Although the All Progressives Congress (APC) is yet to fix a date for its national convention, no fewer than 11 chieftains are showing interest in the race to succeed Governor Mai Mala Buni as chairman of the ruling party. JIDE ORINTUNSIN examines their chances and constraints.
Since the fusion of the legacy parties in 2014 gave birth to the ruling All Progressives (APC), the contest for the party’s leadership positions at any level has never been this keen. The two major national conventions that produced the former National Working Committees (NWC) did not generate the kind of attention the forthcoming national convention is currently generating.
But, for the crisis that rocked the tenure of Comrade Adams Oshiomole-led NWC mid-term, a full convention to replace the executive arm of the party would have been due by June 2022. The “palace coup” of June 25, 2020 by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) sacked the Oshiomhole-led NWC and saddled the responsibility of running the party on the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led 13-man Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC). The committee was mandated to recognise, resolve the avalanche of the crisis rocking the party and to organize a national convention to elect a new NWC, in line with the party’s constitution.
After two extensions (of six months) were granted, the Caretaker Committee commenced the process for the emergence of a new NWC. On July 31, 2021 ward congresses were held in more than 18,000 wards throughout the country. It was followed up by the local government congress while the state congress is slated for October 2.
Ahead of the convention, agitation for zoning of the party positions and elective offices keeps mounting and the need for the party to honour the gentleman’s agreement of power rotation between the North and the South is becoming more palpable. But, the silence from the CECPC on the modalities for the national convention has been fueling tension. Nevertheless, with what is playing out, indicatiuons are that the party has tacitly conceded to the idea of power shift.
Political watchers said, this was informed by the array of national chairmanship aspirants, who are all from the North.
Influence of governors:
Of all the blocs in the party, the state governor’s forum is the most influential and the most formidable.
Aside from controlling the structure in their respective states, their influence on the CECPC is enormous.
This explains why virtually all the aspirants, including former governors among the chairmanship hopefuls, defer to their state governors on endorsement.
As the main financiers of the party, the governors will surely want to influence who emerged as the new national chairman.
Influence of legacy parties:
Another determinant factor is the influence of the legacy parties. Though on paper, all the legacy parties have fused into one political platform, the truth is that patronage is still based on members’ affiliation to their former parties.
Some elements in the defunct Congress for Positive Change (CPC) have mounted a campaign for the bloc to produce the next national chairman. They hinged their argument on the fact that other legacy parties have had a feel of the office.
How much of this will play out at the convention will surely influence the voting pattern, except a consensus arrangement is reached.
A group within the party, the APC Patriotic Ambassadors of Nigeria (APAN), have since last year been rooting for the micro-zoning of the national chairman to North-central. The group has persistently urged the Mala-Buni-led CECPC and the NEC to zone the chairmanship to the North-central.
Advancing reasons why the region should be favoured for the plum job, its National Coordinator, Dr. Aliyu Ibrahim said the zone is the most strategic geo-political zone with multi-cultural and multi-ethnic electoral investment opportunities.
He said: “Zoning the position of the national chairman to North-central will help galvanize more electoral victories for the party at both primary and secondary elections in future polls, beginning with 2023.”
Though no date has been fixed for the national convention, some political gladiators are already spoiling for action. Stakeholders in the party are however divided over the mode of election at the national convention. Some aspirants are spoiling for outright election, while some are pushing for consensus. Feelers from the party however show that the CECPC may settle for consensus.
A source at the party’s national secretariat told The Nation in confidence that the Buni-led committee may have settled for consensus. His words: “The emergence of John Odigie-Oyegun and Adams Oshiomhole were through consensus. Even most of the congresses conducted so far this time around have been through the consensus option. For peace to reign, the CECPC is reaching out to other stakeholders, such as the governors and National Assembly caucus to get their buy-in to work out the modalities for the consensus option before the NEC meeting, where the format and schedule of activities for the forthcoming convention will be approved.”
The stage is however set for the national convention, with all the aspirants engaging in strategic campaigns and consultations ahead of the date. As at the last count, no fewer than 10 party chieftains from the North are jostling to contest for the chairmanship seat. They are Senator Tanko Al-Makura, Senator Kashim Shettima, Senator George Akume, Mr. Sunny Moniedafe, Senator Mohammed Musa, Mallam Salihu Mustapha, former Minister of Aviation, Mallam Isa Yuguda, former governors of Zamfara and Borno states, Abdulaziz Yari and Ali Modu Sherrif respectively.
