The first signs that the ruling Peoples Democratic Party feels threatened by the merger of the major opposition parties have started to emerge with Vice President Namadi Sambo making clandestine moves to scuttle it.
LEADERSHIP reliably learnt that the vice president on Monday approached former Borno State governor Ali Modu Sheriff to map out plans on how to get state party chairmen of the ANPP to denounce the merger of the four opposition parties and pull out of it.
While the vice president and Sheriff met in Abuja, LEADERSHIP also learnt that this was not the first meeting they held in their efforts to kill the All Progressive Congress, the joint platform adopted by the opposition parties.
We were unable to confirm if Sheriff had accepted the offer.
But the office of the vice president has denied that any such meeting took place. A media aide to Sambo, Umar Sani, told LEADERSHIP yesterday, "I read it on twitter and I laughed. I showed it to the vice president and he laughed. How can he stop a merger? The merger is moving on. All we can do is get more supporters."
Sani however made no categorical statement suggesting that the vice president and Sheriff did not meet. He said, "I did not ask on other issues. All I asked the vice president was whether he met with Sheriff to scuttle the merger and he said no."
Nonetheless, the governors of the merging parties, who established zonal contact and mobilisation committees yesterday, also unfolded the new party's priority areas that have as base the aim to rescue Nigeria from decay. The governors declared the new grouping as "Social Democrats".
Also, the governor of Edo State, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, debunked speculations over his seeming lukewarm attitude towards the merger plans. He declared, at the end of over five hours' meeting at the Lagos State Governor's Lodge, Asokoro, Abuja, that he was all for it, since it is appropriate at this point to have a credible alternative platform for Nigerians.
This was even as Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State insisted that his party, the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), is in the merger despite some minor internal problems.
However, LEADERSHIP learnt of a clandestine plot allegedly being championed by Vice President Sambo not only to undermine the successful launch of the APC, but also to discourage any cohesive merger of the political parties.
Sources disclosed last night that Sambo had allegedly been holding secret consultations that could culminate in dissuading top members of the ANPP, including the state chairmen, from being part of the merger arrangement.
"The idea is to encourage the members of the party to protest and issue statements disowning a section of the leadership of the party, who are at the forefront of the alignment. They simply want to paint an image of a still-birth and create an impression that the merger is in disarray," said the source.
The source added: "We understand that some of the state party chairmen may be in Abuja tomorrow (today) for a press conference to discredit the All Progressive Congress and the merger."
It was also learnt that there are also moves to reach out to Sherriff's close allies like Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, former governor of Kano State, and former of governor of Sokoto State, Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa.
An aide of the former governor of Kano State, Sule Yau Sule, confirmed the plot to LEADERSHIP, though he distanced his boss from it.
He said: "Yes, we are aware of the plot to scuttle the merger, but it will not succeed because Nigerians including even a large segment of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are in support of the realignment. We know that the government will deploy the apparatus of government to scuttle the merger. They will not succeed; Nigerians are already dissatisfied with the way PDP is governing. So they will not succeed by the grace of God."
However, the governors of the merging parties told newsmen, at the end of their second meeting over the merger process, that based on the overwhelming support that greeted the announcement of the merger, they were compelled to announce the establishment of the zonal contact and mobilisation committees headed across the six geopolitical zones by Governor Ibrahim Geidam of Yobe State (north-east), Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State (north-central), Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State (north-west), Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State (south-east), Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State (south-south) and Governor Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State (south-west).
Speaking through Governor Al-Makura, the governors declared that the committee would mobilise support for the party across political, social, religious, ethnic and professional interest groups in the country.
"We reiterate our clarion call on all Nigerians to understand and see this initiative as a credible process to deepen democracy and for national renewal," he said. "Given the desire of Nigerians for change, our party will undertake to facilitate radical social, economic and political reformation of the country. Our programme priorities shall be agricultural development, jobs creation, free education, affordable healthcare, infrastructural development, adequate power supply, eradication of poverty and corruption and rapid technological advancement and industrialization."
He said the members of the new group would pride themselves on being social democrats that are committed to organise the society based on the values of justice for all and individual freedom where everyone's basic needs are fulfilled
On the name, the governors said they were pleased with the name adopted by the merger committee because it captures the spirit of cooperation and compromise that "we espouse and it underscores the imperative of rescuing Nigeria from decay".
Meanwhile, Governor Okorocha said the authentic APGA is in the merger, adding that when the time come Nigerians would know the APGA/PDP and the real APGA.
"All the regional parties like ACN, CPC and the ANPP are all in the merger; so APGA cannot be an exception," he stated. He spoke against the backdrop of the dissention in his party over the merger arrangement and the question of what he was doing to bring them along.