From The East African Beyond Kikwete: Will the slighted Slaa be the star of the succession script? By Jenerali Ulimwengu July 26 2010 When, in 1995, Dr Wilbrod Slaa, a defrocked priest, won CCM's parliamentary primaries in Karatu, Arusha, the party's national structures turned him down in favour of the runner-up, a veteran incumbent. Slaa promptly jumped ship, joined the nascent opposition CHADEMA, ran against his former party's choice and gave him a good hiding. He won, notwithstanding CCM presidential candidate Benjamin Mkapa's efforts to campaign for his friend, the incumbent. Five years later, the ruling party descended on Karatu with fife and drum, swearing it would oust Slaa and "liberate" the constituency. Again, they were trounced. In between, Slaa and his newfound party had effectively taken over the whole constituency and district of Karatu to the extent that the village governments and district council were in CHADEMA hands, no mean humiliation for those used to having their way. Now, this past week, CHADEMA has nominated that very same Slaa to run for the presidency in the October elections, raising a few notches the profile of this interesting man, once rejected by his church (for reasons which don't concern us here) and once by his party (for personal friendships, important when principles are in short supply). The reason Slaa joined the opposition in 1995 was that the ruling party and its government had rejected the idea of independent candidates, insisting, for some reason, that one could not run in any election unless one was put forward by a political party. Many people, people who should know, argued that this was a serious breach of a fundamental right, but to no avail. Even Mwalimu Julius Nyerere, venerated founding father, was given short shrift when he tried to talk sense to his heirs. Apparently these sons and daughters of the great teacher will head his injunctions only when they serve their purpose, not when they point to logic. For, what is the logic in a dispensation that claims to open up the doors of popular participation but locks out all those who have not seen a party to join? What would be so sacrosanct about a political party, even if it were not a vehicle for political chicanery? The intriguing thing about this obstinate refusal to allow independents - the government remains unbending to this day - is that we have not been given a reason for it. Our rulers cannot even come up with a bogeyman, as other rulers do. In effect, what they are telling us is, there will be no independent candidates because there will be no independent candidates in this the best of all possible political dispensations, as Panglossian as even Voltaire couldn't have imagined. However,in another demonstration of cause and effect, we once again encounter the mischievous doings of the law of unintended consequences. That Freeman Mbowe, chairman of CHADEMA, has so graciously stepped aside in favour of his secretary-general - he is going back to his Hai constituency - may be an indication that some weighing and calculating has been done and the sign of the times read. In a three-horse race involving incumbent Jakaya Kikwete, CUF's Ibrahim Lipumba and Wilbrod Slaa, only Slaa - currently a menace to CCM in parliament - seems to have a future, so to speak.