From Ndubuisi Orji, Abuja

In the run-up to the 2027 general election, some leaders of opposition politicians are canvassing for a merger of opposition political parties to challenge the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the next general election. They believe that it is only a coalition of opposition parties that  can sack the APC as the ruling party in the country

It was  Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) 2023 presidential candidate, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, who first mooted the idea of a merger by  opposition political parties, in the aftermath of the last general elections. Atiku, while playing host to the Inter Party Advisory Council (IPAC), last November, had said the country was sliding into a one party state. Consequently,  he argued that it is crucial for the opposition parties to come together, in order to be able to wrest power from the APC.

The former Vice President had reportedly said, “You have come here today to say that we should cooperate in order to promote democracy. But, the truth of the matter is that our democracy is fast becoming a one-party system; and of course, you know that when we have a one party system, we should just forget about democracy.

“We have all seen how the APC is increasingly turning Nigeria into a dictatorship of one party. If we don’t come together to challenge what the ruling party is trying to create, our democracy will suffer for it, and the consequences of it will affect the generations yet unborn. “

Regardless, the proposal  had generated diverse reactions among stakeholders. While some see it as a welcome development, others think otherwise.  Nevertheless, some of the opposition leaders are unrelenting in their quest to have the opposition parties come together.

Recently, the National Chairman of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Chief Ralph Okey Nwosu, said there are talks by leaders of opposition party politics to build a more formidable party to oust the ruling party.

“Twenty-two of the thoughtful and proactive leaders of political parties in blazing the trail have joined hands with our party, ADC and like us, are committed to building a larger party that will give accommodation to all well-meaning patriots.

“We have resolved to work with all political leaders across that appreciate the need for coming together for a new Nigeria. We discriminate against none; our commitment is a new Nigeria that will lead our dear continent out of its present abyss. We have therefore set up committees to consult far and wide to ensure the dawn of a new era,” Nwosu stated.

Analysts say a merger will boost the chances of the opposition in the quest to sack APC as the ruling party in 2027. Recall that the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the Congress of Progressive Change (CPC) and splinter group from the PDP, as well as few members of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) had merged to form the APC.

The APC, which is the product of the first successful political merger in the country’s political history, had defeated the PDP in the 2015 general elections, and has consigned the latter to opposition in the last nine years.

Therefore, some key opposition figures believe that without a merger, it will be difficult to displace the APC as the ruling party. Former PDP national vice chairman in the South West, Chief Eddy Olafeso, while reminiscing on the outcome of the 2023 general election, said a collaboration of the NNPP, LP and PDP would have stopped the ruling party at the last poll.

Olafeso said that “realignment, rediscovery and embracing one another is the best one can do in a multi party democracy like ours… And to be honest, if we take the votes of the NNPP, Labour Party and PDP, APC will be 6million shy of victory.

“Today, the story could have been different. Today, we could have kicked out the eight wasted, locust years of Buhari and the one year that we are witnessing under President Tinubu. Honestly, the way out is for us to be united against the APC that is destroying our nation.”

The PDP and Labour Party had scored 6,984,520 and 6,101,533 votes respectively in the last presidential elections, while the APC polled 8,794,726 to win the election.

Pundits say as desirable as the quest for merger may seem, there are many factors militating against the actualization of the idea ahead of the 2027 general elections. One of such factors that would militate against any merger  is lack  of unity of purpose among opposition leaders.

Again, unlike the 2013 merger which gave birth to the APC and which was spearheaded by leaders of the legacy parties, the leadership of the  major opposition parties, which should ordinarily drive the initiative are yet to take positions on the issue.

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For instance, the PDP National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, said the opposition party stands for the sustenance of the country’s democracy. Consequently, Ologunagba said the major opposition party will review the proposal.

According to him, “if people are saying that (merger of opposition party) , the party will take a position. Leaders of the party, anybody can riase their views but the party will sit down and review all those positions.

“We know that what we stand for is for democracy to stand. It is for the Nigerian people to know that yes, democracy is a good system of government and people can be held accountable in positions of authority. but APC had not demonstrated that.”

Similarly, the Labour Party National Publicity Secretary, Obiorah Ifoh, told Daily Sun, that the party is not involved in any merger talk with anyone at the moment.

“Nobody has spoken to us. We heard on the social media about plans to merge. Nobody has spoken to labour party and labour party has not gone into discussion with anybody. When they do, we will have a position, “ Ifoh stated.

Nevertheless, the LP publicity scribe, who decried the policies of the APC-led Federal Government, added that the party will not be averse to any initiative that will upstage the ruling party and advance the cause of the masses, through  social democracy.

Besides, the internal wrangling in the opposition parties is another factor that may impede the actualization of the proposal. Since the conclusion of the 2023 general elections,  the PDP, as well as LP and NNPP has been enmeshed in internal crises. These crises, analysts say, would make it impossible for the opposition parties to actualize any merger plan.

For instance, the chairman of the PDP Governors Forum and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed, while fielding questions from journalists, recently, that there are plans by some “marauders” to fictionalize the major opposition party, so as to lead a faction into a coalition.“We know that there are some marauders hiding somewhere trying to factionalize our party and take one faction to go and do coalition. We are not going to allow that as governors.

“We are very responsible and we are very credible and we make sure we resolve all the issues and unify the party for maximum efficiency and success in the next election, “ Mohammed stated.

A chieftain of the APC, Osita Okechukwu, told a national newspaper recently that the idea of a merger by the opposition political parties was “dead on arrival”.

Okechukwu, who is the immediate past Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON)  said “ a cursory glance at the choreography and trajectory of the major opposition political parties will reveal lack of cohesion, absence of deep-rooted altruism, ethno-religious bogey and presence of a big elephant in their room.

“With these negatives, it is difficult to merge desperate and ambitious tendencies as some of the major variables are inimical to constructing a winnable coalition. Truly,  one does not see the optics of their centre of cohesion gathering muster, and you cannot conspire without cohesion. Therefore, it is dead on arrival.”

Last Monday, Labour Party presidential candidate in the 2023 general elections, Peter Obi, met with Atiku in Abuja. Obi, a former governor of Anambra State,  also met with former Jigawa State governor, Sule Lamido and former Senate President, Bukola Saraki. Lamido and Saraki are members of the PDP.

The former Anambra governor, who was Atiku’s running mate in the 2019 general elections, had dumped the PDP, for LP, in the run-up to the 2023 general elections.

Speculations are rife that meetings may not be unconnected to moves by key opposition leaders to forge an alliance ahead of the 2027 polls.  A source close to Atiku told Daily Sun that “we mustn’t forget that His Excellency, the former vice president has been calling for coalition of opposition party and all of that. Maybe this is in that  direction.”

Nevertheless, analysts believe that even if the opposition parties were to surmount the odds, it may  have to contend with time, especially as electioneering for the 2027 elections is set to commence in the political parties soon. According to the INEC,  the 2027 presidential poll is slated for February 20, 2027.