After the adoption of former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate of the CUPP, all is no longer well with the group.
Ndubuisi Orji and Obi Okwe, Abuja
On July 9, when 40 political parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to form a grand alliance under the aegis of the Coalition of United Political Parties (CUPP), which will eventually field a joint presidential candidate for the 2019 general elections, it was with the understanding that all the parties will bury their individual ambitions for the interest of the group.
READ ALSO: After the adoption of former Vice President Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate of the CUPP, all is no longer well with the group.
But few months to the 2019 general elections, some of the political parties in the coalition are now singing different tunes.
The CUPP is a coalition of 40 political parties, which signed a MoU to field a joint presidential candidate in 2019 to brighten the chance of the opposition in defeating President Muhammadu Buhari in next year’s poll.
Among the political parties in the coalition are the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Action Democratic Party (ADP), All Grand Alliance Party (AGAP), Action Peoples Party (APP), Advanced Congress of Democrats (ACD), Better Nigeria Progressive Party, Democratic Alternative (DA), Democratic Peoples Party (DPC), Grand Democratic Party of Nigeria (GDPN), Green Party of Nigeria (GPN), KOWA Party, Labour Party (LP), Mass Action Joint Alliance (MAJA), Masses Movement of Nigeria (MMN).
Others include: National Conscience Party (NCP), New Generation Party (NGP), National Unity Party (NUP), Nigeria Intervention Movement (NIM), Peoples Alliance for National Development and Liberty (PANDEL), Peoples Progressive Party (PPP), People for Democratic Change (PDC) and Providence People’s Congress (PPC), the Reformed All Progressive Congress (RAPC), a breakaway faction of the ruling All Progressives Congress Congress, Restoration Party of Nigeria (RPN), Social Democratic Party (SDP), Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN), All Grassroots Alliance (AGA), National Interest Party (NIP), Nigeria Democratic Congress Party (NDCP), Progressive Peoples Alliance (PPA), and Young Democratic Party (YDP).
But after the adoption of former Vice President and Presidential candidate of the PDP Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the consensus candidate of the CUPP, all is no longer well with the group.
The emergence of Atiku as the consensus presidential candidate of the coalition has not gone down well with some of the political parties in the CUPP.
Atiku was announced as the joint presidential candidate of the CUPP by the Chairman of its Steering Committee, Olagunsoye Oyinlola, a former governor of Osun State, at a press briefing in Abuja last Wednesday.
Shortly after the announcement, the former Cross River State governor, Donald Duke, Davidson Akhimien and Yabaji Sani, presidential candidates of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Grassroots Democratic Party of Nigeria (GDPN), and the Action Democratic Party (ADP) respectively disassociated themselves from Atiku’s endorsement.
Regardless of this, Atiku went ahead to meet with the leaders of political parties in the CUPP on Friday in Abuja where they resolved to work together in the 2019 polls.
The meeting was attended by the leaders of the ADC, PPA, NCP, PDP among others. Oyinlola told journalists at the meeting that the CUPP adopted the former Vice President because of his acceptability nationwide.
The former Osun governor explained that other factors considered in his selection included, “access to financial resources, competitiveness of the candidate’s party, capacity to monitor the election in all the 120,000 polling units in the country and the competent, capacity, capability and credibility of the candidate.
“After painstaking assessment of what we have across all the CUPP parties, after processing the candidates capability using these criteria the steering committee hereby submit that former vice president and candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, is the best and his party is the most reliable of all options before us.
“We, therefore, choose him as the CUPP candidate for the 2019 presidential election.”
But Akhimien told Sunday Sun in a telephone interview that the manner the former vice president emerged as the joint candidate of the CUPP was a violation of the MoU that all the political parties in the alliance subscribed to.
According to him, the MoU indicated that all the political parties in the CUPP should hold their respective presidential primaries to nominate their candidates, after which there would be another primary among the coalition members to decide who will be the joint candidate. The GDPN candidate noted that unfortunately, that was not done.
“At the initial stage when the CUPP was formed, we decided that we are going to be part of a larger coalition that will work to bring about a new order. On the Memorandum of Understanding, it was agreed that there was going to be presidential primary of all the constituent parties of the CUPP. They said there was going to be another primary after all the candidates have emerged from the political party.
“But suddenly Atiku emerged. They shelved the other primary they were supposed to hold. To me, that was a travesty of justice. It is a breach of the MoU.
