By Jide Ajani, Editor, Northern Operations
Perhaps, Muhammadu Buhari, the ever confident presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, did not have the bigger picture in sight when he was quoted as saying that the merger talks between his party and the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, would be sealed during the week.
He was quoted as having said that after performing his civic duty of registering as a voter. Had Buhari known that the euphoria on which he was basking was made of clay, he wouldn’t have ventured that optimism.
Therefore, when last Wednesday, the tone of the discussions between leaders of both parties who had assembled in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, did not match the expectations of Buhari, his handlers demurred. General Buhari for the first time last Wednesday came face to face with the realities of the merger/alliance talks between his party and the leaders of the ACN, whereupon he discovered that contrary to reports he had been getting from his handlers, there was yet to be any deal on the table.
Interestingly, after the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, began demonstrating signs of recklessness, Buhari simply bode goodbye to the party.
Initially, his tent appeared to be inside the ACN as he was always seen in the company of members and leaders of the party.
But even before the talks on the way forward could be consummated, it was a shocked Nigerian nation which was to learn that Buhari had decided to lead another party, the little known CPC. But with Buhari in the party, it did not take too long for the ranks of members to swell.
Buhari simply left the ACN leaders in the cold because it also took them by surprise. At Wednesday’s meeting, some revelations came to light.
Saturday Vanguard was made to understand that whereas General Buhari had become upbeat about the prospective success of the talks, “it was only on Wednesday that General Buhari was able to discover that those who had been holding purported talks with leaders of ACN never did so as a group. It was discovered that what the handlers had been doing not what they were mandated to do by the party. The impression they gave to General Buhari was that everything was going on well. In fact, at no time did the so called talks dwell on any dropping of presidential ambition”, Weekend Vanguard was told.
Whereas General Buhari had been made to believe that position papers were being worked on between both parties, this was not so.
Saturday Vanguard learnt that it was only on Wednesday that the position papers of each of the parties were presented and exchanged formally.
The position papers contained what preferences each of the parties would opt for in the proposed merger or alliance. It also contained what was expected to be the best options open to each of the parties in the proposed merger arrangement.
Meanwhile, as expected, each of the parties wanted its own presidential candidate to be the candidate of choice and why. It was after a brief perusal of the documents that both parties agreed to meet again next week for the final position on what would become of the talks. Interestingly, before Wednesday’s meeting in Abuja, there were reports of how the merger/alliance talks were going on and going on well.
Then came another report that the talks had finally collapsed.
Also, there are strong indications that leaders of the ACN may be experiencing frustrations from the leaders of the CPC on account of the plethora of what a source described as “surreptitious moves to individual leaders of the ACN with a view to exerting pressures for purposes of getting some concessions for General Buhari”. Meanwhile, the meeting held 48 hours ago in the Federal Capital Territory, FCT, Abuja, between leaders of both parties concluded by fixing another meeting for next week.
However, upon proper interrogation of the processes leading up to Wednesday’s talks in Abuja, Saturday Vanguard found out that many of the pieces of information being churned out were being done by those an ACN leader described as “puppeteers. They were merely pulling the strings of their puppets”. When Saturday Vanguard asked the National Publicity Secretary of the ACN, Alhaji Lai Mohammed to comment on whether or not the talks had collapsed or not, he simply declined to comment.
Pressed further, he requested to know “whether Saturday Vanguard was in possession of any document declaring that the talks had collapsed”.
Another source made Vanguard understand that the ACN has become “a bit more wary of the talks as trust appears not to be in big supply again.
“The mere fact that leaders of CPC went round to hold talks that were discovered not to be with the proper representative of those in the top echelon of the ACN has poured cold water on the enthusiasm of leaders of the latter”. “As an insider”, a source who participated in the talks told vanguard, “I am not too sure all would be well again. But it would not be for the reasons that some people are speculating about. It would be for reasons which go far deeper than somebody stepping down for the other or not”.
For political parties expected to rout the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, from power, these early false starts may never really help the parties.
This is coming at a time when the PDP itself continues to grapple with its internal contradictions as a result of its choice of candidates for the April elections, these fresh indications that the much vaunted merger talks between the ACN and the CPC, may be heading for the rocks. At some point in the talks which had reached very advanced stages between both parties appeared to favour an alliance instead of a merger.
Consequently, the much talked about possible merger of both parties was dropped. Also, the two political parties hinged the alliance arrangement then on what a source described as “areas of comparative advantage”.
Saturday Vanguard gathered that the round of talks, which were held in Abuja, late Sunday night into the early hours of Monday, the week of the PDP national convention pointed in the direction of an alliance..
A source who participated in the talks told Vanguard that “the realities on ground for both parties favour an alliance as against a merger arrangement”.
But there was a spanner.
The spanner was the collateral damage that an alliance would create.
The leaders of the parties weighed their options and were disturbed by the possible consequences of the presidential elections which would come first before other elections.
Unlike 1999 when all the other elections had been conducted before even the presidential contest of the parties, thereby providing each of the parties at that time – the PDP, APP (as ANPP was then known) and the Alliance for Democracy, AD – comparative muscle going into the presidential election, the arrangement this time favours a presidential election coming first. The real concern was that even in 1999 when it was less risky, the situation today would be such that an alliance in a presidential election would create confusion for members of the parties during the other elections.
The ACN, for instance, appears more successful than the CPC because by the resumption of the Senate in 2007, the ACN had four senators. Today it has seven as a result of defections. The CPC has only benefited from a few politicians who have defected. In the House of Representatives, the ACN, came in with 33 members in 2007. For the CPC, even with defections, it has less than 20% of that number. The ACN already has four state governors – Babatunde Raji Fashola of Lagos State, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State and Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State – and a para-ACN governor Rahman Mimiko of Ondo State – Mimiko is of the Labour Party, LP, but he is seen more as an ACN emphatiser.