Crisis of Identity

Lai Mohammed

Three political associations lay claim to APC as the acronym adopted by them for easy identification by their members and supporters

By Olu Ojewale  |  Apr. 1, 2013 @01:00 GMT

FOR an onlooker, who is not schooled in political mischief and treachery, it is probably a storm in a teacup. But for the merging parties and sponsors of the All Progressives Congress, APC, it is nothing but a kill joy when they were still basking in the euphoria of the moment with their achievement. As a result of the coalition of four opposition parties, the group adopted a simple name with an acronym that would stick in the minds of their supporters ahead of the 2015 elections.

But the leaders of the APC discovered to their chagrin that another organisation was seeking to register as a political party, using the same acronym. And while they were still racking their brains on what to do about the situation, another party surfaced with a statement that it had filed for registration with the same acronym!

Sharing acronym with the All Progressives Congress are the All Patriotic Citizens and African Peoples’ Congress. Since the emergence of the three dimensionally opposed parties, tongues have been wagging and fingers pointing in the direction of the ruling party as the culprit for the brouhaha. That has not been proven though. Yet the bickering has not abated as all of them wait in the wings to see how the matter will develop.

Lai Mohammed, publicity secretary of the ACN, said in an interview that the party remained resolute to retain its name. “No, we won’t change our name. We will stand by that name and that is what we want to be called at the commission,” Mohammed said. His stance was supported by Rotimi Fashakin, spokesman of the Congress for Progressive Change.

The two spokesmen accused the ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP, of being behind the proxy parties. Fashakin  said, “ We shall show to the Nigerian people, nay, the whole world, that INEC is indeed in collusion with the ruling party, to extirpate any vestige of constitutional democracy from Nigeria’s political space.” He said PDP’s subterranean move to scuttle the merger had boomeranged. “They  are unaware that their plot to surreptitiously lay this subterfuge as an impediment for the emergence of the new mega party would be unravelled at such an early stage,” the CPC  spokesman added.

Tom Ikimi
Tom Ikimi

The accusation was repeated by Tom Ikimi, chairman of the merger committee. He said the PDP was afraid because such a merger had never happened in Nigerian political history before. “We are aware of those who don’t want us to merge and who are afraid of the emergence of a strong opposition or a strong alternative for Nigerians.  It is very clear to everyone now that the emergence of the opposition…the All Progressives Congress (APC) is giving jitters to some people… And that they are trying to muddle the water by developing all kinds of APCs,” Ikimi said.

The national leadership of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, Friday, March 15, denied being involved in the formation of African Peoples Congress, APC, in order to frustrate the registration of the All Progressives Congress. It also disowned one Ugochinyere Imo Ikenga, its facilitator. In a statement, Olisa Metuh, national publicity secretary of the PDP, boasted that the party was not moved by the coming together of four opposition political parties to form the APC. According to him, the PDP welcomed a virile opposition. The statement said in part: “Our attention has been drawn to unfounded, spurious and vexatious reports making the rounds in some online media claiming that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, is behind the identity tug of war by groups claiming the acronym ‘APC’…. However, in view of the mischievous dimensions these rumours have assumed, especially within a section of the online media, the PDP wishes to categorically state as follows: To the best of our knowledge, no member of the PDP is involved in the formation of any other political organisation, neither are we interested in the activities of any other party.”

Metuh also denied being responsible for the involvement of Ikenga in the formation of the other APC. Although he did not deny Ikenga as a member of the PDP, Metuh only alleged the sponsor of the controversial APC had, in recent times, made some virulent attacks and campaigned for the dissolution of the Bamanga Tukur led-National Working Committee, thereby making him an estranged fellow that cannot represent the PDP.”

But a good number of Nigerians are also convinced that the ruling party is behind the new APCs. Some said it would be naive on the part of promoters of the All Progressives Congress to think that they would have been allowed to have it easy to challenge a ruling party. Segun Fatogun, a resident of Ikoodu, accused the PDP of trying to destabilise the new party. “PDP should not take Nigerians for granted. Nigerians need good governance and, if it cannot provide that, it should not cause instability.” On the contrary, there are those who strongly believe that the acronym crisis could be a contrivance of the All Progressives Congress to win nationwide sympathy and support.

But Bamidele Aderounmu, a businessman, wondered why INEC had not made a statement on the controversy. He said INEC should have come out to tell Nigerians which party has been registered among the three laying claim to the same acronym. “I think INEC is helping to fuel the speculations and this is not good for our politics. They should come out to save the nation the heat being generated by the controversy over the acronym,” he said.

