After months of speculations, 10 governors of four opposition political parties namely Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria People’s Party (ANPP); Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), penultimate week met in Lagos to ratify moves by leaders of the political parties to merge.
The governors told Nigerians that they endorsed the merger to save the country from mis-rule of the ruling People’s Democratic Party (PDP) especially at the centre and which had held sway for more than 12 years.
Days after the governors gave their go-ahead for the parties to merge, chairmen and members of the committees called to fine-tune the merger plan met at the residence of Tom Ikimi, former minister of Foreign Affairs and chieftain of ACN, in Abuja and at the end of the meeting announced the formation of All Progressive Congress (APC).
Ikimi read the one-page communique signed by four chieftains of the party.
The communique reads: “at no time in our national life has radical change become more urgent. And to meet the challenge of that change, we the following progressive political parties namely ACN, ANPP, APGA and CPC have resolved to merge forthwith and become the All Progressives Congress and offer to our beleaguered people a recipe for peace and prosperity.
“We resolve to form a political party committed to the principles of internal democracy, focused on serious issues to our people, determined to bring corruption and insecurity to an end, determined to grow our economy and create jobs in their millions through education, housing, agriculture, industrial growth etc and stop the increasing mood of despair and hopelessness among our people.
“The resolution of these issues, the enthronement of true democratic values for peace, democracy and justice are those concerns which propel us. We believe that by these measures only shall we restore our dignity and position of pre-eminence in the committee of nations. This is our pledge”.
Those who signed the communique were Tom Ikimi for ACN, Garba Gadi for CPC; Annie Okonkwo for APGA and Ibrahim Shekarau for ANPP. Barely 24 hours after the new party was formed and made public, controversy trailed it as leaders of APGA dissociated themselves from the merger.
Chris Anyanwu, a senator of APGA from Imo State explained that the party had not met to take a decision on the merger and therefore it would be wrong to associate the party with the merger. Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State, who attended the Lagos meeting of the governors where it was agreed to endorse the merger defended the involvement of APGA in the new party.
Okorocha said, “let me say emphatically that APGA is in the merger talk and we have our little challenges and we are just trying to sort out about who are the APGA APGA and APGA PDP.”
He explained “The APGA is already in the merger talk and I also want to say emphatically that if CPC which ought to have been a regional party, ANPP and ACN have agreed to come together for a bigger mega party, APGA should not be an exception. So, you must see this as a collective responsibility of all parties to form a formidable party that can stand the test of time come 2015. At the end of the merger meetings you will see that APGA is in the merger. We are fully, fully in the merger.”
Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of ACN, to put the record straight, came out to defend the involvement of APGA. He said ‘’We recognise the person and status of Governor Rochas Okorocha, who as Imo State governor has been a great player and figure in Nigerian political landscape, as well as Senator Annie Okonkwo, a seasoned politician and respectable lawmaker.
‘’We believe in their representation that APGA is interested in the merger, hence we worked with them in good faith. They participated effectively and positively in the meeting of all governors of the parties concerned and in the meetings of the merger committees of the parties, leading to the communiqué released by all the governors endorsing the merger and the one by the merger committees announcing the formation of the APC.’’
Despite the spirited defence of the inclusion of APGA by both Okorocha and Mohammed, the unresolved membership of APGA reared its head last week when leaders of the new party met to agree on the logo of the new party. Midway into the close door meeting, members of the APGA delegation that included former Senator Osita Izunaso from Imo State walked out of the meeting after other members in the merger refused to accept that APGA logo be part of the APC logo. The aggrieved members were later persuaded to return to the meeting and an agreement reached that the APGA delegation should return to its party and first resolve all differences.
Mohammed later explained why the logo of APGA was rejected to form part of the new merger party, APC.
He said “we don’t want to include the logo of APGA for now so as to avoid future problem. We want APGA to resolve their internal crisis before their request is considered. We want to avoid a situation where some members of APGA will go to court.”
Mohammed however disclosed that the merger would defer unfolding of the logo of APC to allow APGA resolve its internal crisis.
Though there were fears that the merger would collapse as in previous exercises dating back to the first and second republics, George Akume, senate minority leader, and a former two-time governor of Benue State, disagreed and said APC was not like other experiences.
Akume said “what happened then were alliances and not a merger. This one is a merger. It is our faith that this worthwhile and noble endeavour will lead all Nigerians to realise the dreams of our founding fathers to have a country that works for all and sundry.”
Another hurdle that would confront the new party would be at the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) where all the parties to the merger would be expected to submit their individual certificate of registration as political parties.
With the unresolved divisions within the CPC and ANPP and uncertainty over which of the leaders of the party had custody of the certificates of registration of the parties, watchers are waiting to see what would become of the merger as the electorate look to 2015.