* Biggest threat in years to ruling party
* Infighting has stopped past opposition alliances
* Elections due in Africa's largest oil producer in 2015
(Adds bullet points)
By Camillus Eboh
ABUJA, Feb 7 Nigeria's four main opposition
movements announced a merger, posing the sternest threat in
years to President Goodluck Jonathan's ruling party ahead of
elections in 2015.
Supporters said the new All Progressive Congress (APC) -
made up of four regional parties - was the most significant
effort to date to form a national opposition group in a country
riven by geographic rivalries and an Islamist insurgency.
Past, smaller, attempts at opposition alliances have fallen
apart amid infighting and analysts said, judging by past form,
the new party might struggle to agree on a single presidential
candidate for the vote.
"At no time in our national life has radical change become
more urgent," said a statement signed on Wednesday by
representatives of the four parties - the ACN, ANPP, APGA and
"(We are) determined to bring corruption and insecurity to
an end, to grow our economy and create jobs in their millions
... and stop the increasing mood of despair and hopelessness
among our people," they added.
President Jonathan's People's Democratic Party (PDP), which
has won every presidential election since Africa's biggest oil
producer returned to civilian rule 14 years ago, dismissed the
"They are not a threat at all ... PDP is Messi in that
contest," the party's national chairman Bamanga Tukur told
reporters, likening his movement to the all-conquering Argentina
and Barcelona soccer player Lionel Messi.
The PDP controls around two-thirds of the states and has a
healthy majority in both houses of the national assembly.
The four merging parties control almost all the remaining
seats and marginally reduced the PDP's majority in both the
states and parliament in elections in 2011.
Opposition attempts to form an alliance before that vote
failed after the parties did not manage to agree on a single
Analysts said the squabbling was typical of a system were
politicians were often accused of putting personal and regional
gains ahead of party loyalty and voters' interests.
"Policy and ideology do not feature prominently in a
political discourse in Nigeria that is principally about winning
or losing - and personal rivalries," said Nigeria analyst Antony
Goldman, head of Africa-focused PM Consulting.
"The challenge will be translate such common purpose from
principle to practice," Goldman added.
Tightly fought elections in Africa's second biggest economy
can often stoke violence. Hundreds were killed in riots in the
mostly Muslim north when Christian southerner Jonathan won the
presidential vote two years ago.
Jonathan has not said whether he will run again.
The APC merger was brokered this week by 10 opposition state
governors, many of whom will end their terms in 2015 and are
looking for new roles.
It was not clear whether the merger was backed by all the
four parties' state governors and lawmakers.
Official changes of party will have to be agreed with the
Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). The INEC
spokesman did not respond to calls for comment.
(Writing by Joe Brock; Editing by Andrew Heavens)