Vanguard (Lagos)

22 January 2013

Nigeria: Mega Party - Drivers of the Merger

The three leading opposition parties in the country have revved preparations for the formation of a mega opposition party with the selection of high profile personalities to drive the process. Do these drivers know the way?

After months of dithering procrastination, Nigeria 's leading opposition parties are about taking the decisive step of fusing themselves into a single body. Even where it is played down, the single purpose of the impending fusion is to wrest power from the dominant Peoples Democratic Party, PDP which rules at the centre and controls 24 of the nation's 36 states.

Given the historical suspicion among the nation's opposition parties, doubts have for long shadowed talks on the proposed merger among the parties. Ahead of the 2015 presidential election, that suspicion has not been missing.

The leading parties in the merger talks are the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN which controls six states, the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP with three states, All Progressive Grand Alliance with two states and the Congress for Progressives Change, CPC which has one state in its kitty.

Opposition party

The only other opposition party not involved in the merger plans is the Labour Party which has control of Ondo State. The party is now presently seen as a single purpose political vehicle for its only governor, Dr. Segun Mimiko who by several accounts could soon be on his way to the PDP.

Besides supporting the PDP in the last presidential election, Mimiko has made more nominees to the PDP federal administration than the PDP in Ondo State.

APGA's participation in the proposed alliance is ensnared by the crisis in the party. The faction of the party loyal to Chief Victor Umeh is believed to be interested in the merger, while the other loyal to Governor Peter Obi is not interested.

Buhari/Tinubu as arrowheads: Given the looming political shadows of some opposition leaders in the persons of Gen. Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, it is not surprising that the CPC and the ACN would be the major drivers of the merger process.

But suspicions continue to trail the possibility of any or the two of them burying their own personal presidential ambitions on the altar of the collective dream of the merged party.

Buhari who had in the past pledged not to contest another presidential election after three successive losses in 2003, 2007 and 2011 is now said to be considering a rethink.

Tinubu, who has the Southwest as his foothold, is also said to be considering putting the rest of the nation under his political grasp.

The lure for either of them is that the proposed merged party could be a formidable platform to displace the PDP from the centre and from many Government Houses.

Moved by that prospect, the CPC, ACN and the ANPP have now named committees to guide the merger talks among the parties.

The CPC named the immediate past Deputy Governor of Bauchi State , Alhaji Garba Gadi as head of its merger committee, while the ACN has former National Chairman of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC and Foreign Affairs Minister, Chief Tom Ikimi as chairman of its 18 man merger committee. The ANPP on its part has empowered its rebuilding committee headed by former governor Ibrahim Shekarau to prospect the merger of the parties.

The committee also includes all serving ANPP governors, former governors, Alhaji Abdulrahman Adamu a former minister, the national women leader, Hajia Ramatu Tijani as members of the 20 man committee.

Prospects of the merger

But even before the committees could formally make contact with one another the idea of Buhari sitting down with his former colleagues in ANPP to talk was already sending wrong signals on the prospects of the merger.

Buhari's close associates and the general himself, it is believed still have grudges over the way and manner they were stabbed in the back by some ANPP governors who rode on the back of the general to win and seek re-election but abandoned him at the time of the presidential election in 2003 and 2007.

As if giving vent to that suspicion, Buhari at the inauguration of the CPC merger committee last Wednesday, said the merger process would be in phases with that between the CPC and the ACN coming first before the end of the first half of the year.

ANPP chieftains meanwhile fixated with the past glories of the party which at its zenith had control of seven states are suggesting even otherwise with some asking the other parties to dissolve into the ANPP.

Speaking at the weekend Senator Abba Ibrahim, a former three time governor of Yobe State said the ANPP was expecting the ACN and the CPC to dissolve into the ANPP on the fact that the ANPP is the oldest of the three!

The inclination of Senator Ibrahim is expected to confound some party chieftains who are desirous of reversing the declining fortunes of the one time leading opposition party.

CPC's team: The CPC on its part is not without its own internal contradictions. A faction of the party opposed to the mainstream national chairman, Prince Tony Momoh has also raised a red flag against talks between the party and other opposition parties. The faction led by Senator Rufai Hanga claims that it is the genuine faction of the party.

Gadi was chosen to be the chairman upon what party sources disclosed was his principled refusal to decamp with Governor Isa Yuguda to the PDP after both of them were elected as governor and deputy in 2007. Gadi was impeached by the Bauchi State House of Assembly in August 2010 purportedly for his refusal to decamp to the PDP.

The CPC is also faced with internal mutterings over the genuineness of the approaches from the ACN. Some in the party believe that the ACN and its leadership simply would want to use Buhari and dump him and negotiate an accommodation deal with the PDP.

The ACN is nonetheless united in its own approach towards the merger. "This is not about the ACN, CPC or ANPP but about our country Nigeria , which is tottering on the edge of disaster due mainly to the lack of leadership and failure of governance by the ruling PDP since 1999," the party said in a statement last weekend announcing the constitution of a merger committee.

"The merger of the three parties is like a 'Noah's Ark' which all Nigerians who are tired of the endless drift of our country must enter into. This is not about winning power at the centre at all costs, as the naysayer will want Nigerians to believe. It is about putting the interest of Nigeria and Nigerians above everything else.

Doubters and spoilers

"We will also like to inform Nigerians that contrary to what the doubters and spoilers are saying, the three parties are going into the merger plans unconditionally and without a set mind over posts or anything else. The only issue that has been settled is the urgent need to rescue and salvage our country. In this regard, the opposition knows it has a date with history."

ACN's team: It is really a date with history. ACN said the appointment of the committee is an indication of its total commitment to making the merger a reality, adding that there is no going back in the party's determination to work with the CPC and the ANPP to rescue and salvage Nigeria.

It also congratulated the leadership of the CPC and the ANPP, which have already named their own merger committees, for their patriotism, and appealed to all Nigerians to support the planned merger.

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