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Chairmanship options, zoning worries dog APC national convention

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Governor Umaru Tanko Al-Makura of Nassarawa State


Against the backdrop of recent history of divisions and infighting within the National Working Committee (NWC) of governing All Progressives Congress (APC), stakeholders have continued to examine the profile of the party’s next national chairman.
 
If available indicators are anything to go by, then it is obvious that the next APC national chairman would not be a woman or a Senator. Stakeholders believe that the chairman to be produced at the party’s imminent national convention should be someone that is not only accessible, but also very acceptable to majority of party men and women.
   
“He must be level-headed and be such a character that would not allow political power becloud his sense of judgment. As such, he must have been a former state governor with credible track records of performance. He must not be a controversial figure, but a peace-builder and a quiet problem-solver with vision and pedigree for impacting on other leaders,” a party chieftain outlined.
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State governors elected on the platform of APC, under the aegis of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) seem to have picked their former Nasarawa State colleague, Alhaji Tanko Al’Makura, as the only possessor of those sterling qualities.
  
However, while Al’Makura is said to be generally acceptable to majority of party stalwarts, including the equally powerful National Assembly caucus of the party, the governors’ plan to abort zoning of presidential slot has opened room for new contenders. Former governors of Zamfara and Borno states, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari and Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, are said to have begun making contacts with powerful stakeholders to contest the national chairmanship.

Contest Or Compromise
The three names associated with possible run for the office of national chairman has wide implications for the 2023 presidential contest, especially the race for APC’s ticket. All three, Al-Makura, Yari and Sheriff, are coming on the strength of the general belief that it is the turn of a Muslim to occupy the office of national chairman.
  
Apart from at the inchoate stage of APC’s formation, when former Osun State governor, Chief Bisi Akande, served in interim capacity, no other Muslim has occupied the office of national chairman of APC. The resolve by party stakeholders to field a Muslim national chairmanship candidate was also said to have been informed by the belief that the 2023 Presidential standard bearer would be a Christian from the Southern part of the country.
  
Yari’s ambition is said to be informed by the possibility that since President Muhammadu Buhari would be serving out his final term in office by 2023, there is no likelihood that another person from Northwest geopolitical zone would be supported to fly the party’s flag in the presidential election.
 
The immediate past Zamfara State governor has never hidden his ambition to occupy the seat of APC national chairman ever since his senatorial aspiration hit the rocks. However, party chieftains in Abuja believe that Yari’s supremacy battle with Senator Kabiru Marafa for the soul of APC in the state lead to the fiasco of losing the state to opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
 

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Though the reconciliation efforts of the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker and Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) succeeded in bringing together Yari and Marafa, it is yet to be seen how far the patch-up of their strained political relationship would go. For instance, Yari’s aspiration to be APC national chairman would test the rapprochement brokered by the CECPC, especially given that Marafa’s ambition to be governor may be vitiated by a Yari chairmanship.  
  
Moreover, whether Governor Bello Matawalle joins APC or not, it is not possible that Yari would have an incumbent governor backing his chairmanship ambition. A party source told The Guardian that if Yari, who is a former Chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) sustains his interest in contesting the post of APC national chairman, he would be made to test the bitter pill he served Zamfara APC by his insistence on imposing a governorship candidate on the party in 2019.
  
Yari’s chairmanship is also expected to run into conflict with the presidential ambitions of APC stalwarts from the zone, including the chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Senator Atiku Bagudu and Governor Nasir El Rufai.
  
From Northeast geopolitical zone, where Sheriff hails, the common belief among APC stakeholders is that it is their turn to produce the country’s next President. The stakeholders hinge their optimism on two points. They claim that there was an understanding between President Buhari and the zone prior to the 2019 presidential poll to the effect that if the zone supports the President’s second term, they would be supported with power of incumbency to succeed Buhari.
  
Second, Northeast chieftain in APC recall that after Alhaji Tafawa Belewa presided over the affairs of the country, nobody from the zone had mounted the saddle again as Nigeria’s leader. They therefore believe that 2023 would be an opportune time to contest the Presidency.
 
It is perhaps against this sentiment that APC governors do not warm up to Sheriff’s chairmanship aspiration, added to the fact that his excursion from defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party and brief sojourn in PDP is being reckoned against his qualification for the post.   
 
On his part, Al Makura is said to be on the same page with his home state governor, Engineer Abdullahi Sule, in addition to the fact of his political skills, which stakeholders say enabled him to defeat PDP in 2011 despite their power of incumbency and federal might.
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An APC chieftain from Plateau State told The Guardian that the former Nasarawa State governor has rich political experience dating back to when he served as youth leader of National Party of Nigeria (NPN). He disclosed that by virtue of his position as youth leader, Al-Makura was the youngest member of the National Executive Committee of the party, which afforded him the opportunity to interact with leaders like President Shehu Shagari and others.
 
“After that exposure, Al-Makura also served as a member of the Constituent Assembly representing Lafia/Obi federal constituency of Plateau State. During the Ibrahim Babangida transition to civil rule programme, Al-Makura served as state Secretary of Plateau State chapter of defunct National Republican Convention (NRC) in 1990,” the party chieftain stated.
  
He explained that Al-Makura’s political odyssey was part of the reason APC leaders settled for him as the best option to serve as national chairman.  
  
However, Al-Makura’s membership of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), one of the legacy parties that coalesced into APC, upon which he was elected as the lone governor, also contributed to the factors that favoured his consensus choice.  
      
But, coming from the North Central geopolitical zone, it was gathered that Kogi State governor, Alhaji Yahaya Bello’s decision to thrown his hat in the ring for the Presidential ticket of APC was informed by some state governors that are opposed to the attempt by former CPC bloc in the party to hijack the party structure after producing the President.

