As part of the moves to oust President Muhammadu Buhari and the All Progressives Congress in 2019, the major opposition parties and third force elements are expected to hold joint and separate talks in the coming days with a view to forging an alliance and supporting one presidential candidate.
Some of the parties that will participate in the discussions include the Peoples Democratic Party, the Olusegun Obasanjo-backed African Democratic Congress, and the Chief Olu Falae-led Social Democratic Party among others.
Already, the Nigerian Intervention Movement, co-chaired by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba (SAN) and Dr. Abdujalil Tafawa-Balewa, is presently holding alliance talks with the Coalition for New Nigeria, a coalition of 35 political parties.
The NIM said in a statement that it was holding separate and joint meetings with the Labour Party, United Progressive Party, Action Democratic Party, Action Alliance and several others.
It stated, “The NIM Coalition team has just ended a marathon coalition talks separately and jointly in Abuja at various locations with the Labour Party, United Progressive Party, Alliance for New Nigeria, Action Democratic Party, and Action Alliance in a process of setting up a national grand electoral alliance for 2019.
“All the parties have, by and large, agreed to the NIM’s terms and therefore asked to go and reaffirm the endorsement of their leadership organs and structures to avoid future problems.
“The MOU with the prospective coalition party and other parties in the electoral alliance will be signed next week after due consultations with their various leadership organs and the steering committee meeting of NIM must have given its nod and endorsement.”
It was learnt that the SDP was expected to hold talks with the NIM next week as well.
The Obasanjo-led Coalition for Nigeria Movement had adopted the ADC as its party.
The National Coordinator of the Obasanjo coalition, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, had told a gathering on Thursday that there was still room for the ADC to forge alliance with other interested parties to oust Buhari in the next general elections.
Speaking with our correspondent on Saturday, a source close to Obasanjo said the move had spurred others into action, not wanting to be left out.
The source added, “We have just nine months to the elections and the other groups, especially the NIM, were being slow about it. So, Obasanjo felt time was running out. With what he has done, others have woken up and the alliance talks are beginning to move quicker.
“In the coming days, you will see defections and re-alignments as the main opposition begins to take shape.”
When asked why the parties were forging alliances instead of a merger like the APC did in 2013, the source explained that the time was too short, adding that it might not be able to contain the aftermath before the general elections.
The source added, “The Electoral Act states that no new political party will be registered six months to the general elections. That means August is the deadline. With the way politics is today, coupled with the fact that INEC serves an APC-led government, we may not be able to meet up.
“Also, the time is too short for all the political parties to agree. Who will step down for who? How will we conduct congresses in time? So, the alliance is the best bet.”
The source said talks were ongoing with the PDP as the former ruling party begins to consider the possibility of changing its name.
He stated that the PDP was also interested in the alliance.
The Chairman of the Coalition for New Nigeria, Dr. Yunusa Tanko, who is also a former National Chairman of Inter-Party Advisory Council, confirmed to one of our correspondents that over 35 parties were holding talks in order to form an alliance.
He said the PDP had also approached the other parties for a possible alliance.
“The CNN is a coalition or a group of several political parties but we only form alliances, not mergers. There are alignments and re-alignments happening in some of the parties within our group. One of our members, which is the ADC, was recently adopted by Obasanjo,” Tanko added.
When asked if all the parties would be working together to oust Buhari in 2019, he said, “You cannot rule out anything. As it is now, there are re-alignments of forces and we will see where things we go. The ADC is only one of our members.”
He said the SDP was not part of the coalition, noting, however, that there was room for the party to join.
When asked about the PDP, he said, “The PDP is not yet a member of the CNN but they (party officials) are making overtures towards us and trying to align with our political parties. Some of our members got calls from the PDP and said the PDP told them that they would not be able to work alone and they need to align with other existing political parties. So, the alignments are still taking shape.”
PDP opens discussion with other opposition parties
When contacted on Saturday, the PDP said it had opened discussions with other political parties on how to get Buhari out office in 2019.
Already, it said its committee, saddled with the responsibility of holding discussions with the affected political parties, had swung into action.
The committee, which is known as Contact Committee, and headed by a former Governor of Cross River State, Senator Liyel Imoke, was inaugurated by the party’s National Chairman, Prince Uche Secondus, about two weeks ago.
The National Publicity Secretary of the party, Mr. Kola Ologbondiyan, told one of our correspondents in Abuja on Saturday that the committee was already working on its mandate.
He said, “The committee, which is headed by Senator Imoke, is already discussing with all opposition political parties.
“The task of removing the incompetent Buhari Presidency is not our plan aloe; it is that of the entire oppressed Nigerians, even within the ruling party, the All Progressives Congress.
“We will meet with all the political parties that are genuinely committed to true change in the country.
“We expect our committee to brief us soon on its findings and discussions with both the opposition parties and individuals.”
It was, however, unclear if the committee would brief the Secondus-led National Working Committee this week or not. SUNDAY PUNCH, however, learnt that Imoke and his team met with leaders of some political parties last week.
Also, the National Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Mr. Alfa Mohammed, confirmed to one of our correspondents on the telephone on Saturday that alliance talks were ongoing.
Mohammed said the primary objective of all opposition parties remained removing Buhari from the Presidency in 2019.
When asked if the PDP would be part of the alliance, Mohammed said many prominent members of the PDP, like a former Deputy Governor of Osun State, Iyiola Omisore; a former Minister of Information, Prof. Jerry Gana; and many others were already in the SDP.
He added, “In 2015, the SDP adopted the PDP candidate as its own presidential candidate; so, we already have a working relationship. It will not be hard for us to work together in 2019. They may even support our own presidential candidate as a way of returning the favour.”
Attempts to speak with the Chairman of the ADC, Okey Nwosu, proved abortive as his telephone line indicated that it was busy for two consecutive days.
He had, however, said, while welcoming the Obasanjo group, that the ADC was open to talks in order to forge alliances ahead of 2019.
We are not scared of opposition — APC
Meanwhile, the APC says it has no cause to fret over the coming together of opposition political parties, stating that most Nigerians now appreciate its pioneering efforts in setting the nation on the right path.
The National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, said this in a telephone interview with SUNDAY PUNCH, on Saturday.
Abdullahi stated, “Like I have said over time, we are practising a multi-party democracy and in this kind of system, it is the more, the merrier.
“As for parties coming together, they are welcome. We have no reason to feel threatened because we are confident that Nigerians appreciate the credible leadership the President Muhammadu Buhari-led APC administration has provided.”