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As the controversy surrounding the All Progressives Congress (APC) acronym deepened, another group seeking to register the “All Progressive Congress” with the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as a political party emerged yesterday, thereby throwing more spanners into the works of the four leading opposition parties – Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) - who announced their resolve to form a new party named All Progressive Congress (APC).
The most recent group, which is now the fourth laying a claim to the APC acronym, is different from the All Patriotic Citizens and African Peoples Congress who may have applied to INEC for registration ahead of the opposition parties.
Weekly Trust could not trace the promoters of the fourth group as at last night, a letter dated March 5 and signed by Barrister S. B. Adegbenga of a Lagos-based Integrity Chambers, said the legal practitioners were acting on the instruction of their client to register the All Progressive Congress (APC). No address of the client was given.
All these, political analysts observe, are in a bid to set confusion in the midst of opposition political parties which had resolved to merge under the banner of the All Progressive Congress (APC). One of the strategies, it seems, is to register as many parties with the APC acronym as possible so that in the end the merging opposition parties would be forced to do a name change and begin process of registration all over again.
Sources informed Weekly Trust that when the promise by the opposition parties to merge began to take shape last month with the coming together of 10 opposition governors including Imo’s Rochas Okorocha of APGA, and the threat of losing a large chunk of Northern and Western Nigeria in the 2015 presidential election seemed imminent, some persons in the presidency came up with the idea of floating a party with similar acronym with the APC as a way of breaking its ranks after the idea of wooing some individuals within the fold of the merging parties failed.
Initially, said sources, there were two suggestions the presidency was working on to scuttle the APC which included sponsoring moles within the merging groups and later wooing some of its big wigs by offering them juicy positions in government, but both did not achieve result.
A PDP stalwart from the North Eastern part of the country, who parades the corridors of power since the Obasanjo days, was said to have sold the idea of registering another party with similar acronym before the merging parties could conclude their arrangements to one of the aides of the president who quickly bought the idea and got some people to submit an application at INEC.
With the relative confusion caused by the letter of intent written to INEC by the African Peoples Congress, the idea proved effective, but a snag came up in that for the INEC to work on the application, the applicants would have to fulfill other requirements like submitting names of their leaders which should cut across geopolitical zones with proof of having held a convention to decide that.
But as they were not ready to do that since the idea was not actually to float a party, another suggestion was put forward that since the idea is only to frustrate the merging parties, more proposals for intending parties with similar acronyms be sent to INEC and more people were asked to put forward such applications.
The latest APC (All Patriotic Citizens) is said to be sponsored by a by PDP chieftain from the Niger Delta who recently secured a juicy party appointment. Another application with similar acronym our sources say is also expected in the coming weeks, so that at the end, it would be proven that INEC has been sufficiently provoked to ban all the groups from using the acronym, while advising them to search for new names, after which the other groups would vanish quietly while the merging parties would be compelled to go back to the drawing board.
The African People’s Congress on Thursday went ahead to unveil its logo, constitution and manifesto at a special briefing to mark the end of the completion of the constitutional process for registration as a political party.
The Protem National Chairman, Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu, while displaying the acknowledgement letter received from INEC, said the party has complied with the requirements listed in a letter to its request for registration by the Secretary to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) Abdullahi Kaugama on March 7, 2013.
He said the presentation of the APC logo, flag, constitution, manifesto, membership card, and evidence of fulfillment for registration as a political party was in line with the provisions of the Nigerian Constitution and the Electoral Act.
“We have officially filed our application as required by Section 78 of the Electoral Act in the form of Form PA.1. We have equally paid all the processing fees for registration, provided our national office and officers…etc. Now the facts speak for itself. We are waiting to be issued our Certificate of Registration in the coming days by INEC…,” he said.
He said it was formed to restore hope and address leadership failure of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the ACN, the ANPP, the APGA and the CPC.
He flayed the merger of four political parties, saying “If we should spare a thought for the merger comedy that has played out in our country recently, the merger is simply an amalgam of people who ‘must’ rule; largely part of the same over-recycled crop of power-mongers who had plagued Nigeria with their abysmal misrule and maladministration”.
