Odds as APC plots consensus national chairman
The next national chairman of All Progressives Congress (APC) is most likely to be a former state governor. It has become a convention that such stature of persons occupy the office and it would most likely not change during the forthcoming national convention of the party.
Shortly after the merger of legacy fringe opposition political parties into the APC, former Osun State governor, Chief Bisi Akande, emerged as the interim national chairman, only for Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, himself a former Edo State chief executive, to succeed him and become its first substantive chairman.
Currently, the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) bloc in APC is angling to produce the next national chairman. They argue that after both All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) have had their slots, it was their lot to produce the next national chairman.
At the buildup to the 2019 general elections, party stalwarts, especially the forum of Progressive Governors led by former Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, demanded a tenure extension for Oyegun. However, the governors were stoutly opposed by some founding fathers of the party, who contended that the party needed a mercurial character to square up with the gangling opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The political godfathers contended that Oyegun was too much of a gentleman and, as such, could not muster enough pluck to rebuff PDP’s gallant efforts to bounce back as national governing party. In lieu of Oyegun’s second term, another Edo State governor in the person of Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, was selected to mount the saddle by the kingmakers and the development was ratified at the 2018 national convention of the party.
Two years into his administration, after assisting the party to secure President Muhammadu Buhari’s second term mandate, Oshiomhole got entangled in a domestic political battle with Governor Godwin Obaseki, who incidentally was his political beneficiary and successor.
While Obaseki sought his second term as Edo State governor, he saw Oshiomhole’s opposition as a big stumbling block to the realisation of his ambition. In the clash of interests between the national chairman and the governor, Obaseki’s colleagues rallied round him to requite Oshiomhole for obstructing Oyegun’s second term and trying to scuttle their colleague’s second term aspiration.
To demonstrate the scope of their influence and relevance in the party the governors orchaestrated the suspension of Oshiomhole through the APC executives in Etsako ward 10. Although Oshiomhole overlooked the suspension as being unconstitutional, it later served as his Achilles’ heels.
Shortly after a Bwari Federal High Court upheld the suspension and barred Oshiomhole from parading himself as the APC national chairman, an internal disagreement within the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) as to who should act in the absence of the national chairman and Deputy National Chairman (South), a meeting of the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC) was convened amidst fresh discord.
At the emergency NEC meeting in Abuja on June 25, 2020, the NWC was dissolved. In its place, a Caretaker/ Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) was set up in the interim to manage the affairs of the party and organise a national convention for new leaders to emerge.
But, although the 13-member CECPC, headed by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, was given six months to complete its assignment, including reconciling disenchanted members and organising a national convention, it sought for extension of time.
BY next month, the extra six months granted the CECPC to perfect the NEC’s instructions would elapse. Further, the membership revalidation exercise, which the CECPC cited as reason for demanding an extension, has been concluded.
But, various issues are said to be cropping up, which sources within the party said, would make it impossible for the national convention to hold or the CECPC to be disbanded.
It would be recalled that prior to the tenure extension granted the CECPC, the deputy national public secretary of the party, Yakini Nabena, disclosed that the committee was already putting together a timetable for the national convention, even as he declared that only after ratification by NEC the timetable would be made public.
Nabena’s intervention followed agitation by Concerned APC members for the CECPC to organise the national convention within 14 days or risk mass protest.
Now that the membership revalidation has been concluded, the party’s caucuses, particularly that of the Progressive Governors, are grappling with contentious issues of zoning and timing of the national convention.
Former governor of Zamfara State, Abdullaziz Yari and his counterpart from Bornu State, Senator Kassim Shettima are among the circles of former governors angling to succeed Oshiomhole as APC national chairman.
CECPC Secretary, Senator John Akpandudoedeghe, explained that issues regarding the zoning of elective offices remain the exclusive preserve of NEC, stressing that the mandate of the committee stops at reconciliation and organising the convention.
But, noticing the seeming laxity of the CECPC towards a timely holding of the convention, the Director General of Progressives Governors’ Forum, Dr. Salihu Lukman, warned the committee of the possible dangers of its vacillation on the party’s cohesion.
Lukman warned the CECPC not to abuse the confidence President Buhari and the NEC reposed on it by seeking to delay the convention beyond June 2021. “Under no circumstances should there be any contemplation of another tenure extension. Party faithful and leaders should cooperate with the committee to complete the task of organising a national convention to elect new leaders,” he stated.
However, while the PGF DG wanted a speedy election of substantive NWC members, some governors, who are eyeing the Presidential and Vice Presidential positions of the party, busied themselves with calculations about zoning of the position of national chairman so as not to diminish their chances.
Reminded that the efforts are being made to ensure that the convention is not rancorous, Lukman asserted that “even if the CECPC is able to complete its assignment, processes of internal negotiation to produce leaders of the party, the character and capacity of the new leadership” must be put into consideration.
The DG warned that the committee must also weigh the scope of membership participation during congresses and national convention, stressing that that would determine “whether the party is conforming to both democratic principles and progressive ideals.”
Yet, it was against the background of the scheming that former Nasarawa State governor, Senator Tanko Al Makura, is being tipped to step into Oshiomhole’s shoes to continue to pursue the programme of reconciliation and peace-building in the party.
Despite being the only state governor on CPC platform, stakeholders of APC, especially his former colleagues in CPC, also said Makura has a quiet mien and might be cool-headed.
Former Special Assistant to the President on Debt Recovery, Mr. Obna Obla, recalled that Al Makura proved his political mettle when he defied PDP’s control of the levers of federal power to win the Nasarawa State gubernatorial poll in 2011.
“It was as a measure of his administrative know how that Al-Madura was appointed a member of the defunct CPC merger committee in January 2013 by General Muhammadu Buhari, that discussed a merger with the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) and any other progressive political party toward the formation of a broad-based political party to fight PDP,” Obla stated.
However, the challenge confronting the governing party is how to deliver on the consensus arrangement and managing the possible fall-outs of the national convention, especially the stance of South/South zonal chapter of the party that its tenured slot was abridged and ought to be made good for the zone.
Nabena had declared that “what the committee is trying to do, which is the most important thing is, first of all, to make sure that there is unity, because we must not be divided to go into that convention.
The committee is going to do the needful to make sure we are going into that convention with a united force.”