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After Adamu’s emergence as APC chair, focus shifts to succession options

By Leo Sobechi, Deputy Politics Editor, Abuja
03 April 2022   |   4:20 am
The All Progressives Congress (APC) national convention has come and gone. What remains is the part two, which is President Muhammadu Buhari’s options on his Presidential succession plan.

Newly elected APC Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu. Photo/TWITTER/OfficialAPCNg

The All Progressives Congress (APC) national convention has come and gone. What remains is the part two, which is President Muhammadu Buhari’s options on his Presidential succession plan.
   
In the build up to the national convention, it became obvious that the President was not leaving anything to chance about his succession plan. A plan that took off very long ago. For instance, contained in President Buhari’s remarks, when he signed into law the Electoral Act amendment bill, were mute pointers to his administration’s succession plan. The President seems to believe in the scriptural saying that, better is the end of a matter than its beginning.
   
After noting the salient provisions of the new Electoral Act, which he expected to revolutionise Nigeria’s democracy, the President noted that “these commendable efforts are in line with our policy to bequeath posterity and landmark legal framework that paves the way for credible and sound electoral process that we would all be proud of.”

   
From that declaration, President Buhari left no one in doubt that he was mindful of bequeathing an excellent legacy to the nation. Not that alone, the President was also mindful that processes leading to his exit are of equal importance to the success story of his administration.
   
Consequently, the President showed his concern about the possible implications of succession politics on his government, especially based on lessons drawn from the impact of delayed formation of his cabinet on the administration in his first term. That concern must have informed the President’s observation on Section 84(12) of the new Electoral law.
  
Taking serious exception to the singular stipulation, the President noted that Section 84 (12) “constitutes a disenfranchisement of serving political office holders from voting or being voted for at conventions or congresses of any political party, for the purpose of nomination of candidates for any election in cases where it holds earlier than 30 days to the national election.”
  
After noting the incongruity between Section 84(12) with constitutional provisions, the President asserted that, “the only constitutional expectation placed on serving political office holders…is resignation, withdrawal or retirement at least, 30 days before the date of the election.”
    
Buhari knows that if implemented to the letter as stipulated, he would be forced to run his government in the remainder of his tenure, with a scant cabinet. And, above all, he would have lost the men and women needed to enforce those schemes geared towards impeccable implementation of his succession plan.
  
That must have informed the President’s decision to expatiate on his objections to Section 84 (12), when he spelt out the stipulations of the ‘offensive’ clause for emphasis and clarity: “No political appointee at any level shall be (a) voting delegate or be voted for at the convention or congress of any political party for the purpose of the nomination of candidates for any election.”
  
Perhaps, roused by the experience of June 9, 2015, when the election of Eighth National Assembly’s principal officers threw up actors, whose outlook and projection differed from his, the President showed that he was not prepared to leave anything to chance, particularly about who succeeds him.
   
It was possible also, from the full import of Section 84 (12), that some notable enforcers within the President’s kitchen cabinet were targeted by some entrenched interests to ambush the process leading to the emergence of new members of All Progressives Congress (APC) National Working Committee (NWC).
    
No President with eyes on his succession strategy would not know that the journey to the successful nomination of preferred candidates for election begins with having favourites or influential players within the top echelon of the party’s NWC.
    
And so, by inserting the stipulations contained in Section 84 (12), some forward looking Presidential aspirants working in cahoots with federal lawmakers must have reached a consensus on that piece of legislation to displace Buhari’s innermen from active participation during the APC national convention, which is but a precursor to the Presidential primary of the party.

Control Of APC Structure
REMINISCENT of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar’s tangle in the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), when Atiku’s control of party and governance structure nearly cost Obasanjo a second term, President Buhari’s handlers must have realised the implication of former Lagos State governor, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, wielding great influence on APC leadership structure.
   
The wrangling between Governor Godwin Obaseki of Edo State and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole therefore, provided a perfect setting for the President’s men to strike and demobilise the Oshiomhole-led NWC. Ordinarily, if the sacking of Oshiomhole was intended to right the wrongs in APC, nothing stopped a person from the South, specifically the South/South region from stepping in as chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) that was set up.

   
However, the leaders of the party, believed that since the Presidency would be slotted to the South, it would not be politically right to empower anybody from the South as that could amount to granting that person some adventitious advantages for the Presidency.
   
Two years on, in control of CECPC, the North has demonstrated that it is adept at the power game, by ensuring that it reserves the final say as to who ultimately picks the APC Presidential ticket for the 2023 general election. As a mark of that brinkmanship, the politics of who becomes the next APC national chairman have exposed President Buhari’s interest and active involvement.
   
Already, signs have emerged that the President’s will would make a way for the new chairman, particularly given the endorsement of the representative of Nasarawa West in the Senate, Dr. Abdullahi Adamu, for the party’s top job.
  
Just like President Buhari disclosed during the Electoral Act bill signing, “in line with established tradition, I received inputs from relevant ministries,” the idea of picking Adamu was said to be “a collective decision in the interest of the government and the nation, especially the North.”
  
