By Jide Ajani
How did a political party which brought so much hope and promise falter at the polls in a massively incongruous manner? What went wrong?
Well, Sunday Vanguard can authoritatively reveal that at some of the meetings of the leadership of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, which usually included but was never limited to Dr. Sule Yahaya Hamma (Director General of the Buhari Campaign Council); Tony Momoh (CPC National Chairman); Mustafa Salihu, CPC deputy national chairman; Engineer Buba Galadima (CPC National Secretary); Jazuli Imam; Col Hamid Ali (Chief of Staff to Buhari); Yinka Odumakin (spokesman for Buhari) and Ahmed Tahir Salihijo”, the mood was almost always upbeat and one of near-invincibility. In the case of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, it held onto five states in the Yoruba South West geo-political zone, and is still working on Ondo State where Labour Party’s Dr. Rahman Mimiko is governor.
But for CPC and its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, the results of the national assembly elections of last year simply poured cold water on the supposedly larger than life image that had been created for both the party and its principal. Worse, the presidential election did not produce the type of spark that the party promised – it even has only one governorship seat.
The party’s many rallies in all parts of the North recorded huge crowds, dwarfing whatever the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, state governors could muster to demonstrate support for President Goodluck Jonathan. In addition, the CPC’s insistence that it could go to the polls alone without any possible alliance with the ACN, or any other political party for that matter, sent jitters down the spine of PDP leaders.
Reviewing preparations for the elections at a meeting held at the party’s Utako District, Abuja national secretariat office on Monday, March 21, 2011, Alhaji Galadinma reportedly discountenanced the polls by a national newspaper which placed General Buhari a distant second behind President Jonathan.
He reiterated that what the CPC is “looking for now is only five states in the South to add to the 19 Northern States that the CPC would conveniently win” in the North. Continuing, Galadinma was said to have explained at the meeting that out of the five additional states needed from the south, the CPC already has confirmation on one, meaning the party was sure of 20 states in the bag.
Galadinma said the governor of the state in question and another leader of the party in that state (in the south) are allegedly on the side of CPC adding that the governor had assessed the presidential candidate of his party and concluded that he was “lacking in maturity”, hence according to him, the state is confirmed for CPC.
He further revealed during that gathering that a meeting was planned between CPC and the state governor any time from now and that the “CPC would only be looking for additional four states if securing the state in question is eventually guaranteed in the planned meeting with the state governor”.
Sunday Vanguard later discovered at another meeting held on Thursday March 31, 2011, some 48hours before the botched national legislative elections, at the National Secretariat of the Buhari Presidential Campaign Council, on Dokolo Street, Off Aminu Kano Crescent, Wuse 2, Abuja, where disclosures were made about CPC’s preparations for the botched elections, that CPC was beginning to blur the line between mere popularity and electability. This was to become the undoing of the party.
At the meeting, Dr Sule Yahaya Hamma disclosed “that Jega had maintained that he is not going to declare any questionable election result, which he believed, was why Jega had insisted that the electorates must wait behind even after casting their votes”.
He stated that another scheduled meeting of the CPC with Jega would reveal their position on what their next line of action would be on the 2011 general elections. He added that Jega had however assured them at their earlier interaction that he would not declare any false election result.
Yet at another meeting on Monday, 3rd April, 2011, between 2120 hrs and 2230 hours, at a private residence, No 11 Oguta Street off River Benue Street, Maitama District, Abuja, speaking on the postponement of the National Assembly elections, Hamma “complained bitterly and remarked that, during their last meeting with National Chairman of the (Commission), he did not give any clue that he was having problems relating to the conduct of the 2011 general elections.
“He wondered why Jega would allow himself to be so indicted, adding that they had advised Jega to raise alarm if he could not make open announcements on (challenges confronting him) if he was having problems with the smooth performance of his INEC job, but that Jega did not give them any insight on this in any of their interactions”.
The party believed strongly that once there were no forms of malpractices at the polls, it would win. It had good reasons to believe so.
In fact, Galadima maintained that the only best thing to do now is for the electorates to stay behind after casting their votes as advised by Jega himself. Salihu disclosed that on March 31st, 2011, an unnamed National Commissioner had informed him that, elections into the two chambers of the National Assembly may not hold as earlier scheduled. He disclosed that he consequently advised Momoh and Galadima whom he had earlier intimated of the information, to raise an alarm of the development through the press, which he revealed, they both declined to do.
The leadership of the party believed strongly in its new found invincibility hinged on a belief that it could win the presidential election even at first ballot. But with the results of the national assembly polls, the party’s leadership knew better.
Hence it scampered back to the alliance table with the ACN.
Even before the frenzied attempt to re-awaken the dead alliance talks and consequent upon the perceived unfavourable showing of the party at the legislative elections, its leadership and that of the Northern Political Leaders’ Forum, NPLF, held crucial talks culminating in the establishment of teams to visit some states of the North West geo-political zone described as critical to the success of the CPC. That came at a time when CPC’s presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, also met and held talks with former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, General Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida, General Aliyu Mohammed Gusau and Mallam Adamu Ciroma.
Specifically, the CPC and the G15 raised teams to visit the North West states of Kano, Sokoto, Jigawa and Kebbi. The team departed the Federal Capital territory, FCT, Abuja for these states in the week of last year’s presidential elections.
In reviewing the results coming out of the geo-political zone 24hours after the presidential elections, the CPC, Sunday Vanguard gathered, rejected what it described as “doctored results”. Even when the result started trickling in from the north, some PDP leaders where heard in hushed tones expressing pleasant surprise at the turn of events. So, what happened? We may never know!
To be fair, CPC’s mass mobilisation created goose pimples on the skin of leaders of the PDP. This, more so, because of the mammoth crowd which usually greeted General Buhari at almost all his rallies held in the states of the North.
It was this crowd, which no doubt created a sense of massive support that the CPC banked on in its bid to win the presidential and other elections; at least in the North. Now, the jury is still out on the matter of whether it was because the CPC could not translate its mass appeal into electoral victory, or whether it was the PDP’s notorious rigging machinery that led to the huge loss the party suffered at the polls in 2011.
Whereas it is generally acknowledged that a political party should be able to translate the support of its crowd into electoral value, the loss of the CPC even by whispered admission of leaders of the party remains surprising because of the massive incongruity between the mass of people at every CPC rally and the electoral scores it got in the north.
The PDP has created a situation that suggests that it has perfected this art around the country. The ACN has also found a way to handle same, putting in place its own strategy of containment of the PDP and advancement of its own goals in the South West geo-political zone.
However, propagandizing has its limitations. For instance, since the elections of last year, neither the CPC, nor the ACN has held any gathering of its supporters in the name of a national convention or a zonal convention with a view to retaining members. Except for the re-run elections held in some states as a result of judicial orders where a few parties jostled, only the PDP continues to make pretentious posturing about its mass appeal.
Therefore, the very elementary things the CPC and other parties must continue to do is either to build a formidable opposition or at least commence a programme of mass mobilization on a regular basis and not wait until the eve of elections before it swings into action or continue to whip up sentiments which are easily shot down on the basis of national security or national unity.