Ahead of the February convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), aspirants eyeing the national chairmanship and other positions have intensified campaigns to promote their candidatures.
A new crop of the National Working Committee (NWC) will emerge from the convention to replace the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee that has been piloting the affairs of the ruling party since June 2020 when Adams Oshiomhole-led committee was sacked.
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Though a section of the party being led by the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu, a former governor of Abia State was pushing for the postponement of the convention, the caretaker committee on Monday set in motion for the exercise with the constitution of the committees for the convention.
Top contenders for the chairmanship seat include former governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura; former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; former governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; former governor of Bauchi State, Isa Yuguda and Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume (former governor of Benue State).
Others are former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Saliu Mustapha, Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (APC, Niger East), Sunny Moniedafe and Mohammed Saidu Etsu.
Out of the contenders, the trio of Yari, Sheriff and Al-Makura seems to have outshone the rest in terms of campaigns. In strategic places across the country, especially Abuja and Kaduna, the billboards, posters and other campaign materials of the trio dotted key places.
However, clouds of dust have continued to trail the aspirations of the trio, no thanks to their past records. Analysts have expressed missed feelings about their candidatures.
Yari, 53, who belonged to the ANPP bloc, is all out to clinch the ruling party’s chairmanship seat, come February. Publicly and secretly, the two-term governor of Zamfara State has been promoting his candidature.
However, his inability to manage the affairs of the party in Zamfara State is being used to demarket him. His feud with Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa cost the APC Zamfara State in 2019.
Though in February, Yari and Marafa were reconciled, the defection of the Zamfara State governor, Bello Matawalle has opened a new phase of the crisis in the state. At the moment, Yari’s camp is in the court challenging the dissolution of the executives of the APC in Zamfara State by the Buni-led committee.
Party stalwarts are also expressing reservations about his candidature in view of the corruption cases dangling over him. He has been a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC). His file is still at the anti-corruption agency.
Speaking at an event recently, Yari said he has the capacity to make a difference in the leadership of the APC and navigate the party to victory in 2023.
Al-Makura, a former governor of Nasarawa State belongs to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) element of the APC. Al-Makura, the lone governor elected on the platform of CPC, a party founded by President Muhammadu Buhari, in 2011, is being promoted by his successor in Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule.
Daily Trust on Saturday reports that Al-Makura, a business tycoon, who represents Nasarawa South Senatorial District at the Senate, was a guest of the EFCC alongside his wife, Mairo on July 29, this year. They were reportedly grilled over allegations of corruption. Like Yari, party chieftains are using the EFCC case to de-campaign the lawmaker.
If elected Al-Makura, recently said he would ensure justice, fairness, level playing field for all and internal democracy to strengthen the party.
Like Yari and Al-Makura, Sheriff is a founding member of the APC. He is Borno State’s first governor to serve two consecutive terms (2003–2011). Before governing Borno State, he had represented Borno Central Senatorial District.
In 2014, at the build-up to the 2015 general elections, Sheriff jumped ship to the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). Between February 16 and May 21, 2016, he was acting chairman of the NWC of the PDP. His reign witnessed a prolonged leadership crisis and intense legal tussle which nearly led to the party extinction. He has been a guest of the EFCC like Yari and Al-Makura over allegations of corruption.
Stressing his capacity to pilot the affairs of the party, Sheriff recently said, “party is about talking to people, listening to them, understanding their problems, and finding amicable solutions to aggrieved people. To lead successfully, you must carry the people along; make them feel important because they are important”
Candidates’ corruption cases puncture Buhari’s anti-graft war – Dons
Commenting on the candidatures of the trio, an associate Professor of Political Sociology, University of Abuja, Dr Abubakar Umar Kari, said the Buhari administration has for a long time lost the battle against corruption, in spite of occasional posturing and empty claims to the contrary.
Kari said, “It’s therefore, not surprising that those suspected of graft are the front runners in the race for the party’s national chairmanship. But then, this is really a sad commentary and speaks volumes about what the party stands for or has become since its ascension to power.
“In the beginning, APC had touted itself as an alternative anti-corruption platform, leveraging on the perception of Buhari as squeaky-clean and no-nonsense. But the prevailing public perception of the party and its government on corruption is quite poor, to put it mildly. There are just too many examples of how both party and government failed to rise to the occasion, or openly condoned, encouraged or even embraced graft.
“Yet, should any one of those leaders emerge as APC Chairman, the party would be hard put in convincing Nigerians that it is serious about fighting corruption.”
He said party members can do very little in influencing the outcome of the race.
“Already delegates to the National Convention have been elected or designated. As usual, only those anointed by the powerful blocs will be presented for ratification at the convention – though I cannot rule out resistance by some who will rightly feel aggrieved, and the consequences of this may not bode well for the party,” he said.
Corroborating Kari’s claims, Dr Abdulrasheed Alada Mohammed, the acting Head of Department, Political Science Department, University of Ilorin, expressed reservations with Buhari’s corruption war.
According to him, “We have seen people with corrupt cases in the past which have now been dropped or trivialized. Some of the cases have not been dropped, but kept in abeyance and eventually die a natural death.
“As regards the candidatures of the three former governors who have corruption cases hanging on them, I don’t see that as a challenge for them. But a lot depends on how they are able to play their cards within the party. “
On his part, Dr Isiaq Abdulwaheed, a political scientist at the University of Ilorin, said there is still a long way to go, “ if we really want to clean the augean stable.
“The issue of fighting corruption in Nigeria as epitomized in the policy of the present government is now just about political permutation.
“In a situation where contestants aspiring for positions are presently having issues with the EFCC under the cloak of the present government, then what type of corruption are we fighting?
“Whether we like it or not, the political permutation will continue to remain like this because one will be adjudged has been corrupt-free in as much as you dance to the calculation on the ground”.
Abdulwaheed said “If the three former governors in the race can do their permutations very well, it doesn’t matter whether they have issues with EFCC or not.
“The main issue is their relationship with the powers that be. People like Tinubu and others were tried, but want happened to them? That is the political situation in Nigeria. We have seen it all as far as the country is concerned because politics is a do or die affair here.
“For now, it is too early to prejudge what will happen because the political permutation will go all the way from the local government to state and the central authority”, he added.