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Tahir Garba Tsafe: APC, Mohammed Abacha and the imposition of candidates

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Tahir Garba Tsafe: APC, Mohammed Abacha and the imposition of candidates

by Tahir Garba Tsafe

With the three main opposition parties in Nigeria – ACN, CPC and ANPP – formally holding their conventions and adopting their new common identity as APC (All Progressives Congress), it is important to caution them against complacency.  Changing their names into APC is not enough unless they work hard and strategize on how to unseat the ruling PDP.

You cannot defeat incumbency factor by mere wishful thinking or the naïve assumption that the seeming dissatisfaction with the party in power at the centre is enough to remove it from power in 2015. Euphoria can sometimes be a dangerous state of mind because it breeds complacency, thereby making the victor overlook other factors that can weaken his hold if ignored.

One is particularly concerned about the attitude of the CPC national leadership to certain tenets of democracy. Freedom of choice is the soul of democracy and the party leaders must respect this principle. How would the CPC go into merger and remain reluctant to tackle issues of disunity that led to the debacle it suffered during the 2011 general elections? The imposition and substitution of candidates by the party leadership was the beginning of the crisis of disunity currently rocking the CPC. The party leadership has not officially discarded the repugnant, unjust and unpopular policy of imposing candidates after fairly conducted primaries.

As public relations experts always remind us, “ignorance puts people into trouble, arrogance keeps them there.” The  imposition of candidates was the root of the crisis facing the CPC chapters across the country and, despite the appointment of the so-called care taker committees, the party leaders have refused to listen to reason and realise the inherent dangers of imposing candidates.  This policy is inconsistent with democratic culture. Freedom of choice is the heart of democracy and, once you cut it off, democracy dies!

Gen. Buhari’s integrity is the source of his political strength. That is not enough, however, if he pretends to look the other way while the party bureaucrats continue the policy of removing duly elected popular candidates and replacing them with their own anointed candidates, whether the voters elected them or not.

Kano State was a good example where the CPC bureaucrats mismanaged the party’s enormous goodwill. At the party’s gubernatorial primaries, Mohammed Abacha decisively defeated his main rival, Col. Lawal Ja’afaru Isa by wining 144,000 votes. Yet, to the shock of many CPC admirers or loyalists, the party leadership illegally and arrogantly imposed their preferred candidate who got mere 78,000 votes! As a result, the voters revolted and voted with their feet.

In fact, most political analysts believed that CPC would have won the governorship and House of Assembly elections in Kano, Katsina and Bauchi states but lost them because of that miscalculation. Unfortunately, the party leadership blew that chance due to their undemocratic tendencies and arrogance. Their approach to politics is old-fashioned. They forgot that regimentation has no place in democratic culture. Consensus works better than command in a democratic system. The party bureaucrats are running the CPC like the Chinese Communist Party.

Detachment from reality and myopic idealism appear to be the fundamental weaknesses affecting the leadership style of the party bureaucrats. Wise men learn from the mistakes of others and correct their own. Sadly, the self-righteous posturing of the party bureaucrats is making it harder to achieve the objectives of reconciling and re-uniting aggrieved members and supporters who felt unjustly treated by the policy of imposing candidates. General Buhari should not look the other way while these party bureaucrats appear set to take the CPC back to the same policy of imposing candidates.

As a perceived icon of integrity, General Buhari should not be indifferent to the fundamental destruction of basic democratic principles such as the freedom of choice in his own party. These party bureaucrats are not popularly elected and, in fact, cannot win any election in their own right. They should not, therefore, be allowed to continue the policy of imposing candidates on the voters.

In the immortal words of George Washington, one of America’s founding fathers, “no man is good enough to govern another without their consent.” From whatever point of view you look at it, nobody can justly and convincingly reconcile the imposition of candidates with democratic principles. Justice to the voters means their right to elect candidates of their choice.

The CPC leaders should be realistic to abandon the policy of imposing candidates once and for all. It is dangerous to continue this unpopular policy and expect the party not to witness another division and revolt in 2015. Disunity is an enemy of progress and, therefore, the CPC national leaders should reach out to grassroots politicians like Mohammed Abacha in order to heal the division and bitterness caused by the policy of imposing or substituting candidates. The party cannot afford to blunder twice.

– This Best Outside Opinion was written by Tahir Garba Tsafe, a member of the CPC

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