Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu
By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) at the weekend restated its commitment to the actualisation of an opposition party merger based on a tripartite negotiation with the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
Secretary of the 21-member ANPP contact committee on merger, Chief George Muoghalu, told THISDAY in Abuja that all the parties to the merger talks had agreed that the plan should be without any precondition other than a common desire to safeguard the interest and well-being of Nigeria and its people.
His comments were in an obvious reaction to a statement credited to CPC National Leader, Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari, on January 16 that the opposition parties’ bid to form a new party would be carried out in phases with the first part being a fusion of the CPC and the ACN while other parties, including the ANPP, would be expected to join the coalition at a later stage.
In defending the decision to go ahead with CPC-ACN merger negotiation, Buhari said there was already an existing agreement between both parties arising from the botched alliance plan in 2011.
A key partner in the merger, ACN, reacting to another issue yesterday criticised the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF) over its silence on the situation in Enugu State, where the Governor, Mr. Sullivan Chime, had been out of the country since last September for health reason.
But Muoghalu said the arrangement was that the three parties would be part of the negotiations from the outset.
"As a party, we in ANPP are for tripartite merger arrangement and we have received confirmation from the ACN on the issue. The three parties will come up with their proposals; it is a tripartite arrangement and that is where we are. The position of ANPP and ACN on the matter is very clear and we believe that CPC has a similar commitment," he said.
He added that the ANPP was not bothered about Buhari's statement, saying the party believes it is still part of the coalition.
According to him, each party to the talks will be going to the meeting with a proposal that is expected to address the challenges of forming an opposition coalition mega party.
"We are not worried about that. Perhaps it is a personal wish because I cannot speak for Buhari; I can only speak for my party and we have no problem with his personal wish or fears.
"He may have reasons to doubt some personalities in ANPP just as some personalities may also have reasons to doubt any member of CPC. These are personal issues. We are dealing with three corporate entities represented by the three merger committees, " he said.
Muoghalu said just like CPC may have reach some understandings with the ACN during the last general election, ANPP in 2011 had also had some basic understanding with ACN as well.
"The comment credited to Buhari may have been based on some information he had in the past and we do not want to dwell in the past, we want to deal with what is on ground at present.
"We also has reached some understanding with the ACN in 2011 but that was in the past now, we want to face the present and that was the reason for the constitution of various committees to go into talks without preconditions .
"What we are saying is that we have all accepted now that we want to merge and we are going into the process without any conditions and three parties have shown enough commitment to pursue that, " he added.
He explained that it is the intention of the coalition to create a formidable democratic platform that will allow everybody to express their themselves and give room to full internal democracy to drive the process.
He said the intention was to ensure that whatever ambition anyone has, there would be a conducive environment for him to canvass it.
Muoghalu said one of the immediate issues that the merger committees would focus on was how to remove all obstacles that may be in the way of actualising the merger plan.
While giving an update on the outcome of his committee's nationwide tour of ANPP's branches, Muoghalu said the idea of a common opposition platform had received overwhelming support across the country.
Muoghalu, who is also the ANPP National Vice Chairman for South-east, said most of the members in the four zones so far visited felt that what the party was doing was right.
Also at the weekend, the ACN condemned the poor handling of the reported illness of Chime, saying the conspiracy of silence being perpetrated by governors does not serve the interest of democracy.
The party said since any human being could fall ill anytime, no one, especially public office holders, should be ashamed to admit their illness through a full disclosure and, if necessary, cede full power to those constitutionally empowered to take over.
While lamenting the growing pattern of shrouding the health problems of elected officials in secrecy, the party said there was the need to do things properly to advance the nation's democracy rather than personal interests.
The party, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Ahaji Lai Mohammed, criticised what it termed as the choreographed visit to Chime in London by a NGF delegation, which it said was designed to make people believe that there was nothing wrong with Chime.
According to ACN, the reason behind all the shenanigans is the desperation by public office holders to hold on to power at all costs, even when it is clear that their health has failed to such a level that they are better off stepping down so they can attend to their health problems.
''We do not have details of what is wrong with Gov. Chime and honestly, that is not the reason behind our intervention. Our concern is that the conspiracy of silence being perpetrated by the state governors who are reported to have taken ill and abandoned their duty posts, as well as their supporters, especially the NGF, does not serve the interest of our democracy.
''In the case of Gov. Chime, how can a man who is purportedly on vacation disappear for over 135 days and the people who voted him into office are not expected to ask questions? Does the constitution provide for such a long 'vacation' without consequences?
"Is Governor Chime's deputy, whom he reportedly handed over to, given enough latitude to adequately preside over the affairs of the state? If not, how has this affected governance in the state? And to what extent have the people of the state been denied the dividends of democracy by this unnecessary controversy?
''These are the issues that should be of interest to all lovers of democracy, not the antics of some governors who
are frittering away taxpayers’ money by gallivanting to London to see Gov. Chime and thereafter releasing a picture showing a 'hale and hearty' Gov. Chime, dressed-up like a Soviet-era spook, which has now generated even more controversy.”
ACN queried the rationale behind the governors' assertion that Chime is recovering well when they could not say from what illness.