It was gathered that conversations on the nature of post-Buhari era, in terms of socio-political harmony of the country, predicated that the Presidency should be ceded to the South, but with a strong political actor from the North put in charge of the party structure to provide balance or buffer.
  
Of the many aspirants that declared their intention to contest the position of APC national chairman, only Senator Tanko Al-Makura was a former governor, a criterion that had been set as precedent for the office.
  
However, when viewed against the qualities expected from the next chairman, sources close to the powers that be said the first term Senator and former Nasarawa State governor fell short. He was found to be too soft and close to the strongman of Lagos politics, Tinubu, who is also gunning for the APC Presidential ticket.
   
It was therefore to make up for that lacuna that Senator Adamu, who had been ‘test driven’ as Chairman of APC Reconciliation Committee, was said to have been tapped. Come March 26, when the party’s national convention holds, Adamu would be coronated, and the journey to President Buhari’s succession plan begins to unfold.

Men On Buhari’s Radar
SHORTLY after winning his second term election, President Buhari was said to have began a quiet search for his possible successor, even as he was said to be worried about the infighting within APC over the 2023 politics.
   
That concern, it was learned, informed a short list of possible contenders, which names made the rounds in various political circles at one point or another. First of such consideration was the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Geoffrey Onyeama. The Guardian was informed that Onyeama was being pushed forward by the late Chief of Staff to the President, Mallam Abba Kyari, who was said to be his old friend and close school mate.
    
It was also gathered that the quiet plot to pair up Kyari and Onyeama on the Presidential ballot informed the plea by the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss G. Mustapha, for Igbo of Southeast to vote en masse for President Buhari at the 2019 poll to guarantee a shot at the Presidency in 2023.
 
Minister of Technology and Innovation, Dr. Ogbonnaya Onu and his Labour and Employment counterpart, Senator Chris Ngige, as well as former Imo State governor, Anayo Rochas Okorocha, were glossed over due to their failure to strengthen the Southeast structure of the party. 
   
After Kyari’s demise, and impressed with the non-sectional sentiment of Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, including his strides in infrastructure development, the Ebonyi governor was talked into joining APC to brighten his chances in the search for Buhari’s likely successor.  

   
Former Rivers State governor and current Minister for Transportation, Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, was also tagged in the belief that as President, he would consolidate on the rail signature projects of President Buhari. Last month’s turbaning of the Minister as Dan Amanar Daura (the chosen one), came as the highpoint of his consideration for the top office, even as some northern political powerbrokers expressed reservations that Amaechi would be too tough to handle as President.
   
Sources hinted that while the options were being weighed, the aforementioned persons were also being matched against Tinubu in a possible scenario of presidential primary and ability to win popular votes during the main election.
    
The Guardian gathered that it was in a bid to stifle the Southwest flank that Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was prodded by some elements in the Presidency to “prepare your minds towards continuing from where baba stops.”  Those familiar with the plot, were said to be particular about Osinbajo helping to convince Tinubu of the futility of his (Tinubu’s) aspiration, especially against the Muslim to Muslim transition that his candidacy could present.
  
However, while Tinubu continues to entertain himself with his presidential aspiration, Buhari’s handlers insist on the gameplan of wearying the early birds, knowing that with the consensus option in the new Electoral Act, the path was clear to throw in their joker.
    
A source privy to the power game disclosed that three influential businessmen are behind the plan to bring in a late entrant into the presidential contest. The source added that even before the death of Mallam Isa Funtua, the idea of adopting the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), Mr. Godwin Emefiele, was mooted.
  
The source explained that Emefiele was considered as a bridge between the Southwest, which believes that there was an agreement on zoning and Southeast, which is agitating on the demands of fairness and equity.
   
“In the course of the last lesser hajj, our leaders examined all the sides of powershift. The consensus opinion among them was that instead of supporting a core Igbo of Southeast, it would be strategic to go for a Midwestern Igbo, who could rally the entire South, including Southeast, South/South and Southwest.
   
“Remember that when the 17 Southern governors met in Lagos, what they resolved was that power should be ceded to South in 2023, without specifying any geopolitical zone. So, the thinking in the north is that Emefiele fits the bill and would answer to any tendency,” he stated.  
   
Speaking further on why Emefiele is in hot spot, the source, a former Senator, said during his term, the CBN governor embarked on impactful fiscal and monetary policies and programmes that are dear to President Buhari’s economic agenda.
  
While hinting at the Anchor borrowers’ programme and naira protectionist measures, the source noted that the powers that be knows that what Nigeria needs in the next dispensation is governance that focuses on economy more than politics.
     
It was also gathered that President Buhari and his close confidants are looking for a leader that could run a sort of consensus administration that brings together specialists from diverse fields to heal the nation’s political economy, while ensuring national cohesion.
  
The question that arises is, among the persons being associated with the APC Presidential ticket, who can fund the Presidential campaign with ease or help of corporate players? With Buhari’s famed 12 million votes bank from the north, the prospective APC flag bearer would need deep war chest in addition to the President’s backing.
   
It would be seen therefore, whether Emefiele will garner consensus or attract weak voices of dissent that attended the adoption of Senator Abdullahi Adamu as preferred APC national chairman. The next few weeks leading to the APC Presidential primary would show how far the schemes will match reality.