A founding member of APC from Niger State confided in The Guardian that it is doubtful if GYB wants to be President, adding, “The Kogi State governor as a pawn in the power game among state governors. He represents the interest of those who argue that the South was robbed of the chairmanship under Comrade Adams Oshiomhole for their presidential ambition.”
  
The clash of interests in APC is said to be behind the ongoing vacillation of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) to fix a date for the national convention. Would the party adopt a consensual approach or outright electoral contest to choose the next substantive APC national chairman?

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Whichever option the party leaders choose, how to appease the South, precisely for the disruption of their two terms in office of national chairman would necessitate the choice of a compromise candidate.
 
There are some small talks in Blantyre Street that the CECPC should be allowed to remain in place due to the sterling performance of Mai Mala Buni, who was the party’s national secretary before he went to contest the Yobe State governorship. The general impression among stakeholders is that the Buni-led CECPC should be allowed to serve out the remaining portion of the Oshiomhole-led NWC that was elected in 2018.
  
While insisting that there is no need changing a winning team, those pushing for continued stay of CECPC in office argue that holding the convention amid the shaky position of the party about zoning and South/South’s claim of unfinished mandate, would drag the party into another needless round of crises.  

Zoning Huddle
IS it possible for APC to zone the office of national chairman and throw open to all comers the contest for the presidential ticket? In the coming days leading to the end of June, when President Buhari said would decide the fate of CECPC and the national convention, efforts would be made to resolve the issue of zoning.
     
Although pushing forward the national convention to December would amount to retaining the Buni-led CECPC in office, the party may have succeeded in averting fresh crisis, how the party hopes to resolve the challenges of moderating the aspiration of stakeholders for various positions, especially those of national chairman and Presidency.
 
December 2021, would mark 18 months in office of the Buni-led CECPC and a certain section of the party believe that the plan to have the APC convention in December 2021 is ostensibly a strategic move to monitor how the opposition PDP tackles its own dilemma.
  
By December, the party must have concluded everything that relates to the recent membership revalidation, so that the new membership register could serve as basis of electoral decisions and considerations.
 
The issue of zoning constitutes such a high huddle in APC, because while some stakeholders insist that zoning is not etched in the party’s constitution, others argue that fairness and equity demands that the presidential slot be zoned to the South. Yet, others express the fear that if the presidential slot is zoned to the South, the development could open new contentions about a promise made the Southwest caucus of the party that it would produce President Buhari’s successor.
   
The challenge, which the advocates of zoning foresee is the clamour by the Southeast for the presidential slot to be microzoned to their zone to address the perception of marginalisation. But, inspite of the perceived logjam over zoning, a former Kano State governor, Senator Ibrahim Shekarau, said the party should be bold enough to cede the Presidential ticket to the South.
 
Shekarau told the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that shifting the Presidency to the South would help the cause of inclusion, adding that “If we ignore power shifts, we are not being fair to ourselves and we are not fair to history.”
  
Was there a compact between President Buhari’s handlers and Northeast stakeholders of APC that they would be supported for the 2023 Presidency? Similarly, was there an understanding reached with the Southwest caucus that the zone should get ready to produce the next presidential candidate of APC? These are part of the secret issues that are dogging the governing party’s overdue national convention.

Buni’s Stranglehold On Party Structure
THE need to continue to exert a stranglehold on the APC must have informed the decision by members of the Progressive Governors Forum (PGF) to pass a vote of confidence on the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee.

The position by the Governor Abubakar Bagudu-led PGF is coming against the backdrop of the insistence by President Muhammadu Buhari on reliance on the bottom-top approach in deciding the fate of the party ahead of the 2023 poll.

The President must have emboldened the governors to rally round Buni, who is holding forte for some of them equally angling for the exalted seat of the presidency in 2023.

This is as loyalists of Bola Tinubu, a national leader of the party, have already formed a presidential campaign council codenamed, Southwest Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA) to actualise his alleged presidential ambition. The SWAGA team, coupled with other allied groups from the north includes ex-senators, other former lawmakers, and prominent politicians.

The Buni-led committee, whose six months extended mandate expires by the end of June, is yet to put the necessary structures on ground for the conduct of the national convention of the party as part of the intrigue and scheming to determine the flagbearer of the party ahead of the 2023 poll. 

The Buni-led committee which has advertently kept sealed lips on the issue of zoning of party positions, which is a precursor to the conduct of the national convention of the party, is tinkering with the idea of, among others, zoning the nation’s Presidency and Senate to the South with APC’s national chairman position zoned to the North.

The policy direction of the party explains the decision by party faithful to rally support for the emergence of three of the party’s former governors – Tanko Al-Makura, Abdulaziz Yari and Ali Modu Sherrif as national chairman of the party during the national convention of the party.

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It was learnt that the governors would soon prevail on President Buhari to grant a fresh six-month extension of the Buni-led committee based on the move to conduct the wards and states congresses of the party between July and October this year.

The caretaker secretary of the party, Senator John Akpanudoedehe, who dropped the hint on the party’s readiness to conduct the ward congresses was, however, silent on when to conduct the national convention of the party.

The need to address the crises arising from the APC membership registration and revalidation exercise in some state chapters of the party is also being adduced as reason for the extension of the tenure of the Buni-led committee.

Secretary to the Appeal Committee on the registration exercise and former acting National Chairman, Chief Victor Giadom while presenting the report to the Buni-led committee last week identified Kwara, Ogun, Imo and Rivers states as areas requiring the intervention of the top hierarchy of the party.

Buni assured that the party leadership would carefully study the report and act quickly in the interest of the party.

“The party will consider the recommendations made by the committee and every issue raised based on their merits. We all have a responsibility in rebuilding and repositioning this party to remain Nigeria’s leading political party,” Buni said.

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