•Urges members with grievances to explore windows of reconciliation
•Two APC Reps defect to coalition of united opposition parties
•Moghalu, Balarabe Musa doubt reasons for grand alliance
•Civil society groups express hope for competitive political space
By Emmanuel Aziken, Political Editor, Henry Umoru, Emman Ovuakporie & Omeiza Ajayi
EKITI—The All Progressives Congress, APC, has affirmed that no gang-up directed against the Muhammadu Buhari-led administration would work as it yesterday called on all those with grievances against the party to retrace their steps while the windows for reconciliation are still open.
The party’s assertion, nonetheless, two of its members in the House of Representatives, yesterday, formally announced their defection to the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP-led alliance of opposition political parties.
The defection of the two members came in the wake of apprehension in the House over the leadership direction of the House, with members taking varied positions on the development.
However, that momentum was deflated yesterday as 2019 presidential aspirant, Prof. Kingsley Moghalu and Second Republic governor of old Kaduna State, Alhaji Balarabe Musa, rebuffed the agenda of the alliance.
Civil society activists, including president of Transition Monitoring Group, TMG, Dr. Abiola Afolabi-Akiyode, and executive director of Civil Society Legislative Advocacy Centre: CISLAC, Mallam Auwal Ibrahim, however, expressed hope that the formation of the alliance could positively enhance the competitive space in the polity.
Responding to the formation of the alliance dubbed Coalition of United Political Parties, CUPP, by about 40 political parties, the APC through a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi said: “On Monday July 9, 2018, a group of individuals under the so-called ‘Reformed All Progressives Congress’ platform purportedly joined a coalition of opposition political parties ahead of the 2019 general elections.
“We respect the right of everyone to join any association or group. However, we wish to reiterate that the so-called R-APC is not a faction of our party. Our party, the APC remains united under the leadership of our President, His Excellency Muhammadu Buhari.
“It is also noteworthy that some political parties that have been named as signatories to the MoU have disassociated themselves from the publicised deal.
“We once again reiterate the commitment of our party to address real grievances of our genuine members. We call on them to take advantage of this opportunity while the windows for reconciliation are still open.
“We are confident that no level of gang-up can make our government under President Buhari waiver in its promises to Nigerians to rid our country of corruption and improve the quality of lives for our people.”
The call for reconciliation nonetheless, two members of the House of Representatives, yesterday, publicly declared their support for the alliance during a hearing on the Niger Delta Development Commission, NDDC.
The two members are Rufai Ahmed Chachangi and Sani Rano from Kaduna and Kano states respectively.
Other members of the House were yesterday divided on the import of the development.
Kingsley Chinda (PDP, Rivers) argued that “if it happens, leadership will remain the way it is because it’s just a nomenclature and nothing else.
“If you look at the whole thing, politics is local; as I am here, it’s what I can get for Obio Akpor, my constituency that is paramount but at the national level, it’s a different ball game entirely as national interest which will drive a lot of issues to a higher political mileage comes to fore.”
Rimamande Shawhulu (PDP, Taraba) simply said: “We’ll allow it to flow like a river and allow it to produce the leadership with the majority in the House because we need to build strong institutions and not strong men.
“We have rules governing the House and we cannot jettison our rules just to please anybody or a body of persons then end up destroying our institutions.”
But another member of the House, who chose to speak under the condition of anonymity like three others, had a different view, declaring that all those planning to defect were selfish because they were all protecting individual interests, not even the interest of the party.
He said: “We all know politics is local from Sokoto to Kwara and Kano but their overriding interest is individualistic.”
Also reacting, yesterday, the Chairman, Senate Committee on Customs, Tariff and Excise, Senator Hope Uzodinma, APC, Imo West, said it would not affect the party and the Senate.
Senator Uzodinma said: “It’s not an alliance, they signed an MoU, a Memorandum of Understanding; it is an understanding from what I saw to work together. Of course, democracy allows that and there is no where in the world that democracy operates without opposition.
“APC did not do any coalition. Of course, there are only two parties in Nigeria, APC and others. So, it is already a settled issue that others can always do any ceremony and like I told you, that explains how good President Buhari is, allowing the environment for democracy to thrive.
“First, there is no democracy anywhere in the world that operates without opposition, that is why it is democracy for some people, the minority might have their say, but the majority will have their way.
