The July 14 governorship election in Edo State will provide a platform for the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) to test run their budding alliance with the presentation of a joint candidate for the election. Under the plan, leaders of the two parties – Major General Muhammadu Buhari (rtd) and Asiwaju Bola Tinubu – are billed to be in Benin-City, the Edo State capital, next week for a rally where the governor and ACN candidate, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, will be presented to the electorate as the candidate of the two parties.
The CPC governorship candidate, Mr. Roland Airhiavbere, will be expected to formally announce his decision to step down for Oshiomhole at the campaign rally. Oshiomhole, a frontline runner in the election, is up against the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Major General Charles Airhiavbere (rtd), and the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) candidate, Chief Solomon Edevbie.
A source told THISDAY that the decision to present a joint candidate for the Edo governorship election was to serve as a decisive test for the ACN-CPC accord. As a result, the rally, earlier scheduled for this week, has been shifted to next week, for strategic reasons. The two parties in recent weeks have intensified talks to revive the alliance that broke down in the run-up to the last general election over irreconcilable differences. A source close to the party leaders said the joint appearance of Buhari and Tinubu in Benin-City would demonstrate their seriousness and commitment to the ongoing talks to forge the alliance.
"Buhari and Tinubu have accepted to be at the campaign rally in Benin to show solidarity with the governor and to further demonstrate their readiness to actualise the dream of forging a common front ahead of the 2015 elections," he said. It was learnt that as part of the arrangement, Buhari and his team would join Tinubu in a chartered flight billed to take off from Lagos to Benin-City for the campaign. He said the two party leaders had decided to champion efforts to cement the relationship between their parties and to make sure that all impediments to the political alliance were addressed at the highest level.
The source added that hopes for an alliance were bolstered by the fact that the South-west appears to be uninterested in contesting for the presidency in 2015 and as such, the ACN would be well disposed to back a Buhari presidential bid. He said the parties are exploring two options of either forming an opposition coalition or going for an outright merger before the next general election. However, the leaders of the two parties are said to have chosen to use the Edo State gubernatorial contest to test waters with the CPC backing of Oshiomhole.
Meanwhile, the ACN has warned against rigging the Edo governorship poll, as doing so would snowball into violence. It said apart from the desperation of the PDP Chairman, Alhaji Bamanga Tukur, to ensure that his party wins the first election under his chairmanship, there are also links to the president's presumed 2015 ambition. He urged ACN members and supporters in the state to resist any attempt by the PDP to rig the forthcoming poll, saying they must turn out en masse to vote for the governor and safeguard their votes.
The statement added, “If the PDP is as popular and acceptable to Nigerians as it claims, why is it afraid of a free and fair election? “If President Jonathan believes his party is the only truly national party that can meet the yearnings and aspirations of Nigerians, why is he unwilling to call his party to order now that it is bent on pushing the nation into the abyss of violence through election rigging?”