By Chioma Gabriel, Deputy Editor
Dr Sule Hamman, political associate of former military Head of State, General Muhammadu Buhari and Deputy Chairman, Board of Trustees of Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in this encounter answers questions on the political alliance of 32 opposition political parties which includes his party, the CPC.
Dr Hamman says the alliance is meant to counter moves by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to remain in power either through the incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan or through the consensus conspiracy of General Ibrahim Babangida, General Gusau, Atiku Abubakar and Bukola Saraki.
How would the proposed alliance of CPC, ACN, ANPP and other political parties counter the consensus candidacy of PDP being championed by Mallam Adamu Ciroma?
Our own alliance is based clearly on programmes, principles and other things that are designed to effect positive changes in the entire democratic culture in the country in terms of the political process and competition within the electoral process. It is not the same thing with consensus candidacy of the PDP.
So, if Shekarau of ANPP or Nuhu Ribadu of ACN emerges , General Buhari would quit the race?
The process of creating an alliance within the national opposition as far as we in CPC are concerned is to create synergy and also develop a common candidate that would be promoted and driven by all the parties in alliance. This will be the basis of contesting election and countering power in the country.
When the Ciroma Committee embarked on the search for a Northern Consensus candidate, it clearly excludes presidential aspirants like Buhari, Ribadu, Shekarau. Do you think this alliance would counter it?
It is not the entire North that is talking about consensus. It is the Northern membership of the PDP that feels cheated by a Southern aspirant that is talking about consensus presidential candidate and that should not be taken as a Northern regional position.
Don’t you think that consensus is gone beyond PDP and has become a general position of the North?
I wouldn’t say t is a Northern affair. It is an issue of principle within the context of the political culture in Nigeria, concerning a particular political party that is seeking the confidence of Nigerians.
Would you say CPC is well prepared for the elections?
CPC is preparing for the elections just like other parties in the country are doing. We are preparing to conduct democratic congresses and primaries within our party to build a national executive of the party as well as candidates that would stand elections for the party. We are also organising a charter for an effective campaign structure at all levels which will drive our campaigns to support our candidates.
Of course, we have been speaking to people, groups and various civil society groups and political parties with a view to gaining support or our candidates and for the values that we are proposing and placing on the table for Nigerians to make up their minds. We are orgnising how to express the energies and resources of our membership in order to ensure that we have the minimum resources required to drive our campaigns successfully.
CPC is a new party and may not have the wide acceptability of parties like PDP, ACN, ANPP. Why is the party focusing its strength in the North only?
It is not true that it does not enjoy wide acceptability. It is enjoying acceptability and popularity more than any other party in Nigeria. It is the fastest growing party in sub-Saharan Africa. Secondly, it seems the way politics is being played in the Southern part of the country is quite different from the North. In the South, political support is usually based on ethnically organised groups, social and cultural groups and community-organised leadership and groups.
In the North, it is an open popular individual support that is freely expressed on the stage. So, obviously you observe the differences in terms of enthusiasm and in terms open demonstrable support. But I must tell you that we enjoy support in the South, both amongst the elites in the South and within the various political groups and civil society groups that we are engaged with today.
Now, if PDP gets its consensus Northern candidate in the person of Babangida, Saraki, Atiku or Gusau, who amongst the aspirants in the proposed alliance of CPC, ACN or ANPP from the North would stand him because there is so much hype about consensus.
Well, the hype about consensus does not concern us. People hear what they want to hear but definitely, consensus candidacy is not the only thing happening in the North. It is not the only thing coming from the North or from the political process in this country. The thing that is coming from the North or from the political process in this country is that there are political parties that are in contention for election and gearing to take over power and such parties are represented by strong candidates as we have in our party the CPC, in the person of General Buhari and PDP is having a number of possibilities. That is all we know.
Why is CPC not very popular in the South-East, South-South or South-West?
In the South-East, we have our structures there and of course, we are talking to many people and political parties. We are speaking to difference leaders and groups in the South East and you know there is this difficult challenge in the South-East. The political culture of the Igbos has transformed into something that is very difficult to predict in the last ten-twenty years. It is probably the most unstable political situation in the country today.
But you have read Ohanaeze Ndi Igbo saying they are supporting the Jonathan candidacy?
We have heard that. We have also read that. We also read the responses of prominent Igbo people opposing that decision and distancing themselves from that decision of Ohanaeze.
Is it true ACN wants to adopt General Buhari as its presidential candidate?
We have no confirmation from them and we have no evidence on that so far. We are discussing the possibility of working together in a collaborative relationship which will create a common presidential candidate but we have not concluded that.
Do you think it would work out?
Political situations in any country is a very dynamic thing. It is determined by various occurrences and events. We believe that the relationship with ACN is capable of providing a sincere, committed leadership and partnership to any political party with whom they have ideological compatibility to pursue a common agenda. And we have no doubt in our mind that ACN could work together with CPC.
So, between the consensus candidate of the PDP and the presidential candidate of your alliance with political parties, who do you think will be stronger?
We believe that the candidate that will emerge from the opposition which is General Buhari for sure enjoys greater popularity than any other political leader in the country today. We believe he represents the most credible political and moral alternative there is in the country today. We also believe that he is the most capable and experienced candidate that there is in the country today. We equally believe the people of Nigeria are both capable of making the right and responsible choice when it comes to choosing their leader once there is free and fair election.
Are you confident there will be a free and fair election with the way things are going especially when you consider twin issues of electoral act and constitution amendment and importation of arms.
General Buhari would always say that 2011 is pregnant. Let us
pray that there will be safe delivery of that pregnancy without any abortion.
Do you think we will meet May 29 deadline or October 1?
We are concerned about too many things. We are concerned about the time constraints for INEC to organise themselves, hire the right number and right calibre of staff, give them the training, organise elections, ensure a proper definition of roles for the security agencies: the army, the police, election commissioners through whose officers elections in the past were rigged.
So, we are very concerned about so many things. And we are concerned about the fact we will like to see all participating political parties in the election, constructively engaged by INEC in a very dynamic process that will lead to a proper definition and supervision of management of the electoral process in a way that it will lead to a free and fair election that will be acceptable to all. But in spite of that, we believe that if all efforts are put on deck, it will possible to achieve the results.