BY OLASUKANMI AKONI & DAPO AKINREFON
LAGOS—AMIDST a wave of enthusiasm, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, yesterday, resolved to collapse into the proposed mega opposition political party – All Progressive Congress, APC.
The resolution adopted at the national convention of the country’s leading opposition party in Lagos came as major opposition politicians from within and outside the outgoing party, denounced activities of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
The convention in which 4,671 delegates were accredited was witnessed by thousands of other party members and prominent figures in the three other parties forming the APC- ACN, ANPP and CPC. The Onikan Stadium venue of the convention in central Lagos, was packed to capacity with a strong contingent of security men manning all entrances to the stadium and the nearby State House annex that normally houses President Goodluck Jonathan and his family while in Lagos.
The convention was witnessed by the National Leader of the party, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the National Chairman of the party, Chief Bisi Akande; three of the six governors belonging to the party, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos; Rauf Aregbesola of Osun and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State. Governor Rochas Okorocha of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, whose faction of the party is inclined to the alliance was also present.
The deputy governors of Lagos and Osun states respectively, Mrs Adejoke Orelope Adefulire and Mrs Grace Laoye Tomori; former governor of Ogun State, Aremo Segun Osoba; former governor of Imo State, Chief Achike Udenwa; former governor of Ekiti State, Otunba Niyi Adebayo and former governor of Kogi State, Prince Abubakar Audu were also present as well as several members of the National Assembly.
The National Chairmen of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Prince Tony Momoh and Dr Ogbonnaya Onu, respectively, the two other parties involved in the merger plans were also present as well as the National Leader of the CPC, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (rtd).
ACN formally adopts APC manifesto
Besides formally adopting the merger with the ANPP and CPC to form the APC, the ACN convention also resolved to adopt the manifesto and other insignia of the proposed party. Party enthusiasts were assured, yesterday, that the major symbol of the ACN, the broom which has been the hallmark of ACN campaigns across the country and especially in its Southwest base would also be the symbol of the new APC.
The party also yesterday ratified the expulsion of Alhaji Mohammed Shubair from Kaduna State for anti-party activities.
Opening the convention, yesterday, the National Secretary of the party and chairman of the convention planning committee, Senator Lawali Shuaibu hailed the occasion as a significant moment for the country’s political process, affirming that the party was at the point of no return.
“Never in the history of governance have opposition parties agreed to drop their egos for the purpose of salvaging the nation,” Senator Shuaibu said as he noted a history of failed mergers and alliances by opposition parties in the past.
Following him, the National Chairman of the party, Akande gave his last speech in a convention of the ACN.
There’s urgent need for change —Akande
While assuring that the merger was not meant to relegate the positions of its leaders and members, Akande assured that the merger was for the good of the country even as he asserted that the ACN, as a party, had succeeded above its means.
He said: “We must not entertain any weariness or surrender to sentiments or blackmail in this enterprise, mindful that merger is strange, new and unique in Nigeria and that the law did not envisage the ambush presently being placed on our ways. But we shall overcome. This merger has come to stay!
“The leadership of our great party after deep deliberations and consultations and in view of the current political reality is convinced that a merger is the way to go. We have threaded this path before. We are wiser, smarter and more prepared to make the sacrifices that this process requires for the sake of our country.
“This ACN Convention is not designed to relegate the position of its leaders and members. It is to make you a trail blazer, it is to make you the innovator, it is to make you the pioneer, it is to make you the ground breaker in a noble venture. This is the Convention of a great party, which is at the threshold of making history. I am pleased to declare this Convention open.”
He did not leave without hitting at the PDP for its perceived failures.
“In over 13 years that the PDP has been in power, not only has it failed to deliver on its promises, it has infected all institutions of state with its moral infirmity, aversion to the rule of law and entrenched monumental corruption never seen in the history of this country. Today, our country has become a society where the safety of life and property is at its lowest ebb and poverty level at its highest.
“Nigerians are waiting patiently but with bated breath, to see the successful outcome of the merger talks. We must never let them down. We must rise above pettiness and personal ambitions and put the greater interest of this nation over any other thing, for this is the only guarantee, to salvaging Nigeria from the precipice.”
A storm is brewing—Tinubu
Following him, Tinubu urged Nigerians to be part of history just as he berated the ruling administration for its failures especially in providing security for the citizenry.
His words: “History is asking something bold of us, those who hear must respond to its call because history is impatient. If we tarry or waste time, if we fail to act as the situation requires, history will still move forward and write its verdict and that verdict will be unanswerable by us.
“We have come to the place that things must change or we shall sink. God forbid, we will not sink. For the nation to continue as if it constitutes nothing, calls for an invitation for doom. Such a fate, we shall not accept.”
Speaking further, the former governor of Lagos State said: “The way Nigeria is governed must change and change dramatically and our logo will be ‘change’. Nigeria must be a secured nation that helps the weaker countries. Instead, today, we are besieged on all sides. Boko Haram falls on our people in the North, MEND and militancy is in the South, kidnapping and robberies surround the nation as if we are now a training ground for criminal misconduct.
“That is unacceptable, that is no leadership, that is not the way to do things. We must not accept mediocrity. Nigeria is rich in natural resources, Nigeria should set the agenda for the African continent. Today, opposite is the case.”
