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Politics: Mindset and Nigerian reality (2)

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 Given the indications of some understanding, based on media reports early in January, between ACN and ANPP which portended stronger potentials for merger between the two parties, a strict bilateral negotiation between ACN and CPC would have presented a moral dilemma for ACN. However, by the time the opposition governors met in Lagos in the first week of February and the next day, February 6, the meeting of the merger committees of ACN, ANPP, CPC and Okorocha-led APGA announced the resolve of the parties to merge and form All Progressives Congress (APC), it was a surprise to Nigerians, which must have translated to disappointment for PDP and those Nigerians who are opposed to the merger. Of course, thereafter, there were the expectations that some of the governors, notably Peter Obi and Adams Oshiomhole who were absent at the Lagos meeting, would not join the merger, or, in other words, would become the black legs of the merger. Unfortunately for PDP, only Peter Obi acted to the script. Adams Oshiomhole presented what could best be described as combative presence at the Borno meeting of the opposition governors about a week after the Lagos meeting.

In terms of the consequence of Governor Peter Obi not joining the merger and pulling out a section of APGA from it, it is to the credit of the leadership of the merging parties and the merger committee that it has been very well managed and today it can be argued with some degree of certainty that the people of the South-East where APGA is strong are fully involved in the merger process and Obi and his APGA faction are only singing their political dirge. What has been established over the last two-three months is that the merging parties are resolute and week after week they are producing groundbreaking victories. This is a major source of discomfort for PDP and their supporters who are doing so largely on account of the benefits they enjoy through being part of the army of looters of public resources.

Given the potential challenges the merger posed to PDP, the PDP had to introduce some factors that could take away initiatives from the merging parties – for instance, getting some group to submit application to INEC to register a party called African Peoples Congress sharing the same acronym with the party coming out of the merger. The application by African Peoples Congress was aimed at orchestrating acronym controversy. And for the period of the controversy, in some ways, the work of the merger committee was successfully slowed by forcing it to concentrate too much on responding to the issue of propriety or otherwise of the acronym APC.

One of the most attractive signals of the merger process so far has been that it has presented all the potentials of producing a party that is stronger than any of the individual actors/parties and to that extent therefore producing a party that has so many strong actors/personalities. The beauty of this is that public ownership of the party is possible and the democratic thrust of the party could be guaranteed. For most Nigerians, the expectations are that, for once under this democratic dispensation as a nation, there is a strong possibility of the emergence of a party with public appeal. In the circumstance, the possibility of mass membership mobilisation resulting in situations whereby candidates for elections may be produced from among party members and not the current situation whereby in all our parties, including PDP, party members are different from candidates because candidates must be some moneybags outside the party. The challenge now is how to produce a game-changer that will guarantee that the merger process will truly give birth to a new party that can mobilise Nigerians not just for the defeat of PDP in 2015 but, more fundamentally, to lay strong foundation for national development.

One thing is clear: the merging parties have done excellently well managing the process of contracting new relations among themselves. In the post-colonial history of Nigeria, virtually all political merger negotiations crashed at this level. It is to the credit of the current negotiations that so far internal differences or interests are not the threat to the current merger. There are, however, threats which are external to the merging parties. These include the fact that as the ruling party that will be unseated in 2015 if the merger succeeds, PDP is not going to fold its arms. In fact, it has already showed, in so many ways, its resolve to throw in spanner in the merger negotiations. What is needed at this point is not to look for easy options.

In moving forward, we just need to acknowledge that in the life of this republic, there is no process of party formation that has been as popular and participatory as the one that is being negotiated by the merging parties. In some ways, the new party has raised expectations of Nigerians that the merger promises to produce a party constitution and manifesto that may be appealing. This much can be said at this stage. What cannot be said, however, is whether it will produce new crop of membership/politicians that will be able to produce new governance reality in the country. The new governance reality on account of new membership and the potential to create new crop of politicians will be what will give life to the provisions of the new party constitution and manifesto. What is very clear is that once the whole negotiation leading to the emergence of the new party revolves around the membership and leadership of the current merging parties, the possibility of new governance reality is weak.

Therefore, what is needed in the circumstance is to strengthen the merger process with public engagement, and through that creating a situation whereby Nigerians take up the challenges facing the merger and commit themselves to addressing them. We must all be very clear that political parties have legal limitations and therefore their capacity to win a struggle such as the current one aimed at uniting opposition parties with defined legal boundaries will be difficult. However, for the public, there is no limit to the scope of initiatives. Where the law is the problem, the public may decide to mobilise for a legislative struggle. The reality of what the merger is experiencing as political challenges calls to question our capacity as a people to combine different forms of struggle – political, legal, legislative, etc. Relations between the parties negotiating the merger and interest groups are an important requirement to guarantee the eventual victory of Nigerians. Happily, there is good ground for this to be developed. The merger committee has made itself accessible to women, youth, persons with disability and civil society groups, among others, in the process of drafting its constitution and manifesto.

 

SALIHU MOH. LUKMAN

Lukman writes from Abuja.

 

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