Intrigues, suspense as contenders for APC national chairmanship set for final battle
The sudden resignation of the Director General of Progressives Governors Forum (PGF), Dr Salihu Lukman in the heat of controversy around the forthcoming national convention of All Progressives Congress (APC) is a pointer to the fierce battle among various interest groups jostling to produce national chairman of the party.
Although, Lukman has not disclosed reasons for his resignation, many believe that the former DG of PGF, who has insisted that the party must abide the February date already announced by the Buni-led Caretaker Committee to hold its convention, must have stepped on toes, especially forces within the party that wanted the convention date changed to third quarter of the year.
Besides, APC governors and other party leaders are said to be sharply divided on the mode of primary to adopt to elect the third substantive national chairman of the party and other executive members. While some insist on direct primary, despite the fact that efforts to include it in the amended Electoral Bill suffered set back as President Muhammadu Buhari vetoed the bill and returned it to the National Assembly, some powerful forces within the party are bent on the mode, arguing that if the party could adopt direct primary to elect Buhari for second term election in 2019, the party should adopt the same in February.
However, it was gathered that some of the governors have expressed preference for indirect primary, knowing full well that they have absolute control of delegates from their states that will vote at the convention while another group is routing for consensus option to avoid crisis after the convention. President Buhari’s pronouncement during an interview with Channels Television that he has a favourite among the presidential aspirants has made many stakeholders uncomfortable with consensus option or affirmation, which may impose the President’s “favourite” aspirant on the party.
Whichever option the party may adopt at the convention, no fewer than 11 aspirants have been going around the country to sell themselves to members of the party. They include, former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari, former governors of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Tanko Al Makura. Borno State also has two on the list, former governors Ali Modu Sherrif and Senator Kashim Shettima. Former governor of Benue, Senator George Akume, former governor of Bauchi, Malam Isa Yuguda, former governor of Gombe and Senator Danjuma Goje. Others include, Senator representing Niger State, Sani Musa, Sunny Moniedafe from Adamawa State and Alhaji Salihu Mustapha from Kwara State.
But sources within the party disclosed that critical stakeholders in APC are already beaming their searchlights on five aspirants namely, Yari, Al Makura, Akume, Musa and Mustapha.
FORMER Governor Abdulaziz Yari of Zamfara State is one of the founding fathers of APC and one of the most experienced politicians the party can rely on for post Buhari’s party administration. He is believed to be goal getter who has participated in management of political parties before the formation of the APC to win elections either as a State secretary, House of Representatives member, two-term Governor or Director General of Presidential Campaign Organisation.
The former Chairman, Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF) has a track record of relating with politicians and people of diverse culture or political leanings to achieve a set objective. Indeed, he is an aspirant to beat.
To Yari, the ruling APC is currently at a crossroads over contending forces that are trying to redefine the philosophy of the party and only experienced politicians like him can lead the party to win the 2023 general elections and direct affairs of the party after President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in May 2023.
The maverick politician is, however, not unmindful of political calculations against his ambition by tendencies clamouring that the national chairmanship of the party should be micro-zoned to the North-central to pave way for those who want to become Vice Presidential candidates of APC in the Northwest.
Another hurdle Yari has to contend with is the argument that the next chairmanship of the party should come from among old members of CPC, one of the major parties that formed APC. Proponents of this sentiment have noted that ACN bloc has been occupying the seat of national chairmanship since its formation in 2014, but it appears that argument doesn’t carry much weight among party leaders that see all APC members as one family. Yari has ANPP background.
Yari, who decried the plethora of litigations filed by aggrieved party faithful in the aftermath of the state congresses, promised to entrench a reward system for party loyalists across the country if given opportunity to emerge the next national chairman.
He also urged fellow contenders to guard against the “do-or-die mentality” as they jostle for elective positions ahead of 2023 poll. On the clamour for power shift to south, he said, “I have no personal position beyond the party’s official stand. If the leadership of APC made a promise that power should move to any place, we should respect it. We would have no reason not to oblige. But we should look at this and all others things critically, so that APC can survive and succeed further.”