“We don’t believe in that. We thought we were going to put heads together and the best was going to emerge. The best was going to emerge in terms of capacity. But going back to the old order, this sly way of doing things that has characterized the Nigerian political sphere is what they have brought to bear. We are not part of that,” Akhimien told Sunday Sun.
Although the National Publicity Secretary of the SDP, Alfa Mohammed said that the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) will meet to take a decision on the endorsement of Atiku as the CUPP joint presidential candidate, Duke said that he was not a party to the consensus arrangement.
In a statement by the Director General of his Campaign Organization, Prof Stephen Iyorwuese, the SDP candidate, noted that: “Although, we were initially part of the CUPP, the understanding was that each member party having elected its presidential candidate would then sit in a committee to select a consensus presidential candidate, running mate and other officers of the campaign committee.
“Contrary to this spirit of understanding, one of the political parties elected its presidential candidate, and without consulting the CUPP, went ahead to nominate its running mate and, indeed, all other officers of their campaign organisation.”
A spokesman of the PDP Campaign Council, Kassim Afegbua, in a Whatsapp message to Sunday Sun stated that “it is possible the SDP may have its own internal problems, but it doesn’t vitiate the fact that they were fully part and parcel of the processes leading to the endorsement. Prof Tunde Adeniran and Dr Olu Agunloye both of whom are strong chieftains of the SDP participated in the processes. They submitted the bio-data of their presidential candidate, and was made to go through the criteria set out for the assessment of each candidate. If they now share a different position, that is not to our knowledge.
“We are building a coalition that is not for any personal gains, but a deliberate effort to build a broad based government of national unity that would further bring national cohesion. People should always look at the strength of any effort and not pick holes with a process, which carries majority endorsement.
“If one party is complaining out of 45 political parties about this epoch-making endorsement of the PDP candidate, I think it is our expectation that people should commend such initiative rather than dissipating effort and energy on just an item. As far as we are concerned, we have commenced the laudable process to unseat the APC-led government, and no amount of propaganda from the APC fold can distract our commitment to sail through. The endorsement has come to stay for good.”
In his reaction to the recent development in the CUPP, the ADP National Chairman, Yabaji Sani expressed surprise that his party was listed as part of the CUPP, stating that it was never part of the coalition.
Sani, who is also the presidential candidate of the party, threatened to institute a legal suit against the leaders of the CUPP, if they fail to retract their statement that the ADP is among those who endorsed Atiku for the 2019 polls.
“We want to make it categorically clear that at no time was the ADP part of the CUPP much less endorsed a consensus presidential candidate as was insinuated in the said publication.
“This publication is, therefore, a piece of the imagination of mischief makers which is totally false and misleading as ADP does not share anything in common with the PDP and the coalition.
“We advise the purveyors of this news item to quickly retract it within the next 48 hours and tender unreserved apologies in three national dailies or face legal action from the ADP,” he stated at a media briefing in Abuja.
Regardless, spokesman of the CUPP, Ugochinyere Ikenga, expressed shock that some of the parties in the coalition are faulting the adoption of the PDP candidate as their joint presidential candidate for the 2019 polls. He explained that the coalition considered the spread of the respective political parties, their financial resources to prosecute the election and “the former vice president towers high among all the other candidates”.
Ikenga told Sunday Sun that “if anybody has issues with our choice, that person is not in tandem with the Nigerian people who have suffered so much under this administration. He is not even qualified to be a town union leader. Maybe they are working for Buhari. But if they are committed to the progress of this country, I think the decision we have taken was in the best interest of the country and the Nigerian people will benefit from it when it materialises on February 16.”
He pointed out that the GDPN presidential candidate does not have the moral right to complain about the emergence of Atiku as the CUPP joint presidential candidate, as his party had earlier pulled out of the group as a result of “irreconcilable differences”.
According to him, “GDPN due to irreconcilable differences withdrew their membership from CUPP. This was an agreement entered by all the parties that we will choose one presidential candidate. That was what happened. I will give you the template, and you will see that there is no way any of them (those opposed to Atiku’s emergence) could have gotten the ticket.”
When Sunday Sun sought to know if the SDP has equally pulled out of the coalition, Ikenga said: “No, the SDP did not pull out. But when you go into a contest that have 45 members everybody will not be happy. The point is how did we arrive at this decision. Is it a majority driven decision? This decision is majority driven. If one or two political parties do not feel good about it, we will still continue to talk to them to see reason.
“Expect that they are not committed about sending Buhari out of office. The choice we have made is the best. It was a unanimous decision. Remove GDPN out of it. The other coalition members are in support.”