2023 Election and Reemergence of CUPP

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Udora Orizu writes that after a one year sick leave, Mr. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere, Spokesperson of the main opposition party alliance has reemerged

The 2023 general election season seems to have commenced following the reemergence of the country’s main opposition alliance, popularly known as the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP).

Created in July 2018, CUPP was the result of deliberations between the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and over 40 other political parties who signed a Memorandum of Understanding in which they pledged to work together to unseat the President Muhammadu Buhari-led All Progressive Congress (APC) government.

Among the political parties in the coalition are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Peoples Party (APP), Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Better Nigeria Progressive Party, Democratic Alternative (DA), Democratic Peoples Party (DPC), Grand Democratic Party of Nigeria (GDPN), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), KOWA Party, Labour Party (LP), Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN).

Others include: National Conscience Party (NCP), New Generation Party (NGP), National Unity Party (NUP), Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), Peoples Alliance for National Development and Liberty (PANDEL), Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), People for Democratic Change (PDC) and Providence People’s Congress (PPC), Restoration Party of Nigeria (RPN), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), National Interest Party (NIP), Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA) and Young Democratic Party (YDP).

While each of the political party retained its slogan, logo, and identity, their major decision was to field consensus candidates at the state and local government levels, as well as a single presidential candidate in 2019. It was with that understanding that all the parties involved buried their individual ambition for the interest of the group, to reduce vote-splitting and give PDP presidential candidate, their 2019 consensus candidate, former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, a better chance of defeating President Muhammadu Buhari.

With the MoU also came the selection of the alliance’s national and states leaders. This led to the emergence of the National Chairman of Action Peoples Party (APP), Mr. Ikenga Imo Ugochinyere as National Spokesman.

Getting to Work

The Spokesperson of CUPP never shied away from what he deemed ills and shortcomings of the Federal Government. As a vocal critic of Buhari’s administration, he commented frequently on any national issue that concerned the well being of the youths.

He consistently expressed disappointment in the APC-led administration which he labelled a total failure and a huge joke. Ugochinyere stated that the government had destroyed the hopes and aspirations of Nigerians, highlighting that President Buhari failed to live above board on the plans he set before assuming office.

Slight Shake up in the Alliance

The emergence of former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, as the consensus presidential candidate of the alliance, led to a little shake up, as some of the parties in the coalition began singing discordant tunes.

Atiku was announced as the joint presidential candidate of the CUPP by the Chairman of its Steering Committee, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State, at a press briefing in Abuja.

Ugochinyere, had then said that the decision to back Atiku was arrived at few hours after a closed door deliberation by members of the CUPP at Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja.

Shortly after the announcement, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Grassroots Democratic Party of Nigeria (GDPN), and the Action Democratic Party (ADP) respectively disassociated themselves from the endorsement.

Regardless of this, Atiku went ahead to meet with the leaders of political parties in the CUPP in Abuja, where they resolved to work together in the 2019 polls.

Oyinlola told journalists at the meeting that the CUPP adopted the former Vice President because of his acceptability nationwide.

In a statement CUPP said, “Over 41 political parties in attendance endorsed the decision which enjoyed majority support. The coalition arrived at the choice of Abubakar, after he towered high on the criteria used by the opposition in arriving at the decision. These include: national acceptability; financial capacity; spread of his political party; leadership capacity; international acceptability; experience; capacity to rebuild the economy; secure the country and unite all Nigerians.”

Former CUPP Members Left the Coalition Out of Wrong Motive, Says Ugochinyere

Reacting to the disassociation by some former members, Ugochinyere said that political parties that withdrew from the coalition after signing a MoU to back a consensus presidential candidate were driven by a wrong motive.

Addressing complaints by the members who reasoned that the coalition was formed to support the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) on ARISE News, the broadcast arm of THISDAY Newspapers, Ugochinyere said, “There was no agreement when we formed CUPP that the Vice President will come from another political party. Some leaders of the SDP nursed the ambition that its party would produce the Vice Presidential slot of the coalition. But if you go to the section 143 or thereabout, it says that the presidential candidate and the vice must belong to the same political party. The agreement was that among political parties, 45 at that moment, at the end of the day a presidential candidate from a particular party would be the consensus flag bearer. That was the agreement.”

Speaking further, he noted that the withdrawal of some parties would not diminish the status of the CUPP.

“When we went through that agreement, SDP was the secretary of selection committee, they were part of the process, they were one of those that drafted the criteria for which we nominated the consensus candidate and everybody participated and voted. You finished the process and a consensus candidate emerged, because you didn’t get what you were looking for, then you say that you are pulling out. It doesn’t diminish the status of CUPP.”