“I think it is commendable and I urge them to go about their businesses, to go about their opposition following the rules and condemn hate speech and campaign of calumny that could lead to violence or any attempt by people to instigate the citizenry against the government.
“I call for the understanding of all of us, especially the political class, to play according to rules and allow the government to face the business of governance and then do politics within the corridors that are allowed and by the latitude that is approved for political activities by the monitoring and regulating agencies such as INEC. So in my view, it is a good development.”
Also speaking with Vanguard, Senator Andrew Uchendu, APC, Rivers East, who noted that the MoU signed will not hold waters, said he was expecting the parties to announce their sole candidate for 2019 Presidential election.
Senator Uchendu said: “I wouldn’t authoritatively say anything about what happened yesterday (Monday). But it will not have much impact on the floor of the red chamber because contributions, considerations there are purely non-partisan. What is important to us is Nigeria and Nigerians.
“We are looking at the coalition, most of those parties are brief case parties. I know of two of the national chairmen that come from my home, they don’t even have a base, let alone control of a ward. But then, INEC registered them and so, let Nigerians know they are political parties.
“They signed an MoU and what does an MoU say, what is the main substance that they have found an MoU to organise, arrange for the process of choosing, it would have been better if we were told that in the MoU, they have chosen a candidate that the MoU is for a process, we are watching the process and we know that the road may go to the tatters and unrealisable.
“But more importantly, is the fact that if we are doing this some six months ago, it’s understandable; they are doing it one year to the general election is understandable, but a few months to the general election, I doubt if anything concrete will come out of it, but I wish them luck. We are not moved at all.”
PDP coalition ‘act of opportunism’ — Balarabe Musa
However, former Governor Balarabe Musa said the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) by 39 political parties and groups ahead of the 2019 general elections was an act of “opportunism.”
Musa in an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Abuja said: “I don’t think a coalition like this, which is opportunistic, will be able to defeat the governing party that is, the All Progressives Congress, APC.
“Remember, the reason for coming together is simply because they have lost the opportunities for sharing power.
“It is not because of anything which they can do which APC didn’t do. No, it is not because they have a different ideological position.
“There is no fundamental difference between them and the APC; they are just an electoral gang to defeat the APC. I don’t think the coalition is enough.”
According to him, what is needed is an alliance which is ideologically more focused than the APC and not just an aberration of what APC stands for.
“In any case also, they have to contend with other alliances. I don’t think it will make any difference at all.
“Between now and August, we will know whether they can make qualitative difference and do what APC is able to do,” Musa said.
We need something new— Moghalu
2019 presidential aspirant on the platform of the Young Democratic Party, Prof. Moghalu, while also dismissing the alliance said: “We note the MoU signed yesterday (Monday) by the PDP and about 30 other parties. It is a legitimate move in a democracy. But the real question remains: what does our country need now? We need a paradigm shift in governance. A regrouping of the booted out PDP and members of the failed APC will not achieve that. Things are falling apart and the centre cannot hold.
“The shifting allegiances of the same old faces and the same old career politicians will mean the same old problems for Nigeria. Our long-suffering masses now need something new, something different, and something bold if we have truly learnt the lessons of 2015.
“Remember: another coalition brought the APC into the presidency. With the PDP-led MoU and the disastrous performance of the APC, the path is now open for a real transformative third force and generational shift which a Kingsley Moghalu presidency would represent for Nigeria. I seek to heal our country and build a nation, to move our masses from poverty and unemployment to jobs and prosperity, and restore our standing in the world with a plan set out in my new book.”
It’s a welcome development — TMG boss
President of the TMG. Dr. Mrs. Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, on her part, welcomed the alliance as one that could turn out positively for the country, if positively harnessed.
She said: “It is their democratic right to form an alliance, the law is certainly not against it and it is not new in the history of this country as we have had it in the past.
“However, for the ordinary Nigerian citizen, the question is what does it portend for all of us? But the question will still be asked whether it is an alliance based on ideology Is it an alliance based on the interest of the people? The goal should be to lift the state of the country, to make the nation better. So, for me it is a welcome development as it would make the political space more competitive in a positive manner.”
Also speaking, executive director of the CISLAC, Mallam Rasfasnjani Ibrahim said: “Politicians have a way of doing their things. You know there are so many of the parties and we do not underestimate the possibility that they will form a solid alliance and we cannot overrule the possibility that it will work.”