

Sadly, however, the CPC national leaders are still playing the ostrich, pretending that all is well, when it isn't. Reconciliation efforts are still going nowhere because of the obstinate posture of a clique within the CPC leadership to continue with the undemocratic policy of imposing candidates on the people. Abraham Lincoln, one of America's founding fathers, said that the will of the people is superior to a standing army. Indeed, nothing can be further from the truth.

How would the CPC therefore, regain the initial momentum of massive goodwill when it was formed in 2010? That goodwill went up in smoke because of the policy of imposing or substituting candidates. Yet, surprisingly, the national leaders of the party are still pretending that things are on course when they refused to address the fundamental issue that led to the shrinkage of goodwill, which the party suffered during the 2011 general elections, especially the governorship and House of Assembly elections.

Isn't it curious that the CPC does not have a formidable state it controls in the north, except Nassarawa, which it won by sheer fluke? Even in the North-West, where it could have done better, the party's goodwill was naively mismanaged by the idealists and ideologues that are manipulating the trust of General Muhammadu Buhari.

The exit of Chief Mike Ahamba, General Buhari's genuinely loyal ally and legal representative, was the turning point of the crisis the CPC was needlessly dragged into by a clique within the national leadership of the party, who believe that their decision is superior to the will of the people.

Can any sincere reconciliation take place when the party leaders decide to isolate formidably popular politicians that added value to the fortunes of the party in major political strongholds like Kano State? No CPC politician can contest or dispute the entrenched popularity that Mohammed Abacha still enjoys in Kano State. Instead of reaching out to this young and enormously popular politician, the caretaker committee sent to Kano State by the national headquarters of the party has only come to make a bad situation worse.

The whole idea of isolating and antagonizing Mohammed Abacha and his swarm of supporters is dangerously unwise. In fact, the most dangerous thing in life is to repeat grave errors that led to unpleasant political consequences. The CPC leaders can only go to the bargaining table on the position of strength. In 2011, the ACN had greater advantages over the CPC because the party established structures of its own. As a result, it was not ready to lose its identity to a party that doesn't control state and local government structures.

Men that cannot deliver even their wards should not hold the CPC at their mercy. Unfortunately however, that seems to be the reality. These are the men replacing and imposing candidates at will in order to put their own blue-eyed boys on the tickets whether they were voted at the primaries or not. The former Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Dahiru Musdapha warned judges across the country never to replace the will of the people with technicality.

A Federal High Court judge, delivering a judgment on a suit filed by Mohammed Abacha after his illegal replacement and the imposition of the man he defeated at the primaries, noted that the so-called party "prerogative" or "supremacy" cannot and should not replace the will of the people. The Judge also noted that the imposition of candidates defeats the spirit and letter of the provisions of the Electoral Act of 2010.

Curiously, another Judge, in a different court, supported the party's "prerogative" and "supremacy" against the will of the people. If the will of the voters is not sacrosanct, then why must the party leaders conduct primaries in the first place? Of course, the party leaders had their way but the CPC lost its massive initial goodwill during the 2011 governorship and House of Assembly elections.

If the CPC hopes to regain its momentum, the entire national leadership of the party must be dissolved and replaced with politicians that connect with the ordinary people. Text book politicians who cannot deliver any votes will take the party nowhere in 2015. In the words of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, if you lose, you should not lose the lesson. Are the CPC leaders listening?

- Rano, a democracy activist, lives at No 73, Yahaya Road Kaduna

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