After a long season of indecision, perhaps, prompted by an attempt to see the direction of events before committing themselves, the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has finally agreed to hold the national convention of the party on Saturday, February 26.
The date was announced yesterday in Abuja by the chairman of the committee and Governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, at a Progressive Women Conference. But Buni maintained a curious silence on the venue.
The announcement came after months of foot-dragging by the caretaker committee, which many initially thought had resolved to serve out the tenure of the sacked Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC).
Despite the announcement, which seemed to have excited key members of the party, the question now on the lips of many observers is whether the APC could afford to hold an elective convention, considering the multidimensional crises in most of the state chapters. Perhaps, it was based on this that a former governor of Abia State and Chief Whip of the Senate, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, in a letter dated December 13, 2021, urged the caretaker committee to consider postponing the national convention.
His suggestion came after the chairman of Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu, and Buni had met President Muhammadu Buhari on November 22, 2021, before the February date announcement.
Kalu also suggested that the presidential primary and the convention of the party be conducted the same day.
It is public knowledge that the congresses recently conducted by the party led to further polarisation in many of the state chapters. At the end of the congresses, there were crises in at least 14 state chapters of APC at the last count. The states included Lagos, Bauchi, Imo, Enugu, Plateau, Zamfara, Kwara, Gombe, Ogun, Osun, Oyo, Ekiti, Kano, and Taraba.
Aggrieved party members from Lagos, Zamfara, Taraba, Ekiti, Kwara, and Kaduna states had also filed petitions against the party leadership at both state and national levels.
At the moment, no fewer than seven cases are pending before the Federal High Court, Abuja, challenging either the legitimacy of the Buni-led party committee or the decisions taken by the committee since its inauguration on June 25, 2020.
Following the increasing court cases and the alarming polarisation of the party, particularly at the state level, the caretaker had set up the Senator Abdulahi Adamu reconciliation committee to halt the seeming descent into anarchy. But, like the other committees before it, the Adamu committee was unable to record remarkable breakthrough. However, it was able to reconcile aggrieved members in Enugu, Abia and Gombe state chapters of the party.
Aside from the crisis in the state chapters of the party, no fewer than seven cases are pending before the Federal High Court challenging the legitimacy of the Buni-led committee or some of its decisions. There were at least five cases in various courts challenging the eligibility of the party leadership. And with about five weeks to the proposed convention, there are still about 10 members contesting the national chairmanship position.
They are Chairman, Board of Trustees, Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFUND), Kashim Ibrahim-Imam; former governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura; another former governor of the state, Abdullahi Adamu; and incumbent governor of Benue State, George Akume.
Others include former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; former governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda; former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; Mallam Saliu Mustapha; Senator Sani Musa; and Soni Monidafe.
Though North-central seems favoured to clinch the number one party position, there are no indications yet that the aspirants have agreed to have a consensus arrangement. All the aspirants appear ready to slug it out at the convention.
Investigation, however, reveals that Ibrahim-Imam, Al-Makura, Adamu, and Akume are most favoured by the leadership of the party to emerge national chairman. The four are favoured by most of the governors.
Though, there have been calls for serving governors, who are members of the caretaker committee, including Niger State Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, Buni and Governor of Osun State Gboyega Oyetola, as well as some members of the National Assembly, to resign. Those seeking the resignation base their argument on the officers' re-election bids, to prevent a situation where they would be judges in their own case.
But yesterday's meeting of the caretaker committee at the national headquarters of the party was inconclusive, and would be continued today.
The meeting yesterday deliberated on modalities, especially, the mode of the convention, whether it would be direct primary, delegate system, or consensus. The meeting also discussed the activities of the Adamu committee and the effect of the unresolved rancorous state congresses on the preparation for the convention.
But as is fast turning out, the fragile status of the ruling APC, especially, in the states, would make an elective convention for the party an acid test. Many believe it would be safer for the party to adopt a consensus arrangement in the forthcoming convention in order to present a united front at the 2023 elections.
Contenders for APC National Chairman
•Who among these men will lead the ruling party?
Although the modalities for the February 26 National Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) has not been announced, one of these men, without a doubt, will lead the new National Working Committee (NWC) of the ruling party, writes Chuks Okocha
With the February 26 date confirmed for the much-awaited national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), the battle for the party’s national chairmanship would kick off soon in full steam. This has necessitated a categorisation of the aspirants. Although it is looking like a battle of former governors, other contenders also seem ready to put up a strong contest.
