BY JOHNBOSCO AGBAKWURU
As the aphorism goes, “Politics is a game of intrigues.” It is a game that requires both physical and mental alertness.
Since the announcement by the three opposition parties: the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP, as well as a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance, APGA, on February 6, 2013, to form a mega party under the name, All Progressive Congress, with APC as its acronym, to wrest power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the merging parties have known no peace.
In an electrifying atmosphere at the Maitama residence of the ACN chieftain and chairman, Joint Merger Committee, Chief Tom Ikimi, after a meeting with about nine governors that won their elections on the platform of the merger political parties, and perhaps with the mindset that the parties will take over the political landscape of the country, Ikimi told the world in a press conference that the parties had agreed to merge and adopt the name, APC.
Unknown to the merger group, while still basking in the euphoria of the seemingly political points it had scored, a political association, African Peoples Congress, another association sharing the APC acronym, took the country by surprise as they applied to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, to be registered as a political party.
This development brought confusion, accusation and counter accusation from the merger group against INEC as the commission was accused of working in concert with the PDP to scuttle the ongoing merger plan.
The merger group, after pointing accusing fingers at PDP and INEC, said they owned the intellectual property of the acronym having, in a press conference that was widely published, announced that they proposed to merge under the name All Progressives Congress, with APC as the acronym.
On the other side, the African Peoples Congress, with relatively unknown political personae, in a colourful ceremony at its Apo headquarters, Abuja on March 14, 2013, unveiled its logo, constitution and acronym.
Speaking at the ceremony, the Acting National Chairman of the group, Chief Onyinye Ikeagwuonu, lamented what he described as poverty of leadership in the country since 1999, saying that the African Peoples Congress was on a rescue mission.
Legal Adviser of African Peoples Congress, Mr. Kingsley Nnadi, said the acronym should not be the problem, but it should be the name, adding that any other group making claim to the acronym APC had not made any official request to INEC which, he said, his African Peoples Congress had made.
He debunked the allegation that the African peoples congress was hurriedly floated by the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, to scuttle the registration of All Progressives Congress, stressing that if the PDP had done well, there would have not been any need to float his APC.
‘No mortal can stop our registration’
AS the struggle for ownership of the acronym APC continues, African Peoples Congress boasted that no mortal could stop the registration of the party.
Acting National Secretary of the association, Sa’id Balogun, in a statement, accused a federal commissioner with INEC from the South West of leaking official information to the opposition political parties that had been on the merger talks.
INEC disqualifies African Peoples Congress
Despite the claim by the African Peoples Congress to have fulfilled all necessary requirements before INEC, the commission, on March 25, 2013, rejected its application, saying the association breached Section 222 (a) of the 1999 Nigeria Constitution as amended.
Confirming the rejection of the application, the then Director of Public Affairs of the commission, Emmanuel Umenger, said: “The commission has written to this political association and had stated in very clear terms that they are in breach of section 222 (a) of the constitution with the additional explanations stated in the letter.
“The commission also observed that the submission made on form PA 1 does not contain the addresses of the national officers of the political association as stipulated. It means this association has the responsibility to prove, because these are the things the commission has observed and the law says if you do not meet any of these requirements, you will not be registered as a political party.”
Ikeagwuonu accused the merger political parties of being behind the rejection of his group’s application.
“Unfortunately, INEC may have pandered to the whims and sentiments of the merger party who evidently are still grappling with the frustration of their inability to do the simplest task expected of an association scheming to be registered as a political party,” he said.
All Progressive Congress reacts
Commenting on the controversy, the Secretary of CPC merger committee, Mr. Okoi Obono-Obla, said there was no controversy, claiming that what was seen as controversy was laid to rest when INEC rejected the registration of the African Peoples Congress.
“There is no controversy over the acronym. INEC has rejected the application of the purported African Peoples Congress. Let them go to court if they wish, that is their business. INEC has said that they did not meet the requirements. Let them go to court and prove that they have met the requirements,” Obla said.
“We are forging ahead, we are holding our different conventions, CPC has slated her convention for 11th of May in Abuja , ACN has fixed 18th of April and ANPP has also fixed. After we have concluded our conventions, we will submit our documentation to INEC. INEC is expected to recognize us within 30 days.
“We have intellectual property of the name. We told them on the 6th of February. In law, there is what is called constructive notice; we gave them constructive notice, so, by law, we are right. The name was reported; even the INEC spokesperson reacted when we announced the name and he acknowledged it.”
Battle taken to the temple of justice
Still in a spirited attempt to reclaim the acronym, African Peoples Congress has dragged INEC to the Federal High Court, Abuja, seeking an order of the court to compel the commission to register it as a political party.
In the suit, number FHC/ABJ/CS/224/2013, which is yet to be heard, the association is praying for a declaration that the Defendant (INEC) lacks the discretion and/or has no power to refuse to register an association as a political party once the conditions stipulated by the said defendant for such registration are met.
Other reliefs sought were a declaration that the plaintiffs being the principal members and promoters of the association known as African Peoples Congress have met all conditions of eligibility for the registration of African Peoples Congress as a political party; an order commanding/directing the defendant to register the association known as and called the African Peoples Congress as a political party forthwith; and an order of prohibition prohibiting the registration of any other association known as and called African Peoples Congress or having the acronym ‘APC’ as a political party pending the hearing and determination of the suit; and an order of perpetual injunction restraining the defendant from registering any other association or known as and called African Peoples Congress or having the acronym ‘APC’ as a party.
As the battle now shifts to court, political observers are keenly watching how the African Peoples Congress will prove their case that they fulfilled the requirements as stipulated by the Electoral Act for registration as a political party.
INEC claims that the association did not supply information on the residential addresses of its national officers although the association claimed that the office addresses of its officials were contained in the form it filled and submitted to the commission.
The issues of intellectual property of the acronym APC which the merger parties claimed belong to them and the constructive notice as argued may likely be decided.
Political analysts argue that the merging political parties may likely be compelled to change their merger name, while the African Peoples Congress may be granted ownership of the acronym APC, depending on how it ventilates its case in court.
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