Atiku’s loss and Forging Ahead of the Alliance

However, despite their backing, massive support and campaigns, in February 2019, Buhari was re-elected having polled 15,191,847 votes, winning in 19 states, to defeat 72 other candidates including Abubakar, who scored 11, 255,978 votes and won 17 states and the FCT, to place second.

Moving on, Ugochinyere continued his duty as the opposition coalition spokesman. His statements regarding national issues didn’t go unnoticed. This led him into several ordeals in the hands of security agencies. Though he didn’t back down after each detention and eventual release, sadly, late last year, following a reoccurring voice infection, the National Executive Committee (NEC) of his Action Peoples Party (APP) appointed Uche Nnadi as its acting National Chairman, to enable Ugochinyere proceed on a medical leave. His leave also led to the halt of the activities of the CUPP.

The Reappearance

On October 6, Ugochinyere reappeared after over one year hiatus. He called for a press briefing at the CUPP headquarters in Abuja. Addressing journalists, He spoke on worsening insecurity, the economy, the forthcoming election and other pressing issues.

He called on both chambers of the National Assembly to ensure the inclusion of electronic transmission of election results in the ongoing harmonization of differences in the Electoral Act (Amendment) Bill.

Ugochinyere said Nigerians want electronic transmission of results, while noting that Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was ready for it and has accepted it has capacity for it.

He alleged that there’s a plot by most of the lawmakers in the harmonization committee to see to it that the electronic transmission of results does not see the light of the day.

This he said, was an insult on the sensibilities and sensitivities of the Nigerian people, adding that Nigerians will resist any attempt to rob the Independent National Electoral Commission of its constitutionally guaranteed independence by way of subjecting any of their activities to the Nigerian Communications Commission.

He further called for the impeachment of Senate President, Ahmad Lawan and Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Femi Gbajabiamila
over what he described as their failure to guide their colleagues to act as checks and balances to the Executive arm of government.

Speaking on the hiatus and reemergence, Ugochinyere said, “We in the opposition family welcome you again to the Opposition House after a long while as we set out again to hold the government accountable for the mismanagement of our country, its economy, security and indeed every other facet. For over a year now, I have not spoken to you in my official capacity as the opposition coalition cupp Spokesperson, this was because I lost my voice while I was been held in illegal detention on the instigation of the APC government. I lost absolute control of my voice chords, doctors both in Nigeria and abroad are in agreement that I must have come in contact with some very poisonous substances while in detention). I have visited several specialists who by the special grace of God have tirelessly worked on my throat and restored my voice to this extent. This is our first outing since that time and I will continue to manage it until it gets fully restored. It feels good to be back.

“The ongoing reorganization in the opposition family offers strong hope for our country. A new and appealing crusade will soon be launched which most Nigerians will buy into once these internal issues are resolved within the opposition family. When the opposition takes over in 2023 with the votes and support of the Nigerian people, we will be coming to heal a broken nation. We will be coming to unite Nigeria, repair the economy and make it once again a viable and growing economy. We will be coming to secure our country and set a new agenda. We will be coming to restore and build a nation where peace and justice shall reign. We will be coming to build a country all ethnic groups will believe in and work for its progress. Nigerians should have faith, continue to register and collect their PVC’s so that by the ballot we will chase the invaders away. The time of the locust will soon be over.”

What Next?

Most political parties that belonged to the alliance were deregistered in 2020 by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) over their failure to meet the constitutional established criteria. Following an assessment of the 92 political parties in Nigeria by the electoral body, 74 parties were deregistered, leaving only 18 political parties.

The parties that survived include, Ugochinyere’s Action Peoples Party,
Action Alliance, African Action Congress, African Democratic Congress, African Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress, All Progressives Grand Alliance, Allied Peoples Movement, Labour Party, New Nigeria Peoples Party, National Rescue Movement, Peoples Democratic Party, Peoples Redemption Party, Social Democratic Party, Young Progressive Party, Zenith Labour Party and Boot Party.

More political parties are expected to emerge yet again as the election draws nearer. As enshrined under Section 40 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999, INEC is empowered by to organize elections and register political parties in Nigeria. So with most of it’s member parties deregistered, the CUPP is expected to form more alliance with the new parties that will definitely emerge yet again.

Reminiscent of 2019, the Coalition is expected to back a consensus presidential candidate, in its quest to unseat the ruling APC in the 2023 elections.