The camp of the opposition in Nigeria erupted in wild ecstasy during the week as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) eventually breathed life into the All Progressives Congress (APC). IDOWU SAMUEL writes on several hurdles the party encountered to get this far.
The opposition camp since 1999 has been in the lurch. For years, it engaged in primeval cat and mouse pranks with the Peoples Democratic party (PDP), and ended up with a modicum of success. Its inability to measure up in weight to take its rightful place in Nigeria’s burgeoning democracy was a good elixir for the PDP to remain deeply rooted in power for so long.
All the same, 14 years of democracy seem sufficient for the opposition to tap the wisdom on how to stand up to the ruling party in battle for relevance. Now, time and space are combining to offer the opposition the scope, the leverage and the strength it requires to engage the PDP in a fight for presidential power in 2015.
The opposition group suddenly appeared to have picked up the courage to stand firm in battle for power, given the breakdown of confidence and cohesiveness which the ruling party had hitherto enjoyed. Since the past one year, the PDP has been facing the grim problem of internal strives which puts it at the risk of a terrible implosion. By the day, the problem in PDP is looking insurmountable. It has accounted for the confidence the opposition group has on taking a timely advantage.
Events pointing to this started playing out from 2012. That was when all the political parties in the opposition began to forge an endeavour as they contemplated a merger which has now metamorphosed into the All Progressives Congress (APC).
With instant support from the media, the APC soon became a phenomenon while it pegged its hope of survival on the omissions and the perceived infractions by PDP in handling governance. Since the past few years, the fading popularity of the PDP has been turning into begging chances for a party like the APC.
From the beginning of this year when the APC started coming up strongly with eyes on 2015, authorities in the PDP have always been dismissing its efforts with wave of the hand. Officials of PDP have always derided the party as no match in any electoral contest while concluding that the PDP would continue to remain in power for as long as it wished.
However, emerging scenarios around the APC indicate that the PDP was only dismissing the threats it constitutes, to its own peril. The manner the APC obtained the registration from the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) on Wednesday was a pointer to this. The APC crossed no fewer than seven daunting hurdles to obtain the INEC registration.
The first hurdle centered on the near impossibility by the leaders to rally all forces within the opposition group to fuse into one. This is against the back ground of the mega ego and familiar tantrums by some of the leaders. Before now, the opposition parties made about three major attempts at aligning without success. It eventually passed the hurdle of registration the moment the likes of Major General Muhammadu Buhari, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC); Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Ogbonnaya Onu of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and a faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), represented by the governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha, agreed to work as one.
The PDP had constituted the second hurdle the APC had to cross to get registered. By holding the idea of a merger by the opposition in great derision, the PDP made no pretences with efforts to frustrate the idea, knowing the implication of having the opposition getting its acts right for once. For years, the PDP had latched on to the morbid condition of the opposition to commit ‘sins’ in democracy and get away with them. There have been copious reports pointing towards the PDP being the mastermind of attempts to heckle the progress of the APC to get registered.
Again, the process of registering the APC came as another daunting hurdle, given the furore that greeted the resolve by the opposition to go by the nomenclature “APC.” Suddenly, a barely existing African Congress Party (APC) came up with claims that the opposition group stole its name. But the ability of the APC leaders to manage the embarrassments which the turn of events generated made their efforts succeed.
The litigation filed by the opposing APC to stop the registration of the ambitious APC was another hurdle. The rival APC, which INEC almost deregistered, filed litigations to block the chances of another party being registered. It also deployed the media for the purpose, although none of its efforts saw the light of the day.
There was the hurdle constituted by the court too. However, the rational line toed by the court in dispensing justice saved the day for the APC. The court posited that even though the acronym APC may be the same for the two rival parties, the names as contained in the INEC register were quite different. There is certainly a good difference between All Progressives Party (APC) and the African Peoples Congress (APC).
For the just registered APC, the INEC, which was, indeed, another hurdle, had shown a good understanding. The fairness by INEC in addressing the controversy over party registration seemed to have aligned with its reputation of fair disposition to electoral matters since Professor Atahiru Jega became the head. INEC, according to reports, worked consistently with officials of the just registered party, using relevant sections of the Electoral Act 2010 and the 1999 Constitution on party registration as guide.
Most importantly, leaders of the newly registered party were able to tame their ambitions in using the party for self-aggrandisement and immolation as the case was in the past. Reports had it that the leaders had allowed maturity and experience to guide their conduct as they never allowed any squabbles to dent the process of selecting interim officials who they appointed to take control of the party in the meantime.
A top member of the APC had disclosed to Saturday Tribune that the leaders of the party were able to drag the success of their togetherness this far with the wisdom they employed initially in taking prompt steps on the issue of registration. Had the leaders not taken the risk in directing all opposition parties to fuse into APC, the struggles to make the opposition groups in the country get a common platform for addressing the challenges of election in 2015 may never have toed the line of success.
To get this far, the APC leaders, according to reports, resolved to do the unthinkable with uncommon steps. First, they deployed the former Attorney-General of Lagos State, Professor Yemi Osibajo, to advise them on ways of giving strength to the opposition ahead of 2015. Osibajo was not to handle the task alone. He reportedly worked with no fewer than 25 Senior Advocates of Nigeria (SAN) to offer the leeway the opposition had long craved.
According to reports, it was the Senior Advocates who suggested the idea of fusion of the opposition parties into one as a ploy for gaining the strength required in facing the next round of elections in the country. The senior lawyers, in the process, critically considered Section 222 of the constitution, as well as Section 84 of the Amended Electoral Act while outlining the means by which the party could obtain the registration by INEC.
Most intriguing in the efforts by the APC leaders in getting the party registered was the manner they took the INEC in confidence on every step they were to take. In addition to complying with the provisions of the law, the opposition parties, while holding congresses to announce their fusion into APC, ensured that officials of INEC were on the ground to observe. Thus, INEC, having been present at the conventions held by ACN, CPC and ANPP at different times, could not have been more impressed by the commitment so far shown by all the parties. The INEC, it was learnt, followed up with a visit to the National Headquarters of APC in Abuja on July 9 to feel the pulse of the leaders on the issues at stake. Perhaps it was at that point that the registration of APC became a fait accompli.
INEC had denied going under pressure to frustrate the process of registration of APC on counsel from above. The INEC chairman had cleared the air on this when he averred, “The present leadership of the commission would always protect its integrity and the statutory rules of engagement. It would never allow itself to be pressured to register, deregister or not register any party; and neither would it be stampeded or blackmailed into ignoring statutory provisions in regard of any application.”
The turn of events has set members of the APC in a very high mood about the prospect and hope by the party for a great future. From indications, the leaders of APC and members in general are hoping to take the nation by surprise on their agenda for 2015, the way they just did to get the party officially registered despite all obstacles.
A former chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, implied this much when he expressed confidence in the ability of APC to reign from 2015.
“Like millions of Nigerians from all over the country, I am immensely delighted over the successful registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The registration of the party by the electoral body is not the end. It is the beginning of the end of misrule and cluelessness,” he said.
A spokesperson of the APC and former National Publicity Secretary of the CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, said with the registration by INEC, APC had now emerged as an alternative party which, he said, would henceforth enable Nigerians to make a choice between good and evil.
He said the umbrella group for the opposition parties would now be in a good position to take the country away from long years of darkness and misrule which, he said, the PDP had forced on Nigerians.
According to him, APC came about as an answer to the sustained yearnings by Nigerians to deepen democracy, and the calibre of politicians who make up the party would deploy experience and expertise to make the party attain power by 2015.