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Thursday, April 14, 2011

ACN, CPC alliance talks collapsed

ACN, CPC alliance talks collapsed
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) on Wednesday confirmed that its alliance talks with the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) had collapsed.

Although the ACN blamed the development on the CPC, findings by THE PUNCH revealed that the direct and indirect roles played by three core members of the Northern Political Leaders Forum — Gen. Ibrahim Babangida, Gen. Aliyu Gusau, and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar— in the talks hastened the collapse.

The talks which started last year were aimed at dislodging the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in the presidential election on Saturday.

Investigations by our correspondents showed that the ACN leader, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and governors elected on the platform of the party, particularly had expressed reservation over the involvement of Babangida in the talks.

Tinubu and the governors were said to have reasoned that Babangida, who annulled the June 12 presidential poll, should not be involved in the emergence of any candidate seeking votes in the South-West.

Besides IBB’s involvement, the ACN leaders thought that the party would be signing its death warrant if it failed to field a candidate in the presidential poll.

It was gathered that at a meeting, which started at 5pm on Tuesday and ended at 2am on Wednesday, Tinubu and the governors prevailed on the ACN presidential candidate, Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, not to step down for his CPC counterpart, Maj.-Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.)

Babangida; Abubakar; a former Vice-President and Gusau, an ex-National Security Adviser, were said to have prevailed on Buhari to revive the alliance talks with the ACN.

The NPLF leaders, investigations showed, reasoned that with the results of the National Assembly elections in the South-West, Buhari would need the support of the ACN.

A top member of the CPC, who pleaded anonymity, said the NPLF leaders initiated a series of meetings involving Buhari and Ribadu.

During the last of the meetings in Abuja on Tuesday, Babangida and other NPLF leaders pleaded with Ribadu to step down.

They were said to have told him that he could still contest the presidency in future because he is younger than Buhari.

But Ribadu, it was learnt, said that he could not unilaterally step down without consulting his party.

He was also said to have told the NPLF leaders to ask Buhari to step down because the ACN performed better than the CPC in the National Assembly elections.

Besides the meeting with Buhari and Ribadu, investigations showed that NPLF had a separate meeting with the CPC presidential candidate.

At the meeting, Babangida and others asked Buhari to urge his running mate, Pastor Tunde Bakare, to withdraw from the presidential poll so that Tinubu could replace him.

But at the meeting involving the ACN leaders, Buhari and the NPLF, the plans of the Northern leaders fell apart.

It was gathered that Tinubu and the ACN governors were not happy with the involvement of Babangida in the negotiation.

A top member of the CPC, said, “They reason that Babangida has not atoned for his sin of annulling the June 12 presidential election won by Chief Abiola. If he is campaign for himself or anybody, he must first apologise to the people of South-West, who is seeking his votes.”

The ACN leaders were said to have insisted that it would be suicidal for the party not have a presidential candidate.

They warned that they should not make the mistake made by the Alliance for Democracy in 2003, when it did not field any presidential candidate, but supported former President Olusegun Obasanjo.

It was also learnt that Buhari could not persuade his running mate to withdraw from the race.

After the meeting, the leadership of the ACN on Wednesday addressed a press conference, where they blamed the CPC for the collapse.

ACN’s National Chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, said with the development, the ACN would contest the election on its own.

He said, ‘’The ACN wishes to inform all its teeming supporters as well as all Nigerians that there is no alliance between the party and the CPC ahead of Saturday’s presidential election.

‘’We, as a party that believes in democratic values have, therefore, decided that, in the overall interest of the parties involved, our democracy as well as our country, it is better for each of the parties to go into the presidential election on its own platform.”

Akande, a former governor of Osun State, stated that the ACN, which it said was attracted to the CPC leadership, believed in the merger of the two parties.

He , however, explained that a relationship between the two parties could not be ruled out in the event of a presidential rerun.

The ACN chairman also dismissed reports that President Goodluck Jonathan met with one of the parties topshots.

He said, ‘’The talks seem to be frustrated at least not from us. We believed in the merger.

“We are attracted to the leadership of the CPC and if it was possible, we would still have an alliance. But the CPC had not been reaching out to us.

“They have not been responding respectively. We don’t want it to appear like we are not confident of ourselves.

We cannot wait again. We need to get our people into the field in preparation for Saturday’s election.”

He, however, assured that ‘’if at the end of the election on Saturday there is no clear winner, we would make a decision on which way to go, in the over riding interest of all Nigerians.’’

Asked if it was true that the party had been insisting that the alliance must produce Ribadu as the presidential candidate, he replied, “No.”

But the former governor added that the ACN had wanted its performance at the National Assembly polls to count for it during the failed talks.

Before the conference, Akande had ruled out the possibility of the ACN asking its supporters to vote for Jonathan on Saturday.

He described the President as a good man who found himself in a bad party.

Akande said, “ “We will not be comfortable to tell our supporters to vote for the PDP, which is a very bad party. The President is a good man, he belongs to a wrong political party.”

He also said that Jonathan sent some eminent Nigerians, including traditional rulers to the leadership of the ACN on the need to support him.

Akande also denied media reports that Tinubu was flown to Abuja in a presidential jet to meet the President.

“Tinubu did not visit the President; he did not ride in any presidential jet,” he said.

When contacted over the collapse of the alliance talks, Buhari’s spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumaki, said “this is not the time for reckless comments.”

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