Coup against Jonathan

THE SUN Newspaper

With the presidential election less than three months away, the opposition political parties are making frantic efforts to forge a common front to tackle President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), with a view to taking over his job. There are talks between Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), on one hand and there are talks between All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the ACN on the other hand.

Checks revealed that the talks between ACN and CPC had suffered a setback following the choice of the joint presidential candidate. While the CPC insisted that its presidential candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari should be adopted by the two political parties, the ACN wants its candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu as the joint presidential candidate. With this, it was gathered, the ACN is laying more emphasis on its talks with the ANPP.

Preliminary agreement reached between ANPP and ACN, sources told Saturday Sun, is that the two parties would fuse together and adopt a new name and new symbol. The implementation of this would be subject to the approval of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). In the event that INEC refuses to accept the change of name, checks revealed that the two parties would adopt either ANPP or ACN for the joint presidential candidate.

Saturday Sun gathered that ANPP is negotiating with ACN, pretending to be unconcerned about the CPC-ACN initial talks. A chieftain of the ANPP told Saturday Sun: “We take it that we are not aware of whatever is being reported to be going on between them.”

Sources revealed that the ANPP and the ACN team has already come up with a name, while the proposed symbol of the new platform is being designed. As at Thursday, the alliance had come up with the name, Action Congress of Nigerian Party (ACNP). The name is subject to modification at an enlarged meeting of the alliance yet to be fixed.

Sources at the ANPP secretariat disclosed that no matter which of the two parties produces the presidential candidate, it has been resolved that the ANPP would produce the national chairman because the new name reflects more of ACN than ANPP.

Choice of presidential candidate in ANPP/ACN alliance
Findings showed that the odds favour ANPP producing the presidential candidate of the alliance because the party is more acceptable in the North, from which the candidate would come. Also, the party would produce the national chairman under the new arrangement.
Sources revealed that since the alliance wants to capatalise on the bad feelings in the PDP, following the failure of a northerner to pick the presidential ticket, the thinking is that the North would relate more with ANPP and, therefore, vote for it, than ACN, even if the joint candidate is from the North.

If ANPP produces the presidential candidate, the ACN would present the vice presidential candidate from either the South East or South West. If the ANPP also produces the national chairman of the proposed new platform and Dr. Onu is adopted, the ACN would present a vice presidential candidate from the South West, to ensure balance. However, sources said that the South East has shown preference for a vice presidential candidate instead of national chairman.

National Publicity Secretary of the ANPP, Emma Eneukwu, confirmed to Saturday Sun that talks between his party and ACN were still ongoing and that hopefully it would take them somewhere to enhance the two parties’ chances in the next general elections. He also said that the ANPP was not aware of any tripartite discussion involving his party, ACN and CPC. According to him, the ANPP is only discussing with ACN and would not know about any discussion ACN might be having with the CPC.
Said he: “We have intensified discussion over the working alliance with the ACN. What we intend to do is to have one fuse into the other and then the fusing party would have its certificate of registration withdrawn by INEC while the remaining one will change name and get it approved by the INEC.

He also explained that the ANPP hoped the ACN would concede the presidential slot to it, being the more popular party in the North than the ACN and a northerner is to be presented as candidate.
Eneukwu would not, however, confirm if the new name with mainly ACN characteristics was part of the bargain for his party to produce the candidate and the national chairman in the proposed arrangement.

Between ANPP interest and CPC/CAN talks
Sources squealed to Saturday Sun that much as the ANPP is not discussing with CPC, the party happy is that the ACN and CPC are holding talks on how to work together. This is because the ANPP leadership believes that General Buhari has a very bright chance to clinch the presidency if the alliance is properly worked out. The thinking, therefore, it was gathered, is that after a collaboration between CPC and ACN would have been consummated, the ANPP would also join to enlarge the influence of the alliance.
Engineer Rotimi Fashakin, national publicity secretary of CPC, told Saturday Sun that the CPC talks with ACN was very much on course and ought to have been finalised but for certain grey areas. The pact was expected to have been sealed last Friday.

Party sources, however, confided that the CPC was being careful in the deal because it believed the ACN is being clever by half. According to the source, the discussion between the two parties had gone beyond who should be the presidential candidate of the alliance. It was gathered that before the parties’ primaries, the agreement was that Buhari would be the adopted candidate. The CPC was, therefore, surprised that despite such a gentleman’s agreement, the ACN went ahead to announce a presidential candidate, when what was required was a statement to the effect that it had adopted Buhari.

ANPP and other parties
At the start of discussions, over eight months ago, on a possible alliance by ANPP with other parties, the party had opened talks with a number of parties apart from the ACN. Parties with which ANPP had maintained regular contacts included the All Progressives Grand Alliance, (APGA), the Labour Party and a number of other opposition parties.

Sources revealed that the emergence of Onu as ANPP national chairman rekindled the confidence that the party would spring surprises and restore its lost glory. ANPP produced nine governors in 1999, at the beginning of the democratic experience. However, the fortune of the party took a nosedive, in what was generally believed to be as a result of inept leadership at the national level. By 2003, the party could only boast of seven governors and in 2007, it further reduced to five. However, in-fighting, greed and lack of cohesion, which was also traced to the national leadership, became the other of the day and two of the five governors, in Zamfara and Bauchi states, defected to PDP, leaving the party with only Kano, Yobe and Borno states.

