By Johnbosco Agbakwuru
What initially looked like a mission impossible two years ago was, last week, consumated and announced to Nigerians: The formation of a mega political party. Named All Progressives Congress, APC (but which is being derisively labelled Armoured Personnel Carrier), the new party’s leaders have threatened to sack President Jonathan at the polls in 2015.
But the joke in town now is that since the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, have all ganged up to merge, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Jonathan’s party, will permanently merge with the Nigeria Police Force, NPF, the Directorate of State Service, DSS, as well as the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to scuttle their dream.
This story is about the emergence of APC and, as the ACN once alerted the nation, it is hoped that the PDP-led government at the centre would not employ the instrumentality of its agencies to harass the leaders of APC. “We resolve to form a political party committed to the principles of internal democracy, focused on serious issues of concern to our people, determined to bring corruption and insecurity to an end, determined to grow our economy and create jobs in their millions through education, housing, agriculture, industrial growth etc, and stop the increasing mood of despair and hopelessness among our people.”
These were the words of the opposition political parties at the unveiling of the new party, All Progressives Congress (APC), at the residence of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) chieftain, Chief Tom Ikimi
At Ikimi’s No 6 Tent Street, off Theme Street, Maitama, Abuja residence on Wednesday, there was atmosphere of conviviality and comradeship among members of the four political parties, the ACN; the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), the All Progressive Grand Alliance and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) that decided to enter into a marriage which gave birth to the mega party, APC.
Before the unveiling of the new party, now waiting to be recognized by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, cynics were of the view that the political voyage embarked upon by the parties involved would not get to its destination; hence they described it as an exercise in futility.
But the meeting of ten governors elected outside the platform of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in Lagos, which constitutes what is known as opposition governors, gave an aura of hope that the merger talks was no fluke and this happened two days before the announcement of the new party.
Unveiling the APC during a media briefing, Ikimi, the Chairman of the ACN Committee on Merger Talks, flanked by the bigwigs of the four parties that constitute the merger, said they resolved to uphold the principles of internal democracy, focused on serious issues of concern to the people and also determined to rid the country of corruption.
Reading the resolutions of the party for the fusion, he said, “At no time in our life has radical change become more urgent. And to meet the challenge of that change, we the following progressive political parties namely, ACN, ANPP, APGA and CPC have resolved to merge forthwith and become the All Progressives Congress and offer to our beleaguered people a recipe for peace and prosperity.
“We resolve to form a political party committed to the principles of internal democracy, focused on serious issues of concern to our people, determined to bring corruption and insecurity to an end, determined to grow our economy and create jobs in their millions through education, housing, agriculture, industrial growth etc, and stop the increasing mood of despair and hopelessness among our people.
“The resolution of these issues, the restoration of hope, the enthronement of true democratic values for peace, democracy and justice are those concerns which propel us. We believe that by these measures only shall we restore our dignity and position of pre-eminence in the committee of nations. This is our pledge.”
The resolution was signed on behalf of the four political parties by Ikimi himself, who represented the can; Senator Annie Okonkwo for APGA; former governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who was the Chairman, Merger Committee of ANPP and Garba Sadi, Chairman, Merger Committee for CPC.
Ikimi explained that each party involved in the merger selected a committee at its highest level which was published at the points of their inauguration, noting that it was the agreement of the leaders of the parties that qualified them to be part of the exercise. He said the decision taken will be immediately communicated to the appropriate authorities, which include the party, INEC so that the mega party will commence political activities as one entity.
Disagreement in APGA
On the allegation that the national leadership of APGA had said it was not part of the exercise and was never invited to the merger talks, the representative of the party, Okonkwo, said, “When all the governors of the opposition party met, APGA governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha said the party had participated fully and endorsed the merger.
“I came here on behalf of the leadership of the party to represent APGA, so anybody saying something contrary is on his own.”
On the allegation that some other opposition parties like the Labour Party were not part of the merger, Ikimi said there were many other parties that indicated their willingness to participate in the merger like the Movement for Democracy and Justice that wrote to join, adding that those that had not, if they so desired, could still join.
He said that all the parties involved in the merger talks agreed on the name, All Progressives Congress through consensus and that the party had involved women in all the committees it set up to ensure gender balance.
However, the position of Governor Peter Obi, who is a serving APGA governor, was not clear due to his relationship with the presidency. It has been rumoured in some quarters that he may likely decamp to the PDP after his tenure.
This is the most gender friendly party—Abike Dabiri-Erewa
The member of the House of Representatives from Lagos State elected on the platform of ACN, Hon. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, said the APC is the most gender friendly party in the country, adding that women were represented in all committees.
“We have gender represented by all parties here, we can still ask for more but I want to assure you that women here will ensure that Nigerian women get better representation. We are going to ensure that it is not about the number here today, this party will fight the cause of women, this party will ensure that Nigerian women get the best they have never had before,” she said.
Ikimi said Edo State Governor Adams Oshionwhole was fully in support of the process and that he could not attend the opposition governors meeting in Lagos because of flight problem.
On the fate of the National Assembly members following the change of the name of their parties, he said that the federal lawmakers were meeting on the issue even as he noted that some of them were present at the meeting. Ikimi stressed that according to the constitution, once there was a merger, the members retain their seats as they have not defected to any party.
