by Tomide Akinribido
Reprieve came the way of weary Nigerians, as news filtered in on the opposition parties’ resolve to form a merger party to contest election and snatch political power from the ruling People’s Democratic Party(PDP).
The stage for the theatrics was set few weeks ago with a simple statement from the leading opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), led by Bola Tinubu; the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led by Muhammadu Buhari, the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) led by Ibrahim Shekarau and what appears to be a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) led by Gov. Rochas Okorocha and Senator Annie Okonkwo – that they had merged into a single party, the All Progressives Congress, with the acronym, APC.
No sooner had these parties announced their merger plans than the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) developed cold feet, and some of its more rambunctious members began deriding the acronym of the emerging party, referring to it as a drug PDP does not need, on account of the fact that a pain relieving drug was known by the name, APC, in the past. Some other PDP chieftains preferred to call the new party, Armoured Personnel Carrier (APC), the armoured trucks used by security officers in security situations.
The ruling party’s response has been hilarious. Several chieftains of the party forecasted that it would die a sudden death like past attempted mergers of political parties in Nigeria. Although many vocal officials of PDP want Nigerians to believe that the proposed APC is only a housefly trying to dare the PDP sledgehammer, the way the PDP leaders have continued to moan and whine about the coalition merger suggests that the development was not only giving the ruling party a headache, but a very severe migraine that could threaten its happiness and peaceful existence.
Apart from their tantrums, what better proof do Nigerians require of their discomfiture at the coming of APC than the way the APC acronym has suddenly become hot cake, with two men suddenly emerging from the blues to claim that they were the first to begin registration process for two political parties with that same acronym?
The very first sign that the All Progressives Congress will have to fight a hard battle to retain its name and get registered emerged 22 days after the parties involved in the coalition announced their merger plan. From the blues, a certain man claimed to have submitted an application for registration of a party to be known as African Peoples Congress, with the same APC acronym, to INEC, before the coalition All Progressives Congress. Since then, this African Peoples Congress has left no one in doubt that it will not let go of the APC acronym.
As if that development was not strangely rib-cracking enough, yet another group said it had applied for registration of another political party to be known as All Patriotic Citizens, also with APC as its acronym! Mr. Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), Professor Attahiru Jega, revealed that another group had applied to be registered as APC – implying that the popular opposition merger with the acronym APC may have to look for another name.
It was a revelation that sent shock waves through the whole country and got many wondering what was happening to Nigeria’s democracy. For when on February 6, the major opposition parties in the country achieved their unique, long-nursed aspiration of forming a merger, it was hailed across the land as a good step in the right direction.
These claims and counter-claims have probably made APC the most sought after acronym for a political party in the world! Although one of the groups, the All Patriotic Citizens has since had a “rethink” on the APC acronym and elected to withdraw from the battle for the registration of that name, the rush for the registration of parties with the APC acronym smacks of a childish plot by the PDP to frustrate the registration of the opposition coalition party, the All Progressives Congress. This is more so as officials of the hitherto unknown African Peoples Congress (APC) have vowed to take the battle for the APC acronym to court, a move that can achieve nothing other than to stall the registration of the opposition coalition party. Yet, the African Peoples Congress insists that the matter of the battle for the APC acronym is a constitutional matter!
The Acting National Secretary of the party, Mr. Sa’id Balogun, has reportedly vowed to pursue its registration by INEC to “a logical conclusion.” He was reported to have mockingly told a national newspaper that the opposition coalition went on a road show in Borno State and refused to follow the due process for registration of the name of their new political party.
According to Sa’id, “it is a pity that the loud-mouthed merger group has met a superior force in the African Peoples Congress (APC), a force which cannot be intimidated or distracted.” His party, he said, has adhered to the constitutional requirement for registration of a party without any road side activism and was ready to participate in the 2015 election. Issues are now being canvassed on the date of submission of application for registration by the African Peoples Congress, and the position of the INEC, which has already been alleged in some quarters to be an ally of the PDP, on this controversy. Clearly, from the aggressive posture of African Peoples Congress against the coalition All Progressives Congress, members of the merger party who say the African Peoples Congress has been floated to frustrate the registration of their coalition party are not likely to be far from the truth.
However, the All Progressives Congress appears not to be losing any sleep over this development as it has said that it followed the procedure for merger, and announced it to the entire country 22 clear days before the African Peoples Congress came up with its gambit. INEC, it said, has also been relating with the coalition party, using that name.
In a statement in Abuja last Tuesday, ACN National Publicity Secretary,Lai Mohammed said, “It is clear that INEC has always had a constructive knowledge of the All Progressives Congress (APC) since the merger plan started, and that the emerging party did not have to do anything until all the component parties have held their conventions and ratified the constitution, manifesto and logo of the APC.” He vowed that the “legitimate people’s APC will berth safely and deliver Nigerians from the oppressive yoke of the PDP.”
Recent reports have also indicated a link between PDP and the African Peoples Congress, as a mailing list the group used to send a statement that there are moves to eliminate its officers is the same used by the Publicity Directorate of PDP. The statement of the African Peoples Congress was also strangely copied to the Publicity Secretary of PDP, Mr. Olisa Metuh. A well-known PDP member, Mr. Ugochinyere Ikenga, is also said to have been involved in the formation of African Peoples Congress, although PDP has said that Ikenga is not representing it.
This entire clownish scenario has thrown up memories of the innocuous group, Association for Better Nigeria (ABN) that was used by a ruling government in the past to provide a platform for trying to stop the conduct of a national election, and to challenge its result. The attempt to embroil the registration of the All Progressives Congress in a controversy designed to stall its registration is surprising. It is strange, indeed, that anyone would try to delay the formation and growth of a coalition party because, sooner or later, the new party will be registered, whether as APC or any other name. So, the challenge should not be in the ruling party stopping this registration, but putting up a performance that is clearly superior to what the coalition party can offer.
The All Progressives Congress is not without its own problems,the strange bed-fellows in this coalition already have a difficult task agreeing on a number of issues, including the choice of a flag bearer. The parties are known to lack internal democracy and they have a number of challenges that may not even immediately endear them to the electorate today, if PDP begins to put up a superior performance.
So, why this crude and queer effort to stall the registration of the coalition merger party? Why this display of the proverbial ‘naked dancing in the market square’? The Nigerian political Sky is wide enough; it can contain all.