OPPOSITION PARTIES ALLIANCE TALKS CRASH
With the expiration tomorrow of the deadline for parties to replace candidates ahead of the April elections, the opposition may have missed an opportunity to forge an alliance to displace the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Sunday Sun gathered that a last-ditch effort by four of the parties to work out an alliance broke down due to irreconcilable differences.
The parties that attended the meeting in Abuja were Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), and Social Democratic Mega Party (SDMP). Sources said the parties were represented by their presidential candidates, running mates and national chairrmen of the parties.
They were Chief Bisi Akande, Nuhu Ribadu and Sunny Ugockukwu (ACN); Prince Tony Momoh, General Muhammadu Buhari and Pastor Tunde Bakare (CPC); and Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and Chief John Odigie-Oyegun (ANPP). The ANPP presidential candidate, Alhaji Ibrahim Shekarau, did not attend the meeting as he was said to be away in the United Kingdom. SDMP, the new entrant into the alliance talks, was represented by its presidential candidate, Prof. Pat Utomi. It could not be ascertained if his running mate, Lawal Funtua, attended.
Except the opposition parties are able to revive the talks and reach an agreement by today, 18 presidential candidates already cleared by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for the April 9 election will run on the platform of their individual parties. According to the INEC timetable for the general elections, the window for parties to replace candidates for the presidential election will close tomorrow. Sources told Sunday Sun that the parties at the alliance talks in Abuja could not agree on the platform on which a joint presidential candidate would run under the coalition.
Although they conceded to the CPC, whose presidential candidate is Buhari, to produce the coalition's standard bearer, the party rejected the platform on which he would run. ANPP that also conceded the presidential slot to the CPC was, however, not willing to let go of its platform because, according to the party, it has the widest spread across the country among all the four parties. It was learnt that the party actually prefer the ACN to produce the presidential candidate instead of the CPC.
The source said the ANPP's position was a fallout of the crisis of confidence between its leadership and that of the CPC, which led to the exit of Buhari from the ANPP. National Publicity Secretary of ANPP, Emmanuel Eneukwu, confirmed the meeting on a possible alliance, but could not explain why it ended in a deadlock. He confirmed that his party's delegation to the meeting was led by Onu. National Publicity Secretary of CPC, Rotimi Fashakin, who was part of previous meetings of opposition parties to forge an alliance, said he was not aware of the Abuja meeting.
According to him, past meetings succeeded in harmonising programmes of the opposition parties, but did not do so with a view to producing a joint candidate for the presidential election. Chief Press Secretary to INEC Chairman, Kayode Idowu, told Sunday Sun that the deadline for substitution and withdrawal of candidates by political parties for the presidential election, as published in the INEC guidelines for the elections, was sacrosanct.
He said: 'INEC's timelines as far as the elections are concerned remains unchanged.'