The contest also seems like a realignment of the political forces that came together to form the APC, as some believe stakeholders may have agreed in principle to allow one of the legacy political parties to produce the next national chairman of the party.
For the record, APC was formed by a coalition of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), led by a former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), led by Buhari; New Peoples Democratic Party (NPDP), a faction of the PDP, led by the governor of Sokoto State, Aminu Tambuwal; his then Rivers State counterpart, Chibuike Amaechi; and former Senate President, Dr. Bukola Saraki. There were also segments of then All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), led former Imo State Governor, and now Senator, Rochas Okorocha.
So far, the CPC has taken the presidency, with President Muhammadu Buhari; ACN produced the vice president, in the person of Professor Yemi Osinbajo; while ANPP produced the Senate President, with Ahmad Lawan
However, in the 2023 political calculations, a source at the weekend said though there was no official zoning of the offices of the party for the national convention, the CPC elements might almost certainly produce the national chairman of APC. The source said ACN stakeholders might produce the presidential candidate of the party.
The Chairmanship Contenders
Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, from Borno State, is currently Chairman of TETFUND Board of Trustees. He was twice the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) governorship candidate for Borno State in 2003 and 2007, but he lost both elections to ANPP’s Ali Modu Sheriff.
Ibrahim-Imam was appointed Presidential Liaison Officer to the Senate at the start of President Olusegun Obasanjo’s administration. He was not a founding member of the CPC, before it merged with other legacy political parties to form the APC, but he has solid contacts across the parties and in the government. He has been around for a while and boasts enviable experience required to move the party in a new direction. Largely seen as a friend of all tribes.
His aspiration could be affected by his links to the PDP family, where he contested twice for the office of governor where he lost election twice to Sheriff, who is also in the chairmanship race. Borno was originally an ANPP state.
Tanko Al-Makura is former governor of Nasarawa State. The 69-year-old businessman-turned-politician is keen on becoming the next APC NWC chairman.
As a former governor and serving senator, Al-Makura has the war chest to prosecute the election, and he has the experience and network to become the next national chairman of APC.
Al-Makura has running battles with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and may make a negative brand for the APC as party national chairman. He is reputed for not keeping to his promises and perceived as a selfish politician. He is rumoured to be in the habit of always running to the presidency to negotiate positions he wants, to the detriment of his party.
In 2011, Al-Makura allegedly negotiated with PDP to win the governorship seat. He was said to have repeated this in 2014.
The senator for Nasarawa West Senatorial District, Abdullahi Adamu was governor of Nasarawa State from 1999 to 2007.
As former governor and third-term senator, he enjoys the same privileges as former governors for the contest, including a large war chest. This may also be considered a compensation for him, having yielded the senate presidency to Ahmed Lawan, following Buhari’s intervention.
Adamu has lots of baggage on his personality. He is also a frequent guest of the EFCC on account of corruption allegations, and would not make a good brand image for the APC. A majority of party members see him as too old to be in the race, due to the complex nature of the job. At 75, Adamu is rated as too ambitious and might not make a good candidate for the national chairmanship of APC.
A two-term former governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume is Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs.
As a cabinet member, he can muster the confidence of some of his colleagues. He also has huge financial resources required to battle for the national chairmanship seat. As a former governor and senator, he has the contacts necessary to get the APC top job.
Akume is seen as arrogant and boastful, which were some of the factors that made APC to lose Benue to the opposition PDP. This followed the defection of Governor Samuel Ortom to the PDP. Akume does not seem to appeal to the new breed of politicians in APC.
He has the notorious reputation of drinking at crucial moments. His stewardship as Benue State governor was alleged to be unimpressive. Akume's role in APC losing Benue to the opposition is well documented and may be a minus for his aspiration.
The controversy surrounding his then ambition and scheming for the senate presidency may be an albatross for his new quest. APC members are wary of the imposition of party officials and Akume's antecedents in that regard is not pleasant.
He is a two-term former governor of Zamfara State, and a frontline contender to the position.
He is former chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF), a position that gave him a lot of influence and respect among his former colleagues and some serving governors. He has the resources and political experience.
If antecedents were anything to go by, then Abdulaziz Yari would be a bad sell for APC. The way Yari managed the last APC 2018 primaries, before the 2019 elections, was a disaster, which caused the total loss of APC candidates in the state to PDP.
His role in curtailing bandits during his tenure as governor of Zamfara State was not impressive. Today, his negligence in the handling of bandits is almost crippling the country.