Abdulaziz Yari, a two-term former governor of Zamfara State, is one of the leading aspirants for the office. Yari believes he has what it takes to lead the party to victory come 2023. He is a one-time chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF); a position that gave him a lot of influence and respect among his former colleagues and some serving governors.
The defection of the current Governor Bello Matawalle to the ruling APC is seen by political watchers as a threat to Yari’s aspirations. Some of his supporters that Matawalle has lured to the party may whittle down Yari’s influence and control of the party structure and machinery in the state. Eventually, this may ultimately frustrate his chairmanship ambition.
A very strong-willed man, Yari is not known to give up on a mission he set out to accomplish. He has dismissed all alleged plots by some bigwigs from the Northwest against his aspiration. For him, nobody, except providence can succeed in undermining his his aspiration.
Yari said: “If God decides that it should be, it is going to be. People can manouvre and do all sorts of calculations, but they will not prevail. All I know is that I can lead this party and they know what I can do.
“Some persons can fabricate lies but at the end of the day, the truth will prevail. There are so many other things they have said that is a mere tissue of lies meant to try to get a good man down but they will never succeed.”
Yari said despite his inability to accomplish all the objectives it set for itself in its progressive manifesto, the APC has abundant chances of winning the 2023 elections in a very remarkable way, if the “right things” are done between now and next year.
Ali Modu Sheriff:
Former Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff is the most controversial figure in the race. A founding member of the APC, he is also a leader of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), one of the legacy parties that metamorphosed into the APC.
In 2014 Sheriff jumped ship to the then ruling Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP). His political clout, the massive human capacity to mobilise and garner support for himself saw him becoming the national chairman of the PDP within a short period of defecting to the party before his NWC was sacked by the Supreme Court. By April 26, 2018, he returned back to the APC.
Ahead of the proposed APC national convention, the 65-year old politician has embarked on nationwide strategic consultations with the major blocs within the party. Only last week he was in Jigawa State to sell his national chairmanship aspiration to Governor Abubakar Badaru.
A man of enormous financial muscle, political pundits continue to see the infamous role he played in the PDP as an albatross to his APC national chairmanship aspiration. Despite his considerable influence in Bornu State, he is not in the same political camp with Governor Babagana Zulum, whose body language is visibly in support of Senator Kashim Shettima.
A leader of the Sheriff’s mobilization team, Dr. Cairo Ojugbo said the party needs a man of the Sheriff’s pedigree at this crucial period.
A smooth and silent political operator, the former Bauchi State governor and former Minister of Aviation, Isa Yuguda, is another gladiator seeking to take over the APC National Working Committee (NWC).
A banker-turned politician, Yuguda, while hosting the leaders of Coalition of APC Support Groups, gave his mission statement and why he is the most qualified party man to lead the over 40 million strong APC.
Yuguda said he is in the race because he understands the power dynamics at the centre while he served as minister for six years and governor for eight years. He said he is not coming to warm the seat as national chairman but to proffer quality solutions to resolve the lingering crisis and division in the party.
If he emerges as the national chairman, Yuguda promised to ensure that justice and equity are entrenched in the party and that he would guarantee party supremacy, which he assured would help put an end to the various crisis rocking the party.
He said: “I felt I was strongly favoured by the Almighty God who created us. I felt very strongly that rather than relegating myself to the bush where I am now, I feel I should come back and offer myself because I know I have been favoured.”
A strong believer in the country’s democratic future, the former Minister of Aviation recently told reporters in Abuja that despite the ‘terrible’ nature of Nigerian politics, he was never afraid to return to the murky political waters to offer himself because he has been highly favoured by God.
He added: “I was privileged to serve in Nigeria for six years as minister and eight as governor. I think I have served long enough in the Villa to know the dynamism in the power at the centre. If I am the dullest person, at least I still have to offer something that will be meaningful. This is why I said let me give it a shot. If I succeed, fine and good and if I don’t the Almighty Allah will not say you did not come out.”
For the Chairman Board of Trustees (BoT) of the Coalition, Mr. Tunde Imolehin, who is a member of the APC national membership registration and revalidation committee for the Southwest, “Yuguda falls in the category of party leaders who can direct the affairs of the party; someone whom everybody would listen to any time he speaks due to his rich background and experience.
