June 30, 2021
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Even though the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is yet to officially declared its position on power shift ahead of the 2023 elections, an inkling to the likely power sharing formula to be adopted by the party is beginning to emerge, going by the battle for the position of national chairman. Virtually all those bigwigs in the ruling party already linked to the titanic battle are from the northern part of the country. The list comprises six former governors and senators spread cross the three geopolitical zones in the North. The configuration also shows at least four major tendencies that coalesced to form the APC at the threshold of the 2015 general election, Deputy Group Politics Editor, TAIWO AMODU reports.

WITH no clear cut position on zoning and no tentative date for its convention, chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are already jostling for the exalted office of national chairman of the party. Presidential hopefuls are also leaving nothing to chance to back the aspirations of those they believe will promote their ambition and are also smarting to undermine  through proxies,  those they are convinced will frustrate their dream to clinch the presidential ticket.

Whoever emerges as the national chairman of the APC at its convention will be saddled with the responsibility of organising the convention, where the standard-bearer of the party for the 2023 presidential election will emerge. Checks revealed that there are four  categories of  power blocs that will determine who gets what at the convention likely to hold in December to elect a new set of national officers to take over administration of the national Secretariat ( now Christened Buhari House)  from the CECPC under the leadership of Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni. The power blocs include: chieftains of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and by extension the Presidency; the forum of governors on the platform of the party, the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) led by Kebbi State governor, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu; the seriously fractured defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) led by Bola Tinubu and the chieftains of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP). Also not to be dismissed with a wave of the hand is the remnants of the NewPDP, which has former Rivers State governor and incumbent Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, as its most noticeable figure.

The ruling APC, in its formative stage, was an amorphous platform with five dominant political parties which coalesced to form it: the CPC, ACN, ANPP, certain chieftains of APGA, led by a former Imo State governor, Rochas Okorocha and the NPDP led by Bukola Saraki, Amaechi, Rabiu Kwankwaso and AliyuWamakko, former governors of Kwara, Rivers, Kano and Sokoto states, respectively as the driving force.

Further findings showed that a former Osun State governor and member of the defunct ACN, Bisi Akande, was the pioneer chairman of the party. At the convention held in 2014, a former Edo State governor and chieftain of the defunct ANPP, Chief Odigie Oyegun succeeded Akande as the chairman of the ruling party. Following the acrimony between the governors and Chief Oyegun, the administration of the party’s  national secretariat again  returned  to the defunct ACN  as a former president of the Nigeria Labour Congress (NLC) and  former Edo State governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole emerged as chairman.

The war of attrition between a national leader of the party and chieftain of the defunct ACN, Tinubu and the APC governors was to consume the Man Friday of the former Lagos State governor, Comrade Oshiomhole as President Muhammadu Buhari and leader of the party surrendered the APC national secretariat to the governors at an emergency National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting held in June 2020 at the Presidential Villa.

A former national secretary of the party and incumbent Yobe State governor, Mallam Mai Mala Buni, was pronounced as the interim chairman of the APC, with a mandate to reconcile aggrieved chieftains and state chapters, as well as conduct a national convention to elect national officers.

The six-month tenure given the Buni team was later extended by another six months at the December 8,2020 NEC meeting held at the Presidential Villa.

Last Friday at a meeting held at the Presidential Villa, President Buhari tacitly approved extension of the tenure of the CECPC after endorsing the timetable for the conduct of ward, local government and state congresses. A statement signed by national secretary of the interim committee, Senator John  Akpanudoedehe, read in part: “The national chairman had the president’s approval to review the timeline available to the CECPC. By the approved CECPC decision, the tenure of the caretaker committees at each level from ward, local government, state and national will end immediately elections are held at their respective levels and its officers immediately take oath of office terminating with the national convention.”

The statement was, however, silent on when the gathering of the highest organ of the party, the national convention would be convened.

Investigation revealed that despite no official pronouncement on zoning, the aspirants for the office of national chairman are from the northern part of the country, giving indication that it was already settled that no chieftain from the southern part of the country would succeed Governor Buni.

