The Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) National Leader, Maj. General Muhammadu Buhari, Wednesday unfolded the modalities to be adopted for the merger of opposition parties in a bid to form a formidable platform that will be used to displace the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) from power in 2015.
According to him, the opposition parties' bid to form a new party would be carried out in phases with the first part being a fusion of the CPC and the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
This, he added, would be concluded in about 12 weeks, with the floating of a new party.
Buhari, who spoke in Abuja at the inauguration of an 18-member CPC merger committee, said it was after the fusion of the two parties that other parties, including the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), would be expected to join the coalition.
In order to get a better deal in the merger arrangement, the ANPP has commenced moves to restructure the party so that it can leverage on its "spread" during the negotiating process.
The CPC leader explained that the impending coalition party, when it comes on stream, would give priority to the restructuring of democracy and the total overhaul of Nigeria's security apparatus.
Speaking on the ideological thrust of the emerging party, Buhari said Nigerians should expect a more decisive push for the enthronement of a proper federation and more robust national security architecture.
"The new opposition party should root for a proper federation as a basis for the union and for the governance of the country and should therefore actively support the restructuring of the country. This is because the 36-state structure of the country is simply not working, and it must therefore be rationalised," he said.
Giving a clue to the ideological background of the new party, Buhari said its foundation would be anchored on the recognition and acceptance that Nigeria is a cultural entity and "that religious differences are a blessing, a source of strength and not a cause for disunity".
On the issue of insecurity, Buhari explained that the new party should as a matter of priority begin to tackle and plan for the creation of a new security architecture for the country and possibly for the entire sub-region.
According to him, the approach might involve the recreation of local security networks and the restoration of traditional intelligence gathering techniques to shore up the weaknesses of the police force.
He said the immediate goal was to see the fusing of CPC and ACN into a new formidable party that would win the 2015 general election.
"As you are no doubt aware, our goal is to effect a merger between our two parties, a merger that will win this election and create a new, stronger, more truly democratic, proper, federal republic and change the attitude and thinking of our people.
"We do not have money, and we are shunned by most of those who do. We do not have a police force and our supporters are victims of those who do. We do not have the government outside and we are always short changed by it as it has misapplied its federal might not to conduct credible election, but to rig us out of our mandate," he said.
In defending the decision to go ahead with ACN on the merger negotiations, Buhari said there was already an existing agreement between both parties arising from the botched alliance plan in 2011.
"We feel we should exhaustively pursue our terms of reference with the ACN before going to explore another one with other parties, because to us it is a continuous exercise with the ACN," he said.
In furtherance of the merger, the ANPP has intensified efforts at rebuilding the party in order to put it in good stead to play a more active role in the 2015 general election.
THISDAY gathered that some influential party members have seen the need to use the presumed wider spread and acceptance of the party as a means of strengthening its bargaining power at the merger talks.
The party's Board of Trustees (BoT), which met behind closed doors on Tuesday in Abuja, considered a report submitted by the committee on the rebuilding of ANPP structures nationwide.
The meeting had all the BoT members in attendance, including the three governors of its controlled states of Borno, Zamfara and Yobe.
Also at the meeting were the National Chairman of the party, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, as well as the former governor of Kano State and chairman of the ANPP merger committee, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau.
Addressing journalists shortly after the meeting, the BoT Chairman, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, said the party decided that it would be in its best interest to first reposition its structures in the states while the merger negotiations are in progress.
He said the meeting in response to the recommendations of the committee, resolved to reconcile estranged members and to solve any problem emanating from state chapters of the party.
"We reviewed the general activities of the party. We had earlier set up a committee to recommend how to rebuild and restructure all our chapters throughout the country.
"The BoT devoted time to look into the report of the committee and based on the report, we have taken decision to embark on fence-mending initiatives in any state branch where there is a problem," he said.
According to him, the report presented to the BoT contained among other issues, the current state of the party chapters in all the 36 states of the federation.
He explained that based on the report, the party was convinced that it has a commanding lead over other parties, even as it considered it necessary to work towards the merger arrangement.
"We are convinced that apart from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), there is no any other party with as many structures like the ANPP nationwide," he said.
Sherrif said it would be of no use going into merger discussions with the parties first without putting its house in order.
"Our plan is to look at ANPP structures first before going to talk to any other party. There is a committee on the merger and they are talking but what we did here today is discuss how to rebuild ANPP.
"The committee's report, which we looked into, had nothing to do with the issue of the merger; it is purely a party affair. We are trying to look inwards and consider how best to reposition ANPP as a party.
"We believe that for us to talk to anybody about a merger, we have to first repair our home," he declared.
Nonetheless, a faction of the CPC led by the estranged former National Chairman of the party, Senator Rufai Hanga, has cautioned other opposition parties against further talks with the CPC national leadership.
The group, in a letter sent to the national chairmen of ACN, ANPP and the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), said the legitimacy of the Prince Tony Momoh-led national executive was still in doubt.
Hanga and other members of the protem national officers of CPC had taken the party to court on the grounds that the current national leadership was a product of a flawed convention.
The letter signed by Hanga, a copy of which was made available to THISDAY yesterday, advised the parties to avoid running afoul of the electoral law by going into the merger talks with the CPC leadership whose legitimacy is still being contested in court.
Hanga, however, assured the parties of the support of his group for a genuine merger arrangement.
"What we want and request to see is for the merger exercise to be consistent with the demands of the electoral law and other extant legal parameters," he said.