Same Seed in Same Pod

Mike Akpan

|  Mike Akpan  |

DESPITE the hullabaloo and the excitement that greeted the decision of the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, to merge to become the All Progressives Congress, APC, I deliberately refused to join others in making a hasty comment on the desirability or otherwise of that political development. Rather, I preferred to wait for some weeks to enable me watch unfolding developments before I can make an informed comment on the issue. Unlike others who had hailed the emergence of the APC on Nigeria’s political firmament as long overdue, I was very much disappointed in the perfunctory manner the merger announcement was made. It was a manifest evidence that the promoters of the new political party did not do their homework well before rushing to make the announcement. A few weeks before the announcement, Muhammadu Buhari, former military head of state and the national leader of the CPC, had dropped the hint that the merger talks would take the next six months to finalize. He knew why he said so. If that was the position as at that time, what then prompted the rush for the announcement when the merger talks were still ongoing? Was it meant to score a cheap political point? If the APC is serious in giving the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, a good run for votes in the 2015 general elections, then its promoters have to sit up and do what they are expected to do beyond the mere rhetoric that the emergence of the new party will end the rule of the PDP.

So far, what Nigerians are fed with daily from the propaganda machinery of the APC are blackmails and mere boastful remarks some of which are very inciting. For instance, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and the national leader of the ACN, was quoted as saying after the merger announcement that the new party would end the rule of the PDP which he described as the years of the scavengers and wayfarers. “What we have now are scavengers and wayfarers in the corridors of power, apologists and professionals whose ethics evaporate as soon as they come in contact with the paraphernalia of power. But there is help coming as the opposition moves to form a broad-based coalition that will send these characters out of power and put into gear the Nigerian project.”   Elsewhere, Buhari was quoted as urging Nigerians to give the APC the opportunity to prove itself in rescuing the nation from those he called “ strong men” that had damaged the system.

All these amount to wishful thinking. It is sheer political naivety if the promoters of the APC nurse the belief that only name-calling and blackmail can uproot the PDP from power in 2015 without coming out with a programme that will convince Nigerians that the party can be a good alternative to the PDP. It is also sheer political naivety if the APC harbors any feeling that PDP will sit back and allow opposition groups to throw it out of power without fighting back. Already, the PDP has served notice that it is not worried by the proposed merger. According to Bamanga Tukur, its national chairman, the idea of a strong opposition party is a good development because it would help the party to sit up. In other words, the merger will usher in healthy debates on how to improve governance, the economy, health, education, power, infrastructure and other sectors. However, he declared: “No matter the number of political parties that merge, the PDP remains the most acceptable and widespread party in the country. The PDP is the Lionell Messi of Nigerian politics; it has the capacity to dribble all opposition political parties…” That message is clear that the PDP is ready to fight back and even dribble the other parties in opposition. I was therefore amused when the promoters of the APC failed to blame themselves for their shoddy merger plans, and instead, accused the PDP of being the brain behind the ownership tussle over their party’s acronym. If at all the PDP had any hand in the ownership crisis, the promoters of the merger created room for it because they failed to do what they should have done. As one critic succinctly put: “the merger announcement was a case of putting the cart before the horse.”

Elsewhere, merger announcements are not made in a hurry and in the way the APC promoters did. For instance, on February 5, the four major opposition political parties only announced their intention to merge to form a mega party .The name of the mega party was not disclosed. Nigerians expected the promoters to have gone beyond merely announcing their intent. It is still not very clear why they chose to keep the public in suspense. Rather, what followed was a banal statement purportedly issued by 10 governors of the four parties in the merger arrangement who met in Lagos earlier that morning. The statement read: “We the governors from 10 states of the federation rose from a meeting at the Lagos House, Marina, today, February 5, 2013. Having reviewed the situation in our country, we resolved that Nigeria is a task that must be done.” The statement failed to tell Nigerians what task the governors had decided to embark upon. The governors who were at the Lagos House meeting were Rochas Okorocha of Imo state representing APGA, Kashim Shettima, Borno State, Abdulazeez Yari,Zamfara State and Ibrahim Gaidam, Yobe State, ( represented by Degere Alkali, his deputy) from the ANPP. Others were Umaru Al- Makura of Nasarawa State, representing the CPC, and the five governors of the ACN namely Kayode Fayemi, Ekiti State; Ibikunle Amosun, Ogun State; Rauf Aregbesola,Osun State, Abiola Ajimobi, Oyo State and Babatunde Fashola, Lagos State.

The unpreparedness of the APC promoters became more apparent the following day when Tom Ikimi, a chieftain of the ACN, and others met with representatives of the electronic and print media. Apart from the name, other details about the party were not unveiled, apparently, because they were not ready. This was an indication that the political parties in the merger had not reached agreements on the issues. As at the date of the announcement, none of the four political parties had secured the mandate of their respective national conventions to go into any merger arrangement in the name of the All Progressives Congress. That, probably explained why the interim national officers of the APC were not unveiled on February 6. Besides, the logo, flag, constitution and the APC economic blueprint were not ready. Ikimi was also silent on what would be the philosophy of an APC government. All these are issues that should have been concluded well in advance before the merger announcement which would have been followed immediately with an application to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for registration. In this way, the promoters of the APC would have left no room for any PDP mischief. If they want Nigerians to take them seriously, they must demonstrate that they have the capacity to wheel the country into a new direction different from that of the PDP. For now, they are not doing anything new apart from creating self-inflicted crises in order to earn the sympathy of Nigerians. Their preoccupation seems to be“ let us first wrestle political power from the PDP before we can decide what to do with it.” That is not surprising because many of the promoters of the APC are renegades from the PDP which is being accused of having no plan to move the country forward.

From what we know of them, they did not leave the PDP because of any disagreement on points of principle but because they were unable to realize their individual political ambitions on the platform of the party. In other words, they are not reform-minded. So, they should stop raising the hope of Nigerians that they are going to reform governance if they are given the mandate to govern the country in 2015. Again, there is nothing to show that any of the political parties in the merger has her any economic blueprint or philosophy that can separate it from the PDP which they want to bring to the national level. All of them are guilty of lack of accountability, transparency and internal democracy according to a recent INEC report on the management of the political parties.. And unless the promoters of the APC prove otherwise, their party and the PDP are the same seed in the same pod.

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Apr. 15, 2013 @ 01:00 GMT

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