The list which parades former governors cum serving senators include: Abdul Aziz Yari, , Senators Ali Modu Sheriff; Kashim Shettima; Tanko Al-Makura; George Akume; Danjuma Goje;  former governors of Zamfara, Borno, Nasarawa  Benue and Gombe  states, respectively. Also in the race is a former chieftain of the defunct CPC from Kwara State, Mustapha Salihu and Sunny Moniedafe from Adamawa State.

 

APCAbdul Aziz Yari

The two-term former governor of Zamfara State is the only aspirants from the North-West zone, where President Buhari’comes from. Like few others, Abdul Aziz Yari has not made any formal declaration for the office, but he is said to be working round the clock behind the scene for the endorsement of stakeholders in the party.It could not be confirmed if his ambition enjoyed the blessings of the Progressive Governors Forum. Some analysts believe perceived political baggage of the former governor could work against his ambition as the power tussle for the control of the party structures in Zamfara between him and Senator Kabiru Marafan, prior to 2019 general election denied the party its victory in the election.

The Supreme Court, in its pronouncements, stripped the party its victory in the governorship, state and National Assembly elections and “awarded” its mandate to the candidates of its main rival, the PDP.The five-man apex court led by the Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad, removed all candidates of the APC in the state in the 2019 general election due to the party’s failure to conduct election for nomination of candidates as required by law.In a unanimous judgment delivered by Justice Paul Galinje, the court ordered candidates of other parties that came second to take over as the duly elected contestants.

The Governor Buni-led caretaker committee, as part of its trouble-shooting initiative, has since”reconciled”  Abdul Aziz Yari and Senator Marafan. But a party source said the former chieftain of the defunct ANPP ambition to lead the APC could suffer a fatal blow from the incumbent Zamfara State governor,Bello Muhammad Matawalle, who had all along been planning to dump the PDP for the APC.

According to the source, “a sitting governor as leader of the party would not be comfortable to have another chieftain from his home front as national chairman of the party. It will ultimately lead to power tussle for control of state chapter.”

 

Ali-Modu Sheriff

A former governor of Borno State in the defunct ANPP, he was one of the strong voices in the North East that made sacrifices for the formation of the APC. Sheriff left the erstwhile main opposition party on the eve of the 2015 general election having lost out in the power game for the emergence of national officers of the party in 2014.

He was also literally stripped naked at the home front as the stakeholders in the party surrendered the control of state chapters to the sitting governors having proclaimed them as leaders of the party in their respective states. His romance with the PDP was tumultuous as Modu Sheriff emerged factional chairman, until the Supreme Court proclaimed the faction led by a former Kaduna State governor, Ahmed Makarfi as the legitimate leadership. Senator Ali Modu Sheriff has his estranged political son, Kashim Shettima and the sitting governor,  Babagana Zulum to contend with in his aspiration to lead the APC.

 

Kashim Shettima

He has also been mentioned at the party national secretariat among those eyeing the administration of Buhari House. The former governor is perceived as a moderate, with friends across the power divides in the party. It could not be confirmed if the former chairman of the Northern Governors Forum has broached his speculated ambition to the dominant voices in the governors’ camp.

Tanko Al-Makura

A former governor of Nasarawa State and senator representing Nasarawa  South, he was a chieftain of the defunct CPC. The aspirant from North-Central zone enjoys a warm relationship with the PGF and some of former governors in the party. Despite his affinity with the CPC, stakeholders in the APC see him as a non-aligned figure, who is not hostile to any of the power blocs. The Presidency has consistently sustained the position that  Buhari  has no interest in who leads the party ahead 2023 general election. But certain power brokers have alleged that the defunct CPC is smarting to take control of the APC national secretariat. The former governor is regarded in some circles as the anointed candidate.

