Ten governors from different opposition parties yesterday converged on Lagos with a resolve to oust the ruling PDP from power in the 2015 general election. The meeting of the 10 governors was the first since the opposition political parties started making merger plans.
The governors, who endorsed the merger plans of the parties, vowed to stop the quasi-one-party system in the country, saying it is not good for the nation's hard-earned democracy.
Briefing journalists after a closed-door meeting, Borno State governor Kashim Shettima said the meeting was informed by their concerns on Nigeria and the way forward.
Shettima said: "We the governors of Borno, Ekiti, Imo, Lagos, Nasarawa, Ogun, Oyo, Osun, Yobe and Zamfara rose from a meeting at Lagos House, Marina, today Tuesday. Having reviewed the situation in our country , we resolved that to rescue Nigeria is a task that must be done.
"As progressives and patriotic leaders of our people across party, religious and geopolitical zones, we are extremely concerned about the state of the nation, as we put our heads together in the interest of our people to deliberate on what can be done to rescue our country."
Imo State governor Rochas Okorocha said there was no room for skepticism over the merger plans, noting that the merger plans would be driven by the governors and leaders of the parties.
"The merger has become very necessary in order to save our democracy and the likelihood of turning Nigeria into a one-party state does not augur well for democracy. Therefore, I personally fully endorse this movement and this new merger at least to rescue the nation. And we say we are on a rescue mission here and to make sure Nigeria gets better; the essence of this whole merger is to make Nigeria a better nation," said Okorocha.
Also speaking, Lagos State governor Babatunde Fashola (SAN) said, "Skepticism is one thing; the commitment that we bring to the table will certainly override any skepticism. I am convinced that the full weight of 10 of us governors and many more who unfortunately could not make it today is a much stronger force. The underlying reason is clearly how to make this country a better place, this is not the best that this country can have and we intend to deliver Nigeria's best."
In his remarks on the occasion Ogun State governor Ibikunle Amosun assured that a lot of other people would come on board once they see the sincerity of those driving the process.
He said: "That is why we are not taking this lightly. We are very determined and I am sure, that with the support of all Nigerians, this merger will work."
For his part, Zamfara State governor Abdul-Aziz Yari said: "The move is to fix Nigeria in the right perspective, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is something else and if we as opposition say that we are right and you as journalists and many people outside here - go and ask them whether they are happy since 1999 till date or not. So, therefore, it is a duty for all of us as leaders to drive our people right and we believe the PDP have done less.
"We have the idea, the knowledge and we has the progressive idea to move the country forward, so if you say that we intend to move the PDP out of power, yes we are ready to do that".
State Governors present at the meeting were Umaru Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Abdul-Aziz Yari (Zamfara), Kashim Shettima (Borno), Rochas Okorocha (Imo), Rauf Aregbesola (Osun), Babatunde Fashola (Lagos), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti) and Abiola Ajimobi (Oyo) while Senator Degere Alkali represented the governor of Yobe State, Ibrahim Gaidam.
Lamido/Amaechi campaign vehicles appear in Kaduna
Meanwhile, as the 2015 presidential race begins to gather momentum, Jigawa State governor Sule Lamido and his Rivers State counterpart Rotimi Ameachi's hopeful presidential ticket seems to be on the front: some branded vehicles appeared in Kaduna yesterday.
One of such branded vehicles with the pictures of Lamido and Amaechi was sighted at a car wash by Waff Road, an exclusive residential area in Kaduna. It attracted the attention of passers-by who were seen making some political comments on the development and the chances of the duo.
LEADERSHIP findings thereafter revealed that those spearheading the campaign team were in the state for a secret meeting in preparation for the 2015 presidential race.
It was also gathered that the meeting was to identify strong forces in the state that would commence underground work for the presidential hopeful ticket.
LEADERSHIP had exclusively reported last year that, ahead of political horse-trading over who becomes the presidential and vice presidential candidates of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015, indications emerged that former President Olusegun Obasanjo is backing Lamido and Amaechi for the coveted positions respectively.
A source close to Obasanjo also confided in LEADERSHIP that the former president is now drumming support for a power shift to the north.
Obasanjo has insisted severally that incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan must exit the position come 2015.
In recent times, there have been clamouring from various quarters for northern presidency come 2015, even though northern groups like the Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), in a recent interview granted by its national publicity secretary, Anthony Sani, had said it was too early to talk about the 2015 presidential election.
