From LAYI OLANREWAJU, Ilorin
The much touted fusion of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) into All Progressive Congress (APC) in Kwara state is currently facing a setback over the choice of gubernatorial candidate in 2015.
Barely one month after the merger, the political group is facing a major test in the state where individual ambitions seem to be creating some rumble ahead. Presently, the planned comeback by the ACN’s 2011 candidate, Alhaji Mohammed Dele Belgore, must have reached a dead end.
Daily Sun checks revealed that prior to the merger, there were rumours and denials about the rift between Lai Mohammed, the ACN’s National Publicity Scribe, and Dele Belgore, the party’s governorship candidate in 2011 over who flies the party’s flag in 2015. The duo have been at each others’ throat in the last 12 months over their ambitions, a development that snowballed into serious crisis. The crisis almost went out of hand when their supporters clashed at one of their attempted peace meetings held at Bolvina Hotel along New Yidi Road, Ilorin.
Experiences from various failed alliances in the country stalled by personal ambitions and vested interests of some individual politicians and the political parties, may again erupt.
According to analysts, “They are thinking of merging now. By the time they come out with a manifesto, a leader of party A, party B, party C, that merged, each of them would want to be the president and that is where you find the problem. That is where you find square peg in a round hole.
“Not minding the name crises that greeted the planned registration of the party, the APC proponents told its critics that the new development is not about alliances that collapsed in the past, but about a new party entirely whose time has come, and would therefore not allow skeptics to draw them back in the struggle for a formidable opposition. ?The event playing out in Kwara seems to justify the fear expressed by these analysts.
Consequently, on Tuesday March 12, 2013, the APC made its debut in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital. Members of the coalescing parties turned out in their large numbers led by their various party chairmen namely; Kayode Olawepo (ACN), Taiye Eleja (ANPP) and Alhaji Suleiman Buhari for CPC, with a declaration that they were out to disclaim the proof that the merging political group was not on ground in the state.
In a text of address jointly signed by the trio and read by Olawepo, the APC members said: “Rather than playing second fiddle to a behemoth that is BIG for NOTHING, (PDP) we have put individual aspirations aside, and agreed unconditionally to work as a team, in the hope of engendering a new vista for our people.”According to him, “APC will come up with a more realistic, humane and globally acclaimed alternative Action Plan, in line with the ideology that will be espoused by our national leaderships, which will essentially be anchored on a pro-people, welfarist ideology.
“Kwara must be free: No amount of sacrifice is too much to make for the common good. Today’ s historic outing is a product of rigorous inter and intra parties consultations, meetings, deliberations and a painstaking assessment of the dire condition of our state in the hands of the ruling PDP vis-à-vis the ongoing realignment of our different progressive parties.
“We are convinced beyond doubt that at no time in the history of our dear Kwara state has drastic change become more urgent than now. And to meet this challenge, we have unconditionally agreed to pool our talents, energies and material resources together in order to rescue Kwara state from the present parlous state,” Olawepo further stressed. According to him, the merging parties will “aggregate the opinion of all stakeholders in the state” adding that “arrangements are already in top gear to set up a harmonization committee which will comprise of representatives of each of the merging parties.
But less than a month after the merger was consummated, a new twist was introduced to the ‘rescue mission’ as a group which called itself the ACN Stakeholders Forum, insisted that Belgore must fly the flag of the APC in the 2015 governorship election.
The group at a press conference in Ilorin, vowed not to accept any candidate from the other parties in the merger to be fielded as APC standard bearer in the next governorship election in the state. Justifying the group’s position, its chairman, Dr. Sa’ad Omoiya said “ACN in the last governorship election in Kwara polled over 152,000, Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) polled 75,000 and All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) polled 2,000. “With this outcome of the last governorship election results in Kwara, the ACN should be a party to present governorship candidate under the banner of the APC if eventually the merger worked at the end”, they contended.
Omoiya, who was Belgore’s head of campaign in 2011, further alleged: “We learnt from appropriate quarters that some members within the ACN have been collaborating with our leaders at the top to bring new governorship candidate from outside ACN so as to realize the goal and this will not be accepted.”
