17th November, 2023
…Atiku proposal only way to give solid opposition – Bode George
…It’s incredibly unwise to reject Atiku’s proposal -Omokris
…Concentrate on repairing your damaged psyche – APC Slams Atiku
By Ayorinde Oluokun/Abuja
Major political parties on Thursday poured cold water on the proposal of former Vice President Atiku Abubakar and the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for the formation of a grand coalition to oust the ruling All Progressives Congress from power ahead of the next general election in 2027.
Atiku, who recently lost his bid to oust President Bola Tinubu of All Progressives Congress, APC through the court, had told a delegation of Inter Party Advisory Council, IPAC leaders that Nigeria was sliding towards a one-party state during a visit to his residence in Abuja.
The former Vice President who spoke in the wake of the victories of the ruling party in the governorship elections in Imo and Kogi State had advised that political parties should come together to form a strong coalition that can take on the APC ahead of the 2027 general election.
The proposal had the backing of former deputy national chairman of PDP Bode George. He said, “We have all seen how the APC is increasingly turning Nigeria into a dictatorship of one party. If we don’t come together to challenge what the ruling party is trying to create, our democracy will suffer for it, and the consequences of it will affect the generations yet unborn.”
Merger only way to defeat Tinubu/APC
Speaking in a television programme on yesterday, George said said Atiku, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), and Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP who contested against President Bola Tinubu in the 2023 election were the closest challengers among the 18 people on the ballot should be at the vanguard of the merger arrangement.
He noted that the three candidates were also former members of the PDP. Where was Atiku from? PDP. What about Kwankwaso? PDP. What about Obi? PDP,” George said while noting that if the scores of the three opposition candidates in the 2023 election had been combined for one of them, the APC would have been stopped from returning to power.
“Now, if you look at the figures of the election results, if those three were all in the same party, which party would be in the villa by now? So let us now decide. And we will decide by the grace of the Almighty God. We will sit together and remove the differences and sort things out so we can be one and get back to where we were. So that we will be able to give a solid opposition.”
However, that optimism was not shared by the major opposition parties.
Merger Not Our Priority Now – Labour Party
For one, the Labour Party in a statement on yesterday said it is not interested in a merger arrangement with another political party. Obiora Ifoh, National Publicity Secretary, Labour Party said this while denying a publication that the party has accepted Atiku’s proposal.
According to Ifoh, it is purely a news item twisted and sensationalised by a section of the media to embarrass the Party.
While the party said it is necessary for opposition political parties to work together to fight against one-party system in Nigeria and to stop the present “autocracy” in the country, it said it has yet to discuss the way forward after its outing in the 2023 election.
Atiku Must Concede To Kwankwaso
Also, the two factions of NNPP dismissed the call by Atiku for a merger. A faction of the party loyal to Musa Kwankwaso said it would only consider the proposal if Atiku would support ceding of the presidential ticket to it. The National Publicity Secretary of the faction, Yakubu Shendam, said the call by the former Vice President is like “medicine after death.”
“We believe that single-handedly Kwankwaso can deliver Nigeria in 2027. But that doesn’t mean that we are not looking for players like Atiku to join our party. If there is going to be a merger, it should be with the NNPP, because Atiku is now retiring, so, he should support Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso,” he said in an interview with a newspaper.
The other faction of the party also said it is not engaging in merger talks with any political party in a statement issued by its National Publicity Secretary, Alhaji AbdulRazaq AbdulSalam.
“NNPP is an independent political group as such we stand firm in our commitment to respect all political parties and refuse to engage in merging with any party to combat another. Our party values inclusivity and maintains a non-partisan approach,” it said with warning that the Kwankwaso faction has been expelled from the party and should not engage in merger talks on behalf of the NNPP.
“It is crucial to note that those engaging in the merger talk have been expelled from NNPP, and the party currently faces internal conflicts, pending court resolution. Until proven otherwise, these internal matters take precedence,” the NNPP spokesman said.
Incredibly Unwise to Reject Atiku’s Proposal
However, a former aide to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Remo Omokri described the rejection of the merger arrangement as “incredibly unwise.” Picking on the LP presidential candidate, the former presidential aide noted that there is no way he can become Nigeria’s president without embracing such a merger.
“The fact that we had three major Muslim Presidential candidates (Atiku, Tinubu, and Kwankwaso) and only one major Christian candidate (Peter Obi), yet a Muslim won, and another Muslim came second, is proof positive that Muslims have a higher population than Christians in Nigeria. I know it is not what you want to hear. However, the truth is bitter but better. And if the Labour Party do not realise this, they will only play into the hands of the All Progressives Congress by dividing opposition votes in 2027.
“ To succeed in politics, you must be willing to work with even those you do not like, for a goal you like,” Omokri said.
Atiku Can’t Offer Credible Opposition
On its part, the APC said Atiku cannot offer a credible opposition for Nigerians while dismissing his fears of one party dictatorship.
“It is pitiful that a statesman of Atiku’s standing would so easily conflate the wide acceptance of our great party among Nigerians with his irrational fear of one-party dictatorship. Remarkably, Atiku and his PDP have not only consistently failed at the polls, they have proved incapable of offering a credible alternative political vision as expected of an opposition party,” the party said in a statement on Wednesday by its spokesperson, Felix Morka.
“We urge Atiku to concentrate on repairing his damaged political psyche and attempt to revive his comatose PDP and leave APC out of their combined predicament. However, we welcome the former Vice President’s charge to opposition political parties to rally together to engage in opposition politics,” APC said.