INEC Chairman, Prof. Attahiru Jega
•Opposition parties vow to defend ‘proprietary’ right
•Another group seeks to register as APC
Chuks Okocha, Tobi Soniyi and Onyebuchi Ezigbo
The leadership of the African Peoples Congress (APC) Thursday emerged to rest the controversy over the identities of promoters of the group that shares the same abbreviation with the All Progressives Congress (APC), an amalgam of some of the nation’s major opposition parties.
But the opposition parties are not letting go of the abbreviation without a fight as they have vowed to defend their “intellectual property.”
However, the controversy over the APC abbreviation has taken another turn, as another group, the All Patriotic Citizens (APC), has written to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), seeking registration as a party.
With the request of the All Patriotic Citizens, there are now three groups laying claims to the APC abbreviation.
The Protem National Chairman of the African Peoples Congress, Chief Onyinye M. Ikeagwuonu, at a news conference in Abuja to herald the proposed party, said they had completed all requirements for registration as a political party by INEC.
The group also opened the doors of its party headquarters, located opposite the Apo Legislative Quarters in the Gudu District of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), for inspection by reporters to douse the allegation by the opposition parties that it was a phony group that had no office in Abuja.
The African Peoples Congress’ bid for registration as a political party became controversial following the allegations by the opposition parties that it was sponsored by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to frustrate the registration of their APC.
Both sides have engaged in recriminations in the last few days, especially after INEC confirmed that it had received the African Peoples Congress’ request for registration as a political party.
Ikeagwuonu confirmed to reporters in Abuja yesterday that the group had completed all the necessary requirements for INEC to register it as a party and that it was optimistic that the commission would issue it with a certificate of registration soon.
He also took a swipe at the opposition parties, refuting their allegations that its bid for registration was an afterthought to stop the registration of their APC.
He said: “Today (Thursday), we have submitted the long list of requirements as prescribed by INEC and have completed the constitutional demand on us for registration as a political party.
“Accordingly, INEC has duly acknowledged our submission and this is the INEC letter to that effect.”
He challenged the opposition coalition to show evidence of application for the registration of their APC with INEC.
He wondered how “noisy grandstanding” or public knowledge of the opposition parties’ formation of APC translated to an application with INEC.
Giving reasons for the seemingly faceless posture of the group, Ikeagwuonu said the proposed party’s leadership was busy working out details on its political engagement rather than embarking on a publicity blitz for its registration.
He said contrary to insinuations that the group stole the APC abbreviation from the merging parties, it had been pursuing the aspiration to form the party for over two years.
On the assertion by the opposition coalition leaders that the group had not formally applied to INEC for registration and the commission would not use that as a basis to deny them registration, Ikeagwuonu said the proposed party applied to INEC through a lawyer and the application for registration was duly acknowledged.
He said INEC had replied their letter in a memo stipulating requirements and preconditions for registration.
Ikeagwuonu further countered the assertion of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that the promoters of the African Peoples Congress had not complied with the legal provisions for the application of party registration and that it was being used as a ploy to destabilise the genuine efforts of the opposition coalition to form a merger party.
He explained that the group had paid the required processing fee to INEC as set out in the guidelines and showed receipts for the payment to reporters.
“Contrary to the hallucinations of the merging group, within the period, we paid the N1 million administrative and processing fee stipulated by the commission,” he said.
But the opposition coalition vowed yesterday not to give up the fight for its proprietary right to the APC abbreviation.
The leadership of the merger committees of ACN, All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), at a news conference in Abuja, dismissed the claim by the rival APC that it had fulfilled all the requirements for registration.
Speaking on behalf of members of the coalition, the Chairman of the ACN Merger Committee, Chief Tom Ikimi, said having publicly resolved to merge under APC and having popularised the abbreviation, it has now become the intellectual property of the merging parties.
He said prior to the adoption of the name, the merging parties had carried out a thorough search of existing names of all political parties in Nigeria and that none bore a similar name as APC.
“Prior to the adoption of the name, we had carried out a careful search of the existing names of all political parties with extant registration in Nigeria and finding out that none had the name All Progressives Congress nor the abbreviation APC, we chose the name and unveiled it.
“Thus by that public pronouncement, the name, All Progressives Congress and abbreviation, APC, have became our intellectual property, which we shall guard jealously,” he said.
Ikimi said the coalition had always carried INEC along in all the processes it had undertaken so far towards attaining the merger.
“In the circumstance, our message is clear. We have informed the whole world of our decision to merge under the name, the All Progressives Congress, with the abbreviation, APC. We are determined to pursue the process to its logical conclusion in the interest of our dear fatherland.
“The feeble attempt by any other entity to pretend to use the same abbreviation is an exercise in futility which must fail because it amounts to what in law is called 'Passing Off'.
“We challenge the cowards behind the so-called African Peoples Congress to defend their position or forever hold their peace,” he said.
THISDAY was made to understand that the planned meeting of the opposition leaders with INEC officials slated for yesterday was put off at the last minute due to the absence of the chairman of the commission, Prof. Attahiru Jega, who is currently away in South Africa.
But there was a new twist to the war over the APC abbreviation yesterday as one lawyer, Mr. Oliver Chidi Ike, informed THISDAY that he had applied to INEC to register the name All Patriotic Citizens (APC).
A copy of the application to register the name, which was dated March 8, 2013 and reflected INEC’s acknowledgement stamp dated March 11, 2013 was given to our correspondent in Abuja.
The application to INEC reads: “I humbly request for the approval of INEC for our political group known as All Patriotic Citizens (APC) to function as a political party.
“All Patriotic Citizens was formed two years ago as a pressure group.
“The above is for your information and necessary action sir.”
The group has as its address as Plot 1385, Gurara Street, Off IBB Way, Maitama, Abuja.A copy of the party manifesto was also attached to the application.