A move to present a united front against Nigeria’s ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, has thrown major opposition parties into disarray, checks by DAILY POST have revealed.
On Thursday, 7th December, 2023, reports emerged that seven opposition political parties have come together to form what is known as Coalition of Concerned Political Parties, CCPP.
The seven parties are – Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, African Democratic Congress, ADC, Social Democratic Party, SDP, Peoples Allied Movement, PAM, New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Young Progressives Party, YPP, and Zenith Labour Party, ZLP.
The Coalition, intended to strengthen democracy in the country by presenting effective opposition to the ruling APC, was reportedly formed at a meeting attended by leaders of the seven political parties at the headquarters of the SDP in Abuja.
National Chairman of the SDP, Shehu Gabam, said the parties were worried about the level of instability in the country, especially against a backdrop of controversial court rulings on elections in Zamfara, Nasarawa, Kano and Plateau states.
Opposition parties suffered major judicial losses in legal battles concerning elections in those states.
Nigeria’s leading opposition party, the PDP, was reportedly represented at the meeting by the acting National Secretary Setonji Koshoedo, who stood in for the acting National Chairman, Umar Damagum.
The main objective of the Coalition is to strengthen Nigeria’s democracy by offering a strong opposition, according to the party leaders who were at the meeting.
It was also stated that the coalition will not lead to a merger, meaning that the political parties will remain independent entities even as they work together towards dislodging the APC.
But checks by DAILY POST revealed that the Coalition took off on a shaky note, and appeared dead on arrival, due to several factors, especially internal squabbles in the concerned political parties.
It was learnt that some of the party leaders who attended the meeting which birthed the CCPP did not have the full authorization of their parties to go into the Coalition.
Although the PDP acting National Secretary, Koshoedo, was reported to be at the meeting, and endorsed the Coalition, the party has distanced itself from the alliance.
Debo Ologunagba, PDP spokesman, told DAILY POST that the party is not aware of the Coalition and has no part in it.
“We are not in any merger talks with anybody. Every other party in this country came from the PDP so how will we be merging?
“Every other party in this country today is a part of PDP, so how can we be merging with them? We are not aware of the merger,” he said in a telephone interview with DAILY POST on Sunday, 10th December.
The NNPP, one of the political parties that reportedly formed the Coalition, had in a statement by its factional National Working Committee, NWC, on Friday, 8th December, said it has not discussed the issue of forming a coalition now or in the near future with any other party.
The statement was signed by the acting National Chairman of the Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso faction of the party, Abba Kawu Ali.
However, speaking with DAILY POST on Sunday, 10th December, Agbo Major, the acting National Chairman of the camp that comprises the original members of the NNPP, said Ali was actually the one that attended the meeting to endorse the Coalition on behalf of the party.
Major also distanced the NNPP from the Coalition, and insisted that Ali and the NWC he leads have been expelled from the party.
“We are not part of the Coalition. It is those misguided elements – the expelled Abba Kawu and Oladipupo Olayokun that went to attend the meeting.
“They are not members of our party and we debunked it (membership of the CCPP) immediately, that’s why you can see now that they have turned round to say they are not (part of the Coalition) because they know that that is not the mood of the party.
“These people are not members of our party. Abba Kawu and Dipo Olayokun were expelled. We are not part of any Coalition. NNPP is not part of it, Abba Kawu and Dipo Olayokun went there out of their own selfish interests and the party has disowned them,” Major said.
Similarly, although the now controversial Coalition was formed during a meeting at the Abuja national headquarters of the SDP, a faction of the party, in a statement by Alfa Mohammed, National Publicity Secretary, disowned the Coalition.
He described it as part of a plot “to turn public opinion against the current government, (President Bola Tinubu administration) potentially leading to its undemocratic removal”.
“However, the SDP firmly distances itself from such unpatriotic and undemocratic political tactics,” the statement added, noting that “certain (SDP) factions illegitimately recognized by INEC” were the ones involved in the Coalition.
We don’t want to be part of Coalition – Labour Party
While the political parties listed as part of the Coalition struggle with problems that followed the announcement, the Labour Party, LP, has decided to steer clear of the alliance.
The LP is regarded as one of the leaders of the opposition but the party was not listed among the members of the CCPP.
Asked if the Coalition can work without the LP, and why the party was not part of the CCPP, a spokesman of the LP, Obiora Ifoh, told DAILY POST that the party will be standing alone.
“As you can see, LP was not part of the Coalition. We also do not intend to be. We are standing alone.
“However, our party will entertain discussions with other parties on how to improve our democracy, particularly on how to reform our electoral laws,” Ifoh said on Sunday.”
Coalition not properly conceived
Meanwhile, the Secretary-General of the Conference of Nigeria Political Parties, CNPP, Willy Ezugwu, has observed that the CCPP is taking off on a shaky note because the Coalition was not properly conceived.
The CNPP is an association of all the registered political parties in Nigeria.
Appraising the problems trailing the announcement of the Coalition, Ezugwu said, “In view of what is happening with the Coalition, you cannot put somebody’s name in an alliance without his consent or agreement.
“You should call a meeting and invite all the parties concerned then you can discuss. You cannot just come out to make the announcement without the knowledge of all the political parties involved.
“You must consult first. It is so bad that they have not even started building the house and the house has started falling.”
Should the opposition unite against APC?
Ezugwu noted that a united front by opposition parties, to checkmate the ruling APC, would be a welcome development.
But he doubted the chances of such an arrangement succeeding in the country at the moment.
“It is very very good if the opposition parties can form a united front but the ruling party in the country is always using money to buy those in the opposition.
“That is what is happening. There is no politician who can say he is innocent today because all of them are waiting for the ruling party, either at the state or federal level.
“That is why the opposition parties cannot come together. The hunger in the land is also a factor,” he said.
“The unfortunate thing in Nigeria is that once a political party is in power, all the other political parties want to get a share and it becomes as if there are no other political parties.
“Most times, it is only the civil society that does the job of the opposition. You cannot have effective opposition when most of them are waiting for an appointment from the ruling party. It is very unfortunate,” he added.
Pointing to the case of the APC – which succeeded in wresting power from the PDP following a merger involving Nigeria’s then largest opposition parties – the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, along with a breakaway faction of the All Progressives Grand Alliance, APGA, and the New PDP – a faction of the PDP, Major agreed on the need for a coalition.
But he was quick to add that what was proposed with the formation of the CCPP was a coalition, and not a merger, like the APC.
He stressed that a coalition of opposition parties is a novel arrangement which has not been tested in Nigeria.
“I have always insisted that the more the better, but what is the original agenda (of the Coalition)? Who is driving it? If you come together the job becomes easier like we saw in the case of APC.
“That (APC) was even a merger but here people are talking about a coalition. There is a big difference between coalition and merger.
“A merger means your certificate will cease to exist – you return it to INEC and you adopt one single name. But a coalition means that your certificates are still standing but you are working together.
“Nobody has tested coalition here before but merger has been tested and it has given the APC result. So for the first time people are considering a coalition but it has not been tested since the advent of our democracy.”
Questioning the credibility of those championing the CCPP, the NNPP acting National Chairman said a coalition cannot work unless it is led by the right people.
“It is not as if it is not workable. The question is who are those driving it? Is it those selfish people that we have seen on the TV pushing it?
“It will not work unless people who are genuine democrats, who are interested in the survival of our democracy, are allowed to drive it,” he declared.