CPC in a free fall

By Levi Obijiofor

Friday, 3 June 2011

The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is experiencing a free fall. Before the presidential election on 16 April 2011, the party looked like it would make history by overhauling the widespread support enjoyed by the People's Democratic Party (PDP). After the release of the results of the presidential election, it became obvious that the CPC could do no better than take the runner-up position. It was this shocking result, in particular the misleading impression by leaders of the CPC that their presidential candidate ÔÇô Muhammadu Buhari ÔÇô was denied victory in the election, that galvanised the party's supporters into violent demonstrations across the northern states.alt

Someone in the CPC leadership must have fed the gullible party supporters with exaggerated information to the effect that Buhari was the front runner in the election. Anything short of victory for Buhari, the supporters were informed, must be interpreted as electoral injustice and must be violently resisted. Well, the party supporters have demonstrated violently and spilled blood in the process. That's not how people in civilised societies express their feelings or lodge appeals in a disputed election. There are legal avenues set out for aggrieved politicians to rectify electoral injustices. In this particular situation, naive CPC supporters took the path of jungle justice to express their dissatisfaction with the presidential election outcome.

Despite the protestations, despite the gruesome murder of defenceless citizens and National Youth Service Corps members, despite extraordinary allegations by CPC leaders that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) conspired with the PDP to install Goodluck Jonathan in office, nothing much has changed since the release of the presidential election result. Jonathan has already been sworn in. However, if the CPC could construct impeccable evidence that Jonathan is sitting on a stolen mandate, the Election Petition Tribunal could still strip the man of his presidential title, regardless of the fact that he has been sworn in. If the tribunals could sack state governors from office, nothing precludes them from doing so to Jonathan. Before that could happen, the CPC would have to overwhelm the tribunal with unassailable evidence.

The CPC has already lodged an appeal at the Election Petition Tribunal. Now, the party leaders would have to back their allegations with evidence. They have to convince members of the tribunal beyond doubt that INEC conspired with the PDP to rig the election or that the PDP manipulated the election result without the knowledge of INEC. Either way, it is the responsibility of CPC leaders and lawyers to give the tribunal something to make their heads squirm. In a disputed election result such as this, evidence counts more than public screaming of injustice.

Ever since the release of the presidential election results, key leaders of the CPC have been making public statements (some of them uncultivated) about how the party was denied victory at the last moment. They said they would produce and deliver unimpeachable evidence to demonstrate to everyone that the presidential election which was widely regarded by national and foreign observers as relatively free and fair was indeed anything but free and fair. The presidential election result, they believe, fell far short of public perceptions. In their view, the election was marred by extensive malpractices.

These are interesting times. It's all too easy to make allegations. It will be much harder to sustain those allegations in the court of justice and in the court of public opinion. In an interview he granted to the Daily Sun (Tuesday, 24 May 2011), former governor of Anambra State Chukwuemeka Ezeife reviewed the allegations made by CPC chairperson Tony Momoh and ridiculed the arguments.

In response to the argument that the post-election violence in the northern states represented the people's reaction to a stolen mandate (a line that the CPC leaders have been pushing in defence of the violent demonstrations), Ezeife who clarified that he did not belong to any political party, said: "..., let me give you the mathematics of stolen mandate. How many governors are in CPC? Only one from Nasarawa. How many Senators are also CPC? How many in House of Reps and other positions? Then, how does Buhari think that he would become President with only one governor out of 36 states? How does he win by virtue of having his villagers vote for him?"

Ezeife continued: "CPC does not even qualify as a regional party because it did not cover the region enough and has no structure at all. Then, leave Northwest and go the Southeast, South-South and Middle Belt, ... So, nobody's mandate was stolen. Tony Momoh told the National Television that the INEC computers were programmed to deduct 40% from Buhari's votes. That is part of the mathematics of stolen mandate. Now, multiplying Buhari's vote by 1.4 to bring back the 40%, how many million did he have behind Goodluck Jonathan? So, there is no reason and justification for the post-election riot, except that people are unmasking themselves, letting us know what they truly were. Some people decided to go and incite people to shed innocent blood."

As if to lend credence to Ezeife's argument, the Vanguard reported on Monday (23 May 2011) that the Kaduna State wing of the CPC earlier this week said it had bailed more than 600 persons suspected to have been involved in the post-election violence. They were held in detention pending their trial in local courts. According to the report, the CPC said it took the decision to bail the suspects as a gesture of sympathy for the suspects and as an expression of solidarity. If the report is true, the CPC has exposed the sinister side of how it plays politics.

A political party that supports violence and those who engage in the brutal murder of human beings should not be registered to seek political office. CPC leaders in Kaduna have positioned themselves not as members of a political party but as members of an organisation that promotes and sympathises with perpetrators of violence. Surely, the act of bailing the suspects has depicted the CPC as an accessary after the fact, in regard to the cold-blooded murders that took place in the northern states following the release of the presidential election results. What that action implies, in essence, is that the CPC is in the same league with those who committed violent crimes after the presidential election.

Is the CPC an outlawed organisation that parades itself as a political party? The party should be helping security officials to apprehend those who committed grisly murders in the northern states, not to offer them a blanket of sympathy. It is not the responsibility of the party to protect or sympathise with supporters who violate the laws of the nation. The CPC must be careful not to be seen to be rewarding those who kill and maim ordinary Nigerians. A clear line of distinction must be drawn between lawful supporters of a political party and unlawful actions committed by a band of criminals operating as party supporters.

The argument made by Ahmadu Yaro, the CPC chairperson in Kaduna State, for the bailing of the criminals held in detention for the post-election violence, is reckless, unconscionable, illogical and imprudent. Yaro told the Vanguard reporter: "Most of those arrested shortly after the post election violence were mostly CPC members but their arrest was done in error while the allegation against them is false and baseless." He also said: "The violence did not start from the CPC, it started as a result of people's anger with the leadership of the country. The people were angry because of government's failure to give them what they want. So they decided to protest to show the government that they are doing badly."

It is people like Ahmadu Yaro who believe that politics without bloodshed is not genuine politics. It is also people like him who lack basic understandings of the role of political parties in the growth of democracy and the achievement of socioeconomic development. Yaro is an embarrassment to civil society. He should not be entrusted with the responsibility of leading the state branch of the CPC.


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