Chief Bisi Akande
Party crosses first hurdle as INEC demands further documentation
By Chuks Okocha and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Opposition parties coalescing under the umbrella of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have finally found a way out of the crisis of confidence among them that had stalled efforts to constitute an interim management committee for the group which is seeking registration with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
As a way out, the party has formed an interim management committee, comprising the national chairmen, secretaries and treasurers of its three major constituent members — Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
The interim management committee, which is to pursue the APC’s registration, is headed by ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, while ANPP National Secretary, Alhaji Musa Tumnsa, will function in the same capacity along with the CPC National Treasurer, Sadiat Farouk.
The truce reached by the merging parties came just as THISDAY gathered that INEC has written to acknowledge the receipt of the letter of intent forwarded to it by the three opposition parties seeking to merge into APC.
The stalemate over the constitution of an APC interim executive had put the opposition leaders under pressure in a bid to meet the condition set by INEC for the registration of the party.
As exclusively reported Sunday by THISDAY, INEC had categorically told the merging political parties that they must have APC's elected executives in place at all levels before the party could be registered.
The prospective party had approached INEC without constituting its executives and INEC, according to sources, insisted that such executives must be in place at all levels.
“The commission made it clear to the APC leaders that their executives must be in place at all levels if the party would be registered and they are now battling to fulfill the condition,” said a source close to INEC.
An APC chieftain and member of the CPC merger committee, Mr. Osita Okechukwu, told THISDAY at the weekend that leaders of the opposition parties have agreed that the three party officials from ACN, ANPP and CPC should lead the nine-member interim management committee until APC is registered.
According to him, the joint merger committee studied carefully the constitution and the Electoral Act before deciding on the right step to follow in the registration of APC.
He said although the trio of Akande, Tumnsa and Farouk could not be said to constitute the interim leadership of APC, their role is to lead the other six officials that make up the nine-man interim management committee in ensuring APC’s registration.
“We did it in such a manner that even the leadership of the parties, leadership of the boards of trustees, where there is one, will continue to meet in an effort to further guide the process and to nominate members of the interim national leadership, members of the national convention committee and members of the state congress committees,” he said.
THISDAY gathered that due to the inability of the parties to accept the terms for an interim leadership structure and the fact that negotiations were getting unduly prolonged, the APC leaders decided at the last minute to form an interim management committee comprising the chairmen, secretaries and treasurers of ACN, CPC and ANPP to break the deadlock.
Members of the management committee were then asked to choose three among them who would act temporarily as leaders in order to secure the registration of the political platform, thus leading to the emergence of Akande, Tumnsa and Farouk.
Okechukwu said the incoming interim national leadership would be saddled with the job of managing the affairs of the party from the time of its registration to a period not later than six months to enable the national convention committee to conclude its assignment.
He explained that ACN, ANPP and CPC officials at the state level would also act in the same capacity, while the state congress committees are expected to elect delegates to the national convention of the APC.
Against the background of reported intrigues and manoeuvrings over the constitution of the APC party structure, Okechukwu said the merger constitution provided for six categories of elective offices, comprising the polling unit, ward, local government, state, zonal and national levels.
“People should credit us with some minimal intelligence of being in a position to read between the lines and to decipher the spirit of the law, especially the Electoral Act. The sub-committee on INEC compliance is headed by a Senior Advocate of Nigeria, James Ocholi, and with other sound minds, among who were experienced politicians.
“The constitution drafting committee of the party is headed by Chief Segun Osoba, a former governor of the Ogun State, while the manifesto committee of the coalition is headed by another experienced politician and political tactician, Chief Audu Ogbeh. The joint merger committee actually carefully studied the constitution and made sure that what they followed was what was provided by the law, word for word.
“Of the three parties that INEC knows as having conducted conventions to approve their participation in the merger, we have chairmen, secretaries and treasurers. And in our opinion, we said these were the people that should apply for registration and in doing so, three out of them, one chairman, secretary and treasurer, were asked to make the application.
“In the constitution of the merging parties, we have what is called the omnibus provision which allows the three officials to pursue the registration of the new platform. After the registration, there would be an interim national and state leadership and there should be a national convention committee and state congresses committee.
“This interim leadership shall act as the seed organ that will eventually produce elected chairman, secretary and other officials that will be forwarded to INEC as the national officers of APC,” he added.
Meanwhile, THISDAY gathered that INEC has written to acknowledge the receipt of the letter of intent forwarded to it by the three opposition parties seeking to form a merger.
INEC in a June 12 letter addressed jointly to the three opposition parties, ACN, ANPP and CPC, asked them to ensure that they fill and submit 35 copies of the commission's prescribed Form PA and to also submit 35 copies of the proposed constitution, manifesto and affidavit supporting claims made on form PA.
In the letter signed by INEC's Secretary, Mr. Abdullahi A. Kaugama, the commission said it was after the parties had returned the completed form and materials that it would proceed to verify the coalition's headquarters address and claims contained in the form PA.
Officials of APC had on June 6 wrote to inform INEC of its intention to merge as a political party and it was in response to this that the commission replied stipulating what the merging political parties should do.
According to a source in the commission, “We see the letter dated June 6, 2013 as a letter of intent, hence the response from the commission on what is expected from the merging political parties.”