By JIDE AJANI, EMMANUEL AZIKEN, EMMAN OVUAKPORIE, DAPO AKINREFON & IKECHUKWU NNOCHIRI
ABUJA—ACTION Congress of Nigeria, ACN, yesterday, formally pulled out of alliance talks on presenting a joint candidate with the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, for this weekend’s presidential elections.
The breakdown in the talks followed the refusal of CPC Vice-Presidential candidate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, to sign a post-dated letter of resignation that would have enabled the ACN place its nominee for the post after the election.
Despite their initial hesitations, ACN chieftains under pressure from their national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had reconciled themselves to advance the CPC presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as the joint presidential candidate of the two parties at the late night talks that commenced on Tuesday.
A pledge by CPC representatives at the meeting to resume the talks at 10.00 a.m. yesterday was not fulfilled leaving many ACN chieftains livid.
ACN govs under pressure
ACN Governors who had been under tremendous pressure from President Goodluck Jonathan, the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, were even more enraged that they were being scorned by Buhari while President Jonathan was on his part seriously courting them through telephone calls and emissaries including traditional rulers.
CPC National Chairman, Prince Tony Momoh, while regretting the breakdown of the talks told Vanguard that Bakare was entitled to exercise his right to freedom of association.
The talks as exclusively reported by Vanguard had been brokered by two former heads of state from the North and a former Vice-President, all of them with strong attachment to the ruling PDP.
Vanguard gathered that former Military President, Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar and erstwhile National Security Adviser, Gen. Aliyu Gusau had, Monday, made contact with Tinubu as to the possibility of forging an alliance with ACN against the PDP.
It was learnt that Tinubu had immediately relayed the request to the national caucus of the ACN that also met in Abuja, Monday. Majority of the caucus members were said to be against it on the basis of what they claimed were past disappointments from Buhari. The persistent pleas from Tinubu and Chief Tom Ikimi to give Buhari another opportunity, however, paved the way.
Ribadu’s mature response
Among those present at the Monday ACN caucus meeting was the party’s presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu. Party insiders informed Vanguard that Ribadu responded to the matter of stepping down very maturely.
One source said: “He was very mature in the way he took it. He said that everyone was aware that he was less than eight months in politics and that Buhari has been involved for some time and that he was willing to learn more. But then, he went on to lay down his plans and compared them with Buhari’s and by the time he finished everybody clapped for him.”
Following Monday’s national caucus meeting, it was resolved that the ACN would dispatch a team of negotiators including governors to meet with the emissaries from Buhari. The ACN caucus was firm that Buhari must be present in person at the meeting which was scheduled to hold at 2 p.m. on Tuesday.
It was expected that after the meeting with Buhari the ACN negotiation team would report back to the ACN national caucus at 4 p.m. same day which would give its final approval on the issue.
While Buhari met with his emissaries at about that time in Abuja, he was according to one source, not inclined to a face-to-face meeting with the negotiating team from the ACN.
His decision not to engage the ACN chieftains in a face to face meeting enraged many party officials who were already raising doubts on the worth of the talks with Buhari. At about the same time, Tuesday, ACN gubernatorial candidates from across the country who were in Abuja for a scheduled parley with the party officials also met where the issue of adopting Buhari as a joint candidate of the two parties was discussed.
A party source privy to the deliberation told Vanguard: “All but one of the northern gubernatorial candidates are opposed to the alliance.”
Meanwhile seeing the determination of the ACN to confront him on the issue, Buhari it was learnt requested for the meeting to be deferred till 9 p.m. on Tuesday. ACN national caucus members yielded to him. But by that time enthusiasm on Buhari had started to wane. Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State who was part of the team expected to meet with Buhari indeed left Abuja that afternoon.
By 9 p.m. on Tuesday evening as they waited for Buhari some party hardliners began to canvass strong conditions for adopting Buhari. They were particularly moved by intelligence reports that the CPC may not be able to even finance the payment of its agents during the weekend presidential poll.
Buhari shifts meeting
Buhari meanwhile had again shifted the meeting to 10.00 p.m. where he was expected to come along with five other officials of the party. The ACN team was also to be represented by a team of six officials.
By 10.30 p.m. the ACN officials including Asiwaju Tinubu, Alhaji Yusuf Alli, Senator Lawan Shuaibu, former Governor Segun Osoba, former Governor Niyi Adebayo, Dr. Muiz Banire and Dr. Garba Abari departed for the meeting.
The mediators, Gen. Babangida, Atiku, Gusau and erstwhile Inspector General of Police, MD Yusuf were on hand to receive them. Buhari, however, was not available. He came some time before midnight.
He came along with Pastor Bakare, Prince Tony Momoh, the national chairman of the CPC and Alhaji Sule Hamman, the erstwhile director general of The Buhari Organisation, TBO.
The ACN team was quick to present its conditions for an offer and that was a post dated letter of resignation from Pastor Bakare as Vice-President and the adoption of reforms in the polity. While they muttered over the matter of reforms, eyes allegedly shifted on Bakare for his agreement on the issue of resignation. Bakare, it was learnt stonewalled on the issue.
Giving reasons for the collapse of the talks, one of the state governors from the South West zone, told Vanguard categorically: “The conditions for an alliance are very simple and straight forward under any circumstance. It is about weighing the possibilities in anyprospect and building on it. That is the real essence of an alliance in the first place.”
No alliance with CPC—Akande
In his statement, Akande said: “The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, wishes to inform all its teeming supporters as well as all Nigerians that there is no alliance between the party and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.
“While it is true that representatives of both parties have engaged in talks aimed at forging an alliance that could dislodge the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the clueless party that has frittered away the huge opportunities that could have transformed our great country in the past 12 years, we regret to announce that such talks have not led to any alliance.
“We as party that believes in democratic values have, therefore, decided that in the overall interest of the parties involved, our democracy as well as our country, it is better for each of the parties to go into the presidential election on its own platform. If at the end of the election on Saturday there is no clear winner we will make a decision on which way to go, in the overriding interest of all Nigerians.”
Bakare has right to express own opinion—Momoh
While reacting to the breakdown of talks with the ACN and why Pastor Tunde Bakare refused to sign a post dated resignation letter, Prince Momoh, National Chairman of the CPC said: “He (Bakare) has a right to express his own opinion.
“He has a right to freedom of expression and freedom to associate. Both the CPC and ACN were interested in the alliance. As far as I am concerned, it was an individual that expressed his own opinion on the issue and he has the right to express it.”
On the possibility of the CPC forging an alliance with any other political party before the presidential polls, the former Minister of Information said “anything can still happen.”
Alliance against Jonathan will fail — Clark
Elder statesman of the Ijaw nation, Chief Edwin Clark, yesterday, waved aside the purported plans by leading opposition parties in the country to form a common front against the PDP in Saturday’s presidential election, stressing that any unwholesome alliance against the political aspiration of President Goodluck Jonathan not based on the overall interest of the electorate would flop.
Clark who stated this in a statement in Abuja, equally urged politicians to eschew regional and religious sentiments capable of inciting disaffection among Nigerians, just as he canvassed for more support towards ensuring that the ‘one man one vote’ doctrine of the present administration was not truncated at the alter of mediocrity.