BY GBENGA OKE & MONSUR OLOWOOPEJO
…Opposition must work harder, says Aliyu
Leading figures in the emerging mega-opposition political party, All Progressives Congress, APC, Monday, vowed to make sacrifices to dethrone Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over what they claimed was the legacy of waste and wantonness inspired by PDP.
They spoke even as Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State and his Niger State counterpart, Dr. Babangida Aliyu, bickered over the prospects of PDP ruling the country for 60 years.
Governor Aliyu nevertheless agreed that PDP would need to draw lessons from opposition parties for it to propound better policies for the country.
The opposition leaders and Governor Aliyu spoke in Lagos at the launch of a book, Witness to History: Action Congress of Nigeria and the Struggle for Democracy, Liberty and Justice, written by Alhaji Lai Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary of Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
Among the opposition figures present at the launch were former head of state and national leader of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd.); national leader of ACN, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu; national chairman of ACN, Chief Bisi Akande; erstwhile Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai.
Other are former Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi; former governors of Lagos, Ogun and Ekiti States, Alhaji Lateef Jakande, Aremo Olusegun Osoba and Otunba Niyi Adebayo, respectively, among many others.
Also present were Speaker of Lagos State House of Assembly, Mr. Adeyemi Ikuforiji; former Minister of State for Defense, Demola Seriki; Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Chief Razaq Okoya, Mr. Femi Gbajabiamila, Senator Femi Ojudu, Senator Biyi Durojaiye, Mrs Kemi Nelson, Senator Tony Adefuye, Senator Ajayi Borrofice, and Chairman of ACN in Lagos State, Chief Henry Ajomale.
Also present were former Chairman of WEMA Bank, Chief Sam Bolarinde; Prof. Yemi Osibajo, Gen Alani Akinrinade, Senator James Kolawole, Alhaji Isa Funtua, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, Deputy Chief of Staff to the Ghanaian President, Mr. Alex Sepafia, Senator Chris Ngige, Mr. Odia Ofeimun, Mr. Makanju Ipaye, Cardinal James Odunbaku, Pastor Ize Iyamun, Mr. Dele Belgore, Senator Femi Lanlehin, Senator Gbenga Ashafa, Prof. Adebayo Williams, among others.
We’ll give Nigerians real alternative— Buhari
Buhari, who was the special guest of honour, said the opposition parties were ready to give a fresh start to the country.
He said: “Our coming together under the new platform is to provide an alternative platform for Nigerians and find a lasting solution to the problems confronting Nigeria presently.
“If we consummate this merger well, no sensible person will be able to rig elections in 2015 and I must say that on a daily basis, we are being encouraged to move further.
“So I believe strongly that this merger is real and we are going to make sure we give Nigerians real alternative.”
Urging Nigerians to join APC, he said it will put an end to electoral malpractices in the country during subsequent elections.
Buhari said: “With this merger, we should mobilise our constituency and I don’t think that any political party along the line will attempt to rig because there wouldn’t be any need for that.
“Nigerians are very serious about it and we are determined to continue with our plan. I congratulate ACN for the successful conclusion of their convention and in the move to achieve the merger, CPC will be organising its convention on the same day with ANPP.”
According to him, CPC’s convention would hold in Abuja while that of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, would hold in Gusau, Zamfara.
We’ll make sacrifices— Tinubu
Tinubu, who was the chief launcher, said: “This is a Nigerian project, a movement with an agenda for change. We are not unmindful that change never happens easily.
“Hence, we are prepared to make necessary sacrifices and arm ourselves for the battle ahead. We have been the opposition long enough. In fact, I think we should stop using the term ‘opposition’.
“We are progressives, not just the opposition. We stand for something and it is for this reason that we oppose those in power. We do not oppose them just for the sake of opposition.
“As the book says, we stand for democracy, liberty and justice. May I add prosperity, health, peace, economic development, tolerance, unity, hope and brotherly love to this list?
“We hate no one and oppose no person. However, we do oppose injustice, poverty, ignorance, indifference, hatred and bad governance.
“We oppose everyone in power whose activities create conditions that allow injustice, corruption, poverty, unemployment and insecurity to thrive. And whether in power or not, we shall always oppose these things.
“Rarely has a government had so much at its disposal yet done so little with it. They have been there too long for the little good they have done. Let them stand aside. We have witnessed their empty history. Let them become witnesses to our full and productive one.”
Earlier, Governor Babatunde Fashola, who was the chief host, derided PDP for what he described as its arrogant disregard of the wishes of the citizenry.
Affirming that PDP was not prepared to conduct a free and credible election having become used to rigging, Fashola said: “I doubt whether PDP is ready to organise elections come 2015 for them to claim there will be no vacancy in Aso Rock come 2015.
“But I can say with all sense of reality that come 2015, there will be vacancy in the presidential seat of power. What is instructive is that a party is saying that there is no vacancy in the highest office of the land. To what purpose are they organising the forthcoming elections in the country?”
Opposition has a lot to do— Aliyu
Governor Aliyu, who was the chairman of the event, said the prospects of a vacancy in the presidential villa would only depend on how hard the opposition parties work to dislodge PDP.
He said: “We in PDP are saying no vacancy unless the opposition parties work harder and never allow personal interest to becloud its face in the arrangement of a new party called APC.
“PDP is not saying there will not be election but opposition parties, who want to take over the office of the president, must be ready to work hard to get there.”
While he denied insinuations that PDP was aiming to sabotage the proposed merger, the Niger State governor threw his weight behind the proposal.
He said: “I was one of the first people to pray for the success of the merger because we don’t want to take things for granted in this country. When people come together and realise that they share things in common, it is better they merge.
“The merger will give the electorate in the country options to choose the party that provides their views and suits them.”
Governor Aliyu nevertheless agreed that PDP would need to draw some lessons from opposition quarters.
He said: “Nigeria’s political elite must realise that nation-building is beyond partisanship. For my ruling party, we need to appreciate the works of others as this will give the opportunity to listen to different views before we make policies for the nation.
“I believe strongly that opposition should not be fought to the ground because they are there to put the ruling party on their toes anytime they are going wrong. Opposition is germane for the survival of any democracy as it helps those in power to see the other side of the coin.”
Lai’s vote of thanks
In his vote of thanks, Mohammed said he was able to write the book because he was given a platform by Tinubu when he first offered him a position as his chief of staff.
He said: “As spokesman of ACN, I discovered that the media is indispensable and are the true heroes of democracy.”