House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila
With the formation of the All Progressive Congress (APC), a coalition of four opposition parties, the constituent parties are planning to hold their respective special national conventions that will ratify the merger, THISDAY learnt Thursday.
A source said the four parties that came together to form APC—Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) — are billed to hold their conventions by April when larger caucuses of the parties would ratify the merger.
Opposition members in the Senate and the House of Representatives at different fora in Abuja yesterday also endorsed the decision to form the party, which they said would strengthen opposition parties’ push to unseat the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015.
The presidency, however, expressed doubt over the survival of the alliance, which it said would be threatened by clashes of interests as the APC comprises members who are strange bedfellows.
THISDAY learnt that the parties were planning the special conventions to enable them to meet some of the specific guidelines as stated in the Electoral Act, 2010 (as amended).
Section 84 of the Act requires political parties planning a merger to hold special conventions where all their national chairmen, national secretaries and national treasurers must sign indicating that they have agreed to merge. This must be done within 90 days to the general election.
This will enable the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to withdraw their former certificates of registration and issue a new certificate of registration in the name of the new party.
Speaking on their next move after Wednesday’s announcement of the formation of the APC, ACN National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, confirmed to THISDAY that the constituent parties that formed the APC would hold special conventions to ratify the merger.
He, however declined to say when they would do so, adding that it is after the special conventions that they would formally inform INEC about their decision.
It was also gathered that the constituent parties are planning an alternative arrangement to take care of any sabotage by some politicians in their folds that they suspect of having close links with the PDP.
According to a source, “we are aware of saboteurs and therefore, there is a Plan B, to take care of such people. We know that in every 12, there must be a Judas and we have our plans against their actions and possible infiltration.”
The suspicion of a possible sabotage followed a report that some ANPP chieftains, including former Zamfara State Governor, Senator Sani Yerima and former Borno State Governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, had opened talks with the PDP with the aim of defecting to the party.
But Yerima and Sheriff have denied nursing any intention to dump the ANPP for the PDP.
Reacting to the formation of APC, the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe, said the presidency and President Goodluck Jonathan were not afraid or jittery about its emergence.
According to Okupe, “the new merger arrangement is not built on solid foundation. The sponsors of the merger arrangement would be destroyed by their individual burning ambitions.”
But the PDP congratulated the opposition parties for their successful merger and formation of APC.
PDP said the development was an indication that the nation's democracy had come of age and is deepening.
PDP National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, in a statement yesterday said with the formation of the APC, the PDP and Nigerians expect to see robust debates on the economy and other issues of governance in the general interest of the country.
Senators from opposition parties in the country at a news conference yesterday in Abuja, declared support for the formation of APC.
The senators said as “representatives of the people, we senators of the earlier mentioned political parties have all agreed to work enthusiastically in support of this national rescue mission”.
The parties are ACN, ANPP, APGA, CPC and Democratic Peoples Party (DPP).
The senators said the ongoing merger talks among progressive parties were aimed at salvaging Nigeria from the rot and corruption, which the PDP had caused.
Senate Minority Leader, Senator George Akume, who was the spokesman at the news conference, said they had all agreed to work eagerly “in support of this national rescue mission”.
He appealed to followers of the merged parties in various senatorial districts and all progressives in the country to join the train, saying, “it is our faith that this collective, worthwhile and noble endeavour will lead all Nigerians to realise the dreams of our founding fathers to have a country that works for all and sundry.”
Like their colleagues in the Senate, the Minority Caucus in the House of Representatives affirmed their support for the ongoing push to unseat the PDP.
The over 160-member caucus said they were “fully and totally” in support of the merger of their various parties for the “singular purpose of the true transformation” of Nigeria.
House Minority Leader, Hon. Femi Gbajabiamila, who addressed reporters after a closed-door meeting of the parties Thursday, said the opposition legislators were following the footsteps of their parties.
Although those present at the media conference were mainly members of the ACN, CPC and ANPP, Gbajabiamila explained that the declaration was being made on behalf of all the opposition parties.
Meanwhile, a crack appears to have developed in the ranks of the opposition parties as APGA dissociated itself from the merger shortly after it was endorsed by the lawmakers.
Chairman, House Committee on Environment, Hon. Uche Ekwunife, an APGA lawmaker, told reporters that her party was not part of the merger movement.
She said members were neither consulted nor were they part of the merger of the opposition parties.
She also disclosed that to the best of her knowledge, the national leadership of APGA was also not part of the merger talks.
When she was reminded of the presence of Imo State Governor, Chief Rochas Okorocha, a member of APGA, at the merger talks in Lagos on Tuesday, Ekwunife said Okorocha might have joined the talks on personal grounds and in exercise of his freedom to associate with others.
A faction of APGA, led by Alhaji Sadeeq Massala, protested to the INEC over what it dubbed the unauthorised inclusion of the party's name on the list of the parties that formed APC.
In a letter dated February 6 and addressed to the Chairman of INEC, Professor Attahiru Jega, and signed by the faction’s National Secretary, Dr. Ifedi Okwenna, the faction said it was not part of “a so-called merger committee” where an agreement for such a merger was sealed by the merging parties and the decision to present a formal request for the merger.
Notwithstanding Ekwunife's denial of APGA’s participation in the merger, Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, who was one of the 10 governors from the opposition parties that attended the Lagos meeting, told reporters in Maiduguri that APGA was part of the decision of opposition parties to form a strong party to wrest power from the PDP during the next general election.
He said members of APGA were being economical with the truth because during the meeting, Okorocha was part of the decision to form a united and strong party.
His Edo State counterpart, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, however, said the APC would succeed when its leaders sacrifice their personal aspirations in the interest of the nation.
Speaking during a visit to him by the ANPP presidential candidate in the last election and former Governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, Oshiomhole said the merger required sacrifices from party leaders.
Shekarau said one of the major assignments of the National Rebuilding and Inter-Party Committee of the ANPP is to reach out to other political parties of like minds to enrich the democratic process and give Nigerians an alternative.
He explained that the formation of APC was a major breakthrough and assured the governor of ANPP’s commitment to providing the people an alternative platform.