The game of intrigues over the shape of the political opposition in the country may now have taken a breather.
The battle started about seven weeks ago, precisely on February 6, 2013, after three of the nation’s opposition political parties, Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, and a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA announced during a press conference that they had agreed to merge into a new party to be known as the All Progressives Congress, APC.
A few weeks later another group, known as the African Peoples Congress, with the same acronym of APC emerged and applied to the INEC to be registered as a political party and in quick succession, a third group with the name All Patriotic Citizens also emerged to seek registration with INEC as a political party. The third group, however, seems to lack the political strength to fight for registration as nothing after the said application has been heard of them.
The emergence of African Peoples Congress triggered confusion and uproar within the political space with allegations and counter-allegations between the merger parties and the African Peoples Congress led by Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu and relatively unknown politicians.
The thrust of the allegations from the merger parties was that the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, was behind the Ikeagwuonu-led APC.
While the promoters of the two APC’s continued to flex their political muscles and prowess to outwit the other by holding series of media briefings and consultations, INEC remained mute over the confusion as it was also apparently consumed by the confusion.
Leaders of political parties driving the All Progressives Congress, who were visibly confused and to an extent frustrated, talked tough, boasting that neither the PDP nor INEC, could stop them from using the acronym ‘APC’. They also accused some INEC officials of working in concert with the ruling PDP to scuttle the merger.
Chairman of the All Progressives Congress merger committee, Chief Tom Ikimi, insisted that despite the fact that the African People’s Congress approached INEC before All Progressives Congress, the merger parties owned the intellectual property of the acronym, APC, since INEC is in the know that the political parties are already engaged in merger talks.
The merger group also accused the African Peoples Congress of submitting to INEC forged documents with some sort of inconsistencies on them.
But in their reaction, African Peoples Congress denied asking “Nigerians to discountenance the theatrics of the merger group who insists that democracy in Nigeria must be on their own terms.”
However, an impeccable source in INEC told Vanguard that the commission was confused over the development especially the allegation of collaboration with the PDP and presidency to scuttle the merger plan.
The source that spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the commission had remained neutral over the issue despite the allegation, adding that the whole matter required carefulness.
He said, “The way I see that thing (the APC controversy), we have to be very careful. On February 6, 2013, the merger political parties addressed a press conference to the world over their proposal to merge with the name All Progressives Congress that has APC as its acronym, but there was no formal communication to INEC on the issue. “But another group of people which I will describe as mischief makers, suddenly ran to INEC to apply for the registration of a party with APC as the acronym.”
He said the commission relates with the public by application and that it was not correct for INEC to use informal knowledge to deny a people that had come first to register.
“When equity is equal, the first in time prevails,” he said, explaining that it did appear that the ‘mischievous group’ has beaten the other APC to that. The way it is going now, it will end up in court,” he said.
According to him, despite the announcement of the proposed merger name by the opposition party, “The activity that was going on was not specifically addressed to INEC, rather to the world, so you can’t say that INEC has formal information. Before then, there was no application to INEC.
“If they had written an application on the 6th of February to inform INEC, it will be a different matter. INEC is not in any way responsible for the APC controversy,” he stated.
But surprisingly, INEC few days ago announced that the commission has rejected the application by the African Peoples Congress for registration as a political party for allegedly failing short of the constitutional provisions.
INEC’s Director, Public Affairs, Emmanuel Umenger said, “The Commission has written to this political association and had stated in very clear terms that they are in breach of section 222 (a) of the constitution with the additional explanations stated in the letter.
The Commission also observed that the submission made on form PA 1 does not contain the addresses of the national officers of the political association as stipulated and it means this association has the responsibility to prove, because these are the things the commission has observed and the law says if you do not meet any of these requirements you will not be registered as a political party.
But in his reaction, legal adviser of African Peoples Congress, Kingsley Nnadi claimed that the party met all the constitutional requirements and threatened that they will not allow some democratic elements to derail the democracy in the country and ready to challenge INEC up to the Supreme Court to ensure that the right thing is done.
ACN’s national publicity secretary in his reaction told Vanguard that the party was, however, not pleased with the reason given for the rejection as he insisted that the denial should have been founded on the “constructive knowledge” the commission had on the February 6, 2013 announcement of the emergence of the All Progressive Congress.
Ikeagwuonu and the association’s Legal Adviser, Mr. Kingsley Nnadi had told Vanguard before INEC turned down their request for registration that, the association had fulfilled every process for registration and was set for the Anambra Governorship election.