As a foundation member, Yari believes his knowledge and the roles he played during the party’s formation would assist him to carry out major reforms that will put APC on the winning path.
Yari is believed to be calling the shots in Zamfara APC until recent defection of Governor Bello Matawalle from the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in June 2021. Yari and Matawalle have been at loggerheads over control of the party, but Yari has publicly denied any power tussle between him and the incumbent governor, saying people call him leader because of what he has achieved for the party.
He said, “If God decides that it should be, it is going to be. People can manoeuvre and do all sorts of calculations, but they will not prevail. All I know is this, 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 are a mere tissues of lies meant to try to get a good man down but they will never succeed.”
FORMER Governor of Nassarwa State, Tanko Al-Makura is one of the major contenders for the job. He is said to be one of two aspirants some APC governors have screened to emerge as the national chairman of the party. Al Makura is of the defunct CPC legacy bloc of APC and he seems to be enjoying support from those legacy parties that formed APC.
Until his recent encounter with The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Al-Makura was seen as a top contender and less controversial figure in the race.
Speaking on why he wanted to lead the party, he said, “My ambition is about sustaining the gains as one that was opportune by providence to be part of those that participated in the merger exercise. It will be a total disservice to the party, if I sit back at this very critical period, not to partake in ensuring legacy sustenance and value addition to the party. That is my objective. That is my reason for wanting to contest for the office of chairman.
“I think there couldn’t be a better way to get this party properly positioned than someone that has been with the party right from the beginning and has gone across the board to know what needs to be done.
“By the special grace of God, if I become national chairman, I would ensure justice, I will ensure fairness and I will ensure a level playing field for everybody and ensure also internal party democracy and a reward system”.
Al-Makura was the only CPC governor at the time of forming the APC, having snatched Nassarawa from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2011 general election. So, he is one of the custodians of the APC brainbox and has the DNA of the party running in him. He clearly understands the vision and mission of the party.
He cut his teeth in party administration as the State Youth Leader of the defunct National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the old Plateau State (comprising present-day Plateau and the Nasarawa States) in the Second Republic. Those were the days Chief Augustus Akinloye held sway as the national chairman of NPN, while Chief Adeniran Ogunsanya loomed large in the Nigeria Peoples Party (NPP) and Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) revolved around the legend, Chief Obafemi Awolowo.
Besides, Al-Makura upped his experience in party administration as the State Secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) from 1990 to 1992 in the Third Republic. Whether the APC will be comfortable to have the EFCC countinually hound its next chairman is his major flaw.
A two-term governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume who is also the current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs is said to be on the radar of some of the APC governors to emerge as the third substantive national chairman of the party. A distinguished Senator, Akume is seen by his supporters as the most eligible aspirant to occupy the post of the national chairman of APC.
Akume, who has pointedly declared that his ambition to lead the state is not a do-or-die affair said, “I am qualified, having served at the state and federal level at different capacities, if given the opportunity I will bring my wealth of experiences to bear on my work”.
Senator Akume who acknowledged support he was getting from Nigerians said, “Many people have been talking to me about the issue of national chairman of the party and there are many groups and individuals who are already canvassing support for me and I believe that God’s time is always the best.”
A former minority leader of the Senate from June 2011 to June 2015 who recently opened a campaign office in Abuja to actualise his ambition Akume believes time has come for the party to benefit from his political experience. One of his supporters said: “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. This is the type of leader we need to bring his experience to bear in piloting the affairs of the party. The kind of national chairman we need now can unite the party, he must have grassroots appeal and command the respect of all members.”
THE 54-year old lawmaker representing the Niger East senatorial district in the upper chamber of the National Assembly is believed to have support of some strong forces in the party, especially a presidential aspirant that is already making waves across the country. Fondly called, “Sani 313” by his political admirers, the chairmanship hopeful represents the new political yearnings.
