Daily Trust (Abuja)

13 January 2013

Nigeria: How Party Mergers Will Shape 2015 Elections

Photo: Vanguard
The former military leader, General Muhammadu Buhari.

The merger talks among key opposition political parties in Nigeria seem to have reached an advanced stage, going by the recent comments emanating from concerned stakeholders involved in the plan to oust the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015.

Parties that have shown commitment to the merger include the Action Congress of Nigeria of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). Other parties being courted to join the merger or alliance train are All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) and Labour Party (LP).

Already, parties have begun to constitute committees to ensure hitch-free merger talks aimed at forming a new formidable party to face the PDP in 2015. The ACN, the ANPP and the CPC have gone ahead in this regard.

If it works out, the concerned parties are expected to aggressively galvanize their supporters and members to work together at various levels ahead of the 2015 general elections.

A former governor of Yobe State and member of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) Senator Bukar Abba Ibrahim recently confirmed the current rapprochement among the major opposition parties.

Ibrahim, who said merger talks could lead to the formation of a new political party, confirmed that the ANPP and the ACN had set up committees towards achieving the set target.

"The ACN has appointed their team. The ANPP has also done the same thing and I am part of the committee. We have met several times. We have toured North Central. We met our supporters in North Central in Lafia. We were in Enugu, South East of Nigeria for a whole day. We are going to go to visit other zones.

"Our party gave us the deadline of March 2013 to ensure the merger materializes. The ACN is doing a similar thing. The only party that I'm not too sure of their activities is the CPC. Though, they have been meeting to get their own committee. From all indications, people want a totally new party. Governor Rochas Okorocha's APGA is also talking to us. We are hoping that part of the Labour Party will join us and we will form a new party.

"I cannot predict the outcome for now, but what appears more popular is to get a new party. There is sufficient time to register a new party. After all, all these groups were together before the CPC. We had nine states. It was through fragmentation that we became what we are today. So, it is not difficult for us to come together again. For whatever reason we had to break, we can now rewind everything and come back together again," the Chairman, Senate Committee on Housing said when asked to speak on the commitment of the ANPP to the talks.

Osita Okechukwu, who was CPC's gubernatorial candidate in the 2011 general elections in Enugu State and a member of the party's committee on merger plan, said the current amalgamation attempt among major opposition parties in Nigeria would not fail.

Okechukwu, in an exclusive interview with Sunday Trust, explained that with the merger, the names of the parties involved would be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) and replaced with a common new party name, logo, manifesto and constitution.

While confirming that the three political parties had nominated members of their tripartite committees with clear and similar terms of references, he stated that the current effort was aimed at halting Nigeria's dangerous slide to a failed state.

"There is a national or common consensus that the only way to save and salvage the country and stop the PDP's stranglehold on the nation is for the three major political parties in the opposition and other progressive forces to merge.

"I think that so far the ANPP is convinced. The ACN is convinced. And the CPC leadership and membership are also convinced that to vote out the PDP, a broad coalition, a national platform that could cover the six geo-political zones of the country, is imperative.

"And to that extent, I think before February of this year, major proper sittings and formal meetings of the tripartite committees will be held and before March, we will be back to present a common party's name, logo, manifesto and constitution for submission to the INEC.

"The terms of reference are simply to genuinely look for appropriate name, appropriate manifesto, appropriate constitution, logo of the party and decide on how party offices and others will be managed in such a manner that no section of the country is disadvantaged, which would have been normal for each of the political parties.

"The constitution provides for that. You cannot become a political party if you are tribally biased or religiously biased because that will not bring harmony to the country. So those are the embellishments of the terms of reference," Okechukwu added.

Last Thursday in Ibadan, a former governor of Kano State and the ANPP presidential candidate in April 2011 general elections Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau expressed optimism on the ongoing merger talks among key opposition parties.

Shekarau, who is the Chairman, ANPP Rebuilding and Inter-Party Contact Committee on the Merger Plan, spoke when he led his Committee to Premier Hotel, Ibadan, venue of the ANPP South West zonal stakeholders' forum on the amalgamation issue.

He noted that the merger talks between the ANPP, CPC and ACN are already at 50 per cent conclusion stage, adding that all the three political parties involved had agreed to fuse together for the progress of the nation's growing democracy.

Mallam Shekarau, who buttressed Okechukwu's point that the merger would produce new name and logo, observed that the challenges facing the parties involved in the merger discourse concerned funding and reassurance of their members.

"We are moving ahead. We are making progress with the merger talks. We are ready to chart a new course that will be large enough to give us the alternative change in the country. Nigerians are looking on us for a better alternative and we are ready to provide it," he stressed.

Political analysts believe that the commitment shown by the CPC BoT Chairman retired General Muhammadu Buhari, ACN National Leader Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the ANPP National Chairman Dr Ogbonnaya Onu will also give the needed impetus to the current efforts aimed at realizing the merger dream.

Pundits further believe the merger will shape the 2015 general elections if all the concerned stakeholders completely bury their 'selfish individual ambitions' which have always worked against previous failed attempts.

Nigerians, they say, will back any alternative as better option in 2015 because they are already yearning for positive change and transformation after the PDP's over 13 years in the headship has failed to honestly address critical issues such as epileptic power supply, infrastructural decay, poverty, unemployment, corruption and bad governance among others.

But their chances in 2015, they believe, will be boosted if the current President emerges PDP's candidate in the general elections.

As this current merger plan is being worked out, some elements in the ruling PDP seem not to be comfortable over the development. A clear pointer to this mood was the recent comment made by a member of PDP BoT and National Caucus Chief Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu, saying the coming together of opposition parties to oust the PDP in 2015 would fail because they were not sharing the same ideology.

"As a democrat, I should sound a note of warning. I have read recently about a 'gang up' of some political parties. They are not 'ganging up' on the basis of ideology. They are 'ganging up' because they are afraid that unless they 'gang up', PDP will win the elections in 2015. This may be a wrong political calculation.

"This thing they are doing is going to make the PDP stronger. It has never worked in the past. They will regret. They are not going to hurt the PDP in any way. They are making a mistake. They should tell Nigerians what they can do to change situations and not how to pull PDP down. This is wrong politics," Iwuanyanwu said.

If the comment made by Iwuanyanwu-which is similar to what other PDP chieftains had said in the past- will be vindicated, actions and inactions of the concerned political bigwigs, in the opposition parties in the coming days, weeks and months will surely to decide.

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