As the coast becomes clearer for the coalescing opposition parties under the banner of All Progressives Congress, the chairman of the Board of Trustees of Congress for Progressive Change, General Muhammadu Buhari, has warned that the votes of Nigerians must count in the 2015 general elections. Buhari, who spoke yesterday in Abuja at the CPC national convention, also appealed to the National Assembly to intervene to halt what he called the country’s aimless drift.
The former military head of state’s assertions came amid fears that there may be hitches still lurking around the merger aspirations of CPC, one of the principal partners in the coalition. An allegedly expelled member of the party, Senator Rufai Hanga, declared in a letter to the Independent Nation al Electoral Commission that he was in possession of CPC’s original certificate of registration, countering the party’s earlier claims that the certificate was missing. He asked INEC not to observe yesterday’s national convention of the party, in a request meant to blight the convention’s credibility.
But in Gusau, the Zamfara State capital, All Nigeria Peoples Party also held its national convention, with party leaders claiming that with the merger of the major opposition parties, the ruling Peoples Democratic Party would soon become a party in the opposition.
Besides CPC and ANPP, other parties in the merger are Action Congress of Nigeria and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance. The national conventions, held to approve the parties’ dissolution into APC, were in fulfilment of a statutory condition for the merger.
Buhari, while speaking at the national convention of CPC held at the Eagle Square, said the votes of Nigerians must not only be counted, but must count in the next general elections.
The former military Head of State said: “We have resolved that henceforth, our votes must all be counted and they must all go on to count. And we declare that this nation has now resolved, through its united opposition, that it will never again tolerate or allow to pass the mayhem the government deliberately creates in order to cover-up its guilt, obscure the issues and blame the opposition in order to deceive the gullible folks. And we will no longer be intimidated by anyone.”
Noting that in the 2011 presidential elections, CPC, as a single party, scored over 12 million votes, Buhari said in 2015, the sky would be the limit for the upcoming APC. He described the decision of the opposition parties to form APC as a call to “patriotism and sacrifice,” saying, “We must sacrifice everything. It is time for sacrifice – time, resources, ambition and ego – for the greater good. We should carry this process through to a successful conclusion, and leave our legacy and footprints in the history of Nigeria.”
Buhari, who was the presidential flag bearer of CPC in the 2011 election, also said that the PDP-led federal government had failed in almost everything. “It has proved unable to secure the nation’s internal environment. There is insecurity everywhere. There is spiralling lawlessness all over the country. There is widespread and rising poverty and unemployment across the length and breadth of the country. There is complete and total decline in the quality of social services and irremediable dilapidation in the nation’s socio-economic infrastructure across board,” he said.
Buhari, who was military Head of State between 1984 and 1985, also said: “Anarchy is knocking on the doors of many sections of this country and the federal government has not demonstrated that it has good sense to understand what is going on or the competence to check it. The nation is hopelessly adrift. But, if we are to survive, this vicious circle of violence that has engulfed this nation must be brought to an end, and we must implore the National Assembly to take the lead in this quest for peace.
“I am sure everybody in this gathering will join me in expressing solidarity with the good people of Borno, Yobe, Kano and now Nasarawa and Benue states on their suffering and travails.”
On the living condition of Nigerians, Buhari said, “There is an unprecedented fall in the nation’s standard of living and an astronomical rise in the standard of dying. In short, there is nothing going right and we have become a nation in which nothing works as it should, that is, if it works at all. When they said they have what they call a Transformation Agenda, we didn’t understand, but now we know better; because, within a space of three years, they have transformed the country into a veritable wilderness, where everything that should work, doesn’t, where everything that can get broken has.”
Referring to PDP’s professed plan to rule for 60 years, the former military leader said, “All these evil thrives and draw inspiration from a government that is itself immersed to its neck in a cesspool of corruption and it is best characterised by its own favourite catch-phrase of, whether it is, a do-or-die or we will rule forever, or no vacancy.”
In a solidarity message at the convention, the National Chairman of ACN, Chief Akande Bisi, told CPC supporters at the Eagle Square that the main aim of forming a common opposition platform was to rescue the country from collapse.
“We have embarked on the historic journey, the first of its kind in the country, because we want to be recorded positively on the side of history. We intend to rescue the country from threat of collapse. We have embarked on an irreversible path to wrest power.
“For the PDP years of locust, we are offering Nigerians a new regime of fiscal discipline, total reformation and a period of security. We want our people to realise that good leadership is possible,” Akande said.
Former Governor of Zamfara State, Senator Sani Yerima, who led the ANPP delegation to the CPC convention, said Buhari was the only person with the capacity to bring an end to the insecurity and economic woes facing the country.
Yerima said Nigeria was looking forward to a leader who would provide solution to the current challenge of insecurity and leadership facing the countr
Lagos State Governor, Mr. Raji Fashola, said the pessimism which had earlier greeted the proposal for merger of opposition parties was gradually giving way to optimism, adding that the Independent National Electoral Commission had an opportunity to make history by associating with the change that was on the way.
“Although I said INEC must act above board; that alone will not be enough. INEC must also be seen to have acted above board.
