A new political group emerged yesterday claiming the 'APC' acronym, deepening the name-crisis facing the All Progressives Congress (APC) being formed by major opposition parties.
The new group, calling itself All Patriotic Citizens (APC), circulated copies of its letter of application for registration as a political party as well as copies of its manifesto to media houses yesterday.
A copy of the letter given to Daily Trust, dated March 8, 2013, was stamped 'received' by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on March 11.
The letter was signed by Mr. Oliver Chidi Ike, national director of operations of the group, who also said "All Patriotic Citizens was formed two years ago as a pressure group."
The new group, with the motto 'Unity and Progress', gave its address as Plot 1385 Gurara Street, off IBB Way Maitama, Abuja.
But when a Daily Trust journalist checked the address last night, it was found to be an unmarked structure with no sign of political activities around. A soldier was also seen guarding the premises.
The emergence of an 'APC number 3' came as the African People's Congress (also claiming the APC acronym) which filed its registration application to INEC recently held a news conference yesterday in Abuja where it unveiled its logo, manifesto and constitution.
Addressing journalists and party supporters at its national headquarters at Plot 983, Ahmadu Bello Way, Apo, Abuja, pro tem national chairman Onyinye Ikeagwuonu displayed an acknowledgement letter from INEC indicating that the group had submitted the required documents for registration.
He said they had complied with the requirements listed in a letter written to them by INEC secretary Abdullahi Kaugama on March 7, 2013, in response to the group's earlier letter.
He said also the presentation of logo, flag, constitution, manifesto, membership card and evidence of fulfilment of requirement for registration as a political party was in line with the provisions of the Constitution and the Electoral Act.
"We are waiting to be issued our certificate of registration in the coming days by INEC," he added.
News reports earlier in the week said the African People's Congress had sought INEC registration through a letter by their lawyers, Legal World Chambers. This degenerated into a controversy as the All Progressives Congress claimed that this group is being sponsored by the ruling People's Democratic Party, which denied any involvement.
On Tuesday, Daily Trust tried to locate the Legal World Chambers at the address provided in its letter to INEC, but other law firms were found there and Legal World Chambers could not be traced.
Ikeagwuonu yesterday said, "We are not faceless. We are Nigerians. Must somebody be behind you before you lead?"
He said African Peoples Congress was formed to restore hope and address leadership failure on the part of the parties in power.
Ikeagwuonu also flayed the merger moves of four political parties, saying "the merger is simply an amalgam of people that 'must' rule; largely part of the same over-recycled crop of power-mongers that have plagued Nigeria with their abysmal misrule and maladministration."
No going back on APC name-Ikimi
The emergence of officials of the African People's Congress, as well as the surfacing of 'APC number 3," represents a fresh hurdle to the All Progressives Congress which derives its membership from the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Congress (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA).
But leaders of merger committees of the four parties trying to form the All Progressives Congress yesterday said they are sticking to the APC acronym despite the existence of other groups seeking to register the same acronym.
The leaders, who announced this at the end of a meeting in Abuja, were ACN's Chief Tom Ikimi, APGA's Senator Annie Okonkwo, ANPP's Malam Ibrahim Shekarau and CPC's Alhaji Garba M. Gadi.
They said the credibility of INEC was at stake as it cannot deny knowing they exist as APC.
Ikimi, who spoke on behalf of the other leaders, said Nigerians and the whole world are aware of the decision of the ACN, ANPP and CPC and some members of the APGA to merge to form APC.
He said they announced the formation of the All Progressives Congress on February 6, and so the "name and acronym have therefore become the intellectual property of the merging parties since" that day.
"Prior to the adoption of the name we had carried out a careful search of the existing names of all political parties with extant registration in Nigeria and finding out that none had the name All Progressives Congress nor the acronym APC, we chose the name and unveiled it. Thus by that public announcement the name All Progressives Congress and the acronym APC became our intellectual property which we shall guard jealously," he said.
"It has, therefore, come to us as a rude shock that the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC would announce receipt of a letter from what is now known to be a faceless and unknown political group ostensibly driven by sheer mischief purporting to request for registration with the name African Peoples Congress.
"The obvious motive of this letter is to attempt, albeit in futility, to scuttle the registration of the All Progressives Congress which has been so widely publicised and well received to the discomfort of the establishment."
He said the second African Peoples Congress wrote their letter to INEC on February 28, three weeks after the merging parties announced the formation of All Progressives Congress.
"Unfortunately we have it on good authority that the establishment, gravely troubled by the emergence of a united opposition, has set up a high powered team headed by a very high ranking officer of government and furnished with unlimited resources from public funds with a clear mandate to corrupt the democratic institutions and destabilise the opposition," Ikimi said.
"We have informed the whole world of our decision to merge under the name All Progressive Congress, with the acronym APC. We are determined to pursue the process to its logical conclusion in the interest of our dear fatherland. The feeble attempt by any other entity to pretend to use the same acronym is an exercise in futility which must fail because it amounts to what, in law, is called passing off.
"We will not accept any attempt by INEC, relying on a dubious application clearly not in compliance with the conditions set out in the Constitution or the Electoral Act, to scuttle our plans to formalise our merger under our adopted name and acronym."
He said also that the merging parties had written to INEC on what he called efforts "to truncate the democratic process."
There was no immediate reaction from INEC yesterday. Attempts to get comments from two spokesmen for the commission were not successful. Chief press secretary to INEC chairman Attahiru Jega, Mr. Kayode Idowu, could not be reached by telephone and he did not respond to an email. INEC director of public affairs Mr. Emmanuel Umenger was also not reachable by telephone.