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Sunday, 23 June 2013

APC: Facing a Critical Test

170313F5.APC-and-INEC.jpg - 170313F5.APC-and-INEC.jpg

Promoters of the opposition merger face a critical test as they try to agree on the sharing of party positions, reports Vincent Obia
With promoters of the opposition merger party, All Progressives Congress, under pressure to constitute its executive committee, a basic condition for registration as a political party, their will to form Nigeria’s first successful opposition merger faces a big test. The Independent National Electoral Commission had, reportedly, demanded that the new party must have elected executives in place at the national, state and local government levels before it could be registered. But the hard part for the coalition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, Congress for Progressive Change, as well as factions of All Progressives Grand Alliance and Democratic Peoples Party – seems to be the formation of a national executive.

Difficult Talks
Sponsors of the merger have long been aware that a formal leadership structure is the key to APC’s registration as a political party. But the negotiations to form a national executive have just commenced in earnest, following their formal application for the registration of APC on June 7. Reports in the last fortnight said that the parties had agreed to share the core positions in an interim national executive committee in the following order: ACN, national chairman; CPC, national secretary; and ANPP, national treasurer.
But a meeting last week, which was part of a series of negotiations since almost two weeks, apparently, intended to herald the announcement of the interim national officers could not reach an agreement.  Chairman of the ACN Merger Committee and spokesman of the Joint Merger Committees, Chief Tom Ikimi, acknowledged their inability to strike a compromise. But he said the negotiations would continue at the caucuses of the merger partners, which will be relied on to hammer out an agreement.
“We have worked out various options which we want to take to the caucuses. We will meet with the leadership in our caucuses and finalise these matters.
“We have put in various structures to ensure that all the merging parties are taken along, and this we will discuss tonight. Every party has its own operandi. There is no time left now to unveil the national officers,” Ikimi told reporters on Tuesday.   
But national publicity secretary of CPC, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, was reported as saying that the national officers of APC could not be announced after the meeting in Abuja on Tuesday because INEC had insisted on the expansion of the offices presented to it by the merger promoters in line with the APC constitution. 
He said efforts were being made to broaden the new party’s offices. “So we are working out the positions of deputy national chairman, secretary, treasurer, also national publicity secretary in collaboration with the merger committees and the working committees of the parties.”
The truth seems somewhere in-between.
INEC has made certain demands on the merger regarding its national leadership and headship at the other tiers of government. But agreeing on the occupants of the various offices, especially at the national level, appears to pose a challenge that sponsors of the merger party are struggling to overcome.
Intraparty Squabbles
The signs of disagreement became evident when leaders of ANPP reportedly began to protest what they called allocation of an inconsequential office to the party, despite being the second biggest party in the alliance, after ACN.
ANPP controls three states, namely, Borno, Yobe, and Zamfara; ACN, controls six states, namely, Oyo, Ogun, Lagos, Edo, Ekiti, and Osun; while CPC controls only Nasarawa State. But with the most visible promoters of the APC idea being the ACN national leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and former CPC presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, (rtd.) there seems to be an attempt to place CPC above ANPP in the order of recognition within APC.
ANPP was said to have rejected a prior arrangement under which it was to be given the position of deputy national chairman in the APC interim leadership structure. Chairman of the ANPP Board of Trustees, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, had argued that the party should be allowed to produce the interim national chairman of APC pending the conduct of elections into the various national offices.
But there seems to be an agreement that ACN should produce the APC national chairman, while CPC and ANPP produce the national secretary and national treasurer, respectively.
Yet, problems remain within the parties, despite attempts to conceal them. In ACN, Ikimi is said to be battling with the party’s national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, over the occupation of the APC national chairmanship post. In CPC, which has the post of APC national secretary, former Minister of Federal Capital Territory, Mallam Nasir, el-Rufai, and the party’s national secretary, Mr. Buba Galadima, are fighting it out between them.
The APC leaders said the disagreements would be resolved before the end of last week. But the resolution appears to drag.
Acronym Hurdle
The opposition merger is also saddled with the unresolved problem of acronym, which a rival group, African Peoples Congress, is contesting. The group, which claimed to have applied to INEC for registration as a political party, on February 28, became the focus of national attention recently when the commission acknowledged receipt of its application. Amid the controversy raised by the rival APC, it emerged that yet another group with the same acronym, All Patriotic Citizens, had applied to INEC on March 8 for registration. While promoters of All Patriotic Citizens withdrew their application onMarch 22, citing “the ongoing controversy on the acronym APC,” INEC in a letter dated March 21, 2013 rejected the application of African Peoples Congress, saying the group did not include the names and addresses of its national officers as required by the constitution.
But chairman of African Peoples Congress, Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu, swiftly announced his group’s rejection of the commission’s decision. The group went to court to contest the refusal of its application by INEC. It asked the court to restrain INEC from entertaining any application by any group or person seeking registration of any political party bearing the name or acronym of the African Peoples Congress until the determination of the suit by the court.
African Peoples Congress said the court action was instituted on the strength of the provisions of Section 79 of the Electoral Act, which empowers any association denied registration as a political party by INEC to seek judicial review within 30 days of being notified by INEC.
Justice Gabriel Kolawole of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on April 30 endorsed the application of the African Peoples Congress to proceed with hearing on its suit seeking judicial review of the rejection of its application for registration as a political party by INEC.
INEC’s Slipperiness
Generally, the opposition merger’s hope of becoming a political party seems to be in a slippery situation and things could go either way. Besides the pending suit, INEC appears to maintain an unstable attitude towards the merger.
On March 11, chief press secretary to the chairman of Independent National Electoral Commission, Professor Attahiru Jega, Mr. Kayode Idowu, revealed that another group had applied to be registered as APC, an indication that the popular opposition merger with the acronym APC may have to look for another name. INEC later denied foreclosing the registration of the merger on the platform of APC.
But on March 23, Jega said in Kaduna that promoters of the opposition merger had delayed in declaring their intention to form a political party under the name of APC and must, therefore, choose another name. This, he said, was because another group had approached the commission with a plan to register a party under a similar name.
“The truth is that no political party has written to notify us that it is planning to merge with some other political parties until the past five days or so. Therefore, it is not true that we have been notified. The issue became serious when one group came out to seek registration. I guess that was what made them to write and notify us,” the INEC chairman said on the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Kaduna, Hausa phone-in programme, Hanu Dayawa.
He said, “For registered political parties, who want to merge, they must have agreed to merge and each of the political parties in the merger must hold a convention and agree to withdraw their registration as a political party, to become part of the new party to be formed through the merger. After their conventions, they are expected to write and request INEC to withdraw their former registration and say they want to join a new party.”
At the moment, the merging parties have done all that and INEC has acknowledged it. But a combination of internal and external factors appears to still dog APC’s registration hopes. Leaders of the merger say they would soon overcome the difficulties. How soon this would be, only time can tell.   

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