BEFORE his gruesome murder on December 23, 2001, former Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Chief James Ajibola Ige, had predicted realignment of political forces in the protracted battle to liberate the Nigerian society.
Ige, who was regarded as the author of the constitutions of the then three leading parties, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alliance for Democracy (AD) and All Peoples Party (APP), foresaw a situation where progressive elements in the parties would come together under one umbrella in a bid to bail Nigeria out of alleged misrule by the PDP.
Ige’s “political” son and Interim National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Chief Bisi Akande, also recently indicated the possibility of the progressives having a working political arrangement with like-minded people in other parties, to salvage the nation from the “inept” rule by PDP.
So, when the news dominated the airwaves that a faction of the PDP, led by Alhaji Kawu Baraje, had decided to shift political allegiance from the party and to the APC, many political observers saw the move as a fulfillment of the expectations and prediction of many Nigerians.
The PDP had always boasted that before 2015, it would have perfected strategies to take over governance from the five APC governments in the Southwest region. However, the latest development in the polity seems to have made the PDP desire a tall dream.
All the same, the merger of the New-PDP and five governors with the APC in Osun State may be regarded as a blessing to the ruling party, in fact, to the state governor, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola and other party leaders in view of the 2014 governorship election less than eight months away.
However, a likely major obstacle in change in political affiliation is compatibility in orientation and objectives. Those coming to join the APC from the PDP are from a different political background and share a different value system, which might run contrary to what obtains generally in the APC.
A member of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT) and former Minister of Transport, Chief Ebenezer Babatope, described the merger as the coming together of strange political bedfellows.
To him, the political marriage might not take long before it hits the rock. But Babatope’s former senior associate in the defunct Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), Senator Ayo Fasanmi, considers the move as a welcome development in the quest by the APC to consolidate its position in the Southwest and beyond. Fasanmi noted that the implosion in the PDP was long overdue, stressing that many people expected defection of more members from the ruling PDP to join the popular clamour for a change in leadership at the centre.
That said, there are elements in the PDP that have distinct political ambition to realise in 2014; and the APC has penciled down incumbent Aregbesola as a sole candidate for the governorship race. The thinking in the APC circle is that Aregbesola should be allowed to fly the party flag in 2014, to enable him complete his projects in the areas of road infrastructure, education reform policies, job creation, urban renewal and development of the economy, particularly the tourism industry.
Still, the merger may run into stormy waters in the process of choosing candidates for other elective and appointive political offices, especially if the APC leadership is not ready to shift ground and accommodate the new comers. But feelers from the APC leaders appear to have negated this political line of thought. At a rally marking the three-year anniversary of Governor Aregbesola in office, held at the Freedom Park in Osogbo last week, there was convergence of opinions by party chieftains to give the merger opportunity to survive by welcoming the new members with open arms.
Party leaders believe that the merger is another opportunity to strengthen the party and widen its political base and popularity. And if the disposition of Governor Aregbesola, who is the party leader in the state, is anything to go by, the merger may have a smooth sail because people, who had joined the APC from other parties, are being given equal opportunities. For example, notable persons in opposition parties had been appointed as Special Advisers in various areas. Elder Peter Babalola, a former Chief of Staff to former Governor Olagunsoye Oyinlola, now occupies an exalted position as chairman of the Local Government Service Commission and giving due recognition at every party forum.
Babalola’s appointment to oversee affairs at the sensitive local council level is a demonstration of the trust and confidence Aregbesola might have reposed in the former PDP chieftain. So, in Osun, the merger between APC and New-PDP may not experience many hiccups due to the disposition of Governor Aregbesola, who has been working round the clock to bring all segments of the society to the APC family.
This temperament may be in tandem with the governor’s promise after his inauguration to be fair to all by running an all-inclusive administration without recourse to the alleged persecution of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) by the ousted PDP government in the state.
Although it is too early to decipher the position of the former Governor Oyinlola in the merger, political pundits believe that he may toe the line of Alhaji Baraje and others, who moved to the APC after the Supreme Court had given its ruling on an appeal filed by the PDP on the reinstatement of Oyinlola to position of the disputed PDP national secretary.
Nonetheless, The Guardian learnt that a PDP grassroots mobiliser and first Secretary to the State Government under Oyinlola, Alhaji Fatai Akinbade, and his group might not align themselves with the merger. Akinbade, at a recent meeting with party loyalists, reportedly decided to join the newly registered Peoples Democratic Movement (PDP) being led by former Vice President Atiku Abubakar.
This position may have been informed by his long-standing ambition to contest the 2014 governorship race; thus, Akinbade’s group might regard joining the APC as an obstacle to his ambition since the APC has unofficially endorsed Aregbesola for a second term ticket.
Yet, the APC is likely to be the gainer in the merger process in Osun being the ruling party, which naturally attracts people from other parties to its fold.