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NIGERIA: ACN, Opposition Coalition Cannot Be Stampeded

 Alhaji Lai MohammedThe Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has said the merging opposition political parties will not allow any attempt to force them into taking hasty actions that are not in tune with the country’s electoral laws.

This came as the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) yesterday accused the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of fuelling political tension by its move to scuttle the registration of All Progressives Congress (APC) under the pretext that a largely unknown group had applied with a similar acronym.

The ACN accused the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) of either suffering from crass ignorance or engaging in palpable mischief (or both) by saying the leaders of the APC should have registered the name with INEC before now.

 It said the only way the promoters of the APC could have registered the name before now is to short-circuit the system, like the PDP would have done.

 In a statement issued in Lagos yesterday by its National Publicity Secretary,  Alhaji Lai Mohammed, the party said it was disturbing that the ruling party in  Africa’s largest democracy can exhibit such ignorance or mischief when the legal requirements for a merger are well spelt out in the Electoral Act.

“But as law-abiding citizens, APC leaders are following the stipulated conditions to the letter, and will not allow themselves to be stampeded into committing an illegality. Not even the PDP’s shameless act of sponsoring a  phony party to instigate an acronym war and give an increasingly partisan INEC a reason not to register the APC will stampede the party’s promoters,’’ it said.

ACN said the ruling party’s modus operandi is lawlessness, underhand dealings and opaque transactions, adding that that was why the fortunes of Nigeria have deteriorated rapidly under their watch.

‘’For the avoidance of doubt, the law does not make any provision for any group to reserve a name at INEC, and the legal requirements for a merger do  not allow registration until all the stipulated conditions have been met.

“Applying for registration before the conditions have been met will be like putting the cart before the horse, and would have been illegal and irregular.

ACN said in order to educate the ignorant and mischievous PDP, it had decided to quote the requirements for a merger copiously.

 “Section 84.(1): ‘Any two or more registered political parties may merge on  approval by the commission following a formal request presented to the commission by the political parties for that purpose. Political parties intending to merge shall each give to the commission 90 days notice of their intention to do so before a general election.’

 “The written request for merger shall be sent to the chairman of the commission and shall be signed jointly by the National Chairman, Secretary and Treasurer for the time being of the different political parties proposing the merger and shall be accompanied by: “A special resolution passed by the national convention of each of the political parties proposing to merger, approving the merger.  The proposed full name and acronym, constitution, manifesto, symbol or logo of the party together  with the addresses of the national office of the party resulting from the merger; and evidence of payment of administrative costs of N100,000 or as may be fixed  from time to time by an act of the National Assembly.

On receipt of the request for merger of political parties,  the ACN said the commission was expected to consider the request and, the parties have fulfilled the requirements of the constitution and this Act, approve the  proposed merger and communicate its decision to the parties concerned before the expiration of the 30 days from the date of the receipt of the formal  request.

 “On the other hand, where the request for the proposed merger is approved, the commission shall withdraw and cancel the certificates of registration of all the political parties opting for the merger and substitute a single certificate of registration in the name of the party resulting from the merger.

“It is clear from the foregoing that the PDP, in its usual characteristics, was only playing to the gallery by wrongfully castigating the leaders of APC. Though the full name, acronym, constitution, manifesto and logo of the new party are ready, the component parties have yet to hold their individual conventions to ratify the merger, hence could not have presented a formal request for registration to INEC.

 ‘’We are happy that Nigerians are discerning people, and that the PDP has given them one more reason to kick the ruling party’s butt in 2015,’’ ACN said.

However, the ANPP said the move was a clear attempt to deflate the concerted efforts by the major opposition parties in the country to come together under one umbrella.

In a statement issued yesterday by the party’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Emma Eneukwu, ANPP described the current scheme to register a phantom party, called African Peoples Congress (APC), in order to have a clash of acronyms with the All Progressives Congress (APC) as redolent of unpatriotic craftiness and an ill wind that blows nobody any good.

“With every passing hour, it becomes more glaringly obvious that the words of General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd), in a recent assertion that the PDP has merged with INEC, is actually an inconvenient truth,” he said.

Eneukwu said there are a couple of incontrovertible reasons to show the unreasonableness of INEC in this matter.

“Firstly, INEC is a public institution whose paramount obligation is to serve the interest of the generality of Nigerians and not any government in power; thus, any body language from the electoral umpire to depict the contrary is tantamount to deserting the people in favour of a group of vested interests.

“The APC on February 6, 2013, publicly and officially announced its birth; days later, on February 28, a lawyer hastily filed a letter of intent, seeking ‘‘for approval to register African Peoples Congress, having carried out a search on the proposed name to the effect that no other political party registered bears same,’’ he said.

He said if INEC arrogates importance and priority to this terse letter from a vague group over a pronounced political coalition, “one does not need to dig far to smell a rat”

According to the ANPP spokesman,  why would Mr. Kayode Idowu, Chief Press Secretary to the commission’s chairman, make contradictory statements in the media.

“Two days ago, it was reported that he urged opposition parties in the APC to consider a new name and abbreviation to facilitate the registration of their group as a political party. Then the next day he denied ever saying that APC should look for a new name.

“Meanwhile, he went ahead to state that ‘‘if it (APC) meets the requirements of the law, the INEC has no choice but to register it. It is not INEC’s decision; the law says you must meet conditions 1,2,3,4 and once you do so, whether INEC likes your face or not, you must be registered.’’

“The pertinent question is, does INEC love the face of the phantom African Peoples Congress so much that it has already accepted the group as a political party even without its fulfilling the required law, rules and regulations; to the extent that INEC desperately tries using the party as an excuse to truncate the opposition merger.

“Thirdly, is it not puzzling that this same INEC which is currently and aggressively implementing a policy of deregistering non-performing political parties, is falling over itself to register a new party which has no iota of evidence to show that it can function as an association, not to talk of as a full-fledged political party.

“Which one is more sustainable, the APC of proven politicians with a teeming national membership or a phantom APC with no single member or known offices? Talk about an efficient INEC!

“Our great party is worried because Professor Attahiru Jega, in trying to please the ruling PDP, is heading towards bringing ridicule to his renowned intellectual pedigree, and in so doing bring our dear country to ridicule in the comity of nations,” he said.

He said ANPP would like INEC to make recourse to reason, and good taste. “INEC is not a political association, neither a private venture; it is a body supposed to stand for the interest of the people at all times. Our dear country, in these present precarious times, needs its organs of governance to be patriotic, sensible and fair.

“As a nation, we cannot afford to have emotions whipped up arbitrarily while making our polity more volatile than it is at present. All over the world, a general climate of discontent is a catalyst for revolution, and INEC is currently fanning this embers,” he said.

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