This the only party that will guarantee Igbo presidency—Okonkwo
Okonkwo told Sunday Vanguard that new mega party is the only party that will lead to the realization of Igbo presidency.
According to him, the ruling PDP would most likely pick President Goodluck Jonathan as its presidential flag bearer in the 2015 general elections, pointing out that with a candidate of Igbo extraction contesting for presidency in the 2915 presidential election, there was the likelihood that the party will win convincingly. The former member representing Anambra North Senatorial District also said that with the conclusion of the merger talks and the birth of APC, APGA has ceased to exist.
He said APGA members that were not comfortable with the development have the option of joining the PDP or any other party of their choice as the decision to join the mega party had become a concluded one.
This position seemed to be in reaction to a statement by the party’s National Secretary, Alhaji Sani Shinkafi, that APGA was never invited to the merger meeting and that at no time did any of the relevant party organs take any decision to participate in the fusion bid.
The APGA National Secretary reportedly said that before the party could take part in any merger discussion, its National Working Committee and the National Executive Committee should have deliberated and approved of it, adding that he was unaware whether there was any invitation to the party to that effect. But Okonkwo said that with the open endorsement of Okorocha, the decision was final.
He said, ‘’When the governor of the party has come up to say openly that he is part of the merger, who has the party? Do you know that the truth of the matter is that a lot of PDP people are going to be involved here?
‘’It is a mega party being formed, it is a merger, don’t be surprised that you will see some ACN people saying they don’t want to be involved and they want to join another party or the PDP. This is the way the leadership of the party moves.
‘’If some people are saying that they will join the PDP, what will you do? Will you force them? With this merger, all the parties involved have ceased to be. Is APGA bigger than ACN, or is it bigger than CPC or ANPP?”
He said that APC will give the country purposeful leadership.
Reactions from the PDP
Shortly after the announcement of the new mega party, the National Chairman of Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, said APC was not a threat to his party.
Tukur described the coming together of the opposition parties as a good development as the move would inspire the ruling party to action, likening the PDP to Barcelona’s Lionel Messi in the forthcoming elections.
He told journalists: ‘’It is beautiful. The more the merrier. Let me tell you, there is no polling booth in the whole country where you do not have one member of the PDP. PDP is the only party in the country that fields candidates in every polling booth.”
I prayed that merger should come into reality – Gov Aliyu
The governor of Niger State, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, a PDP leader, said he had prayed that a merger of the opposition parties should come to reality, adding that with a strong party on stream, the politics of the country would be more vibrant.
Aliyu advised leaders and those in positions of authority to always be loyal to Nigeria and not individuals while bearing in mind that one day they would leave position and give account of their stewardship.
The marriage will soon head for divorce without a child—Enamhe
One of the founding members of the PDP from Cross River State, Dr. Dorncklaimz Enamhe, however, said the parties merger was a marriage that will head for divorce soon without any issue.
He said the merger is an official umbrella of the parties but will not last as a result of selfish interests of the individual parties, noting that it was a gun powder that will soon explode.
‘’PDP is battle ready for the merger which is a good thing for our democracy. It is now the influence of PDP in all the units and wards will manifest like in my Atubulum unit and Gakem ward in Bekwarra. All the parties always come together against the PDP and we always come out victorious. They are a bunch of strange bed fellows that will soon disintegrate,” he said.
Fears of some opposition party members
There are fears within the ranks of the four parties that formed the APC that the former Head of State and the CPC presidential candidate in the 2007 and 2011 elections General Mohammed Buhari, and the leader of the ACN, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinunbu, will use the party as their personal property.
This belief had fueled the speculation that the merger was not going to work out, but secretary of the CPC merger committee, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla Obono-Obla, while dismissing the ambitions of Buhari and Tinunbu as a hurdle on the path of the new party, said the APC was set up to rescue the country from the pit allegedly dug by the PDP.
“I can assure you that the two leaders, General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Ahmed Tinunbu as well as all leaders of the opposition parties agreed that the parties should merge to rescue Nigeria from the pit and no Jupiter will change it,”he stated.
“Bola Tinunbu is a democrat to the core. He was in NADECO, he was a senator, he was two times a governor, he is a democrat, so he cannot impose his will on anybody, likewise General Buhari, he has contested presidential elections, he went to the Supreme Court three times, he has been the most vocal voice for change in Nigeria, so they are not going to impose their wish on anybody.
“You know that Nigeria is on the brink, we are going to change it, railway, petroleum sector, infrastructure, etc. These are the details the merger committees worked out. The comprehensive work plan to ensure that real democracy is entrenched in Nigeria.
“We are also concerned about the independence of the judiciary, this is very important. You can see that the judiciary is not independent, it is dependent and you cannot have a just society without the independence of the judiciary, you cannot have a democratic society without the judiciary so we worked out ways on what the party will do to strengthen the judiciary and make it truly independent,” Obono-Obla said.
While in some quarters, the merger is seen as a platform to strengthen democracy and stop the one party system which the country is gradually drifting to, it is alleged in some other quarters that personal interest will likely affect the new party in its efforts towards wresting power from the ruling party.
Even the position of Oshiomhole in the new mega party is not certain. He did not attend the meeting organized by the opposition party governors and because of the role of Jonathan in ensuring he got his position in his second term bid, there has been the speculation that he would not be part of any discussion that will affect the president should he decide to run for second tenure.