Lagos — The parties in the fledgling All Progressive Congress, APC, were last night engaged in a war of words with the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, over alleged plans by the ruling party to sabotage their merger.
The Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, were furious over what they claimed to be plans by the PDP to sponsor the registration of a new party to be known as the African Peoples Congress, APC.
The new political association with the same acronym with the mega opposition party, it was alleged, is being sponsored to deny the mega opposition party registration before the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.
The PDP in a reaction denied the claim, saying it would not be held liable for the negligence and incompetence of the merger parties it described as "our grossly inferior opponents."
The plan by the opposition political parties to merge into APC ran into trouble on account of the proposal for the registration of another party to be known as the African Peoples Congress. The sponsors of the new party could not be identified last night.
Registration remains open --INEC
INEC officials contacted on the matter, yesterday, said registration remained open to either of the two parties which first met its conditions for registration.
Chief Press Secretary to the INEC Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, confirmed that the commission received a proposal for the registration of the African Peoples Congress, APC, last week but would not confirm the identity of the sponsors.
Asked of the implications, Idowu said the fate of the two proposals would depend on the provisions of the law.
He said: "What the law requires is that if a group applies and the law has already provided for things to be met, like a checklist, it is not a matter of INEC cherry picking or preferences. There is a checklist and once a group meets that checklist, any group that meets that checklist is registered with that name."
Asked if two parties could bear the same acronym, Idowu said:
"That is what I said, I doubt it, I doubt it, but the point I am making is that it is an application and whoever meets the conditions first gets registered."
ACN, CPC finger PDP
The ACN and the CPC were, however, not hesitant in identifying the PDP as sponsor of the new party which they claimed was being pushed as a deliberate effort to deny their mega party registration.
"If INEC refuses to register the All Progressives Congress, APC, when all the legal requirements have been met, the protest in Tahrir Square in Egypt will be a child's play compared to what we will do at the Eagle Square," the ACN's national publicity secretary, Alhaji Lai Mohammed said in a statement, yesterday.
"We say this because we are aware that the PDP, which is mortally afraid of the rise and rise of the APC, is behind the phantom African Peoples Congress which has applied to INEC for registration, in an effort to instigate an acronym crisis and give INEC a reason, if it needs any, not to register the All Progressives Congress.
"But we will like to warn that if indeed INEC has not merged with the PDP, as one of our leaders, Gen. Muhammadu Buhari, has brilliantly said, then we do hope that the electoral body, which by the way is not unaware of the All Progressives Congress as the authentic APC, will not succumb to the evil machinations of the apprehensive PDP.
"It is a PDP plan in collusion with INEC but we will not take it lightly with them and all their plans will come to nothing. Indeed, we are very much aware of that and it won't work, it will fail. We are just watching the INEC as an umpire to check them.
"We have already given indication and the whole world has heard us that we are APC and if they are trying to bring in another APC it won't work."
PDP denies allegations
But denying any involvement of the PDP in the alleged plans, the party's national publicity secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, told Vanguard, yesterday: "The PDP is totally unaware of the status of the APC registration. We are unconcerned and completely unperturbed. In the words of our Board of Trustees' chairman 'we wish them well'.
"PDP cannot be held liable for any negligence and/or incompetence on the part of our grossly inferior opponents."
The legacy parties in the APC announced their plans for merger on February 6, 2013 and forwarded a formal letter to INEC to that effect on March 6.
Mohammed was, however, insistent last night that INEC had a constructive knowledge of their proposal since last month when they made their intentions known.
Yerima's arrest, move to clamp down on opposition
The ACN, meanwhile, has flayed Saturday's arrest of Senator Ahmed Yerima, describing the action of the security agencies in Kaduna as a demonstration of the administration's plans to clamp down on the opposition.
The party's spokesman, Mohammed in a statement said the arrest of Senator Yerima for alleged incitement was indicative of the fact that the administration is jittery.
The party said Senator Yerima did not say anything extraordinary by threatening a protest, because protests are an integral part of liberal democracy and cannot be wished away or banned by anyone.
The party said it expects more arrests, investigations by anti-corruption agencies and other acts aimed at intimidating its leaders in the weeks and months ahead, but warned the Federal Government to make sure it had enough prison space to accommodate those it plans to arrest.
Mohammed said: "After all, it is generally believed that the recent redeployment of Police Commissioners in the states was done in readiness for the pre-2015 clampdown on the opposition.
"We know the arrest of Senator Yerima is just a tip of the iceberg, as the PDP-controlled Federal Government gets ready to bare its fangs. But we must warn that fascism can never prevail over liberal democracy."