Dar es Salaam. Mr Edward Ngoyai Lowassa is one of the country’s politicians loved by different groups of people.
His 40-year political experience played a significant role in the CCM party’s presidential nomination - and when he crossed over to the political opposition his former CCM party was left shaken.
The October 25, 2015 General Election had a lot of excitement as aspirants for the presidency and parliamentary and civic seats from different parties battled it out – with the ruling CCM having 42 contestants, including Mr Lowassa, all seeking to succeed President Jakaya Kikwete.
Mr Lowassa was the most popular of all the contestants seeking nomination within and outside CCM. When he crossed over to the opposition, CCM was rattled in no small measure.
“Lowasa’s defection to the opposition had a lot of lessons from which we can learn as a nation,” says Dr George Kahangwa, chairman of the University of Dar es Salaam Academic Staff Assembly (Udasa).
“Lowassa had considerable influence; that’s why even before his name was axed by his party, we saw different groups of people going to his home and asked him to contest for the presidency,” says the lecturer, touching on what happened in 1995.
“He started to get prepared to become president. And even when his name was removed he continued to get prepared and that’s why when he saw his name did not sail through in 2015 he decided to leave CCM,” he says.
“International election observers viewed him as an opponent who could have won the presidency as Chadema picked him, believing so, taking into consideration his political power and how well he had prepared himself,” he said.
Dr Kahangwa says they took CCM as a big party not for its human resources, but for its state power and winning over it would have meant to tear it apart.
Lowassa’s advantage of joining opposition
Mr Lowassa’s defection to the political opposition had its advantages and disadvantages. Talking about the advantages the number of votes increased and there were many MPs and councillors from the opposition that, however, saw Dr Willbrod Slaa (Chadema’s Secretary General) resigning from his position.
Prof Ibrahim Lipumba also resigned from the chairmanship of the CUF party, although he later bounced back!
What happened in 1995 recurred in 2015
Mr Lowassa made every kind of contribution to this country including offering funds for the construction of mosques, churches, youth groups and supporting fund-raising drives.
What happened in 2015 within CCM was similar to what happened in 1995 when Mr Lowassa was among 17 cadres of the party who collected forms to seek nomination for the presidency. However, Mr Benjamin Mkapa was the one who was nominated.
In 2005, the former Monduli MP did not vie for the presidency as he had plans of supporting his great friend, Jakaya Kikwete.
It is claimed that there was an agreement between Mr Kikwete and Mr Lowassa that after either of the two had led the country for the constitutionally-prescribed ten years (2005–2015) would have paved the way for the other (2015–2025).
However, even before that plan paid off, Mr Lowassa got what Mr Kikwete termed “a political accident.”
Having grappled with the desire to enter Magogoni State House as a tenant, Mr Lowassa, after his name was removed by CCM, took what he called “a difficult descision:” defecting to the opposition Chadema party on July 28, 2015 - and was just as soon fingered by the party to be its presidential flagbearer.
That was the new beginning of Mr Lowassa’s political career in the United Republic. He was groomed within CCM - and conducted all of his activities within the ruling party for over 40 years. He faced the uphill task of accelerating his “journey of hope” outside CCM.
Chadema incorporated other opposition parties including NCCR-Mageuzi, NLD and CUF to form the Union of the People’s Constitution (Ukawa), whereby they nominated Mr Lowassa as the presidential candidate.
Mr Lowassa, in his political opposition journey, convinced other politicians to join the increasingly strong Chadema party, including retired Prime Minister Frederick Sumaye.
Three CCM chairmen of Shinyanga, Singida and Arusha Regions, as well as a former Dar es Salaam Regional CCM Chairman, crossed over to Chadema.
They included CCM members who joined Chadema that picked them to vie for political leadership positions after failing to make it in the opinion polls of the ruling party.
Veteran politician Kingunge Ngombale-Mwiru and former Home Affairs minister Lawrance Masha joined Mr Lowassa on his journey of hope that was re-christened ‘the journey of reforms.’
The ‘journey’ rattled presidential campaigns for the first time in the country’s political history as the opposition showed signs of taking the highest office in the land - and CCM was gripped with the fear of losing its supremacy.
In the campaigns, Mr Lowassa closely challenged his rival, Dr John Magufuli.
However, the results of the polls, which were announced by the National Electoral Commission (NEC), were a novelty.
Presidential election results
Mr Lowassa was the runner-up in the results of the presidential election, collecting 6,072,848 votes, which were twice more than the votes garnered by the opposition since 1995 when multiparty elections were held for the first time after multiparty politics were reintroduced in 1992.
Mr Lowassa’s votes were equivalent to 39.97 percent against Dr John Magufuli’s 8,882,935 votes (58.46 percent), a percentage that was little for a CCM presidential candidate since the reintroduction of multiparty elections in 1995.
Mr Lowassa’s contribution was not only to increase the number of votes in presidential elections, but also to increase the number of MPs and councillors from the opposition ranks, a situation that resulted in increased numbers of cities, municipalities and councils under the opposition belt, so to speak
Cities like Dar es Salaam, Arusha and Mbeya, which were formerly led by CCM, were now in the hands of the opposition that also controlled over 20 councils.
However, Mr Lowassa, Mr Sumaye and a few other members of the Chadema party who defected to the opposition in 2015 and held councillorship positions and became MPs, went on to rejoin CCM with the passage of time.