“We will not accept the alleged plan because our governorship candidate during the last governorship election in the state, Mr. Mohammed Dele Belgore (SAN) performed well, and should be given chance to take the governorship banner under the newly formed APC in the forthcoming election in the state so as to make the party to perform well.” Without taking the issue lying low, the state chapter of ACN came up with another counter statement, insisting the party has no preferred candidate for the 2015 election. The party also dismissed the purported dissolution of the state caretaker committee by the stakeholders’ forum at a meeting in Ilorin “as a ruse, null and void,” saying the group is a “dissident.”
In a statement, Olawepo said “the so-called ‘stakeholders forum’ is a group of non-conformists, confused and desperate politicians seeking relevance and defending the sole gubernatorial interest of a former candidate of the party.
“This is to state for the umpteenth time that there is no crisis in Kwara ACN. There are no factions in the party, but the existence of a dissident group that is seeking relevance and working for the sole interest of a former candidate of the party.” The pronouncement of the so-called stakeholders’ forum that it has dissolved the state caretaker committee further exposed these disgruntled politicians within our midst. “What they have committed is a grievous act of anti-party and an affront on the national chairman and national executive committee of the party that has sole power to dissolve the caretaker committee in Kwara state and their nefarious activities have been duly reported to the national headquarters of the party.?
“The party further stated that it is more than willing to conform to all rules guiding the merger plans and also ready to accommodate any sacrifice that the merger may entail.” The party will abide by the decision of the national merger committee as to implementation of the merger, and will be ready to accommodate any sacrifice the merger entails. Therefore, the party dissociates itself from the so called stakeholders’ pronouncement; Kwara ACN has no candidate for the 2015 election,” Olawepo said.
ANPP, CPC also kicked In a similar reaction. The CPC and ANPP, said there will be no automatic ticket for anybody ahead of the 2015 election, maintaining that all parties are equal. In a joint statement, their state chairmen said the argument advanced by the ‘ACN dissidents’ negates “the abiding principles of the merging parties, that our coming together under the single platform of the APC is unconditional.
“The parties maintained that the “abiding principles of our coming together under the APC mega platform is that of mutual camaraderie that does not transcend the thin line of individual party’s independence or meddling in our respective internal affairs. Therefore, the CPC and the ANPP do not wish to be dragged into the internal squabbles of any of the other two merger parties, the ACN and the APGA.
Shortly after Omoiya and his group addressed the press, the APC same day issued a statement, alleging that some elements within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) are plotting to hijack the newly formed APC.
Again, in another joint statement, both the CPC and ANPP alleged that some elements within the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in connivance with “few political hackers in our midst, who have been handsomely rewarded” are planning to take over APC in the state. The parties’ chairmen alleged further that the ‘hijackers’ have plotted to “fly the dangerous kite of dissolution of the democratically elected state executive councils of the three major opposition parties in the state, to be hatched by a few compromised members of our parties; promotion and sponsorship of hitherto unknown black market political fora, and food-is-ready Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs), etc, that are now masquerading as political counterforce and the public messiah.
The state PDP in a statement through its Director of Publicity, Alhaji Mas’ud Adebimpe, said “the allegation confirms PDP earlier position that the ACN and its allies are strangers in Kwara, and are not on ground in the state politically, as they made the whole world to believe, thus the false alarm.” It reads in part: “The PDP wishes to state that there was no iota of truth in the said publication. Rather our party has continuously received in droves members from Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) across the state. Notably, just about two weeks ago, over eight hundred ACN members from Oro 1&2, the ancestral home of Lai Mohammed, the party’s national publicity secretary, publicly denounced the party and joined PDP at a rally held in Oro town.
“While it’s a known fact in the public domain that ANPP has ceased to exist in the state, as the party, led by its national leader, Alhaji Khaleel Bolaji had fused with PDP shortly after the election, and needless to mention that Congress for Political Change (CPC) is alien in Kwara as it was never in existence.”