The formal collapse of the three legacy parties, Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, and Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, into the All Progressives Congress, APC ushers a new era of competitive politics in the polity.
“With the approval of our merger by INEC and the emergence of APC, today marks the beginning of a new dawn for our country and her long-suffering people,” Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the hardworking and consistent voice of the opposition said yesterday in his first outing as the interim national publicity secretary of the All Progressives Congress.
Yesterday was undoubtedly a watershed and it was not surprising that once the news emerged of the registration of the new opposition party that there was some sort of apprehension in the national secretariat of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP.
Of course the PDP had for long been preparing itself for such a possibility and its leaders had in private and public occasions been drummed.
Mr. Tony Okeke, still trying to assert himself as the acting national publicity secretary of the PDP rebuffed requests for verbal reaction to the registration of the APC.
Mr. Okeke preferred a more cautious formal statement where his words would be well tailored and not easily misinterpreted by reporters.
Even while welcoming the new political party, his response was laced with punch. He dismissed the changed opposition brand as inconsequential to the PDP’s quest for political dominance saying that Nigerians would continue to reject the new party’s penchant for propaganda irrespective of change of name.
The decision by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC to register the new party was undoubtedly spiked with much intrigue. Few days after the legacy parties – All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN and Congress for Progressive Change, CPC – gave notice of their intentions, other political associations arose claiming to have forwarded letters of intent to INEC to be registered with the same acronym as the APC.
It was a matter that dragged to the courts and is still in the courts. However, the APC was undeterred and stuck to the scripts and put INEC on the spot with its copious recitation of the laws on party merger.
It was thus not surprising that just after the end of the 30 day legal latitude given the electoral management body to consider the application for merger that the commission gave heed to the merger.
“On considering the application, the Commission found that the applicant-parties have met all statutory requirements for the merger and has accordingly granted their request. Consequently, the Commission has approved the withdrawal of the individual certificates of the applicant parties and the issuance of a single certificate to the All Progressives Congress,” INEC said in a press statement yesterday.
The decision was immediately welcomed by a large section of the political class and even the PDP which through Okeke gave its congratulations.
But besides the welcome is the immediate issue of the effect of the registration of the party on the polity.
Mr. Okeke was dismissive of any threat from the APC. His reasoning is apparently based on the persisting insinuation that the marriage is that of strange bed fellows.
The suggestion of the taciturn and deeply regimented Muhammadu Buhari partnering with the politically loquacious but master political dealer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is still a wonder for many.
Besides, the new party also has many suspicious characters whose presence is bound to cause apprehension.
Many of the leaders of the APC it is suspected could deal with the PDP.
Such suspicion is especially latent in the leaders of the party that came from the former ANPP.
It would be recalled that in the days leading to the commencement of the merger talks that some of the leaders of the legacy ANPP, notably Senator Modu Ali Sheriff and Ahmed Yerima were accused of trying to sabotage the talks.
Senators Sheriff and Yerima who struggled over the carcass of the once vibrant ANPP it is suspected would be loath to play second fiddle to Tinubu and Buhari in the new party. But so far, the two men have carried on with the same focus as other APC leaders.
Many Nigerians who have not recovered from the shock of Senator Ahmed Yerima’s advocacy for child marriage would be amazed to find that the former governor of Zamfara State is one of the leaders of the party.
Even worse are recent reports that named the former Zamfara governor as one of the possible replacements of Vice-president Namadi Sambo on the PDP presidential ticket in 2015.
The prospects of the party had in recent times been helped by the persistent crises in the ruling PDP.
However, expectations that many of the disaffected leaders in the PDP would change alliance to the APC are not forthcoming. Many of the people with problems in the PDP are not bound to find some peace with APC members who they have had historical problems with.
The new party is, however, promising not to disappoint the enthusiasm of Nigerians for a change.
“We promise not to disappoint Nigerians who have reposed much confidence in us. We say that contrary to the lies being peddled by the naysayers, we are not seeking political power for the sake of getting it, but in order to use it to empower our people and allow their long-nursed hopes and dreams to become a reality,” Mohammed said yesterday.
“And to those who have vowed to change their names if APC survives for a year, we hope they will live up to their words,’’ it said.