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APC: National chairmanship contest may pit serving, ex-governors against lawmakers 

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Mai Mala Buni

• Presidency allegedly favouring a serving senator 
As All Progressives Congress (APC) is preparing for its national convention, scheduled to hold after local government congresses and the yet to be scheduled state congresses, stakeholders in the party are concerned that serving and former governors may clash with national Assembly lawmakers over the choice of a new national chairman.

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Sources within said this is giving the leadership of the party more headache than the controversial zoning problem that is more frequently discussed. The source said this is because from the look of things, the ruling party may have tactically agreed in principle to concede the presidency to the South after President Muhammadu Buhari’s two terms in 2023.

The Guardian was told that the camp of serving and former governors are bent on producing one of their colleagues as the new national chairman to maintain the tradition since 2013 when the party was formed as against the position of the lawmakers, particularly those in the upper chamber, who want the status quo to change.

It is said that the governors’ caucus is hinging their confidence on the fact that one of their colleagues, the incumbent chairman of the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mai Mala-Buni will use his position to ensure that the camp produces the next national chairman against senators, who say tenures of ex-national chairmen of the party, who were former governors, were complete failure and disaster to the party.

Some senators are saying that whoever has served, as governor should steer clear from vying for the national chairmanship, saying their arrogance and highhandedness in handling party affairs are well known.

They said the modus operandi of handling a state is far different from managing a party. They said handling party affairs requires more tact and level headedness than the mentality of a Chief Executive Officer, whose words and actions are like law and order.

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A source said: “But for collective actions the tenure of the immediate past two national chairmen of the party, who were ex-governors would have destroyed the party. Indeed the last one nearly plunged the party into more chaos and crisis.”

But the governors’ caucus appears unperturbed on one condition that they have what it takes to mobilise and also force their way to get what they want.

It appears the lawmakers’ caucus might be getting encouraged to tackle governors, perhaps with the support from the Presidency, said to be somewhat averse to seeing another former governor become the national chairman of APC.

Although the party source said the caucus of governors and ex-governors are aware of the disposition of the Presidency, but they are not perturbed, on the ground that President Buhari will wield lesser power and influence in the affairs of the party after the local and state congresses.

Whatever the game plan is, both factions are not relenting, but are perfecting strategies ahead of the national convention.

The first and interim national chairman of APC in 2013 to 2015 was former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande from the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). Former Governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun from the ANPP arm of the merger, succeeded him while another ex-governor, Adams Oshiomhole, also succeeded him. The erstwhile labour leader served until June 2020, when the National Executive Committee (NEC) appointed Governor Mala-Buni Caretaker committee chairman.

A member of the Senate, who opted to hide his name told The Guardian that it is most likely the party’s presidential ticket will be conceded to a former governor, saying: “In that case, it would not be ideal to also concede the national chairmanship position to any ex-governor bearing in mind that Mala-Buni is a serving governor.”

On the issue of zoning, current leadership of APC seem to have tactically left the slot of national chairmanship open to the north judging from the caliber of aspirants that have indicated interest, who are mainly northerners.

Among aspirants jostling for the position are Senators Abdullahi Adamu, Tanko Al-Makura, George Akume, Mohammed Sani Musa and Danjuma Goje. Also in the race is Mallam Mustapha Salihu and former governors, Ali Modu Sheriff and Abdulaziz Yari.

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These aspirants show signs of meeting requirements for the office of national chairman, having served the party in one capacity or the other. Apart from Senator Sani Musa and Alhjai Saliu Mustapha, the rest are former governors. Being former governors, they are likely to bring to bear their experiences as state executives, which the party can benefit from. However, the position canvassed by lawmakers, that former governors will wreck the party with their overzealousness, corruption baggage and authoritarianism cannot be dismissed. The era of Oshiomhole testifies to this.

On the other hand, Mallam Saliu Mustapha has three years of experience as a former deputy chairman of the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC) and a member of the defunct All Nigeria’s Peoples Party (ANPP). The Kwara-born politician in recent times has not shown much interest in making public his intentions and agenda for the top party position.

Meanwhile, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa, from Niger State has featured predominantly in the national dailies as the strong contestant for the position.

The north-central region is being touted as the preferred region to produce the next chairman of the party.  But the touted presidential ambition of Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, from same zone, as unlikely as it appears, has capacity of throwing spanners in the zoning template.

In a quick reaction to Bello’s presidential ambition, a fellow APC stalwart dismissed the Kogi governor as a joker of limitless territory within the party, saying, “his flight of fancy would soon hit the rock.”

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He laughed over the way Bello joined APC and the circumstances that made him clinch the party’s governorship ticketin 2015 and how he retained power in 2019, saying, “such a character is not what APC needs for now.”

For Senator Musa, who currently represents Niger East Senatorial District from north Central and other contestants in the race for chairmanship of the party, the challenges with inheriting a party of diverse culture, with potential to be enveloped in protracted crisis, requires a technocrat and a politician with exceptional capacity and wide acceptance from all regions and tendencies within the party.

APC, at this crucial juncture cannot afford a repeat of the past when it arrogantly carried on as if it owned Nigeria. Between now and 2023 is going to be a tough era for the party, to either swim or sink, notwithstanding what appears as a good season of harvest, with refugees from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) looking for safe places to hang around. Not to mention insiders with bruised egos, which are just waiting for a good opportunity to ditch APC and collect their pound of flesh. These may not be the best of times to head a political party such as APC, but whoever has to must know his onions.

Giving perspectives of how APC may eventually arrange itself for the 2023 presidential and national chairmanship, a former member of the Southwest zonal executive, Oladapo Karounwi said the ruling party is yet to get its act together, regarding zoning of its presidential ticket. He said sorting the national chairmanship shouldn’t pose much headache.

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