By Ochereome Nnanna
THOSE of us who doubted the seriousness of the merger bid by some opposition political parties may now have a rethink: they have announced a merger. In fact, they have pronounced a name for their new unified platform: All Progressives Congress (APC). If you are thirty years and above you may be tempted to think the new platform is named after a famous headaches and pains relieving pill which was popular, along with Cafenol, Phensic and Aspro in those days.
Have they formed this party to, figuratively speaking, relieve Nigeria of its chronic aches and pains inflicted upon it by thirteen years of unbroken rule by the People’s Democratic Party (PDP); a party that is growing bigger and bigger in spite of its poor performance reputation? Will it succeed in its avowed mission to stop the emergence of Nigeria as a “one party state”? What can it do towards achieving this? We will address these later. Let us deal with first things first.
APC is obviously the synthesis of names of the four political parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigerian People’s Party (ANPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
Sign of seriousness
Though we were promised that a new party would emerge around June 2013, it was a sign of the seriousness of the promoters that a merger and a name for the proposed party were unveiled four months earlier. Ten governors of the constituent parties met in Lagos on Tuesday, February 5th 2013 and took a group photograph that adorned the national dailies’ front pages the following day. This is not the first time the various failed merger talks came this far, and then collapsed. In 1963/64 the first attempt to unseat a dominant party in power, the Northern People’s Congress (NPC), was attempted by the National Council for Nigerian Citizens (NCNC) and the Obafemi Awolowo faction of the Action Group (AG) among others. It was called the United Progressives Grand Alliance (UPGA). In response, the ruling NPC went into a counter-alliance with the Samuel Akintola faction of the AG and other smaller parties and formed the Nigerian National Alliance (NNA).
But by the time the 1964 federal parliamentary elections and the 1965 regional parliamentary polls took place, the UPGA had collapsed. Each of the parties went into the polls with their original identities.
Once upon a merger: The same thing happened in 1982 when the so-called twelve progressive governors of the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Nigerian People’s Party (NPP), People’s Redemption Party (PRP) and the Great Nigerian People’s Party (GNPP) met in Lagos and announced their intention to contest the 1983 general elections as People’s Progressive Alliance (PPA). That effort not only failed due to the unwillingness of the leaders of the parties to bury their respective ambitions (not to talk of the predatory antics of the ruling National Party of Nigeria) all the parties to the botched merger came out of the 1983 elections shrinking from twelve to six states! If the military had not intervened their worst fear of a one party state would probably have come true in 1987.
With this stigmatising history of failed alliances in mind, supporters of the new platform must realise that they The APC will need someone with the neutral, non-dominant ethnic attributes of an Adams Oshiomhole to stand as its presidential candidate. He can speak forcefully and with a telling impact across the nation’s ethno-religious fault lines.e Rubicon. Crossing it is the onerous challenge. The only way we will know that they have crossed it into the Promised Land of a unified “mega party” is if they stay together and contest the 2015 elections as APC, and not ACN, ANPP, APGA and CPC. They have three major hurdles to scale in order to get there.
The first one is overcoming their provincial attributes. ACN is dominant in the West. ANPP has never won any state outside the core Muslim North. APGA was specifically formed as an Igbo Party, and Governor Okorocha is only leading the Imo faction into this merger. The CPC is not only a northern Muslim Party favoured by the downtrodden, especially the al majiri, it is a party tied specifically to retired Major General Muhammadu Buhari. Apart from the ACN, the other three parties did not field credible candidates or make much effort to campaign outside their respective regions in the 2011 general polls. We wait to see what their followers will do if their respective leaders did not “capture” the strategic leadership positions in the new party.
Clear ideology: Secondly, they must come out with a clear ideological direction and programmes of action that made the Second Republic political parties easy to choose from. Their processes of nomination of candidates must do away with the oga so pe (the master said) syndrome, which threatens to ruin the ACN and CPC, and which Okorocha intends to adopt in his avowed ambition to capture all the states of the South East. Their leaders, particularly the CPC and ANPP elements, must begin to adjust to the demands of nationalism, rather than seeing the Muslim north as all there is to Nigeria.
They must be willing to share power equitably, taking all Nigerians along. That is what PDP has had from day one, which has helped sustain it as a strong national political party.
Finally, the new party must sit down and begin the search for credible candidates not only to run the party but more importantly to stand for the presidency and vice presidency. This is where they face their greatest challenge. Muhammadu Buhari and Ahmed Tinubu may ruin the party irretrievably if they insist on running for president or as a presidential pair. The APC will need someone with the neutral, non-dominant ethnic attributes of an Adams Oshiomhole to stand as its presidential candidate. He can speak forcefully and with a telling impact across the nation’s ethno-religious fault lines.
The task ahead is enormous, and it takes true pioneers and nationalists to reach the destination the APC is eyeing. Many have failed before. But if this experiment succeeds and we have two dominant, clearly different national parties to choose from, then our democracy will succeed.