The APC Marching On

Prof. Attahiru Jega, INEC chairman.

Prof. Attahiru Jega: advises Nigerian voters

The newly formed All Progressive Congress throttles swiftly with its merger plans

The initial scepticism which trailed the announcement of the newly formed All Progressive Congress, APC, is gradually panning into insignificance with the apparent determination of its promoters to ensure that the merger succeeds. Though yet-to-be registered, the opposition coalition party, last Wednesday, further demonstrated it meant business by unveiling a new logo, motto and slogan. The logo, which retained the “broom” insignia of the leading political party in the grand merger, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, also has colours of green, turquoise blue and red to reflect the identities of the other participating political parties. While its motto reads Justice, Peace and Unity, it chose “Change” as its slogan.

The slogan, which is strategic, may resonate well with the growing disenchantment in the polity, making the party look like a child of necessity. With the development, the APC seems to have stated its resolve to challenge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. The perception was bolstered by the statement made by Lai Mohammed, ACN spokesman, that the country’s political landscape has been irreversibly altered.

•Opposition governors during their visit to Maiduguri
•Opposition governors during their visit to Maiduguria

Going by its growing public acceptability, the party may have given a hint as to how the politics of 2015 would pan out. To many watchers, the APC could well be a veritable alternative to the behemoth PDP. More so, the visit, penultimate week, by nine opposition governors to Maiduguri, Borno State, a hotbed of the Islamic fundamentalist insurgency, was a masterstroke that jolted the PDP.

According to the governors, the decision to ignore the warnings issued by security agents over their safety was meant to prove a point that no part of the country should be a no-go area for any Nigerian leader. The statement was an indirect attack on President Goodluck Jonathan, who has not visited the state since 2009 when the insurgency reared its head. The bravery of the governors, in spite of the multiple explosions that went off in part of the state during their visit, may well serve as a clue to how an APC government would tackle security challenges, if voted into power. It also showed its leaders as identifying with the people, against the incumbent government which they perceived to have alienated itself from them.

Bearing in mind the backlash such perception may precipitate, the Presidency hurriedly countered that President Jonathan was not afraid of visiting any part of the country. First to speak was the Special Adviser to President Jonathan on Political Matters, Ahmed Gulak, who accused the opposition governors of pre-empting the President’s visit to Borno and Yobe State last Thursday. Another presidential aide, Dr. Doyin Okupe, lashed, again, at the governors, describing their visit as “crass opportunism” and a publicity stunt. But the governors would not suffer fools gladly, hurling a volley of expletives at the Presidency. Lai Mohammed, in a statement, last Wednesday, said rather than condemn the visit, the President should commend the governors for their gallantry as well as supplying him a clue he did not think out initially.

Mohammed likened the Presidency’s reaction to a “punch-drunk boxer who, having been knocked down by his opponent, suddenly got up and started punching the referee whom he mistook for the guy who knocked him out”. He accused the Presidency of initially attempting to frustrate the governors’ visit through a cooked-up security report and, having seen it fail, suddenly resorted to name-calling.

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The ACN  commended the governors for their gesture which it said is a boost to the unity of Nigeria. “It does not mean the crisis does not exist, but it sends a strong signal to the insurgents that they have only succeeded in cowing a very few, not all, Nigerians, and that indeed under a purposeful APC government the conflict will in no time become history.’’

The party added: “Some of the reasons this needless Boko Haram crisis has festered is that the President in particular has failed to be an exemplary leader. By staying away from the affected parts of the country since the crisis started in 2009 for fear of his personal safety, and also receding behind the safe walls of the Aso Rock fortress to celebrate independence anniversaries, the President has unwittingly emboldened the anarchists who have killed and maimed thousands.”

Since the Presidency is not known for divulging its itinerary to the governors, much less the opposition, it is not unlikely that Gulak’s and Okupe’s statements were only afterthoughts meant to save face.

With the merger plans in full throttle and awaiting registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, indications point to some disgruntled members of the PDP joining APC later. Already, rumours are rife that about nine PDP governors are in talks with the leaders of the APC. Should this be true, the once-sturdy PDP, which is currently beset with internal wrangling in its fold, may suffer colossal misfortunes. More importantly, the growing disaffection between the northern political elite, particularly ambitious governors from the region, and President Jonathan over his rumoured desire to seek a second term of office may be a blessing to the APC. An indication that opposition politics may not be business as usual against the PDP-led government was seen during the early days of the budget row between the President and the National Assembly. At the time, opposition lawmakers in both chambers teamed up with those of the PDP to jointly issue a statement criticising the President, which riled the PDP.

Although the horizon presently looks bright for the APC, its registration by  INEC is definitely the next hurdle it must cross. The procedures for such mergers, as stipulated in Section 84(1-6) of the Electoral Act 2006, as amended, do not only require the dissolution of the merging parties but the presentation of up-to-date audited financial statements and consolidated balance sheet, as stipulated in Section 226 of the 1999 Constitution. But, aside ACN which INEC okayed for keeping a clean book in a recent advertorial the latter published, other parties in the merger do not appear to be squeaky clean.

However, despite the applause for the merger, not many Nigerians believe it would be any different from the PDP. Omololu Toluwanimi Omololu, a lecturer in the Department of Political Science, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State, is one of such Nigerians. According to him, the desire for the merger was not thought out to promote national interest, but to advance the personal interests of the conveners. “It is sad that no political party in the country has any ideological base and the APC can not be an exception because it is same old wine in a new bottle. To me, the success of the mega party depends largely on the internal control mechanism of the PDP in resolving its budding succession crisis. If PDP remains cohesive, APC will just remain opposition outside government.”