The coming on board of Onu was seen as a new dawn in the party and the members heaved a sigh of relief. Onu has been a loyal party man who did not defect from the party despite the perceived injustice he suffered in 1999 after he became the presidential candidate of All Peoples Party (APP), which ANPP was known as then.
Since Onu assumed office, other parties have embraced him. Chief Femi Falana, national chairman of the National Conscience Party (NCP), was the first to visit the new ANPP boss, expressing the hope that the opposition parties would now have a rallying point to better organise themselves for future election. Also, the coalition of some 23 parties, under the Patriotic Electoral Alliance of Nigeria (PEAN), led by Maxi Okwu, national chairman of Citizen Popular Party (CPP) visited Onu. He also expressed the frustration of his group at failed attempts to get ANPP take a leading role in the opposition struggles under its former leadership of Second Republic Speaker of the House of Representatives, Edwin Ume-Ezeoke.

The ACN/CPC talks
The alliance talks between ACN and CPC has started on a promising note. Both parties are conscious that they need to come together to defeat the (PDP at the April polls. Initially, the two parties settled for Buhari as the joint presidential candidate. They also agreed to use one of the two parties for the purpose of the presidential election. Towards this end, they have harmonised their policy and programmes while the power sharing formula has been worked out.

One of those involved in the talks told Saturday Sun that there are two contentious issues that held up the alliance talks. The more contentious of the two is the question of who would be deputy to Buhari. The second is which of the two political parties is to be used for the purpose of the election.

The vice presidential candidate headache
According to the source, The ACN is bent on presenting former governor of Lagos, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, as deputy to Buhari. The party is insisting on presenting a party man who knows the policy and inclination of the party on national issues. Besides, the party, with four states under its control, is hoping to position itself for the 2015 general election by having one of its leading members in the number two position.
Checks revealed that Buhari is not favourably disposed to have Tinubu as his deputy. His constant complaints at the negotiation table are that he does not want a Muslim/ Muslim ticket and that he would prefer that the ACN presents him with a Christian as deputy.

The source said Buhari is rooting for Pastor Tunde Bakare of the Latter Rain Assembly as his deputy. But Bakare is of the Save Nigerian Group (SNG) and not a member of the ACN. Besides, Bakare is giving the condition that he can be deputy to Buhari provided that he is the candidate of the progressives. Bakare told this reporter last year that he was planning to contest the 2015 presidential election on the ticket of a yet-to-be-decided party.
According to the source, Buhari is merely using Muslim/Muslim ticket as cover-up. The reality is that he does not feel safe having a personality like Tinubu as his deputy.

“The truth is that Buhari does not consider it wise to have somebody as his deputy and be looking over his shoulder all the time. The report on Tinubu and his politics does not go down well with the General. His request for a Christian and his preference for Bakare is because of the puritanical nature of his politics,” a source said.
Some other ACN chieftain claim that Tinubu is the one turning down the offer for him to be Buhari deputy. They say that Buhari had sent the emir of Borgu to plead with Tinubu to accept his offer.

Other names being touted as possible alternative to Tinubu are former governor of Ogun State, Olusegun Osoba; former governor of Ekiti State, Niyi Adebayo and former governor of Anambra State, Chris Ngige. However, the ACN, as a party, does not believe that the three men have the clout of Tinubu, hence, the party may not present them for consideration. Besides, party members don’t consider it politically expedient to say anything against the interest of Tinubu at the negotiation table. To do so may mean risking the possibility of attracting the wrath of Tinubu’s sympathisers within the party.

The platform to use between ACN and CPC
The second issue is: which of the two parties is to be used between CPC and ACN for the election? The two are reluctant to give up their identities. Buhari, in particular, is said to have learnt his lessons when he contested on the ticket of the ANPP. To leave his party and contest the election on the ticket of the ACN is considered to be unwise.

An ACN chieftain told Saturday Sun: “The General is not willing to give up his party to contest on the ticket of another party. The ACN believes it has shifted enough grounds without getting anything in return. Besides, having four states under its control means the party can plan big for 2015. The ACN too cannot give up its identity.
“I assure you that the two parties will resolve their differences and come together. They must reach an understanding on the April election.”

The North’s preference
Findings showed that with the failure of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar to secure PDP ticket, politicians from the North bent on having a northerner as president this year are having a rethink on the proposed adoption of Buhari. Initially, some northern politicians proposed that the zone endorsed Buhari and his party in the final battle against Jonathan. However, it was gathered that the new thinking is for the North is to adopt ANPP and its presidential candidate.

Sources revealed that the misgiving against Buhari came about because some northern politicians said that the CPC candidate is arrogant and does not listen to any one. It was gathered that those against Buhari’s choice cited his refusal of entreaties from Emirs and other northern leaders in 2007 to withdraw the suit he instituted against the late Alhaji Umar Musa Yar’Adua over the presidential election.
Finding revealed that those opposed to Buhari said that if he refused to listen to leaders in the zone in 2007, who wanted to protect the interest of the North, there is no point getting the zone to support his aspiration.


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