Drumming support for Lamido's candidature recently, the chairman, Kazaure local government area of Jigawa State, Dr Saleh Yahaya Taiki, described him a man of integrity who has proven beyond reasonable doubt his ability to discharge responsibilities very well.
LEADERSHIP's effort to speak with the driver of one of the branded vehicles was unsuccessful as he declined comment on their mission in the state.
ACN, CPC merger plan discriminatory - CSOs
But a coalition of civil society organisations (CSOs) has accused the opposition political parties seeking merger of discrimination against women, youths and people with physical disabilities in the composition of their respective negotiation committees.
The coalition, comprising The Nigerian Women's Trust Fund (TNWTF), Federation of International Women Lawyers (FIDA), Women's Right Advocacy and Protection Alternative (WRAPA), Youth Action Initiative Africa (YAIA), National Association of Women Journalists (NAWOJ), YouthHubNigeria, Joint National Association of Persons With Disabilities (JONAPWD) and Youngsters, stated this at a joint press conference in Abuja yesterday. The briefing was also attended by International Republican Institute (IRI) which is supporting the cause of the coalition.
The CSOs, however, commended the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) for "their attempts to actualise their realisation of a formidable opposition party at all levels" in order to deepen good governance and democracy.
Speaking on the occasion, the lead speaker and chief executive officer of TNWTF, Ayisa Osori, said the coalition was apolitical and was is speaking for the vulnerable groups in the society - women, youths and physically challenged persons - in order to do things right. She said most of the people saddled with the responsibility of negotiating what might turn out to be the future of Nigeria are people with questionable characters and old men who may not be part of the future.
In a statement signed by all the groups, the coalition said: "The merger committees are not representative of the demographics of our population and representative of the demand for change Nigerians are calling for.
"The merger parties should have less of those who have been involved in one way or another with the sad state of our politics and our governance and more of the people of talent, passion, integrity and vision of which Nigeria has plenty of. While there are undoubtedly a few on the various political party merger committees who inspire confidence, for the most part and as a whole these merger committees inspire no confidence.
"To properly capture the aspirations of Nigerians, the merger committees should have more women, young people (ages between 18 and 35) and people living with disabilities. This is because it is only by creating a platform which captures and represents the true aspirations of all Nigerians (not just the old guard political elite and their acolytes) that we will begin to realise the type of meaningful change Nigerians want."
The coalition also urged the media to do more than just reporting the news, but provide "the perspectives and analysis on what is being reported".
I will remain in ANPP - Senator Yerima
Contrary to speculations making the rounds that Senator Sani Ahmed Yerima is on his way to the ruling PDP, Yarima insists that, as long as the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) is in existence, he will remain a member.
The serving senator who was a two-term governor of Zamfara State made the clarifications yesterday in Kaduna during a national rebuilding and inter-party contact committee with the north-west members of the party which held in the state. "Yerima is here (ANPP) today and will continue to be here insha Allah. Defecting to any other party and forsaking the party that has made me who I am today, will amount to being ungrateful to Allah." he added. "I am an ANPP member and a leader; in the event of any possible merger which is ongoing, so long as the ANPP will be in it, I will also be there. So, contrary to what the dailies reported, you can see me, and seeing, they say, is believing."
Earlier in his address, the presidential candidate of the party in the 2011 general elections, and two-term governor of Kano State, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, who chaired and led the 21-member committee to the state, stated that the committee members were in the zone to intimate the members of their formation and terms of reference.
According to him, the committee's terms of reference are, among others, to interact and discuss the assignment of the committee, recommend ways of making the party more attractive, and exhaustively discuss the party's funding.
He added that other terms of reference included how to identify members, particularly leaders who left the party, and recommend how to bring them back to the party and also to identify major political players in other parties and woo them to the ANPP, and to also look at the ongoing merger talks.
Speaking on the merger talks, Shekarau stated that the ANPP would not be a push-over under whatever circumstance in the ongoing merger talks and assured the members that, as leaders, they would ensure that the right decision that would be beneficial to all would be looked into in the merger talks.
The committee thereafter paid a courtesy call on Governor Mukhtar Ramallan Yero at the Sir Kashim Ibrahim Government House to commiserate with the governor and the people of the state on the death of the late governor Patrick Ibrahim Yakowa.
Responding, Yero commended the committee, saying: "You have one ANPP- controlled state in the north-west which is Zamfara State, but you decided to pick Kaduna State for your meeting. We would like to thank you for that. This is the kind of things we need to promote the unity of our people.
"We can work together despite our ethnic or religious differences which we can use to develop ourselves and also develop our communities to reduce the enmity over political and religious differences."