He warned that a political storm is brewing and that it would blow away those who believe in rigging.
“This convention portends the coming of a great political change, a storm is brewing, don’t be frightened by this storm. The storm for us is a positive storm and a positive wind. This storm will blow away those who believe in rigging.”
Following Tinubu, the National Legal Adviser of the party, Dr. Muiz Banire proceeded to coordinate the votes on merger and adoption of a new name for the party.
The motion for the ACN to collapse into the APC was moved by the National Organising Secretary, Abubakar Inua Kari from Gombe State, while Mrs. Tonia Anwam another delegate from Ebonyi State seconded the motion.
Citing relevant sections of the party’s constitution, Kari moved for the “Approval of merger with other political parties and groups” and “Approval of new name, All Progressives Congress with acronym APC (and) Approval of new constitution, manifesto, flag, logo, slogan etc.”
After the overwhelming ratification of the motion to collapse into a new party, Banire, moved another motion for the adoption of the new name, logo, flag, constitution and slogan for the new party and his motion was seconded by Kenneth Ubani from Rivers State.
Both votes were overwhelmingly carried by acclamation.
No ulterior motive to merger— Buhari
Following the successful adoptions, Buhari led other well wishers of the party to give their remarks to the convention.
Buhari said the merger was a continuation of what commenced just before the 2010 election.
“Time was against us and all I can say is that the rest is history. This time around, we started early to build on the foundation we have laid in 2010. I assure you that all those who are consistent, that are concerned with this system of solidifying democracy should know that the only solution is this merger.
“We hope to come together with the opposition to make sure that we mobilise our various constituencies so that we will make it uncomfortable for the ruling party to continue to rig elections in this country.
We are determined to go down to voting units to local governments and to the states and sensitize our constituencies. Nigerians must be respected as a people. We hope that the other institutions that will stabilize this system, will sympathize with Nigerians so that in 2015 there will transfer of power from the PDP to the APC. We in the CPC are also involved in this merger and we are here to give you our moral support that is absolutely necessary. I want to assure you that there is no ulterior motive to this merger.
APC has come to stay —Shekarau
Former Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau while reiterating his decision to support the merger, said the APC has come to stay.
He said: “We support the coming together of the progressive parties, we support the creation of APC and we are determined more than ever before to move the forum of the progressives to success during the general elections in 2015. May almighty God continue to support our determination to success.”
It’s time for PDP to go—Ribadu
On his part, former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu declared that it was time for the PDP to go.
According to him: “This journey we are embarking on today is going to take us to Abuja. We are on a journey to change Nigeria. We are on a journey to fight corruption and tackle insecurity and with that, you will see a new country. I am very grateful to God for this opportunity and chance. It is time for this so called largest party in Africa, the PDP to go. By the grace of God, it is time for you to go.
APC is party for the masses—Onu
In his solidarity message, National Chairman of ANPP, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu said the new party will be focused on people-oriented programmes.
Onu said: “APC has shown that it is a party for the masses. This is a party that will put the interest of the masses first. Our party in government will be people-centred. Every action will be for the best interest of the people and we will make sure that no one will be above the law as we have today. This was why APC was born and by 2015, we are going to take over government in Nigeria.”
We’re determined to effect change —Amosun
In his remarks, Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, said members of the party were determined to effect the needed change in Nigeria.
Amosun, who described the merger as a watershed in the country’s history said: “This is a watershed in the history of our country. People said that the merger isn’t possible but we are determined. Indeed Nigerians are waiting. There isn’t any other option than what we are doing. We have come together for the interest of the entire people of Nigeria. We need change and we have demonstrated that we have the capacity to effect that positive change.”
Continuing, Amosun said: “We will come back for the APC convention. Other parties who haven’t done their convention will do theirs very soon. Ones they finish, we are all going back to Abuja to organise the main convention that will finally unveil APC to the world.”
It’s time for change—Aregbesola
Also, Governor Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State said a change has come to Nigeria just as he urged that mediocrity should not be allowed to thrive in the country.
Aregbesola said: “We are here to rejoice and celebrate the death of unemployment, the end of darkness, injustice in the country. We are here to rejoice and celebrate. Nigeria again will be rescued, revived for full employment, security and stability, adequate power supply, freedom and liberty.”
Democracy should not suffer—Fashola
Governor Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State urged that democracy should not be allowed to suffer. He noted that the merger was not a contest with the PDP but an alternative voice for Nigerians.
Fashola said: “All I need to re-emphasise for who still have any doubt in their mind, is that the proscription of other political parties is not necessary. The only pre-condition for the emergence of a one party state, is the absence of real, equal opportunity at the ballot that allowed democracy to suffer, allowed dictatorship to grow. So what this merger brings really isn’t a contest for the PDP, it is an alternative voice, a voice of equal rights and a vehicle of equal propensity to the mythical power of the ruling party.”
He added that “come 2015, this vehicle will provide the real depth of choice for the mythical power of the ruling party expressed by the sovereign will of the Nigerian people. I remember that when the talk about the merger started, there was an interesting post on the internet that while ACN, ANPP, APGA, CPC are merging, the ruling party was trying to merge with the umpire. As insignificant as it is, it is a serious issue.”