He denied insinuations that the group is faceless, saying “we are not faceless. We are Nigerians. Must somebody be behind you before you lead? We will shock you to discover that we are not alone. When the time comes, you will know what the APC has come up with. We are not joking.
“Do we even look like Malians or the Americans? We are Nigerians. We are being represented by people from all the geo-political zones. INEC has duly acknowledged our submission,” he said.
But the merging parties say they’re not going back as the acronym is their intellectual property.
Opposition parties: APC is ours
Chieftain of the APC, Chief Tom Ikimi, told newsmen on Thursday that the merging parties would pursue their registration to its logical conclusion.
“Prior to the adoption of the name, we had carried out a careful search of the existing names of all parties with extant registration in Nigeria and finding out that none has the name All Progressives Congress nor the acronym (APC), we chose the name and unveiled it,” he said.
Ikimi further said “it has, therefore, come to us as a rude shock that the Independent National Electoral Commission INEC would announce receipt of a letter from what is now known to be a faceless and unknown political group ostensibly driven by sheer mischief purporting to request for registration with the name African Peoples Congress.
“The obvious motive of this letter is to attempt, albeit in futility, to scuttle the registration of the All Progressive Congress which has been so widely publicised and well received to the discomfort of the establishment.”
He said the second African Peoples Congress wrote their letter to INEC on February 28, three weeks after the merging parties announced the formation of the All Progressives Congress.
“Unfortunately we have it on good authority that the establishment, gravely troubled by the emergence of a united opposition, has set up a high powered team headed by a very high ranking officer of government and furnished with unlimited resources from public funds with a clear mandate to corrupt the democratic institutions and destabilise the opposition,” Ikimi said.
He, however, said “the group will not accept any attempt to scuttle their plans to formalise our merger under our adopted name and acronym.”
INEC, Presidency blamed
A group called Concerned Nigerians made up of two past presidents of the National Association of Nigerian Students (NANS) and a former Assistant General Secretary of Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) has accused the Presidency and ‘some INEC officials’ of being behind the controversy of many associations seeking to register with the acronym APC.
Spokesmen of the group, Comrade Salihu Muhammed Lukman and Barrister Abdul Aminu Mahmud told newsmen yesterday in Abuja that the PDP and the Presidency were behind the controversy to ensure they scuttled the registration of opposition APC mega party.
Lukman said the documents paraded by the African Peoples Congress that unveiled its constitution; logo and emblem on Thursday were not genuine.
He also showed letters indicating that the group submitted its application for registration to INEC on March 1, 2013, but that the FORM PA. I was signed on March 12th, 2013, wondering how the application could be signed about two weeks after it was submitted.
“When the APGA applied to be registered to INEC through legal representative, the commission turned down the application and directed that it was only the National Chairman, National Secretary and National Treasurer of the party who were qualified to carry out the exercise, why after setting a precedent, the commission now accepted purported application from both African Peoples Congress and All Patriotic Citizens through legal representations?” Lukman said.
Mahmud on his part said the “INEC should look at the criteria for registration to see if the associations seeking for registration had met the requirements. None of the associations fighting for APC as an acronym has met the requirements.”
While saying that the INEC FORM PA.I by law is supposed to be filled with legible hand writing, the group’s form was computer generated including the logo which by law was supposed to have been fixed on the space provided and not computer generated, adding that there are differences and alterations in the signatures of the two signatories.
Both the INEC and the President were not immediately available for comment.
PDP exonerates self
The ruling PDP, speaking through its National Publicity Secretary, Olisa Metuh, denied the allegation that it is behind subtle moves to frustrate the APC registration. According to him, it is wrong for any political party to blame its opponent over failure to organize itself. “The PDP is not behind any move to deny the APC registration. We have already congratulated the APC over their merger. Even if all the opposition parties come together under whatever name, the PDP is ready to withstand the opposition.”