“I believe we are here to begin a journey we will never regret, a journey that will be sustainable. It is a journey that will answer all the intrigues and all the challenges; all the misunderstandings and all the misconceptions that have happened since 2015.”
Senator Kashim Shettima, another former Borno State governor, is a highly influential lawmaker in the National Assembly, whose administrative acumen, excellent human relations, and intellectual capability are the unique selling points that are likely to work in his favour in the chairmanship race.
Though Shetima is yet to make public his intention, observers are of the view that major party stakeholders may prefer him for the chairmanship position. His supporters are quick to brandish his high sense of justice, especially in his choice of a worthy successor.
Despite the fact that he has a penchant for speaking the truth to the throne, Shettima is said to be held in high esteem by President Buhari. In a presidential congratulatory message recently to the former governor, Buhari was quoted to have said: “I am proud of Shettima for his achievements in office as one of the best governors in the country for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Despite the challenges of insecurity, he was able to make his mark because he was able to keep his key campaign promises; he proved his mettle and did not disappoint the electorate. Senator Shettima will be remembered for many things, including the fact that he handed the state over to Prof Babagana Zulum, a capable and deserving successor.”
Pushing for an NWC with Shetima at the helms of the affair, Adamu Modibo, an APC chieftain from Yobe State eulogised the leadership qualities of the chairmanship hopeful and maintained that the party stands to gain enormously from his administrative acumen and depth. Modibo added: “An NWC with Shettima as chairman is all we need to take the party to a higher level. This is a man of great influence across many interest groups, a bridge-builder, who sees possibilities in all situations and circumstances. This explains his success stories in Bornu State as a governor for eight years and now as a senator.”
Tanko Al–Makura is another high contender for the national chairmanship position. The 69-year-old businessman-turned politician was the former Nasarawa State governor. He is of the CPC legacy bloc; the only bloc that is yet to have a shot at the national chairmanship seat since the establishment of the party. Promoters of Al-Makura’s candidacy also believe that he may enjoy presidential backing owing to his CPC roots.
Like Shettima, the former Borno State Governor, Al-Makura also enjoys the support of his successor, Governor Abdullahi Sule. He also enjoys the support of some members of Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF), being one of its earliest members and the Senate caucus.
Until his recent encounter with the anti-graft agency, the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Al-Makura is seen as a top contender and less controversial figure in the race for the APC chairmanship.
Senator Danjuma Goje, a former Gombe State governor, is another member of the league of former governors seeking to lead the party in post-Buhari era. Goje was elected as governor on the platform of the PDP. His political influence in the state was instrumental to APC takeover of the state in 2019.
Currently, a third-term senator representing Gombe Central and Chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Goje is a committed party man whose loyalty to party supremacy saw him dropping his ambition to run for the 9th Senate Presidency. He stepped down for current Senate President Ahmed Lawan.
A highly-respected politician with national clout and appeal, Goje’s campaign handlers promised his leadership will deliver a party where its (party) constitution, hierarchy, and supremacy would be respected.
But, political observers in the Northeast have expressed fear that the cold war between the lawmaker and Governor Inuwa Yahaya over control of party structure in the state may affect his ambition. They argue that the influential role of the Progressive Governors Forum in determining who gets what in the party may be deployed by Yahaya to stall Goje’s aspiration.
Sunny Moniedafe was the first to declare his intention to succeed Oshiomhole. As early as the beginning of the year, the former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has openly expressed interest in running for the office.
Born and raised in Adamawa State by parents from Delta State, Moniedafe has described himself as the best man for the job. He explained that his candidature will unify the party because he neither plays ethnic nor religious politics.
He said: “I’m vying for the office of the national chairman of the APC because I want to give the party a new sense of direction. I have no godfather and I am no pushover. I will contest if it is zoned to the Northeast. If it is not zoned to us, I will contest any position zoned to us because I want to serve.”
He may have not occupied any elective office, but he believes his administrative experience in party management even before APC was established gives him an edge.
He told reporters recently: “If given the opportunity to serve as national chairman of the APC, my team will, first of all, re-affirm the respect for and supremacy of the party’s constitution, and ensuring its effective implementation, whilst maintaining utmost discipline.
“I will put every bit of my energy to institute an effective working synergy among all party structures and arms of the government, which is critical to ensuring that promises made during campaigns are not mere rhetoric but will be accelerated and fulfilled to the letter for the good of Nigeria and its citizens, as well as excellent global relations.
