LAGOS — PROSPECTS of the country’s major opposition party, the All Progressives Congress, APC, were shaking, yesterday, ahead of a decisive ruling on the validity of the party’s registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC. Besides, some party members were also apprehensive on the direction of the party following tension among party leaders on account of recent disagreements.
Some party insiders were fearful that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu who had been a major rallying point for the opposition party might be losing enthusiasm over what sources claimed as the increasing opposition to him by other major party stakeholders, mainly some governors.
A ruling by a Federal High Court, Abuja, today, was anxiously being expected on a suit instituted by the unregistered African Peoples Congress, APC against the registration of the All Progressives Congress by INEC.
A loss for INEC in the suit in which the All Progressives Congress was refused to be joined in as a party, could be catastrophic for the new political party and put it in possible jeopardy ahead of crucial gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun states.
Tinubu, according to sources was not enthusiastic about the meeting expected to deliberate on outstanding issues flowing from recent congresses across the country. Tinubu, it is alleged, is miffed over the recent turn of events in the party which has seen him at the short end on three sensitive issues to the club of governors in the party.
Tinubu, according to party sources lost out on the venue of the convention, the choice of a chairman of the convention planning committee and on the zoning of the office of national chairman in the next executive.
Following the development, there were fears that Tinubu who had alongside General Muhammadu Buhari been the rallying point in the merger could lose enthusiasm for the new party. Party spokesman, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, however, rebuffed insinuations of any tension in the party over the alleged misunderstanding. Party elders are, however, to meet within days to deliberate on outstanding issues affecting the party notably the unresolved congresses, zoning of national party offices and permutations on the presidential candidate of the party.
Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, a party elder also dismissed claims of a crisis in the party, saying the party would win the 2015 round of elections despite signs of internal rifts. He said, “Positions are being more keenly contested, people are seeing the future and I know that the next government in the next election will be an APC government at the federal level. We are now a serious contender for power at the federal level.”
The suit on the ownership of the acronym, APC, was entered before the high court by a rival political group, the African Peoples Congress, which is insisting that it has the patent right to the ‘APC’ acronym. The plaintiff told the court that though it was the first political group that applied to the electoral body to be registered as ‘APC’, it alleged that upon fulfilling all the condition precedents, INEC, without any cogent reason, declined to grant it the status of a political party in Nigeria.
More so, the plaintiff told the court that it was surprised that after INEC under the leadership of Professor Attahiru Jega refused its application, it went ahead and registered another group with the same ‘APC’ acronym that was originally submitted to it by the plaintiff. It further told the court that it had earlier instituted an action that sought to prevent the Bisi Akande-led APC which primarily consist of three defunct political parties, the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress for Political Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, from laying claim to the acronym since it was already in existence prior to the demise of their former political parties.
The plaintiff further insisted that it was wrong for INEC to have gone ahead to register the rival APC when a suit restraining the party from using such acronym was still pending in court.
Consequently, the plaintiff, in a motion on notice before the court which is due for ruling today, applied for an order to stop INEC from further recognizing or having any dealings with the ‘APC’ pending the final determination of their substantive suit.
The plaintiff specifically prayed for an order of the court in the exercise of its disciplinary jurisdiction, annulling, setting aside and voiding the action of INEC in registering All Progressive Congress with the acronym ‘APC’, notwithstanding the pendency of the suit.
As well as, “an order of the court in the exercise of its disciplinary jurisdiction, setting aside and voiding any steps taken by INEC to facilitate the registration of the said All progressive Congress APC after becoming aware of the pendency of the suit, in contravention to the doctrine of Lis pendens.”
The matter will come up before Justice Gabriel Kolawole for ruling, following which the court will adjourn to enable all parties adopt written addresses in preparation to the final judgment on the issue.
Party spokesman Alhaji Lai Mohammed was, however, calm yesterday and apparently unmoved by the pending ruling.
It was feared yesterday that a ruling voiding INEC’s registration of the Akande-led APC could cause unmitigated disaster for the new party in the forthcoming gubernatorial elections in Ekiti and Osun States.
Speaking with Vanguard in a telephone interview yesterday, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun assured that the party would resolve all issues ahead of winning the forthcoming elections.
He said “some of the congresses have not been resolved but I think most have been resolved, this is natural. Where there are difficulties, we will continue to try to make peace though there are few states where there are differences. Once a vast majority of the states conclude their congresses, we will proceed to the convention.”
”When opposition parties were basically regional parties, they did not have problems, now the APC is a national force, it is a government in waiting. Given the mood of the nation today, it has the possibility and probability of becoming the government of the federation.”
The former governor of Edo State added that “positions are being more keenly contested, people are seeing the future and I know that the next government in the next election will be an APC government at the federal level. We are now a serious contender for power at the federal level.
When asked if he is not disturbed about the controversy trailing the possibility of the party throwing up a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Oyegun said “you see, I do not know who is playing it up in the party. I know that those opposed to us are driving it in the media to distract the feeble minded in the APC. It is an issue we have not discussed. In fact, as at today, a Christian-Christian ticket is also possible. The Muslim-Muslim ticket is not an impossibility, but at the end of the day, the need to win an election, is what will guide us, the need to salvage the country is what will guide the party. So, all this speculation in the party is neither here nor there. The conclusion is that we shall cross that bridge when we get there.”