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2015: OPPOSITION PARTIES 'LL CONCLUDE MERGER TALKS IN 2013 - SHEKARAU

By NBF News
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The claim of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party ( PDP) to rule forever will be put to test as  leading opposition parties, including  the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) may conclude merger talks in April 2013.

Former Kano State Governor Ibrahim Shekarau disclosed this during an interactive session with some select journalists in Abuja on Saturday.

Shekarau is the chairman of 21-man committee of the ANPP  mandated to reposition the party in terms of bringing in  both new members and funding.

The committee was also saddled with the responsibility of ensuring that aggrieved ANPP members were brought back to the party.

The Shekarau committee was also directed to discuss merger talks with other opposition parties.

According to him, the opposition parties have started the merger talks in good time in order to avoid the mistakes of what happened in 2011.

He added that the desire of the stakeholders was to have a single formidable opposition party to challenge the dominance of the PDP in 2015 general polls and not to go into alliances.

Commenting on the ongoing merger talks, 'Our party (ANPP) has made it very clear to the ACN and the CPC that we are committed to total merger and nothing else. We have had alliances in the past. We want to reach an understanding that in the end, we will dissolve into one entity because we have studied all the experiences right from the First Republic.

'Ninety per cent of the alliances entered into from the First Republic till date has not really worked. We believe as we progress in these discussions, more parties in the opposition will come on board. But these three main opposition parties have it in writing. The three parties have exchanged letters of interest among themselves. A lot of processes are involved,' he said.

This, in a nutshell, is what this committee is out to do. We have been given six months to do all of these.

When reminded that conflict of interest affected the alliance of the opposition parties in 2011, Shekarau responded that the parties were committed to make the merger talks work on the grounds that there was the need to give a dynamic government to the people.

He said, 'I think there is a fundamental difference between the period you are talking about in 2011 and now. There are two fundamental reasons that make them different. In 2011, we started late. The second reason is that negotiations started after all the parties have already held their congresses.

'They already had their presidential candidates on ground. That was part of what really made it difficult. There was the argument of who was going to step down for whom. Even if I wanted to step down for another person, I didn't have that freedom because it was not a personal mandate since primaries had already been conducted before the negotiations started.

'Again, our parties had already submitted names of candidates to INEC. When you merge, it is beyond the national election. When you merge, what do you do with the gubernatorial candidates in a state like Kano? These were not part of the discussions.

'In the end, we told ourselves, look, let us talk to ourselves sensibly. Another factor then was that we had only some weeks to go to the elections. What assurance do you have to adequately enlighten the electorate on their new identity? The candidates were all scared. These were all the difficulties. We agreed that after the elections, then we can start. If we are able to finish within the next six months, we will then have more than two years to sell our new identity to the public. These were the fundamental reasons that scuttled the previous one. It is 50 per cent solved already'.