By Onyebuchi Ezigbo
Opposition parties have adopted new strategies targeted at forming a coalition party that will unseat the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general election, especially at the federal level.
The change of tactics, THISDAY learnt, followed the allegation by the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) that the PDP-led Federal Government was plotting to frustrate the alliance by demonising key opposition leaders and arresting others.
THISDAY learnt that meetings among the various committees set up by the opposition parties in the merger scheme, which were originally meant to hold last week in Abuja had to be shelved and in their place, the parties met separately to discuss proposals for a unified constitution, logo and a new name for the proposed coalition.
It was learnt that the merger committee of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) met behind closed doors last Wednesday night at the Transcorp Hilton Hotel in Abuja. The meeting, which began by 8.30 pm, lasted till the wee hours of Thursday.
According to a party source, the committee considered among other issues, the possibility of arriving at a common constitution that will be acceptable to the opposition parties.
The source said the meeting discussed strategies to rebuild party structures and attract more prominent politicians into its fold ahead of the 2015 general election.
In furtherance of the merger, the ANPP committee also embarked on a sensitisation tour of the South-west to brief members on the implications of the planned coalition.
Also in line with the new strategy adopted by the opposition coalition, ACN met at a secret location in Abuja but without its key leaders in attendance.
Although efforts to reach the spokesman of the party, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, to confirm what might have transpired failed, THISDAY learnt that the change of tactics was borne out fears of persecution and infiltration by the PDP.
ACN last Tuesday had accused the PDP-led Federal Government of embarking on a plot to scuttle the opposition merger.
The party alleged that PDP agents were employing measures to discredit and silence key opposition leaders involved in the ongoing plans to form a formidable platform to confront the ruling party in 2015.
According to Mohammed, the paranoia over the merger plans has driven the government “to resort to imprudent and crude tactics aimed at tarnishing the image of key opposition leaders, especially ACN leader, Bola Tinubu and his CPC counterpart, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, as well as their close political associates.”
Another issue that may have affected the progress of the merger efforts is the internal crisis in the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC).
The chairman of the party’s Contact Committee on Merger, Alhaji Garba Gadi, told THISDAY that the reason the committee had not taken part in the merger meeting was because it had not been formally inaugurated.
However, a faction of the party’s leadership, currently challenging the authenticity of the present national executive led by Prince Tony Momoh in court, has said there was no way the CPC under Momoh could negotiate a successful merger.
Spokesman of the group, Chief Dennis Aghanya, said the Momoh-led national leadership of the CPC does not have the instrument of authority of the party to negotiate any merger arrangement on behalf of the party and as such would never succeed.
Speaking exclusively to THISDAY, Aghanya said it had become necessary to clarify the issue because of the ongoing meetings with the ACN and ANPP.
“How can you be discussing with somebody who does not have the certificate of the party, in addition to a pending court case whose judgment is coming up on the 28th of February 2013?
“Apart from these reasons, their house is in shreds. They have factions within factions. Tony Momoh is leading one, Buba Galadima leading one while el-Rufai is leading the third,” he said.
He alleged that two members of the party, Hon. Farouk Adamu and Hadi Sirika, were recently quoted to have said in Katsina that they had convinced Buhari to be the presidential candidate of the party in the 2015 general election.
“How can sensible fellows be saying that at a point when you are assumed to be in talks with other political parties for a merger. Does it mean that they have an established mindset before going into such talks?
“If you are talking of merger, you must bear in mind that the moment that happens, the issue of who becomes what is thrown open for contest.
“We are sure that other people are nursing similar ambition, so you don’t talk in a manner that will be injurious to the discussions on the table except if you intentionally didn’t want it to succeed.
“The truth of the matter is that this people don’t truly believe in this merger talks.
“We are the ones involved and that is why we are following due process to negotiate with the other political parties. We have unofficially held talks with some representatives of the ANPP, ACN, APGA and a few others.
“The outcome of such discussions gave rise to our setting up of merger committees with men of integrity and wisdom. We hope to advance in such talks by next week,” he stated.