DETERMINED to beat the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP at the 2015 presidential polls after suffering a series of defeats collectively and individually since 1999, opposition party leaders engaged in merger negotiations will meet in Abuja tomorrow barring unforeseen circumstances.
At the parley, Vanguard gathered that leaders drawn from six leading opposition parties will hammer out modalities for a merger. Parties involved in the talks are the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), Democratic Peoples Party (DPP), All Progressives Grand Alliance and Labour Party.
After agreeing on the issues of party name, logo, manifesto, constitution, symbol, composition of state and national executive committees among others, the leaders said the next hurdle would be presenting a nationally acceptable and popular presidential flagbearer, who would confront and beat President Goodluck Jonathan or any other candidate the PDP would field for the race to Aso Rock in 2015.
The leaders, who are conscious of the constitutional hurdles to their quest, are bent on concretizing the merger in March and approach the INEC for ratification or registration.
Most of the interested opposition parties have named their contact committees.
Senator Chris Ngige (ACN, Anambra central) said at the end of the day, Nigerians would know that the progressives mean business.
"The progressives led by ACN were already meeting with others such as the Labour Party, LP, ANPP, APGA and DPP for the purpose of forming the mega party. By a kind of metamorphosis, the affected political parties which have radical politicians in their rank and file would do everything possible to ensure the growth of democracy in the country. Fourteen years after the emergence of the present democracy, it is obvious that nothing good can come out of PDP and that is why we are determined that by the first quarter of this year, Nigerians will see that progressives mean business," he said.
Indeed, a leading member of ANPP's contact committee, Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim said recently that the opposition parties were working hard to present the new party in March.
"Before March 2013, we are all going to reach an accord on this merger; that is the deadline for the coalition materialising. From all indications, the parties are looking forward to forming a totally new party where all the opposition parties will come together as one entity," he said.
To ensure that the merger works, prominent leaders, who are seen as the faces of the various parties and whose interests had hampered the coalition in the past are not part of the negotiations. For instance, the CPC committee is to be headed by a former Deputy Governor of Bauchi State, Alhaji Garba Gadi. He is replacing former Head of State, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) the party's national leader.
However, opposition parties considering a merger must meet the conditions stipulated in the 1999 Constitution and the Electoral Act 2010 before they can be registered as a new party.
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, reportedly said that to be able allowed to field candidates, the party has to be in the INEC register before the
He said: "The constitution has stated clearly how parties should be registered. The law also provides for when INEC must serve notice of elections. Section 25 of the Electoral Act says INEC should issue a notice of election 90 days before an election. If a political party is to participate in an election, the party has to be on INEC's register before INEC issues such notice. If a party is not on INEC's register by the time the commission issues a notice, such political party cannot contest in that same election."
This time, merger will work -- ANPP
One of the major forces in the merger talks, the All Nigeria Peoples Party yesterday told Vanguard that political parties involved in the talks had strongly resolved to ensure that the merger for a mega political party was achieved because they were all determined and serious to succeed based on the level of their discussions to give the Nigerian people a new era of democratic rule in 2015
Onu: ANPP leader
Secretary, ANPP National Rebuilding and Inter Party Contact Committee, Dr. George Moghalu said that the committee is out to represent the ANPP in the merger talks with the ACN and CPC to form a mega platform to dethrone PDP in 2015.
Moghalu said the opposition parties were strategically planning to exhaust democratic avenues to technically knock out PDP because of the enough time they have to resolve a lot of issues and come to a compromise.
According to him, insinuations about crisis in the merger talks concerning logo, candidate and manifesto are not true; rather the parties are making progress and will come to a logical conclusion to have a mega political platform for the 2015 general election.
Moghalu said: "There is a determination by all groups that we must succeed in the merger talks. As we talk about merger, names, logos must be dropped, and adopt new name and logo acceptable to all groups, and they are not issues, because it is not contentious. The question is whether there is willingness, commitment by the negotiating parties to build a strong political platform, and the time for talks.
"The answer is yes. It is not like the talks we had in the past, this one is clear, and what we are doing is to concretise all our discussions with a view of what will be beneficial to the Nigerian nation. But those who may not believe in the process or are scared of the process and consequences of a successful outing of our mega political platform are talking otherwise.
"The beauty of democracy is the ability to have choices, and I think that the average Nigerian would want to have very clear demarcation as to the parties to deal with. The truth is that the support base of my party (ANPP) is massive, and we have very solid support at the grassroots. Now there is a new consciousness, and what we are doing is to begin the reawakening of our supporters, and the same thing applies to other participating opposition parties. If all these parties (CPC, ACN, APGA, LP and others) come to form a mega political platform you will know that they are into a serious contest."
However, Moghalu said there is no candidate yet to be the flag-bearer for the presidential contest in 2015 elections, but the opposition parties are working assiduously to have an all encompassing democratic mega party where people will test their popularity, and any candidate the people want will be supported.
"We are not working with anybody in mind rather we are coming up with a mega political platform that will be democratic for anybody to contest within. We will welcome anybody that wants to test his or her popularity. In our democracy there is no enough internal democracy in our political structure, but we want to create a political platform that will be democratic in all facets," Moghalu stressed.
On the conduct of the of the 2015 elections, Moghalu urged the INEC to ensure from now that they conduct free and fair elections that would be acceptable to all.