The All Progressives Congress on Tuesday dared the Independent National Electoral Commission, saying it would not change its name as suggested by the electoral umpire.
The yet-to-be registered party also said there was no iota of truth in the claim by INEC that a group with the same acronym had approached it for registration as a political party.
The Chief Press Secretary to the commission’s Chairman, Mr. Kayode Idowu, was reported by a national daily (notThe PUNCH) to have urged opposition parties in the APC to consider a new name and abbreviation to facilitate the registration of their group as a political party.
“We don’t encourage political parties with similar names, manifestoes, logos and acronyms and this is aimed at avoiding confusion between registered political parties with similar names and acronyms,” the newspaper quoted Idowu to have said.
But some leaders of the opposition political parties that merged to form the APC said INEC must be lying about its claim.
They said the APC , which came into being as a result of the merger of three opposition political parties, would not change its identity.
The leaders were asked to comment on the speculations that other leaders of the APC were already considering to change the name to ADC.
Speaking with one of our correspondents, the National Publicity Secretary of the Action Congress of Nigeria, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the APC would not change its name.
He said, “No, we won’t change our name. We will stand by that name and that is what we want to be called at the commission.”
The Congress for Progressive Change spokesman, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, said he agreed with Mohammed.
Fashakin said, “ We shall show to the Nigerian people nay, the whole world that INEC is indeed in collusion with the ruling party, the PDP, to extirpate any vestige of constitutional democracy from Nigeria’s political space.”
He stated that the subterranean move by the PDP to scuttle the merger had boomeranged.
“They are unaware that their plot to surreptitiously lay this subterfuge as an impediment for the emergence of the new mega party would be unravelled at such an early stage,” the CPC spokesman added.
He then asked, “Did INEC intend to use this terse letter from a law firm as a reason for refusing the registration of the new mega opposition party even when requirements for registration have not been satisfied by this ‘African People’s Congress’ and its phony sponsors? Is there any collusion with INEC leadership in this secret plot?
“Did the Electoral Act contemplate a letter from a law firm as the condition precedent for the registration of a political party or such as enshrined in section 222 (a – e) of the 2010 constitution (as amended)?’
Also, a former Governorship candidate for the CPC in Enugu State, Chief Osita Okechuwku, insisted that the APC would not succumb to the pressure to change its identity.
He said, “We challenge INEC to resist the temptation of registration of mischief-makers and confusionists represented by a lawyer. The intendment of the constitution and the Electoral Act is that mischief-makers shall not be registered as political party. INEC can’t claim to be ignorant of the birth of APC on February 6. I can tell you that we won’t change our name as presently known.”
Okechukwu added that the merging parties had announced the formation of APC on February 6 through the media before the African Peoples Congress went to INEC.
When asked to react to opposition parties’ statement, Idowu on Tuesday said he did not say that APC should look for a new name.
“The truth of the matter also is that if it meets the requirement of the law, then INEC has no choice but to register it. It is not INEC’s decision; the law says you must meet conditions 1,2,3,4 and once you do so, whether INEC likes your face or not, you must be registered,” he said.
The ACN, had earlier in a statement on Tuesday accused INEC of misleading Nigerians by claiming that African Peoples Congress had applied for registration.
In a statement in Abuja by Mohammed, the party said that INEC’s claim, was not supported by the relevant sections of the Electoral Act regulating the registration of political parties.
It said the truth of the matter was that no party with the acronym APC had applied to INEC for registeration.
Claiming that African Peoples Congress was being sponsored by the PDP, the ACN said the group had only written a letter of intent to INEC.
The ACN stated, “The statement credited to Mr. Idowu is therefore reckless and provocative and clearly betrays INEC as truly having merged with the PDP to frustrate the merger of the progressives under the banner of the All Progressives’ Congress.
“ One wonders who the spokesman is speaking for and what interest he represents. He should therefore be called to order before he sets the country ablaze.”
The party said in order to debunk INEC’s claim that the African Peoples Congress had applied for registration, it called the attention of Nigerians to part V, section 78 (1) and Section 78(2) of the Electoral Act.
Section 78 (1) reads,
“A political association that complies with the provision of the constitution and this Act for the purposes of registration shall be registered as a political party, provided that such application shall be duly submitted to the commission not later than six months before a general election.”
Section 78 (2) says: “The commission shall on receipt of the documents in fulfillment of the conditions stipulated by the constitution immediately issue the applicant with a letter of acknowledgement stating that all necessary documents have been submitted to the commission.”
The ACN said, “In this case the applicants on behalf of the African Peoples Congress, the clients of Legal World Chambers, have not submitted any of the documents stipulated by the constitution to INEC. They have only written a letter of intent and therefore INEC could not have issued them any letter of acknowledgment, let alone starting the process of verifying the documents.
“At this point, they cannot even be regarded as applicants. Why then did INEC through its spokesperson gleefully go to the media to proclaim that another political association has applied to be registered as African Peoples Congress using the same acronym APC?
“Clearly, INEC is on a mission of mischief and its paymaster is the PDP which has been having sleepless nights since the merger arrangement was announced.’’
The party further called attention to Section 78 (6) of the Electoral Act, which says, “An application for registration as a political party shall not be processed unless there is evidence of payment of administrative fee as may be fixed from time to time by the commission”
ACN said it was aware that the applicants in question had not even paid any administrative fees and therefore INEC could not have commenced processing their application.
The party said that Idowu was misleading Nigerians and subverting extant regulations in order to scuttle the birth of the APC.
It said what had emerged over the registration issue was that INEC, in tandem with the PDP, was trying to stampede the merging parties into committing errors.
The ACN however called for vigilance on the part of all progressive forces in the country.
The party said that it had it on good authority that a top official of INEC had boasted that the emergence of the APC would be frustrated at all costs.
But the PDP took a swipe at opposition parties in the APC, saying its leaders lacked tact.
It said the opposition should have reserved or registered the proposed name of their party before embarking on a jamboree and propaganda.
The PDP, in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Chief Olisa Metuh, said the reality on the ground had shown that the leaders of the APC were all the while grandstanding; writing footnotes and glossary even when the first chapter of their history had not been successfully written.
It said, “Nigerians are here confronted with an irony! It is an irony of a political party who without adequate planning, without a solid working rhythm, yet wishes to be entrusted to its effete, shaky shoulders, the fate of over 160 million Nigerians
“Fortunately, Nigerians are witnessing first hand, the thoughtlessness and carelessness of the self-acclaimed political Messiahs, a fore warning that the nation, her people and our democracy are all in jopardy should they be entrusted with power. How can a group which could not conclude the basic as in due registration of its name be able to manage the affairs of Nigeria at this moment of critical challenge.
“At the basics, the APC and its conjugants – the ACN, CPC, ANPP – and others have once more advertised their boastful and deceitful predilection. Who could imagine that their coalition had yet to be registered before its leaders started throwing red rag to the bull?”
The PDP further said Nigerians had clearly seen the lies in the repeated claims by the coalition that some PDP governors and National Assembly members were planning to join them.