Three major opposition political parties - Action Congress of Nigeria, Congress for Progressive Change and the All Nigeria Peoples Party – may drop their identities by April 2013, when talks on their proposed merger are expected to be completed.
The merger of the parties is one of the strategies being canvassed by some politicians to defeat the ruling Peoples Democratic Party which has dominated power since the advent of the present democracy in 1999.
Analysts are of the opinion that any genuine and honest cooperation among opposition parties for the 2015 general elections could make the election tough for the PDP.
The Chairman of the ANPP National Rebuilding and Interparty Contact Committee, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau, told journalists in Abuja on Sunday, that the merger talks between the three ACN, CPC and ANPP had reached the last stage.
Shekarau, a former Governor of Kano State, added that the chieftains of the three parties had decided to forget their individual ambitions to make the fusion a success.
He said that the leaders had realised that an alliance between the three parties would not work and that it was better for them to merge.
The ANPP chieftain said, “Certainly, we are going to submit our party certificates to the Independent National Electoral Commission after our merger. That is what a merger means. The Electoral Law is so clear on the procedure for a merger.
“If we decide to merge, the next thing is that we go back to our parties, call National Executive Committee meeting, and discuss with the members, in the presence of INEC officials. Then, you can call congress and that is all.”
He said that both the ANPP and the ACN were not new to mergers.
Shekarau said, “We have passed through this before when we were All Peoples Party and then Action Congress too, before it became ACN.
“The difference now is to pass a resolution and all this will be simultaneously done (by the three parties) and we will inform INEC about it. When that is done, INEC has no choice than to register your new identity.”
In the alternative, he said the parties might decide to adopt the name of one of the existing political parties while the remaining two would dissolve into the adopted one.
The other two options, according to him, are to “take a symbol, a flag and any other identity from the parties so that every party will have a sense of belonging or all of us will just forget our identity.”
Asked if the parties had learnt any lesson from their failed ambition to merge in 2011, Shekarau said ‘Yes’. But added that one of the reasons was that they started the process late.
He said, “We started late then. In fact, the negotiation started when all the political parties already had their presidential candidates and had finished their congresses.
“That was what made it difficult. Who among the candidates would you have expected to step down?
“Arguments came for example, that I had won the presidential primary of the ANPP. Out of the 3,000 delegates, I had 2,500 votes or thereabout. Now, sitting down in a room with about 10 people and I say I’m stepping down for you, it is no longer my personal mandate.
“What do you do with the people who stood in the rain and sun, slept in the bus, on the roadside and overnight. And again, our party had already submitted names of persons to INEC and when you merge, it would be beyond national election.
“What do you do with other elections like governorship elections, where each political party had their candidates?
“The CPC, ACN, and ANPP all had their candidates for other elective positions. These candidates had spent money, canvassed for votes and all that. That was why we said let all the parties go for elections.”
The former presidential candidate said all the political parties had agreed that the electoral ambitions of party members must not feature during their discussion.
“We are all coming to the table on equal terms. Whoever has any ambition is with his political party and not ours now. We are all talking on the same level. None of these parties has any candidates for any elective office for now. We can only talk about former candidates,” Shekarau said.
The National Publicity Secretaries of the CPC and ACN, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin and Alhaji Lai Mohammed, on Sunday confirmed what Shekarau said.
Both Fashakin and Mohammed said their parties were committed to the merger and that the modalities were being worked out.
They said their plan was to form a stronger political party that would be capable of sacking the PDP.
Fashakin said, “Yes, we are ready to lose our identity for the sake of the bigger party that is capable of sacking the PDP.
“My National Chairman, Prince Tony Momoh, has said it several time that he is ready to lose his position as well. I’m also ready for that, if that will enable us form a party that will be big enough to confront and remove the PDP from the central government.”
Mohammed said, “ACN is committed to getting a single platform of all opposition political parties that will drive the PDP out of power.”
On whether the ACN was also ready to lose its identity, he said “All I can tell you is that the modalities are being worked out. And we are committed to it.”