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How Sincere Are They?

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Leaders of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, and Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, are neck-deep in plans to form an alliance in order to win the 2015 presidential election but there is a lot of pessimism within and outside the two parties

The  2015  election is  about three years away but  prominent opposition politicians have already commenced the realignment of forces in a bid to form a formidable alliance capable of  wrestling  power from the ruling People’s Democratic Party, PDP. In the past few weeks, Muhammadu Buhari, presidential candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in the 2011 poll and Bola Tinubu, leader of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, have been trying to revive the alliance between the two parties which had crumbled before the 2011 polls.

 The last minute attempt by the two parties to form an alliance before the 2011 presidential election hit the rocks due to irreconcilable differences between the leadership of the two parties. But Buhari and Tinubu appear to have put behind them the problems that led to the collapse of the 2011 alliance as they are now neck-deep in a fresh political romance. They have already met twice in less than two months to fine-tune their strategies on how the two parties can work together in 20l5.  Buhari was the first to visit Tinubu in his Lagos residence last month where they met behind closed doors. Sources close to the two leaders said they discussed the political future of the ACN and CPC, which rank among the leading opposition parties, especially how to renew consultations towards merger or alliance ahead of 2015. They also reviewed some of the issues that worked against their moves towards alliance in 2011 to ensure that they get it right this time around. “We are starting early to avoid the pitfalls of previous meetings and talks,” a source close to Tinubu told Newswatch.

In order to reciprocate Buhari’s gesture and build on the relationship, Tinubu visited the CPC leader in his Kaduna residence on Thursday, June 7. Tinubu was accompanied on the visit by two ACN governors, Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State and Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State.  Some of the CPC leaders who joined Buhari in welcoming his visitors were Nasir El-Rufai, former minister of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT; Mohammed Salihu, deputy national chairman of the party and Senator Abu Ibrahim.

The leaders of the two parties met for about four hours behind closed doors, during which they pledged their commitment to the proposed merger. After the meeting, Tinubu   told journalists that they discussed how to work together to save Nigeria. “I would rather allow you to make good assumption on the merger or to wait until the pigeon is out of the bag. We don’t want to be perpetually in the opposition. Every politician wants the opportunity to govern. We are here about national patriotism, about the direction the country is going and the need for a change and that change might be about us forming the government of our own.”

He explained that as democrats, they were prepared to resist the abuse of power, manipulation and irregular victory in elections. “Politics is not a darkroom event; it is about openness, transparency and about how to work with one another to sell a common agenda. And that is the purpose that brought us here,” Tinubu said.

In an apparent bid to demonstrate that their new political romance was not a façade, Buhari and Tinubu rode in the same vehicle in Kano on June 8, to attend the turbanning ceremony of Sanusi Lamido Sanusi, governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN, as the Dan Majen Kano by Ado Bayero, the Emir of Kano. Buhari, however, told journalists that no political understanding had been reached yet on the merger talks or alliance between the ACN and CPC.  He explained that as soon as a deal was struck, the Nigerian public would be duly informed.  “There is no deal yet; as soon as the deal is struck, you will know. We met in Kaduna on Thursday, (June 7) but no decision was taken. We cannot say anything for now, though people are already saying CPC and ACN had reached an accord to form a single party ahead of the 2015 presidential election. People are free to speculate on what is expected come 2015,” Buhari said.

The two leaders seem to have realised the mistake they made by failing to present a common platform during the 2011 poll, and are now determined to avoid a repeat of the blunder.  It was gathered that one of the factors that led to the collapse of the talks in 2011 was the inability of each of the leaders of the two parities to subsume his ambition. This is why they have been handling ongoing talks with caution and the discussions so far have been confidential for strategic reasons, coupled with the need to avoid the preying eyes of some external forces that may want to jeopardise the overall plan before it takes off.

Although the leaders of the two political parties are still at the preliminary stages of their discussion on how to work together to dislodge the PDP in 2015, many of their political acolytes are optimistic that the alliance would succeed since the process has commenced early. Lai Mohammed, national publicity secretary of the ACN, said the opposition parties were meeting with a view to kicking the PDP out of power in 2015 and promised the cynical public that this time around the parties will get it right.

Rauf Aregbsola, governor of Osun State, believes that such alliance among the opposition parties was imperative   at this time as it would lead to the deliverance of the country from the claws of the PDP. He cautioned that it was dangerous for   the opposition to be on vacation when a political behemoth like PDP is in power.  “It is incumbent on opposition parties to unite and be more focused on the task ahead. The future of Nigeria belongs to them if they can take a good grasp of today and play that role very well. Given our precarious situation, it is only the opposition that can save Nigeria. There is a need for them to unite, have a broad coalition and put up a common front against the common enemy, especially in each party’s area of influence. This could be in form of granite or concrete coalition or outright merger, in the greater interest of our country.”