“My dealings as a national chairman will exhibit absolute transparency in the party’s affairs as one of its hallmarks. We will be free of any form of influence or corruption whatsoever.”
The former Nasarawa State Governor Abdullahi Adamu remains the man to beat at the forthcoming national convention for the post of national chairman.
Adamu is a third term senator and veteran politician who entered the political scene in 1977 as an elected member of the Constituent Assembly that drafted the constitution of the short-lived Second Republic. He was the first secretary-general of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in Plateau State. Later, he became its state chairman in 1982.
Currently the chairman of the newly reconstituted APC National Reconciliation Committee, Adamu may leverage on his new appointment to push further his aspiration as he reaches out to all aggrieved members.
Adamu intends to bring his wealth of experience to bear as a one-time chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF). But, his detractors accuse him of being too pro-North. Though he commands a lot of respect at home, he may not likely to get the support of his home state.
His name may not ring a bell because he is not been in the elite club of former governors, but he is well known within the political circle. The young-businessman-turned politician is as good as any of the aspirants. He represents new hope in the political landscape of the country.
An astute grassroots politician from Kwara State, Mustapha has paid his dues in political party administration. A founding member of the APC, he was the national deputy chairman of the defunct CPC. In his entire sojourn in the political terrain over two decades ago, he has held various administrative positions.
He is also the second most senior member of the defunct CPC. Indeed, Mustapha may cash on this to clinch the party’s highest office, more also when the CPC bloc is angling to produce the next national chairman. Both ACN and ANPP blocs have had their slots; it is the turn of the CPC bloc to produce the next national chairman.
Mustapha has promised to be the bridge between the old and the young generations in the party. He has also promised to abide by the Rule of Law and party supremacy, as well as adhere strictly to the letters and spirit of the party constitution and build on the gains so far made by the Mala Buni-led national caretaker committee.
Sani Mohammed Musa:
Unarguably the youngest of all the chairmanship aspirants, the 54-year old member of the upper chamber of the National Assembly represents Niger East Senatorial district. Fondly called “Sani 313” by his political admirers, the chairmanship hopeful represents the new political yearnings.
Back in Niger State where he hails from, Sani caught his political teeth from his late father, Alhaji Tanko Bawa Musa, the Iyan Minna, who was the chairman of Piakoro Local Government Area, and from his elder brother, Abdullahi Musa, a former member of the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003.
In 2007, the young Sani launched himself into the murky waters of Nigerian politics. He contested for the PDP governorship ticket and lost. This forced him to return to his private business. But, by 2019 luck shined on him, as he was elected to the Senate to represent Niger East.
A man of proven integrity, Sani who recently declared his intention to become the next national chairman said: “My experience in private and public sectors, the capacity required to manage diverse people and interests irrespective of tribe, religion and region is already imbibed by me. I am a mobilizer, a bridge-builder, and a strategist that is passionate about the wholesome development of the nation. I possess a strong interpersonal skill by demonstrating the utmost discretion and integrity in all of my dealings.”
Sani Musa’s political credentials may not be intimidating, what he lacks in party politics, he has in abundance in human management. A focused and humane person, his victory at the convention will bring a new lease to the party.
Musa is believed to have the endorsement of his governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, who may use his influence as a member of the national caretaker committee of the party to swing support for Sani 313.
A two-term governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume is the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs. He is perceived as the most eligible aspirant to occupy the position of APC national chairman.
The former Minority Leader of the Senate from June 2011 to June 2015, Akume who recently opened a campaign office for the actualization of his dream, is poised to be the next national chairman of the party.
One of his supporters, Scheme Adams said: “Arrangements have been concluded for our candidate to formally declare his intention in Makrudi, the Benue State capital. Our leader has all it takes to lead the party. Having successfully governed a state for eight years, he was a senator, where he was elected as Minority Leader because of the traits his colleagues saw in him and now a minister of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. This is the type of leader we need to bring his experience to bear in piloting the affairs of the party.”
The coast is clear, the party looks set for the national convention and the job schedule for the incoming NWC is designed. What is important is the emergence of a national chairman that will be able to manage the fallout of the congresses conducted, effectively prepare and fashion a strategy that will ensure victory for the party in 2023.
In the words of a chieftain of the party, Abdullahi Jalo: “The kind of national chairman we need now is one who can unite the party, he must have grassroots appeal and command the respect of all members.”