Delegates of the Action Congress of Nigeria at the weekend unanimously endorsed the opposition merger, All Progressives Congress, during its national convention held at Onikan Stadium, in Lagos. The party said it was a huge sacrifice made to rescue Nigeria from the brinks. Gboyega Akinsanmi reports
At last, the Action Congress of Nigeria crossed the final bridge on its journey to the opposition merger at the weekend. As the 2011 Electoral Act requires, the party at its just concluded national convention secured the unanimous approval of its leaders and members at all levels across the federation to join other opposition forces under a political identity christened All Progressives Congress. At the convention, at least 4,061 delegates from the 36 states of the federation approved the proposal. ACN National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said the approval was in line with an urgent need to end the misrule for which Nigeria had been known globally in the last 13 years since the Peoples Democratic Party came to power at the national level.
What is most significant in the ACN resolution is that the party will lose its political identity, which its leaders and members have laboured to build over the last seven years. According to Akande, “It is a sacrifice we have resolved to make, at least for the sake of our beloved fatherland; for the future of this present generation and to restore order, peace and justice in our political climate.”
The approval of the merger largely puts to rest the insinuations and scepticism about the merger. The architects of the merger tend to rarely doubt its workability. Rather, they are full of great expectation from the merger, which former military Head of State, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, said was proposed “to avoid a state of anarchy and disorder in Nigeria, our own fatherland.”
Akande said the merger of ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Democratic Peoples Party, and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance would yield a bumper harvest of good for Nigeria. “After due deliberation and consultation, the leadership of our party is, in view of the country’s current political realities, convinced that the merger is the way to go.”
Across the federation, political analysts have raised questions over the success of the merger. They have also asked whether it will offer the right answers to the diverse political and economic problems of the country.
What was evident at the convention was a demonstration of strong political will, not just on the part of the ACN, but other opposition parties that proposed the merger to, as they put it, save Nigeria from socio-economic doldrums.
Even though it was ACN’s national convention, almost all promoters of the merger prominently featured at the convention. Buhari and CPC National Chairman, Chief Tony Momoh, represented their party. Former Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, and ANPP National Chairman, Chief Ogbonnaya Onu, represented the party. Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, represented his faction of APGA.
From the country’s six geopolitical zones, ACN leaders attended the convention, in a mark of approval for the merger.
Aside, the convention was conducted under the supervision of the Independent National Electoral Commission. Officials of the electoral umpire were in attendance to monitor and observe the convention in line with the provisions of the 2011 Electoral Act.
The presence of both serving and former governors was no doubt impressive. Governors Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State, Rauf Aregbesola of Osun State, Babatunde Fashola of Lagos State, Adam Oshiomhole of Edo State, and Okorocha personally attended. Other serving governors that could not attend sent goodwill messages and explained their absence.
In a way, the attendance at the convention symbolises the strong commitment of the opposition parties to dislodge the ruling party, a cardinal objective that Buhari said became necessary “to bail out Nigeria from decades of economic doldrums, political instability and social injustice. That is the core reason for which APC was proposed. That is also an antidote for better and greater Nigeria.”
Apparently, this political configuration, which tends to defy the country’s political and ethnic fault lines and economic interests, is coming as a surprise to many Nigeria. But Akande is optimistic that having treaded this path before, “We are wiser, smarter and more prepared to make sacrifices for the sake of our country.”
The ACN national leader Nigeria would soon witness a wind of change “to sweep off debris clogging the country’s path to peace and progress.” He likened the APC to a political gale for change. “But do not be frightened by this storm,” he said. “Those at the other side are the ones to be frightened. For us, it is a positive storm. For those that believe in rigging, the storm will sweep them away.”
Tinubu assured that the storm “will change the political terrain forever. Another phase of this storm is on the rise, it is our storm. The wave is our wave. It is our new vision. It is our new party. For the good of Nigeria, this will be the last and final convention of the ACN.” He urged Nigerians to support APC.
“As we join the transformation, brother and sisters, take pride in what the ACN has over the years accomplished. But as a national imperative, we must now enter into a new phase of sacrifice and commitment in order to bring an era of progressive governance to Nigeria. We must show seriousness and happiness. This is not a sad end, but the beginning of a great beginning,” Tinubu said.
He explained that the transformation from ACN to APC signified three things: a new dawn for Nigeria, a resolve to end corruption, and the end of a regime of excuses.
Leadership by Example
Akande acknowledged sacrifices all the opposition parties in the merger had made. He said the merger’s sponsors “are selfless leaders who provided the backbone for the raising of funds and who exercised tremendous influence that promoted the confidence in the arrangement.”
But he warned that the progressives must beware of the antics of those he called political hawks. He urged the progressives “to work harder to build a strong, disciplined and internally democratic political platform that guarantees citizen participation at all levels. It, therefore, behoves us as leaders to always lead by example and insist on discipline from our party members.”
He tasked the progressives to remain vigilant and constantly watch out for mercenaries who may want to frustrate the merger. “In over 14 years that the ruling party has being in power, not only has it failed to deliver on its promises, it has also infected all institutions of the state with its aversion for the rule of law and entrenched monumental corruption.” This, for him, is why Nigeria “has become a society where the safety of lives, private properties and public installations is at its lowest ebb. It also explains deepening level of poverty, which is now at its highest. It finally justifies the reason our countrymen are waiting patiently, but with latent breathe, to see the successful outcome of the merger talks. We must never let them down.”
But many analysts still doubt if INEC would register the opposition merger with the APC acronym. There is a raging controversy over the name, with the sudden emergence of two political groups, African Peoples Congress and All Patriotic Citizens, which laid claim to the APC acronym. One of the two groups is in court over the matter.
Some take the name controversy to mean a bleak future for the opposition merger. But ACN’s National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said APC identity “is neither threatened not facing any crisis.” He cited certain provisions of the 2011 Electoral Act and the 1999 Constitution to buttress his point.
According to Mohammed, section 84 (2) of the 2011 Electoral Act requires political parties intending to merge to give INEC a 90-day notice before the general elections, a condition the parties have duly observed. The general elections are about two years away.
Subsection three requires that intending merger partners make a written request for merger which “shall be sent to the chairman of the commission and shall be signed jointly by the national chairman, secretary and treasurer for the time being of the different political parties proposing the merger and shall be accompanied by a special resolution passed by the national convention of each of the political parties proposing to merge, approving the merger; the proposed full name and acronym, constitution, manifesto, symbol or logo of the party together with the addresses of the national office of the party resulting from the merger.”
Mohammed said the parties were at this stage. “Apparently, all the intending parties are working in line with the provisions of the electoral law. So, until we meet all the conditions, the parties are not expected to send a written request. So, the process of merger is different from the process of party formation. We cannot be intimidated in any way or by political forces that choose to work against our interests.”
Fashola believes all parochial interests must be abandoned for the merger to work. He appealed to the delegates at the convention to recognise that they have a duty now to “rise above all odds” and dispel all the rumours and doubts bordering on the effect of selfish interests on the merger. He also advised INEC “to shelve sectional and parochial interest and place national interest above all to really prove their status as a true and unbiased umpire.”
Many believe that the ACN national convention held to approve the opposition merger is a major step and motivator for the other partners in the coalition, ACN being the strongest party in the group.