opinionBy Aliyu Hamza Mashi
The emergence of All Progressives Congress (APC) which was recently formed by opposition parties to capture power from the ruling PDP, must have naturally elicited euphoria among supporters of the rival parties. On my part, however, I welcome the formation of APC with cautious or guarded optimism. While there is the desire for change in 2015, the questions we need to ask are: what is the extent of the commitment of the opposition leaders to democratic values and principle? Can they morally attack the PDP for lack of commitment to democratic principles while they themselves are tarred with the same brush? Are these opposition leaders morally in a better position to lecture us on democracy and justice when they have obvious chinks on their armour? Any politician or party that takes the moral high ground must demonstrate better standard of democratic practice.
As a CPC sympathizer, I am not too comfortable with the kind of complacency being displayed by the leaders of our party at a time there are serious internal challenges of unity. Can the party go into a merger as a weak partner? Can the contempt for voter sovereignty help the party rebuild itself and regain the momentum of enormous goodwill that initially greeted the formation of the CPC in 2010? How long can the party leaders continue to pretend that all is well when, in reality, there are serious internal problems?
One of the CPC leaders, AlhajiKanti Bello, recently dismissed the relevance of other parties, especially the ANPP in bringing the merger into being. He told the BBC Hausa Service that whether the ANPP joined or not, they had gone too far with the merger plan to give a thought to that issue. He was openly not even ready to recognize the relevance of ANPP, despite the fact the party controls three states - Zamfara, Yobe and Borno. Perhaps Kanti Bello forgot that CPC has only Nassarawa State , which it won by sheer accident and not because of any effective strategy or campaign. The way Kanti Bello arrogantly dismissed ANPP shocked many keen political observers who wondered how a leader could speak so tactlessly at a point the opposition needed to be formidably united.
Unfortunately, General Buhari is still surrounded by politicians that lack the gumption to appreciate the imperative of unity and voter sovereignty. Whenever these CPC leaders speak, they leave you with the impression as if the people need them more than they need the people. Such myth of indispensability has only added to the internal crisis of unity and lack of internal democracy.
Kanti Belo was once an ally of General Buhari but abandoned him to pitch his tent with the late President Umaru Yar' Adua when he became the presidential candidate of the PDP in 2007. He opportunistically joined the PDP and deserted Buhari. When he became a victim of the Katsina PDP intrigues and lost his senatorial seat to CPC, Bello returned to General Buhari to regain relevance. It is disturbing to see how politicians are using the General for private political advantage. General Buhari's greatest political strength is his tested integrity, a quality you cannot find among the noise makers around him.
My main worry, however, is that the opportunists around the General are largely responsible for the seemingly interminable internal crisis of unity currently rocking the CPC. This clique, which has become the real power behind the throne, is selflessly manipulating Buhari to endorse unjust policies that ultimately destroy internal unity. How can the General allow his name to be used to impose injustice on the voters? Once you take away the freedom of choice, democracy is clinically dead!
In the 2011 general elections, the CPC could have captured a reasonable number of states to become a formidable opposition party. It lost that opportunity because of the imposition and substitution of candidates, a policy that has no place in democratic practice. A clique within the party rammed this injustice down the throat of General Buhari. This clique grew too powerful to the extent that Buhari himself appears helpless to check their excesses, despite the obvious harm they have been causing the party.
Rather than blaming the PDP, the internal problems of the CPC are self-inflicted. Once party leaders abandon justice for the sake of selfish reasons, they automatically put the party at the risk of division and make it weaker. The ACN is today calling the shot as the leader of the opposition in Nigeria. It controls five states of the South West while CPC controls only Nassarawa, which it got by chance.
The imposition and substitution of candidates was responsible for weakening the CPC political control. Because the clique around Buhari has become too powerful, fellow party members had to watch helplessly as the party was rapidly alienated from the people, thanks to the unpopular policy of imposing candidates on the voters. Rejecting the voters' right to elect their leaders freely is the greatest danger to the unity of any party.
Opposition merger may appear a good development, but the biggest challenge is the ability of its leaders to respect the rights of the voters to elect whoever they want. The will of the people cannot and should not be replaced by the interest of any party oligarchy.
-Mashi, a democracy activist wrote from 56, Janet Akinrinade street, Jabi Abuja