As the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) Thursday held its last National Convention in Lagos to pave way for merger with other parties as All Progressives Congress (APC), Lagos State Governor, Babatunde Fashola, has called on the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to play the role of an unbiased umpire to ensure that the merger is delivered.
The All Progressive Congress is formed by the merger of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) led by former Head of State, General Muhammad Buhari (rtd), All Nigeria Peoples’ Party (ANPP, led by first Civilian Governor of Abia State, Ogbonnaya Onu, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), led by Bola Ahmed Tinubu and a faction of All Progressive Peoples’ Alliance (APGA), led by the Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha.
In his remarks at the Convention at the Onikan Stadium in Central Lagos, Governor Fashola said playing the role of a true and unbiased umpire in the merger plan would not only be in the interest of the Commission to clear itself of any prejudice but also in the national interest as a result of the benefits that would accrue from a successful merger of the parties.
The Governor, who recalled that at the start of discussions about the merger of the parties, there was a posting on the website which insinuated that the ruling party was colluding with INEC to frustrate the plan, said it would be in the interest of the Commission to prove that the insinuation was untrue.
According to the Governor, “When the discussions about this merger started, there was an interesting posting on the website that while ANPP, ACN, CPC and APGA-APGA were merging, the ruling party was trying to merge with the umpire. As insignificant as it seems, it is a serious issue”.
Commanding officers of INEC who were at the Convention to witness proceedings, Governor Fashola declared, “To them I say that they have a duty now to rise above board like Caesar’s wife and dispel that role. It is in their interest and in the national interest to show that they are true and unbiased umpires; to show that a merger is possible and to do everything by way of official and legitimate support to ensure that this merger is delivered”.
“It will bring a lot of benefits to Nigeria. First of all, it will reduce our very long ballot papers. Secondly, it could reduce the cost and logistics of elections and thirdly, it would provide a platform for the emergence of more mergers without the exclusion of anybody”, the Governor said.
On the plans of the ruling party for the next elections, Governor Fashola said, “We are beginning to hear from the ruling party the number of states that they are going to win even before the dates for the next elections have been fixed. I say that the most successful football club in the world does not know how many goals it will score against it weakest opponent unless it has reached an agreement with the referee”.
“As if that was not bad enough, we are already hearing also from them that they will go back to do what they always know how to do best”, Governor Fashola said adding, however. “But this time, it will not happen”.
He assured that come 2015, APC would provide “real test of choice for the mythical powers of the ruling party expressed by the sovereign will of the Nigerian people”, adding, “There is a vehicle of choice, the All Progressives Congress of Nigeria, let the people of Nigeria come and decide, which choice, which vehicle, which programmes best articulate their hopes and aspirations. I believe that the APC will provide that choice”.
In his address earlier, the ACN National Chairman, Bisi Akande said in the present merger process, the merging parties would not entertain any diversionary tactics or surrender to any sentiments adding that this time around, the merger would be accomplished.
Describing the Convention as a Special Convention, the National Chairman declared, “This Convention will set in motion the process that will lead to the merger, to one political party, all progressives that will provide an alternative leadership to the people of Nigeria”.
Announcing that the Convention would be the last the Party would hold as Action Congress of Nigeria, Mr Akande expressed the belief that the merger would yield a bountiful harvest that would finally rescue Nigeria from the bounds of corruption, hunger and insecurity.
Also in his contribution, the National Leader of CAN, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, said from the year 2015 when a general election would be held, the Peoples Democratic Party would become the opposition party adding that what was needed was sacrifice from everyone concerned. This explains the decision of the leaders of the four political parties to surrender their individual identities to fuse into one party that will be stronger and better position to provide good leadership at the national level”, he said.
Mr Tinubu stated that for Nigeria to continue as it is, is an invitation to doom, adding that all prior feats that may have been recorded by the country will come to nought unless the present crop of leaders confront the challenge facing the country.
According to him, “Nigeria must be the country that sets agenda for economic development and also share prosperity on the African Continent. Instead of holding wealthy domestic produced goods in her basket, the nation holds a virtually empty basket”.
“Everyone must join hands with like minds in the progressive fold who are willing to make the necessary sacrifice to move the nation forward”, the National Leader said adding, “If I must choose between deciding the existence of the Action Congress of Nigeria and the improvement of Nigeria, I will chose the improvement of Nigeria”.
The former Governor said Nigeria should have a vast land transportation system that moves her active energetic population safely, that moves goods and produce cheaply adding, however, that instead the roads have become portals of death where people perish by the dozens in one accident after the other.
“Yet those in command do nothing for the average Nigerian who is forced to run this gauntlet of death for his daily crumbs of bread. Instead, those who could improve this situation for the good of all do just enough to make things better for themselves. Where the road is bad, they budget for it, still the road gets worse off. Where the road is impassable, they offer excuses and empty promises. The touted improvement in electricity supply is now a mirage. In the midst of petrol dollars an abundance of natural gas, Nigerians are without a commensurate standard of living. Our billions are embezzled and shared to cronies. The slogan of the ruling party is Power, but corruption is the fuel that powers their government”, he said.
Mr Tinubu said if the ruling party does not have anything to offer except the emptiness they have been offering to Nigerians, everyone should join hands with the opposition party to sweep the party aside so that the nation can be moved forward adding, “I assure you that the place we are going will be your house of political fulfilment. We shall have a meaningful voice in the APC. The principles of democracy, justice, visionary governance and liberty that shaped the ACN shall carry over into the APC. The new party will be as welcome a home as the ACN. It will just be a bigger house for a bigger political family”.
Also speaking, the former Presidential Candidate of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) at the 2011 Presidential elections, General Muhammadu Buhari, said the progressives have come together to make it impossible for the ruling party to continue to rig elections in the country.
He congratulated Nigerians for their patience as the exercise unfolded adding that it is a continuation of what started in 2010 but which could not be actualized because of time shortage.
Governor Ibikunle Amosun of Ogun State in his remarks at the event said the four participating parties in the merger are determined to ensure the success of the exercise adding that despite the pessimism expressed by some Nigerians at the possibility of the success of the merger plans, the successful holding of the Convention has demonstrated that it is possible and that Nigerians are also committed to change.
The Governor Osun State, Rauf Aregbesola who also spoke at the Convention said the successful holding of the Convention represents a moment to rejoice for everyone and celebrate the death of unemployment, violence and power failure in Nigeria adding that the struggle to salvage Nigeria must not commence in 2015 with the general elections but in 2013 with the Anambra State Governorship elections during which the All Progressive Congress(APC)must take over the governorship of that state.
The Governor of Imo State, Rochas Okorocha while speaking said hope has returned to Nigeria with the successful merger plans as the country’s political landscape will never be the same again adding that the PDP should start preparing to be in the opposition from 2015 as the government to be formed by the All Progressive Congress will be people centred.
Also present at the occasion were the former Governor of Ogun State, Segun Osoba, former Governor of Kano State, Ibrahim Shakarau, Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole, Lagos State Deputy Governor, Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, First Lady of Lagos State, Dame Emmanuella Abimbola Fashola, Wife of the National Leader of ACN, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, Senator Ganiyu Solomon, ACN Legal Adviser, Muiz Banire, Lagos State Chairman of ACN, Henry Ajomale, delegates from across the country, top Party chieftains from the merging parties and top government functionaries.