Political watchers saw the recent defection of the current governor of the state, Bello Matawalle, to the ruling APC as a threat to Yari’s aspirations. Matawalle is reportedly not on the same page with Yari and has even accused the former governor of corrupt practices.
He is an astute grassroots politician from Kwara State and the Turaki of Ilorin. Mallam Saliu Mustapha is the founder of Saliu Mustapha Foundation (SMF), which is involved in huge philanthropic services.
He represents new hope in the political landscape of the country. A die-hard Buharist, Mustapha, has an edge over other contestants, as he is seen as a bridge between key party stakeholders, including the older and younger generations in the party.
Mustapha has paid his dues in political party administration. He was once national deputy chairman of the defunct CPC, one of the legacy parties that formed the APC, and a founding member of the ruling party.
His membership of the defunct CPC gives him an edge, as both ACN and ANPP blocs have had their slots; it looks like the turn of the CPC bloc to produce the next national chairman.
Mustapha is focused and regarded as one with a great vision for the party. He appeals to the majority of party members, because of his unique qualities and unifying role in the party. He is young and energetic, a major attribute members look forward to. The Kwara State governor is said to be behind his aspiration, including some ministers and governors.
He is in battle with former governors that are seen as heavyweight political gladiators. And he may lack the financial capability to effectively pursue his ambition.
Ali Modu Sheriff
A two-term former governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff is by disposition, a controversial character, who had traversed the two major political parties.
Ali Modu Sheriff is a founding member of the APC, and also a leader of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Sheriff is very rich and has the resources to stage a huge campaign for the national chairmanship seat. He has political experience and can gather some support from his ex-colleagues.
Sheriff's chairmanship of PDP a few years ago, which remains his major testimonial, is seen by his camp as a huge political advantage, which the APC should leverage upon at the convention. Having presided over the PDP, although largely controversial, the former Borno State governor is believed to know the strengths and weaknesses of the opposition party and should come to the battlefield better prepared than many others.
Ordinarily, many Nigerians may not take a party associated with Sheriff as the national chairman serious. He has a reputation for destabilising the political structure of parties. His stint as PDP factional national chairman was an eye-opener to the political class, to dine with the former Borno State governor with a long spoon.
Senator Kashim Shettima is also a two-term former governor of Borno State, and currently a senator.
A cerebral senator and well-connected among the top echelons of the party, he enjoys the support of his governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, and some amount of goodwill among his colleagues. He also has requisite experienced for the job.
He falls among the category of ex-governors that are associated with the imposition of party officials, without regard to party structure. Seen as a weak brand to represent the party, his handling of the Boko Haram crisis, when he held sway as Borno State chief executive, left much to be desired.
A former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Sunny Moniedafe is from Delta State.
Moniedafe enjoys the privilege of entering the contest with no baggage. Amiable and a good sell for the party, he believes the party could change for the better if it made the right choices in leadership. Seen as brave and courageous, Moniedafe is of the new breed politicians. He may not have previously occupied any elective office, but he believes his administrative experience in party management even before APC was established, gives him an edge.
He is from Delta State, which seems not to be in tandem with the unofficial zoning of the chairmanship seat. He does not seem to have the requisite experience to manage such a big political party.
Sani Mohammed Musa
Musa, 54, is senator for Niger East Senatorial district. He had previously contested for the PDP governorship ticket in his state but lost. Musa is a major contender in the race.
Musa is entering the race with a clean slate and has no issues with any of the anti-graft agencies. He also has a smooth-running relationship with party members. The young politician, who is fondly called "Sani 313" by his political admirers, believes he has what it takes to take on the chairmanship position.
He does not have the necessary experience as a party administrator. He needs to put in more effort to boost his popularity among the top political elite. His endurance level and loyalty to the party has not been tested. He is not a member of the CPC group and has a serious EFCC case over the card reader controversy.
Danjuma Goje, a senator and former two-term governor of Gombe State, joined the APC from the Peoples Democratic Party, where he defected.
He enjoys the same privileges as former governors. Goje’s political influence in the state was instrumental to the APC taking over the state in 2019. As a third term and current senator, he enjoys the support of top party delegates. A highly respected politician with some whiff of national clout and appeal, he boasts huge experience.
Political observers in the North-east have expressed fear that the friction between the lawmaker and Governor Inuwa Yahaya over control of party structure in the state may affect his ambition. They argue that the influential role of the Progressive Governors Forum in determining who gets what in the party may be deployed by Yahaya to stall Goje’s aspiration.
Party members are not too disposed to former governors ascending the national chairmanship position, because of their characters of imposing party officials. This may work against Goje as well.