Akin Oke, Oyo State ACN chairman, told Newswatch he was optimistic that the proposed merger between his party and the CPC, would be pursued with sincerity of purpose so as to put a stop to what he termed the misrule of the PDP, in the past 13 years.

There are speculations that as part of the terms of agreement for the alliance, Buhari would likely become the presidential candidate while Tinubu would be his running mate. The Buhari-Tinubu ticket for 2015 poll is also seen as a way of forging a political alliance between the North and the West.

But the fact that both politicians are Muslims is considered to be a factor that could work against the plan to use it to defeat the PDP in the 2015 presidential election. But Oke believes that issue of a possible Muslim-Muslim ticket would not work against the alliance.

He was optimistic that once the issue of the merger or alliance is sorted, the issue of religion will never be a problem in choosing the presidential candidate and running mate. He believes that the leadership of the parties would engage in an all inclusive consultations of all the stakeholders before a decision is reached on the final action to be taken, as it concerns the 2015 presidential elections.

Shehu Sani, human rights activist believes that on June12, 1993 when M.K.O. Abiola won the presidential election that was annulled by General Ibrahim Babangida, Nigeria had not been ruled by sectionalism, ethnicity and religion as it is today. It is against this background that he advised Buhari and Tinubu  to ensure that the ACN and CPC involves other opposition parties like the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, and  the All Nigeria People’s Party, ANPP, in a possible coalition. “Buhari and Tinubu alone cannot defeat the PDP without others. The Buhari - Tinubu ticket will be a good thing for Nigeria, it will usher in an era of genuine democracy and eradicate waste and corruption and mismanagement that exist. But it’s only possible in an ideal situation,” Sani told Newswatch.

He explained that within the last four years many things have happened in the country that have further heightened the religious, ethnic and sectional sensitivity in most people in Nigeria today. “And if you have an ideal country where most people think from the point of physical responsibility and accountability, where people desire and believe in what you can deliver, such an alliance will make meaning. Such a ticket will arouse sentiment, but in a highly sensitive society like this where ethnicity, religion and sectionalism are the order of the day, for that ticket to stand there must be the support of APGA. On the other hand, Buhari must reach out to the supporters of the ANPP,” he said.

Sani was emphatic that the proposed merger between the CPC and ACN is good omen for democracy in Nigeria and opposition politics. “Other than that, we must say that it is a good alliance to tackle the monster, the PDP and to wrestle power from the PDP. But we must also look at it from other angles. For a viable and effective opposition, there must be other reasons. For an alliance to work, the two sides must bring to the table what they have in mind and what they intend to achieve. The ACN is already rooted in the ground with the control of a number of states. So, it is in a greater and more advantageous position in terms of resources, in terms of confidence and in terms of prospect. But the CPC is more centred on the personality, integrity and popular support of General Muhammadu Buhari. And if there is going to be an alliance that would work, the two sides must tell each other the truth about themselves and about what they want to achieve because any marriage that is founded on lust and on false presentation will at the end of the day crash.”

Ahmadu Yaro, chairman of the Kaduna State chapter of the CPC, expressed optimism that the proposed alliance between   his party will succeed this time around because talks started three years to the next election, Yaro told Newswatch that all the unresolved areas which led to the failure of the alliance between both parties in 2011 would be resolved in order to give all the parties a sense of belonging.

There were, however, indications last week that some ACN leaders were still in the dark over the ongoing consultation between Buhari and Tinubu. For instance, Mohammed Musa Soba, a lawyer and the Kaduna State chairman of the ACN, told Newswatch that the leadership of the party in the state was not being carried along in the merger talks; hence he was not part of the recent meeting between Buhari and Tinubu in Kaduna. “Tinubu landed in Kaduna without even the consent of the ACN leadership in the state. No ACN leader in the state was present in Buhari’s house while at the same time Buhari mobilised his own people; the chairman of the party and other party stalwarts were informed that Tinubu was coming to Kaduna,” he said. He claimed that the alliance failed in 2011 because Tinubu was not sincere about it and that it would fail again because the forces that worked against it last year were still prevalent.

Nevertheless, the renewed romance between the ACN and CPC which seems not to have ruffled the feathers of the ruling PDP has been described by Olisa Metu, its national publicity secretary, as a distraction to the party’s commitment to transform Nigeria. Metu said that the PDP would even welcome possible merger of the opposition if such would make them play the role of an opposition responsibly.

Abubakar Baraje, former acting national chairman of the Party, said the PDP was battle ready for the opposition and was sure to crush any opposition on its way towards retaining power in 2015. “The talk about alliance is not new. We are all living witnesses to the kind of gang-up that came up in 2011 when we were preparing for the 2011 general election, it is not different. The gang-up came up in 2003; the PDP demolished the gang-up. It came up in 2007, it was demolished and in 2011, they were demolished. So, even if they are preparing for 2015, it is going to be a fruitless effort. The gang-up is nothing as far as PDP is concerned. It is only giving PDP further strength,” Baraje said.

Reported by Chimezie Enyiocha and Yinka Adeniran


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