“If it is true that our worried opponents have any plans or any hand in scuttling the merger, they must re-think and desist. If they believe that the merger offers no ideology, it is not for them to decide that. That is the decision the people of Nigeria, who own Nigeria’s sovereignty, have to make and live with.
“More importantly, every personnel of INEC, from the chairman to the most junior officer, must see the consummation of this merger as a historic milestone in the political history of Nigeria,” Fashola said.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State equally pleaded with INEC to allow the opposition merger to work, saying the parties have passed the political rubicon.
On his part, the Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, said he was not entering the merger under any political platform but as a detribalised citizen who was seeking a means to improve the lives of Nigerians.
The only CPC governor, Tanko Al Makura of Nasarawa State, who was represented by his deputy, lamented the recent killing of policemen in the state and vowed that the state government would not rest until the perpetrators of the murder were arrested and brought to justice.
In his remarks, CPC National Chairman Tony Momoh said the amalgamation of the three major parties into one platform would mark a watershed in the evolution of party politics in Nigeria. He noted that the merger was a product of patriotism, sacrifice and nationalism, saying without the serious steps being taken by the promoters of APC, Nigeria would continue to wallow in poverty and underdevelopment.
Pastor Tunde Bakare moved the motion for CPC to dissolve and merge with three other opposition parties under APC, while the party’s National Legal Adviser, Abubakar Malami, seconded the motion. Alhaji Yahaya Sule Haman moved a motion urging the convention to adopt a resolution to approve the merger agreements.
At the ANPP national convention in Gusau, the party’s National Chairman, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu, said APC was coming at the right time to rescue the country from imminent collapse and unremitting insecurity.
Onu said politics was essentially a game of numbers, stressing that the decision to merge with ACN and CPC was borne out of the desire to form a formidable platform that ordinary Nigerians could trust to wrest power from the PDP.
He said Nigeria was reaping the bad fruit of 14 years of political monopoly by one party that stifled competition and increased decay.
According to Onu, “Problems of the nation can only be solved efficiently if there is competition in the political arena. Imposing one party rule on the people brought disaster in many African countries. The Arab spring revolt in the Arab world is because of lack of strong opposition. We cannot afford such consequences in our country.
“It is true that those who play opposition politics are seen by those in power as political enemies instead of competitors. Everything is done to weaken opposition and in the process people suffer and the country is worse for it.”
Onu said, “As I look around, the signs are worrisome, the signs are troubling and ominous. For 14 years, Nigeria has not known peace and yet we are not at war. Bombs explode at will day and night killing innocent children and harmless women.
Fathers leave home in search of daily bread not sure of returning home while people go to churches and mosques unsure of returning home safe.
“Poverty has ravished our people as most Nigerians have no food to eat while children sleep at night on empty stomach. Jobs are not available as our youths have lost faith in their abilities to realise their potentials.
“Impunity rules the land and justice has become a scarce commodity available to only few Nigerians while the masses are in tears, wondering whether Nigeria is the country of their birth.”
He said APC would bring the change that Nigeria is badly in need of.
In his remarks, the Zamfara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, said the convention was an indication and a clear message that nobody could scuttle the merger, stressing that it is the desire of Nigerians.
Also speaking, the chairman of the ANPP Board of Trustees, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, said APC had come to stay, adding that it is needed to rescue the country from the current challenge of insecurity.
Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, said Nigerians were fed up with the current regime of poverty, insecurity and bad governance. He stressed that the living conditions of the people had worsened in the last 14 years, saying the days of PDP are numbered.
In his own contribution, the ACN presidential candidate in 2011, Nuhu Ribadu, decried the level of corruption, poverty and insecurity in the country, saying the unity of the country is being threatened by violence. He blamed PDP for the problems afflicting the nation, saying APC came at the right time to rescue the country from bad governance.
Those who attended the ANPP convention included Osun State Governor Rauf Aregbeshola, former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau, Senator Kabiru Gaya, and other top ANPP members.
With yesterday’s conventions in Abuja and Gusau, CPC and ANPP have moved a step closer to actualising the APC merger by endorsing the draft constitution, manifesto, logo, flag and slogan of the proposed party.
But the coast seems unclear yet for CPC’s involvement in the merger. The party had last week declared its registration certificate missing and gone ahead to swear to an affidavit which it deposited at the Utako Police Station, in Abuja.
But in a letter to INEC dated May 9, 2013, the holder of the certificate and an allegedly expelled member of the party, Hanga and two others, through their lawyers from Aliyu, Marama and Co Chambers, said the electoral body should discountenance CPC’s claims about the loss of the certificate.
They said it had come to their knowledge that the CPC national secretary, Mr. Buba Galadima, had falsely written to the Nigeria Police to claim that the party’s certificate was missing and had as a result sworn to an affidavit which he intended to submit to INEC to seek a certified true copy of the CPC registration certificate.
Referring to a case in court, the letter urged INEC not to honour the party’s invitation to its national convention. It said, “INEC should remain informed that the original certificate of CPC has always been and is still in possession of Senator Rufai Hanga, therefore, there is no need for the issuance of certified true copy of the said certificate.”