Salihu Mustapha

Another chieftain of the defunct CPC in the race from North-Central, Salihu Mustapha is  from Kwara State. He was former deputy national secretary of the CPC and served as a member of the Buhari Campaign Organisation. While his media handlers claim he has friends in the Presidency, Mustapha is not visible in the camp of the APC governors. It could not be confirmed if his ambition enjoys the blessings of his home state governor, Abdulrahman Abdul Razaq. Perceived as an underdog, Mustapha had vowed to spring a surprise. He told newsmen recently that he doesn’t feel intimidated by the profile of some of the aspirants, majority of whom are former governors and serving senators.”On being intimidated because of the calibre of aspirants, before some of them became governors, they were also ordinary citizens like you and I. I don’t think anybody was born with the title of governor or senator. They also contested. It was ambition that took them there. So, it is not out of place to say my own ambition today is to be the National Chairman of APC.”

George Akume

A former two-term governor of North-Central Benue State on the platform of the PDP,  Akume is Buhari’s Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs. Akume represented Benue North-West as a senator under the platform of the defunct ACN between 2011 and 2015. He won another term in 2015 but lost to Senator OrkeJev of the PDP in 2019. An ally of a national leader of the party, Tinubu, his chances for the exalted seat is perceived as slim since the ACN bloc has produced two national chairmen in Akande and Oshiomhole.

Danjuma Goje

The former governor of Gombe State joined the APC as member of the nPDP flank. The senator representing Gombe Central was one of the leading aspirants for the leadership of the ninth Senate until he withdrew after a shuttle to the Villa. His chairmanship ambition remains at the realm of speculation. Goje after his victory in the 2019 general election had formally declared that he would not seek for any political office again. He said: “I have had the rare opportunity of contesting and winning the seven elections conducted by various national electoral commissions. In the Second Republic during the Shagari administration as a very young man, I contested and won election into the then Bauchi State House of Assembly. In 1998, I also contested and won election as a Senator for Gombe Central senatorial district under the defunct United Nigeria Congress Party (UNCP) during the Abacha regime.

“I then in 2003 contested and won the Governorship election for Gombe State. I was re-elected in 2007.In 2011, 2015 and 2019, I contested and won the three elections for the Gombe Central Senatorial District.

“Therefore, having contested and won all the seven elections in addition to being a Minister for the country, I strongly believe that Allah (SWT) has been extremely kind to me. i believe not many Nigerians have been so lucky and blessed. Alhammdulillahsai Shukra.

“It is in the light of the foregoing and having reached an advanced age, I wish to formally inform you that I have decided not to contest any other election again. For the avoidance of doubt, I will not contest any election at all levels. “

 

Sunny Sylvester Moniedafe

A chieftain of the APC from North-East state of Adamawa, he joined the erstwhile main opposition party as a member of the defunct ACN. Moniedafe, whose political career began in 1990 with the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the aborted Third Republic as a ward delegate of Karewa Ward in Jimeta, Yola, Adamawa State has served the APC in several capacities: member of the  Federal Capital Territory, (FCT)  Executive Committee from 2014 to 2018;  member of the Party Registration Committee, National Assembly Screening Committee, State Congress Committee, House of Assembly and Gubernatorial Primaries Committee.

Moniedafe at a stakeholders meeting in Abuja at the weekend, said he would ensure that APC under his leadership take firm control of North-East: his home state of Adamawa, its next door neighbour of Taraba and Bauchi states. Checks showed that like George Akume, Moniedafe could be “zoned” out of the race as the defunct ACN produced two national chairmen for the APC since its inception: Akande and Oshiomhole

 

North East: Does Buni hold the ace?

A scrutiny of the array of aspirants reveals that four of those  in the race for  the leadership of Buhari House are from the same zone as the incumbent Governor of Yobe State, Mai Buni, who doubles as the chairman of the APC national caretaker committee: Senators Sheriff, Shettima, Goje and

Moniedafe from Borno, Gombe and Adamawa states, respectively. A party source said in confidence that the North-East could be precluded from the race as the permutation favours the zone to produce the vice-president candidate for the 2023 general election. The source, however, could not confirm if the plan enjoys the blessings of President Buhari.

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