FROM OPPOSITION TO GOVERNING PARTY: NIGERIA’S APC MERGER STORY

INTRODUCTION

July 31, 2013 was a very important day that will never be forgotten in the political history of Nigeria. It was on that day that the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) announced the registration of the All Progressives Congress (APC). This new political party came into existence as a merger of three former major opposition political parties: the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN); the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP); the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC); with groups from the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the Democratic Peoples Party (DPP). As a result of the registration of APC, the political map of the country changed drastically.

A day earlie-r, on July 30, 2013 Nigeria had six political parties that controlled at least one state out of thirty-six (36) states in the country. The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), controlled twenty-three (23) states, namely Abia, Ebonyi, Enugu, Bayelsa, Akwa Ibom, Cross River, Delta, Rivers, Benue, Plateau, Kogi, Kwara, Niger, Adamawa, Bauchi, Gombe, Taraba, Kaduna, Katsina, Kano, Jigawa, Sokoto and Kebbi. The ACN controlled six (6) states: Lagos, Ogun, Ekiti, Oyo, Osun and Edo. The ANPP controlled three (3) states: Borno, Yobe and Zamfara. The CPC controlled Nasarawa State. The APGA controlled two states: Anambra and Imo. The Labour Party controlled Ondo State.

A day later, on July 31, 2013, the political map of the country changed. The number of political parties which controlled government at the state level reduced from six to four. The APC controlled eleven states: Borno, Yobe, Zamfara, Nasarawa, Imo, Edo, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Ogun, and Lagos. These eleven states were originally controlled by the CAN, ANPP, CPC and APGA.

The emergence of the APC changed the character of politics in the country. A successful merger of the ACN, ANPP, CPC and groups from APGA and DPP into the APC is the first of its kind in the political history of Nigeria. It is also the first time that major political parties which control government at the state level, have successfully merged anywhere in Africa. This occurrence is also rare in the world. With this successful merger, the ACN, ANPP and CPC no longer existed as political parties because the INEC cancelled their certificates of registration.

The APC became the strongest single opposition political party in the political history of the country. In 1999, the All Peoples Party (APP), which later became the ANPP, controlled nine states: Kebbi, Sokoto, Zamfara, Jigawa, Borno, Yobe, Gombe, Kwara and Kogi. These nine states were concentrated in three geopolitical zones of the North-West, North-East and North-Central. All the nine states are in the North. On the other hand, the APC had eleven states in the six geopolitical zones of the country. Four of the states are in the North-East, North-West and North Central. The remaining seven states are in the South-West, South-South and South East of the country.

The birth of the APC has strengthened competition in the political arena, because there cannot be an effective democracy without opposition. The APC is providing new options that will further strengthen democratic practice in the country. All the people in the ruling party and even many others who are not members of any political party, who do not like how the government is run, now have a place to go. Before the formation of the APC, the opposition was fragmented into smaller political parties so that those who desired change in the way the government was run did not have a viable choice.

The APC provided that choice. It has become the vehicle through which good governance can be delivered in the country. All those in government, who belong to the ruling political party, now know that with an alternative strong political party in opposition, they have to perform if they ever want to be re-elected. This in itself will make those in government work hard, so as to serve the best interest of the people. This they know is the only way they can hope to remain in government.

Also, with a strong opposition political party, it becomes easier to have free, fair and credible elections in the country. As long as one political party was so dominant as to occupy almost all the political space in the country, as was the case in the past where one political party controlled three-quarters of the states as well as more than two-thirds of the members of both the Senate and House of Representatives, the lack of effective competition promoted electoral malpractices.

In the absence of effective competition in the political arena, the dominant ruling political party may feel secure. This may breed arrogance of power and promote impunity in the way government is run. The well-being and welfare of the people are given secondary consideration. Hence, those in power work to promote their self-interest over and above the national interest. Even internal democracy within the ruling political party, suffers tremendously. Democracy becomes threatened, as what is promoted in unfortunately government of the few, for the few, to the detriment of many.

It was against the above backdrop that a giant was born, in the formation of the All Progressives Congress. The giant became even stronger when on November 26, 2013, the new PDP joined the APC. By this singular action, an additional five States came under the control of the APC. This helped give the APC an advantage in the number of registered voters in states under its control.

As a result of this development, the politics of Nigeria will no longer be the same. Nigeria will gradually move away from the politics of personality to the politics of ideas. The factors that helped people win elections in the past may no longer be the same, as those which will enable them win elections in the future. The competition in the political arena will help bring stability to the country. It will also help to unite our people and ultimately help build a stronger Nigerian nation.

My greatest joy is that the APC came into existence as Nigeria became one hundred years old. One hundred years of our country has come and gone. The next one hundred years will be better. We will effectively deploy the lessons we learnt in the past one hundred years, to guide us in the journey toward nation-building in the next one hundred years.

Ogbonnaya Onu
Uburu, Ebonyi State
Nigeria
May, 2015


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