In 1994, the then leader of Alliance for Democracy (Aford) Chakufwa Chihana missed a chance of becoming the country’s first democratically elected president for the simple reason that multi-party brought with it politics of regionalism.
Comprised largely of northerners, Aford’s decline came quick. From 36 members of Parliament (MPs) in 1994 to six in 2004, then to a dismal one MP in 2014, the party was as good as dead and the reasons are a possible topic for an academic thesis.
The dwindling of the party’s popularity in its own backyard, Northern Region, was enough to cause the founder to turn in his grave but its recovery has also been too slow.
Now, with Chihana’s son Enoch at the helm, Aford is trying to get back in the game, but the party will have to deal with nature.
In 2017, the current Aford leader is left with the burden of taking into consideration that at his death, the Chakufwa Chihana legacy in the region had become so eroded that the man was only remembered kindly at his demise.
The North has largely been known as the headquarters of unpredictable voters, the electorate does not easily get swayed, this is a lesson that any political party visiting the North must know.
The North has been the only region to defy the commonly held belief that voters prefer a candidate from their region. Loveness Gondwe, Dindi Gowa Nyasulu, Kamlepo Kalua, James Nyondo [deceased] and Kamuzu Chibambo originally from the North have fared badly at the polls.
It was no surprise that in 2009, Bingu wa Mutharika’s Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) would amass over 30 000 votes in a constituency in Karonga against 85 for Aford’s Nyasulu. That is how cruel voters in the North can be.
It must have been a great betrayal to the North when after voting so overwhelmingly for a man from Thyolo and his four-year old DPP, only for him to turn on them with his support for the public university quota system and clear marginalisation of the region by the administration.
But the North, with its unpredictable nature, should never be taken for granted. A promise of a Mombera University and several groundbreaking ceremonies for roads which come to nothing might not be enough.
It is for this reason that the DPP should exercise caution when touting its successes on the public podium.
APM should not, for a second, assume that appointing three tired politicians from the North as his personal aides is an effective means to appease over a million people betrayed by his party once upon a time.
At his death in 2012, Bingu was no friend of the North following his administration’s introduction of the quota system. From what Aford has said this week, it is the party’s intention that the people of the north, whether rightly or wrongly, not forget that the system targeted their children.
It would do the DPP administration well to treat the northern region as any other part of this country. Stupid as his critics may be, it is for a good reason that the APM government is accused of nepotism.
To go to the North and not acknowledge the feelings of the potential voters is a mistake.
To go the region and behave as if the president is on a State visit to another country must end if at all the DPP will make inroads in the north by 2019.
The political parties vying for the attention of the north should allow people should speak at the ballot not at political rallies.
Since 1994 it has become clear that the North does not belong to any political party, neither does it belong to a religious organisation or church.
From the time the country gained independence 1964, the Northern Region has carved its own history in the country’s political landscape and any attempts at treating it like a beloved child begging for attention must not be tolerated. n