He circumstances that led to the coming together of the opposition political parties to form the All Progressives Congress and plans to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party
Some have referred to the newly formed opposition political party, the All Progressives Congress as an Armoured Personnel Carrier. APC, as it is popularly called, is a war-like vehicle used to crushriots and any other form of rebellion. It is also used by security operatives to smash robbery attacks by criminals. To others, the new party, especially those in the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, signifies an unpopular drug, and that since Nigerians would not sick, they do not need such a drug either now or in 2015 when general elections are due.
Indeed, the coming of the APC into the nation’s political landscape took many by surprise. Many political commentators had argued that there was no way the concerned political parties would drop their individual identities and become one. Those with this line of thought had their reasons. Before the 2011 general elections, two major opposition political parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria and the Congress for Progressive Change, despite their claim to be working to form an alliance, disappointed many Nigerians when they failed to reach a decision on this before the election. Thus, each of the parties went to the polls with its identity. Individually, they failed to make any impact in the presidential election as the PDP candidate, President Goodluck Jonathan, defeated the candidates of the two parties, even in the areas considered to be opposition strongholds.
Even discussions ahead of the planned merger this year did not start on a smooth slate. The signs that all might not be well within the opposition started emerging when the National Leader of the CPC and its former presidential candidate, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari(retd.), inaugurated his party’s merger committee with a mandate that the committee should discuss the details with the ACN, leaving out the All Nigeria Peoples Party.
However, on February 6, the parties left mouths of all doubting Thomases agape when they announced that they had merged into one solid political party. Joining the three major opposition political parties in the merger is a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, which has two elected governors. One of the governors is a member of the newly formed political party.
The Chairman of Merger Committee of ACN, Chief Tom Ikimi, reiterated the need for the formation of the new party. Ikimi said, “At no time in our national life has radical change become more urgent. And to meet the challenge, we the following political parties namely ACN, ANPP, APGA and CPC have resolved to merge forthwith and become All Progressives Congress and offer to our beleaguered people a recipe for peace and prosperity. We resolve to form a political party committed to the principles of internal democracy, focused on serious issues of concern to our people, determined to bring corruption and insecurity to an end, determined to grow our economy and create jobs in their millions through education, housing, agriculture, industrial growth, etc. and stop the increasing mood of despair and hopelessness among our people. The resolution of these issues, the restoration of hope, the enthronement of true democratic values for peace, democracy and justice are those concerns which propel us.
“We believe that by these measures only shall we restore our dignity and position of pre-eminence in the comity of nations. This is our pledge.” Ikimi said that the leadership of all the merged parties would soon inform the Independent National Electoral Commission about their resolve. We will inform the appropriate organs and authorities, including INEC as soon as possible,” he added. They did.
They hardly returned from the commission’s Maitama office in Abuja when the National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, said his party was not moved by the decision of the opposition to come together. Tukur said ambition of individuals will definitely turn the new party into rags very soon. He also said the establishment of six zonal Contact and Mobilisation Committees by the 10 governors, whose political parties formed the new party, would have no meaning to his party. Tukur said the “PDP is a national party and is visible in every ward and polling unit in the country. PDP is a national party that has the capacity to hold Nigeria together. Don’t worry, this is not the first time Nigerians are hearing something about merger. Let elections come and everyone will see the problems within them. They will be torn to rags because of ambitions.”
Though that prophesy has not come to pass for now, those opposed to the coming together of the opposition political parties seem to have found alternative means of truncating their dream. Chief among the plans is to register other political parties with similar acronyms. They have formed two of such. Like it is done in political circles where manoeuvring, tomfoolery are orders of the day, some people were at the office of INEC where they allegedly submitted the names of their political parties. Those who claim that their applications are pending before the commission for approval, but with similar acronyms with the popular APC, are the African Peoples Congress and the All Patriotic Citizens. But the merger committee of the sponsors of the popular APC – the ACN, CPC, ANPP AND APGA – said there was no going back on the decision by the group to use the acronym. “We have informed the whole world of our decision to merge under the name All Progressives Congress with acronym, APC,” the Chairman of merger committee, Chief Tom Ikimi, insisted. He added, “We are determined to pursue the process to its logical conclusion in the interest of our fatherland. The feeble attempt by any other entity to pretend to use the same acronym is an exercise in futility which must fail because it amounts to what in law is called passing off.”
However, the National Director of Operations of All Patriotic Citizens, Mr. Oliver Ike, said that the group had submitted its application for registration to INEC. “We are committed to the re-engineering of our political, economic and social foundations to eschew politics of bitterness and build a new, united and prosperous Nigeria under good democratic governance,” Ike stated. The application was dated March 8, 2013. INEC’s acknowledgement stamp was dated March 11, 2013. The political group’s logo includes a lantern. The group said that its membership consisted of patriotic Nigerians that had genuine concern for the plight of Nigerian masses. Besides the All Patriotic Citizens, the African Peoples Congress had also submitted its requirements for registration to INEC. Like the two APCs before it, it has also unveiled its logo, manifesto and constitution with a call on Nigerians to reject “over-recycled forces that are totally spent and without equivocation.”
The National Chairman of the African Peoples Congress, Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu, faulted all the allegations by the ACN, CPC, ANPP and a faction of APGA, that the promoters of the proposed party hurriedly went to INEC to beat the registration of the opposition’s APC. He said, “We have submitted a long list of requirements as prescribed by INEC and have completed the constitution demand on us for registration as a political party.” Ikeagwuonu stated that INEC had acknowledged the party’s application.
The ACN, has however, insisted that the PDP is behind the rival APCs’ action. It, has therefore, raised the alarm that the ruling party was in the process of thwarting the nation’s democracy. It said the PDP was desperate to retain power at all costs, judging by its alleged involvement in the ongoing efforts to sabotage the merger of the progressives. In the statement, which was signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said it was therefore calling on all lovers of democracy within and outside Nigeria to join in the efforts to stop the PDP and its cohorts from truncating the nation’s democracy.
Mohammed said, “Having misgoverned Nigeria since the country’s return to democratic rule in 1999, the PDP – realising that its time is up – has now resorted to a dangerous game aimed at either keeping the party in power at all costs or crashing the country’s democracy. This is a dangerous game that must be stopped, with the good people of Nigeria, not just the progressives, leading the charge.” But the PDP in its reaction, asked Nigerians to ignore the ACN, which it described as a noise-making party. The National Publicity Secretary of the PDP, Chief Olisa Metuh, told our correspondent in a telephone interview, that the ACN was known for its propaganda.
Half truths or not, the merged political parties are saying they have the intellectual property of the acronym, APC. If it wins the patent war, will the new party be the drug that will cure the nation of its woes and maladministration? Will it provide solutions to the infrastructural decay which is feasible everywhere in the country? Or will the party allow personal greed and inordinate ambitions of individual members tear it into pieces as prophesied by Tukur? 2015 is still about two years away, but the war has started in earnest.