The missing certificate of registration of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the pending court suit instituted by a rival political association, African Peoples Congress, APC, challenging the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, for refusing to register it, are threatening to derail the registration All Progressives Congress.
This is just as the Committee on Legal Constitution Compliance of the merging party meets Monday to brainstorm on how to resolve the thorny issues facing the APC.
The 20-member committee, headed by James Ocholi, a senior lawyer, was constituted in February, to among other things, determine and examine all legal issues relating to the process of the merger as well as liaise with INEC and all other relevant agencies to ensure a smooth consummation of the merger.
It will also provide guidelines to all the parties involved in the merger, which will ensure full compliance with all relevant laws by all the parties.
Its members include the Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima; former governor of Zamfara State and senator, Ahmad Yarima; former Rivers State governor, Celestine Omehia; former Benue State governor and senator, George Akume; ACN Chairman in Lagos State, Henry Ajomale; former Police Affairs Minister, Ibrahim Lame and; James Ocholi, SAN.
Party officials told PREMIUM TIMES the meeting of the committee was convened three days ago by Mr. Ocholi to discuss the confusion trailing the CPC’s registration certificate, the pending suit and other sundry legal issues which have the potential of hindering the registration of the association as a party.
Although the three parties in the merger deal – Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP – in fulfillment of one of the requirements of the Electoral Act 2010 – have concluded their national conventions where members approved special resolution for the parties to fuse into APC, the unresolved issues may not only delay the association’s request to INEC for registration but may jeopardize its chances of registration.
Section 84 (5) of the Act says, “Where the request for the proposed merger is approved, the Commission shall withdraw and cancel the certificates of registration of all the political parties opting for the merger and substitute a single certificate of registration in the name of the party resulting from the merger.”
The Electoral Act, in Section 84 (3) (b) states that the application for merger to be sent to INEC shall be accompanied by “proposed full name and acronym, constitution, manifesto, symbol or logo of the party, together with the addresses of the national office of the party resulting from the merger.”
The certificate saga has been rocking the CPC since 2010 when a new National Working Committee, NWC, emerged at a national convention held that year in Abuja.
The founding National Chairman of CPC, Rufai Hanga, who was replaced with the incumbent chairman, Tony Momoh, held on to the certificate in protest after he was blocked from re-contesting for the position.
Mr. Hanga, a former senator and some members of the former NWC challenged their removal from office in the High Court of the Federal Capital Territory, FCT. The case is still ongoing.
The CPC hierarchy, according to sources, considered it politically inexpedient at the time to allow Mr. Hanga to return to the position in anticipation that its leader and Chairman of Board of Trustees, BoT, Muhammadu Buhari, who hails from the same North West geo-political zone as the former national chairman, would pick the party’s presidential ticket.
While Mr. Buhari hails from Katsina State, Mr. Hanga is an indigene of Kano State.
However, in the early days of the formation of the APC, a national leader of the ACN, Bola Tinubu, met with Mr. Hanga in Abuja during which he extracted a promise from the former CPC chairman that he would return the certificate. He has failed to do so.
After the meeting with Mr. Tinubu, the former CPC national chairman told journalists that he was prepared to make any sacrifice to ensure the success of the merger in the interest of the country.
“We’re committed to have a change; we have discussed and we will have to consult our people in order to forge ahead. We understand that we have to do it for Nigerians,” he said at the time. “We are part of the APC. We are in court challenging the status of the CPC leadership but with this merger, there would not be anything like CPC leadership or that of any other party that belongs to the merger.
“I am not after clinging to the position of chairman, what we want is to declare them as illegal, but with the proposed merger and our meeting today with Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a new leadership that can take us to the Promised Land is coming. We’re ready to do anything that will make the merger possible. For Nigeria, for the masses and the downtrodden, we are ready to withdraw the case and release the certificate of registration to make the merger possible. For Nigerians, for the masses, for the downtrodden and for what we are suffering now, I am ready to do anything.”
Repeated attempts to reach the former CPC chairman and the former party spokesman, Dennis Aghanya, both of whom instituted the suit, were not successful. The incumbent spokesman of the party, Rotimi Fashakin, could not also be reached as his telephone was switched off Sunday.
However, a member representing CPC in the merger committee, Osita Okechukwu, dismissed Mr. Hanga tactic, saying the issue will not stop APC from requesting registration or hamper its chances of being registered.
Mr. Okechukwu added that the party had since approached the police and the court to swear an affidavit that its certificate was missing, adding that Mr. Hanga risks being arrested.
“That is not an issue,” Mr Okechukwu told PREMIUM TIMES in a telephone interview. “How can a managing director claim that he is the owner of a company when the chairman is there?”
He added, “We’ve declared an affidavit in court that our certificate is missing. There are two things: In the example I have given, if the MD goes away with the certificate of incorporation, he is either arrested by the police or the CAC produces certified copy of the certificate of incorporation and in our own case, it is INEC.
“If you go to the police to complain that your property is missing, whoever they find it with, is a criminal. INEC has been relating with us. It did in 2011, 2012 and last Saturday when we had our national convention.”
The African Peoples Congress also insisted that it is not contemplating withdrawing its legal action to pave way for smooth registration of the merging APC.
“We’re not contemplating withdrawing our case and we don’t know if it is jeopardizing the chances of any association from being registered. We instituted a case against INEC for refusing to register us and that is what we know,” the Acting National Secretary of the party, Sa’id Balogun, told PREMIUM TIMES.
Mr. Balogun, however, said if the merging parties had made overtures to his party, they would probably have considered other options that could benefit APC, adding “but these people keep threatening us, intimidating us and accusing us of being sponsored by PDP. None of us is a card-carrying member of PDP and we have always criticized PDP.”
When contacted, Mr Ocholi refused to speak on the issues and the committee’s coming meeting. “I am not in a position to tell you anything. No, no, no, I don’t want to talk please, have a good evening, thanks,” he said.