A coalition of four opposition political parties on Wednesday, in Abuja, announced the name of their new party, All Progressive Congress.
The four parties that gave birth to the new APC are the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party, All Progressive Grand Alliance and Congress for Progressive Change.
The new name was announced to showcase the success of their merger talks. Just 24 hours earlier, 10 governors on the platform of the four parties had met in Lagos where they endorsed their parties’ merger plan, meant to wrestle power from the Peoples Democratic Party.
Briefing journalists in Abuja, the Chairman of the Merger Committee of the ACN, Chief Tom Ikimi, said the new name was arrived at by all the parties involved.
Ikimi also read the communiqué issued at the end of the meeting which endorsed the merger and the new name.
Ikimi said, “At no time in our national life has radical change become more urgent. And to meet the challenge, we the following political parties namely ACN, ANPP, APGA and CPC have resolved to merge forthwith and become All Progressive Congress and offer to our beleaguered people a recipe for peace and prosperity.
“We resolve to form a political party committed to the principles of internal democracy, focused on serious issues of concern to our people, determined to bring corruption and insecurity to an end, determined to grow our economy and create jobs in their millions through education, housing, agriculture, industrial growth etc, and stop the increasing mood of despair and hopelessness among our people.
“The resolution of these issues, the restoration of hope, and the enthronement of true democratic values for peace, democracy and justice are those concerns which propel us.
“We believe that by these measures only shall we restore our dignity and position of pre-eminence in the comity of nations. This is our pledge.”
Ikimi said that the leadership of all the merged parties would soon inform the Independent National Electoral Commission about the merger.
“We will inform the appropriate organs and authorities, including, INEC as soon as possible,” he added.
Asked what would become the fate of their members in the National Assembly after the merger, the former Minister of Foreign Affairs also said they would not have problem since they would not be defecting to another party.
Their leaving their respective parties, he said, would be based on the merger, which he said was permissible under the law.
He said the members of the National Assembly were already meeting.
On why the leadership of APGA was not represented at the meeting, Ikimi said the presence of Okonkwo was enough and that he had the backing of the leadership.
Okonkwo also said his name was submitted as a member of the merger committee of the party, adding that he was at the press briefing to represent the interest of the party.
Ikimi defended the absence of the Governor of Edo State, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, at the meeting of the opposition governors in Lagos on Tuesday.
He said the governor was also committed to the merger, but was absent from the meeting due to flight problems which he associated with bad weather.
According to him, “The governor is committed to the merger and would have been in Lagos yesterday, but planes could neither take off nor land in Benin due to bad weather. That was why he was not there.”
Shekarau also defended the new name of the party, saying “it was chosen by all the committee members after a rigorous screening exercise.”
Among those at the briefing were Chief George Moghalu, Chief Olusegun Osoba, Chief Niyi Adebayo, Sen. Chris Ngige, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Mrs. Abike Dabiri-Erewa, Sen. Kabiru Gaya and Sen. Buka Abba-Ibrahim.
The Governor of Lagos State, Babatunde Fashola (SAN), was also at the meeting. He, however, left before the briefing started.
Speaking with reporters, Osoba asked Nigerians to be patient, saying their days of suffering would soon be over.
He said the progressives in the country decided to come together to rescue the nation from the ruling PDP.
But while reacting to the unveiling of the new name, the National Chairman of the PDP, Dr. Bamanga Tukur, told The PUNCH that his party was not worried by the development and that the merger of the opposition did not constitute any threat to the PDP.
Tukur said there was no polling unit in the country where his party was not represented, submitting that the “weak political parties” were coming together because they realised that individually, they did not have the strength to go into war with the PDP.
He described the ruling party as the Messi of Nigerian politics.
Messi, an Argentine striker with Barcelona of Spain, is the current World Footballer of the Year and a great dribbler.
Tukur said, “It does not mean that we want to be a party without opposition, in fact opposition is a charge to action.
“People tend to believe that when they see people coming together they will do well. If they have the strength why do they come together?
“If you go for a contest you have the striker, you know Lionel Messi? PDP is Messi in that contest. They (opposition) are not a threat at all; it is better, it will inspire the PDP to action. In that contest (merger) tell them Chairman said PDP is the Messi.”
However, there are indications that some PDP governors might join the new party. Checks by our correspondent on Wednesday showed that some PDP governors were already giving their tactical backing to the merger deal.
A member of one of the merging political parties, who was initially negotiating with the leadership of the PDP on how he would defect to it, told our correspondent on condition of anonymity that he was expecting some governors in the new party.
He said, “Yes, I was on my way to the PDP but some of the governors already in the party called me and asked me what I was coming to do in a dilapidated party that would soon crumble.
“They said we should go and arrange a new party and that they are coming as their party would soon collapse.”
The source added that the governors were not happy with the crisis rocking their party.
The PDP governors recently demanded immediate convening of the National Executive Committee meeting of the party, where there were speculations that they would move a no-confidence vote against Tukur.
But Tukur, backed by the President, said the meeting would not hold until after the party had elected its Chairman of the Board of Trustees.
Tukur had run into trouble with the governors with his alleged unilateral dissolution of the exco of the PDP in Adamawa State.