Talks have reached an advanced stage between the Congress for Progressive Change [CPC] and the Action Congress of Nigeria [ACN] to produce General Muhammadu Buhari as presidential candidate of a joint CPC/ACN ticket for the 2011 elections with former Lagos State governor Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as his running mate, top sources in both parties told Daily Trust in Abuja at the weekend. The sources denied media reports that the talks had collapsed...
High level sources in the two camps confirmed to Daily Trust the possibility of the Buhari/Tinubu ticket but said there are still challenges ahead. Our sources said that though the Tinubu associates feel the ticket is 'perfect' in view of the political strength of the two men in the North and Southwest respectively, some Buhari associates are treading cautiously to avoid compounding the 'erroneous' perception of Buhari as a religious zealot should he run on a Muslim/Muslim ticket in the election.
Some of his associates who reason against the Muslim-Muslim ticket are said to have advised that Buhari should consider picking a running mate from the Southeast. In view of this, they are said to have commenced discussions with some Igbo leaders including former vice president Alex Ekwueme. But CPC leaders who reject the Southeast running mate idea have told the General that there is at present no politician in the South East who has the standing that Asiwaju Tinubu has in the South West.
Tinubu's position was enormously enhanced in political circles by ACN's serial regaining of Edo, Ekiti and Onus states from the PDP through the courts. Even though Ondo State's Governor Olusegun Mimiko, who also toppled the PDP through the courts, officially belongs to the Labour Party, he is seen as another Tinubu ally.
A top source in the ACN who sought anonymity said the Buhari/Tinubu combination is not a serious impediment, and that Nigerians are only going to take it as "another doctrine of necessity." He said he believed that even the Christian Association of Nigeria [CAN] will welcome Tinubu's candidature because of his "sense of justice to the various religions" when he was governor of Lagos State.
The source said, "Nigerians will see it as another doctrine of necessity. We must look at Bola Ahmad Tinubu as a person that is acceptable to the Christians. As a governor, he promoted harmony among all religions. I know that there is a mosque and chapel in the Lagos government house where he ruled for eight years.
I know he returned schools to missionaries, both Muslims and Christians. So I do not see that as a serious impediment. And don't forget that there are certain parts of Nigeria, the south west in particular, where religion doesn't play too much role as a factor in politics. In south west, it is more about personality."
But even if serious talks are revived between the two groups, there are a number of tricky details to contend with. For instance, going by the electoral laws, it is now too late to do a merger of political parties. The question now has to do with the nature of agreement to be entered into, and whether such an agreement will only apply to the presidential election or across board.
Buhari and his associates in the CPC have always insisted on 'alliance' that would give Buhari the presidential slot so that the ACN will produce his running mate. But the ACN had insisted on 'merger' until the time for that elapsed based on the electoral laws.
A high level source in the ACN told Daily Trust that the last thing the ACN will agree to is an 'alliance' with the CPC. The source said it does not have to be a merger so long as it is not an alliance. The fusion he said could be in a name change, "even if it is something like ACPC."
He said the ACN is sceptical about entering into a merger agreement with Buhari because many of the members still believe that he is not yet "democratically domesticated enough" to be trusted to handle an alliance of different parties after winning an election. The fear is that General may not be accessible after election.
"But if we are all in the same political party, there is always a National Executive Committee [NEC] to call him [Buhari] and say look we want this, we don't want this," he said.
It would be recalled that a group of Democratic Peoples Party [DPP] members led by 2007 presidential candidate of the party Alhaji Attahiru Bafarawa had agreed with the then Action Congress [AC] and transformed into a new party, the ACN.
Meanwhile there are indications that General Muhammadu Buhari is under pressure within the CPC as a group of key supporters have told him that his only chance of ever becoming president lies in reaching some kind of understanding with a strong political group from the South, in particular the ACN.
Daily Trust learnt that the key allies have insisted that he must explore a working agreement with the ACN since the party has shown some interest in his candidature except if he wants "to go down in history as always being a candidate but never a president."
Buhari was said to have been challenged by the supporters during a meeting in Kaduna last Tuesday. Our source said the group appears to be succeeding as there are fresh moves to revive the stalled talks in order to find some common ground to work on.
Before now, Muhammadu Buhari's stiffness and possible sabotage by some of his close aides had made the CPC/ACN electoral understanding almost impossible, according to competent sources within both parties. The ACN even under its old name, Action Congress [AC] had never hidden its interest in working out an agreement with the two times presidential candidate of the opposition ANPP, now putative candidate of the newly formed CPC as a possible common front to dislodge the ruling PDP.
So far the effort has met with little success even as the national chairman of the ACN Chief Bisi Akande personally went to meet with the former military head of state on the same issue.
When contacted, Engr. Buba Galadima, member of the Board of Trustees of the CPC said the talks with CPC have never broken down as being speculated. He said the contact has moved to "a much higher level."
"There is greater understanding between both sides because we are naturally compatible; we are ideologically compatible and we firmly believe that there must be a change of regime come May 29, 2011. And we are all agreed that there is no sacrifice too much to make for that change to happen," he said.
National Director of Publicity of the ACN Alhaji Lai Mohammed who was contacted on telephone failed to respond to some critical questions but agreed that discussions are going on with various interest groups with a view to defeat the PDP in the 2o11 elections.
"Definitely I know there are still talks. These talks are not restricted to the two political parties. There are even people who are not politicians from all over Nigeria and are trying to talk to leaders of all political parties to come and save Nigeria from collapse. For it is clear that PDP cannot provide the true leadership Nigerians need," he said.
According to a highly placed source, former Vice President, Alex Ekwueme will head the committee that would screen those shortlisted and come up with what the source called “ a level headed, focused, acceptable candidate who also has the capacity to step into Atiku’s shoes come 2015” Top on the list is madam Ngozi okonjo Iweala others who may will likely make the list are Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu, former Information minister, Emeka Chikelu, Ken Nnnamani, and Charles Soludo
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