BY OKEY NDIRIBE, CLIFFORD NDUJIHE, Henry Umoru, Tony Edike, DAPO AKINREFON, CHARLES KUMOLU & GBENGA OKE
ABUJA — The newly registered mega political party in the country, the All Progressives Congress, APC, a merger of opposition parties, yesterday described its registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a victory for democracy and pledged not to disappoint Nigerians.
The commission, in a terse statement issued by its Secretary, Abdullahi Kaugama, endorsing APC as a political party said: “The Independent National Electoral Commission has approved the application by three political parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) – to merge into one, to be known as the All Progressives Congress.
“On considering the application, the Commission found that the applicant-parties have met all statutory requirements for the merger, and has accordingly granted their request.
“Consequently, the Commission has approved the withdrawal of the individual certificates of the applicant-parties, and the issuance of a single certificate to the All Progressives Congress”.
Reacting to the endorsement of APC as a political party, eminent Nigerians in their numbers yesterday hailed the move and described it as a good omen for the country’s polity and democracy.
Our emergence, victory for democracy—APC
The new party, in a statement issued by its interim National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, in Lagos congratulated Nigerians on its emergence saying Nigerians now have an alternative to a ruling party that has taken the people for a bad ride in the past 14 years.
The party said its registration by INEC was a victory for Nigeria and for democracy, and that it has now also propelled the country to the league of top democratic nations with two major political parties.
According to the statement: “The journey has been long and tortuous. All sorts of obstacles were thrown into our path by anti-democratic forces, but we were painstaking, determined and unrelenting in our quest for a formidable platform that will allow our country, Nigeria, to achieve her full potentials and join the league of respectable nations.
“With the approval of our merger by INEC and the emergence of APC, today marks the beginning of a new dawn for our country and her long-suffering people. We thank Nigerians both here and in the Diaspora for standing by us. We thank the media for their fairness, and we commend INEC for doing the right thing and for not succumbing to pressures from phantom political associations that sought to force it to circumvent the law.
“We promise not to disappoint Nigerians who have reposed much confidence in us. We say that contrary to the lies being peddled by the naysayers, we are not seeking political power for the sake of getting it, but in order to use it to empower our people and allow their long-nursed hopes and dreams to become a reality.
“And to those who have vowed to change their names if APC survives for a year, we hope they will live up to their words.” APC said Nigerians can now look forward to a truly democratic party in the best traditions of what the world considers as the best form of government.
The party promised to unveil, in the days ahead, its membership registration plans to give all Nigerians, especially those who have become disenchanted with the way things are going in the country, the much-awaited opportunity to be part of the country’s democratic process in the true sense of the word.
“We will also be unveiling our plans to turn today’s hopelessness into a time of great opportunities, to reverse the downward slide in our socio-economic development, and to ensure that every Nigerian benefits from the commonwealth, instead of the present situation in which a few fat cats are milking the system dry at the expense of the citizenry,” APC said.
The politics of APC registration
Vanguard learnt that contrary to recent reports in a section of the media, the commission had all along been favourably disposed to registering the party on the grounds that the opposition coalition had already satisfied almost all the requirements necessary for registration as a political party.
A senior official of the Commission who spoke on condition of anonymity told Vanguard: “A committee which was set up by the Commission to evaluate the opposition APC’s application submitted its report last week. However, the Commission was not satisfied with the report and directed the committee to carry out further evaluation of the application. That report was submitted yesterday.”
However, the registration of the opposition coalition as a political party notwithstanding, the last has surely not been heard on controversy surrounding which group truly owns the acronym, ‘APC’.
It will be recalled that the African People’s Congress which applied first to INEC for registration, had gone to an Abuja High Court to challenge INEC’s decision to turn down the association’s request to be listed on the roll of political parties in the country. The group had apparently gone to court in anticipation of the possibility that the All Progressives Congress could succeed with its own application for registration to the Commission.
The National Legal Adviser of the group Mr Kingsley Nnadi had last Monday told Vanguard that his association had more confidence in whatever would be the verdict of the court on the matter.
Nnadi had also said the association was no longer interested in its application to INEC for registration pointing out that the law which empowered INEC to register political parties also empowered the judiciary to conduct a review of any registration exercise carried out by the commission.
Said he: “We are not asking INEC to register us anymore. We are in court because the same Electoral Act which empowered INEC to register political parties also makes a provision for judicial review of such a decision in Section 79 of the Electoral Act. We have the right to seek a review of the decision of INEC to reject our application for registration”.
He had also argued that as a body established by law, the leadership of INEC ought to know that when a matter is in court, it ought not to do anything to compromise or destroy the substance of the matter.
Nnadi had asked: “If they go ahead to register any other group with a name that is in conflict with our association’s name, and the court decides that our own group is the authentic APC, what would happen to the merger?”
Investigations by Vanguard revealed that the decision of the controversial African People’s Congress ( APC) to drag the electoral body to court for refusing to register the association, left INEC with only the option of considering the opposition coalition for registration. This was confirmed by Mr. Kayode Idowu, the Chief Press Secretary to the Chairman when he spoke to Vanguard last Monday.
Responding to a question on how the commission was handling the rivalry over the APC acronym that was being claimed by several political associations that applied for registration as parties, he had said that the Commission was actually considering only the application of the All People’s Congress.
He explained that since the African People’s Congress had dragged the commission to court over the controversy, the Commission could no longer act on any matter concerning the association, until the court delivers its verdict on the case.
Said he: “You know that INEC was dragged to court over this matter. We cannot comment on any matter that is in court.
So, right now, it is only the application of the APC coalition that is receiving attention for registration.”
He further stated that this development notwithstanding, the court had not issued any injunction restraining INEC from going ahead to consider any other party that had applied for registration.
In response to another question on what would happen, should INEC go ahead to register the APC coalition, but was eventually overruled by the court, he responded that the Commission would decide on what to do when that situation arises, adding that INEC does not disobey court orders.
We expect vibrant opposition—PDP
National Leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, yesterday in its reaction said that with the registration of All Progressive Congress, APC as a political party by INEC, it expects a vibrant opposition that will constructively engage it on issues of governance.
Congratulating the leadership of APC, the PDP noted that with the development, Nigerians will be the utmost beneficiaries rather than overheating the polity by promoting violence and hatred among Nigerians.
In a statement signed by PDP acting National Publicity Secretary, Tony Okeke, the party urged Nigerians not to be deceived by the change of flag by opposition political parties like the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC and All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP that collapsed into the APC, adding, “such does not remove their dictatorial tendencies and penchant for deceit and propaganda for which Nigerians have rejected them irrespective of party name.”
Welcoming the APC on board as a political party, the PDP described the action as a healthy development for Nigeria’s democracy, just as it boasted that the registration does not in any way pose any threat to it as a party.
The PDP, however, urged the leaders of APC to focus on issues as well as engage in more robust debates on the economy and other germane issues of governance for the overall interest of the country.