He may not have intimidating credential of a former governor or minister, a businessman turned politician, he stands out as one of the major contenders for the national chairmanship of the party.
Sani cut his teeth in politics through his late father, Alhaji Tanko Bawa Musa, Iyan Minna who was the chairman of Piakoro Local Government Area and from his elder brother, Abdullahi Musa, a former member House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003.
A first-timer and serving senator, Sani 313 launched himself into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in 2017. He contested for the PDP governorship ticket and lost. This forced him to return to his private business. By 2019, luck shined on him and was elected to the Senate to represent Niger East senatorial district on the platform of the APC.
Sani 313, 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 mobiliser, 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.”
He has robust acceptability among the old and young party members, as well as among the various statutory organs of the party.
But many will not forget in a hurry the uproar that greeted his “Protection from Internet Falsehoods, Manipulations and Other Related Matters Bill”, also known as “anti-social media bill” rejected by Nigerians, especially youths and media practitioners that likened the bill to the obnoxious Decree 4 of 1994, enacted during Abacha’s regime.
SALIU Mustapha, former national deputy chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) is the youngest among APC chieftains jostling for the office of the national chairmanship of the party.
The 50-year old politician from Ilorin, Kwara State is highly favoured by critical stakeholders of APC to lead the party to general elections in 2023.
To him, the time has come for young people to take important positions in political parties because of their numerical strength, which he put at 80 percent of the voting population in Nigeria. The #EndSARS protest of last year is an eye-opener, which any party willing to win elections cannot ignore, he said.
Making reference to the decision of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that elected a 25-year old member as its national youth leader, Mustapha said his party should do better than PDP by electing him as national chairman of APC.
He said, “Today in Nigeria, we have to come to the realisation of the fact that 80 per cent of the total vote cast in this country belongs to the younger generation, we had a nationwide protest by the youths called #EndSARS; that protest became an eye-opener to other things in this country. The younger generation now knows that the voting tool is now in their hands. PDP has elected a younger person as their national youth leader, hoping to harness from that 80 per cent voting population. APC can do better, if the party finds me worthy and makes me the chairman, why would the youth go on protest when they have someone like them in that office, they would probably support APC and be part of the party.”
For Mustapha, who has spent over two decades in politics, he believes he has acquired enough experience to foster unity and carry all members of the party as one family to achieve what they have promised Nigerians in their manifestoes. Seeing himself as a problem solver, Mustapha believes that various challenges facing the party are surmountable and he is optimistic that those challenges will make the party stronger.
“I don’t think there is any new trick one has to learn again, rather than to be just and fair in this game. And that is why in my own politics, it is not a do or die affair. That is why you are right to say I’m coming out like a gentleman. Yes, politics should be for gentlemen. We shouldn’t behave like touts or be rough in it. It should be a game of decorum.”
Mustapha is very clear of what he wanted to achieve if voted as the substantive national chairman of the party. He believes he has the capacity to sustain the winning streak of APC and make the party more accountable to Nigerians in terms of delivering on its manifesto and promises to the people.
He said, “First and foremost, it is an ideological path for me to be in APC and also in a progressive party. I am in the race to contribute in a positive leadership for all and help to bring about a disciplined, stable, focused and purposeful party for all with new ideas, and a fresh face that resonates with the younger generation.
“I will also become a bridge between the different strata of our society. I intend to bring about my long-standing abilities in party administration to help create an enabling environment for all so as to have a party and candidates that would deliver on good governance and also continue with the good works of the present administration led by our leader and father, President Muhammadu Buhari. So, I believe there is a need for an equally strong successor leadership, not only at the national and sub-national levels but also at the party level. That is the vehicle through which the successor government would emerge. This is what I envision and this is why I am in the race for the national chairmanship of APC.”