by Stanley Azuakola
They say it is a plan to “to rescue Nigeria.” That’s how the opposition is spinning their upcoming merger, which should be finalised within the next five months.
Considering that a some of the opposition politicians present at the meeting of opposition governors at the Lagos House, Marina on Tuesday, used to be a part of the PDP, their claims to be on a rescue mission is, to put mildly, interesting. But a strong opposition is needed and so their talks are seen as an important step in the drive by the opposition to come under one non-PDP umbrella.
The surprise attendee at the meeting was Imo governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha. The All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA), the party to which the governor belongs, usually leans more towards the PDP sphere of things. In 2011, that party backed Goodluck Jonathan for president, and did not field any presidential candidate. But Okorocha, a former PDP and ANPP man, was there in person declaring with all seriousness that:
“The merger has become very necessary in order to save our democracy. 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 merger is to make Nigeria a better nation,” Okorocha said.
It was no surprise to see Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola (the host) or indeed, the ACN governors of Ekiti (Kayode Fayemi), Osun (Rauf Aregbesola), Ogun (Ibikunle Amosun) and Oyo (Abiola Ajimobi). Also present, unsurprisingly, were the ANPP governors of Zamfara (Abdul-Aziz Yari), Borno (Kashim Shettima) and Yobe (Ibrahim Gaidam), who sent a representative in Senator Dejare Alkali. Finally, Gov. Tanko al Makura, the CPC governor of Nasarawa was also present.
As expected, Olusegun Mimiko, the Labour Party governor of Ondo was absent. Despite the recent public handshake between Mimiko and ACN leader, Bola Tinubu, it is a known fact that Mimiko does not get on well with the top hierarchy of the other opposition parties. Not to mention the fact that Mimiko’s Labour Party has close ties with the Jonathan administration. Like APGA, they backed him in 2011, and Jonathan is believed to have given Mimiko tacit support in his fierce 2011 governorship reelection contest.
The big question from yesterday’s meeting was: Where was Adams Oshiomhole, the ACN governor of Edo?
The Edo State Governor won reelection last year in Edo when talks had only just begun between the ACN and CPC. As part of that engagement, the CPC candidate in the state stepped down for Oshiomhole. But at yesterday’s meeting, he was conspicuosly absent. An ACN leaning newspaper, The Nation, reported on the governor’s absence. But even they seemed to be confused.
In one report, they said the governor had “urgent state matters to attend to”; while in another, they claimed that the “aircraft which was to bring Governor Oshiomhole was faulty at the point of take-off.”
Also absent at the meeting was his Anambra counterpart, Peter Obi. Obi is known to be very pro-Goodluck Jonathan. Besides the Anambra governor and his Imo counterpart are known to be at loggerheads over the control of their party, APGA. Obi currently controls more of that party’s machinery, which might have forced Okorocha into this merger and might be the reason Obi was absent.
Fashola said after the meeting: “Well…scepticism is one thing; the commitment that we bring to the table will certainly override any scepticism. 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.”
The communiqué of the meeting was read by Gov. Shettima of Borno:
“As progressive and patriotic leaders of our people across party, religious and geo-political zones, we are extremely concerned about the state of the nation and we put our heads together in the interest of our people to deliberate on what can be done to rescue our country”.
“As governors, we fully endorse the merger initiatives already commenced by our various political parties and we will put our full weight behind these efforts. Nigeria is greater than all of us and we have a duty to make it work for our people and the future of our children yet unborn.”
Other statements by governors present.
Gov. Amosun: “A lot of other people will come on board once they see our sincerity; 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.”
Gov. Yari: “The objective is to fix Nigeria in the right perspective. It is a duty for all of us as leaders to drive our people right and we believe the PDP has done less, so we have the idea, the knowledge and we have the progressive ideas to move the country forward. So, if you say we intend to move the PDP out of power, yes; we are ready to do that.”