Arguing on aradio programme, some Nigerians dismissed the controversy as a non-issue. “If the acronym is going to be a problem, let the new party put an N at the end of its own, otherwise let it can still change the name before the registration,” a caller said. But others also suggested that all the parties should retain their names and acronym as they are and educate their supporters on how to vote. “They have different logos. They should educate their supporters on how to identify the party of their choice,” a caller argued. Yet, some other persons also believed that it would be better to allow the status quo to remain and that eventually, the most prominent party would swallow the smaller ones.

It appeared that the APC promoters did not do their homework very well. When the parties were going into negotiation over the merger, Muhammadu Buhari, the presidential candidate of the CPC in the last election, told the world that it would take at least six months for all concerned to finalise merger process. But barely three months after, the merger was announced, thereby giving an impression that it was done in a haste.

Another thing that may work against the embattled party is the fact that it seems the party has zeroed in on a candidate from the north. Information recently leaked in the press that the party had started shopping for a vice president in the south. This probably gives Ikimi the confidence to say that the party does not care whether or not President Goodluck Jonathan becomes the PDP presidential candidate in 2015.

Olisa Metuh
Olisa Metuh

Some analysts argued that the fight over acronym has exposed the opposition as only interested in wrestling power from the ruling party because of the booty. “They are not merging to help Nigerians. They are joined together so that they can share the booty of Nigeria. There are no reformists among them. They are all disgruntled members of the PDP, who helped to wreck the country,” an analyst said. He said if the All Progressives Congress would like to be taken seriously, a person like Ikimi who was the right hand man of former President Olusegun Obasanjo during his regime, should not be found among them.

Even the party is not fully supported by the parent parties that have joined the coalition so far. For instance, a faction of APGA is a member of the new party while the other faction said it would have nothing to do with it. Sources close to the party, said the ANPP is yet to be fully integrated into the fold. Another said some supporters of the new association are not ready to come out now until the position of Muhammadu Buhari on 2015 is made clear.

Speaking on why the APC allowed the two other parties to struggle for the acronym with it, Mohammed said as a merger association, the party would need to go through various conventions and get the necessary resolutions before applying to INEC for registration. Mohammed, who said that the coalition had written INEC over the emergence of the two parties as a force trying to scuttle the merger, insisted that the merging parties had complied with the Electoral Act to make it impossible for the INEC to recognise another APC. He said it was wrong for anyone to insinuate that the merging parties ought to have written INEC to prevent the emergence of other parties to use the acronym. He argued: “There is nothing we ought to have done, as merging parties in accordance with the Electoral Act, which we have not done.” He reminded Nigerians that as a merging party, the rules are different: ”We are not like those who are registering new parties. And it will, therefore, be wrong to say probably we ought to have written to INEC which we have not, we ought to have notified INEC, which we did not.

Mohammed disclosed that they discovered the existence of African Peoples Congress on March 6, and quickly wrote to the INEC, “reminding it that even though we have not applied for registration, we have seen them (African Peoples Congress), as people that want to make mischief and that INEC should, take note.”

James Ocholi, SAN, chairman of the Merging Parties’ Committee on INEC and Legal Compliance, described the proxy APC as illegal. “When African Peoples Congress chooses yesterday or today to unveil its constitution, that is not in compliance with the law. It is not yet a constitution, until INEC has gone through the process of verification. And before the commencement of the verification, INEC must issue it an acknowledgement. For now, there is nothing to show that INEC has issued it an acknowledgment,” Ocholi said.

But contrary to Ocholi’s claim, Onyinye Ikeagwuonu, national chairman of the African Peoples Congress, on Thursday, March 14, said the party had submitted its application and received acknowledgment. “Today, we have submitted the long list of requirements as prescribed by INEC and have completed the constitution demanded from us for registration as a political party,” Ikeagwuonu said.

According to the chairman, the party had applied for registration through a lawyer, and that the party had paid the required N1million administrative and processing fee. Ikeagwuonu’s claim has not been controverted by any INEC official.

Apparently shocked by the effrontery of the two parties, the leadership of the All Progressives Congress had addressed a press conference in Abuja on March 14, to alert the nation on what was going on. But while that press conference was in progress, All Patriotic Citizens, in a press statement, announced its arrival on the scene as another political party.

Oliver Ike, national director of operation, All Patriotic Citizens, said in the statement that the group had submitted its application for registration to INEC. “We are committed to the re-engineering of our political, economic and social foundations to eschew politics of bitterness and build a new, a united and prosperous Nigeria under good democratic governance,” Ike stated. A copy of the application, reportedly shown to some correspondents, was dated March 8, 2013, and INEC’s acknowledgement stamp was dated March 11, 2013.

How the controversy is going to peter out still remains foggy, but as it appears only an INEC statement on the issue can resolve the impasse.

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