Battle for the office of the national chairman of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) has commenced, with heavyweight politicians throwing themselves into the ring.
This is especially as the party has commenced congresses at the ward, local government, state and zonal levels, at the end of which a national convention would be held for the election of a new crop of National Working Committee (NWC) members. As part of the process, party leaders have emerged at the ward and local government levels following congresses held in August, and last weekend.
With the issue of zoning not yet settled, aspirants for various offices have commenced intense underground consultations and politicking ahead of the convention.
The APC is currently run by a Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee led by the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, who assumed office on June 25, 2020, sequel to the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led NWC.
The committee is expected to organise a national convention before the end of this year.
Agitations to zone the party’s presidential ticket to the South are ongoing. Various camps in the southern part of the country are awaiting the convention of the party for a final decision on zoning.
It is believed that if the North produces the chairman of the party, the South would produce the presidential candidate for the 2023 election.
There are arguments in the party that prior to the 2015 general elections, the party’s stakeholders met and reached a consensus that the presidential ticket of the party would be ceded to the South at the expiration of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure in 2023.
While some political gladiators like a former governor of Zamfara State, Sani Yarima, have argued that there was no such agreement, promoters and agitators for a southern candidacy say the pact was reached to ensure equity, fairness and justice in the party’s political calculation between the North and South.
Daily Trust on Sunday reports that as part of southern political bigwigs’ strategy to position and take the party’s apex ticket, no politician from that region is entangled in the chairmanship race, leaving only their northern counterparts to slug it out.
But while aspirants from the three geo-political zones in the North are springing up for the race, agitations for a chairman from the North-East are gathering momentum.
The North-East region has, in recent times, decried marginalisation in the political equation of the country. The North-Central has also reacted in similar manner, while accusing the North-West of taking more of the apex slots.
More aspirants from the North-East are positioning for the position.
Booby trap for southern presidency
Some sources said the outflux of national chairmanship of the APC by northerners might be a booby trap for the South.
A source said, “Even if someone from the North emerge as chairman of the party, the true picture of which zone will produce the president will only be clear towards the end of 2022.
“I am saying this because there are powerful forces within the polity that don’t want power to shift to the South.
“Therefore, there is the probability of removing whoever emerged as chairman from the North in favour of someone from the South, of course in acting capacity towards the election so that the presidential candidate will come from the North.
“This is very possible…It is a power play and there is no way you one section of the country will produce both the chairman and the president.
“So, let’s wait and see who will emerge as the chairman and you will see where the pendulum will swing,” the source said.
Another source said in the event the plan to handover power to someone from the North, those playing the drama might likely support a dark horse. President Buhari might not likely play dirty politics in that regards because his dream is to end his tenure well.”
Aspirants from the North-East
Senator Ali Modu Sheriff
He is Borno State’s first governor to serve two consecutive terms (2003-2011). In 2003, he ran on the platform of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) and won. He was re-elected in 2007 and sworn in on 29 May, same year.
Sheriff later played a key role in the formation of the APC. He also served as senator representing Borno Central for three terms.
In the buildup to the 2015 general elections, Sheriff jumped ship to the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). He told newsmen that his decision was in the interest of the country, adding that as a two-term governor and three-term senator, his interest was more on contributing to the development of the country.
He was later invited by some PDP governors and other powerbrokers in the party to take the office of the party’s national chairman after its defeat at the 2015 general elections.
The former governor later returned to the APC after his dramatic exit from the top hierarchy of the PDP. There are feelers that he would contest the national chairmanship slot of the APC.
His political allies say he is banking on his experience, political capital and deep pocket to make things happen to his advantage, using his position as one of the founding members of the party and other connections.
It was gathered that Sheriff is consulting critical stakeholders, while various pressure groups in the APC have been meeting with him and positioning for his campaign.
However, pundits say his alleged poor handling of the PDP, which led to a protracted legal battle with a former governor of Kaduna State, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, and his eventual ouster following a Supreme Court judgement that declared the Makarfi-led faction as the authentic leadership of the party, as well as his history of defection, may be his stumbling block.
A three-member panel of the apex court presided by the then Chief Justice of Nigeria, Walter Onnoghen, upbraided Makarfi’s contender, Sheriff, for demonstrating “infantile desperation to lead the party.”
Sheriff was accused of being an agent of the APC to destabilise the PDP, an allegation he refuted.
A former political adviser to former Governor Kashim Shettima and chieftain of the ruling party, Mustapa Gambo, who is one of those mobilising support for Sheriff, confirmed to Daily Trust on Sunday that the former governor was warming up to officially declare at the appropriate time.
“The APC needs a stabilising force; and with due respect to all those reported to be nursing the ambition to vie for the chairmanship of our party, none of them comes close to what Senator Ali Modu Sheriff brings to table,” he said.
He is a former chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Federal Capital Territory (FCT) chapter. He recently declared his intention to vie for the office of the national chairman of the APC during a stakeholders’ meeting in Abuja.
Moniedafe, whose parents are from Delta State, was born and brought up in Adamawa State, and has since been identifying himself as a politician of the North-East extraction.
He said, “I have no godfather and I am no pushover. I will contest if it is zoned to the North-East. If it is not zoned to us, I will contest any position zoned to us because I want to serve.”
His quest to end god-fatherism in the party, which he recently told newsmen was part of his agenda, is said to be a threat to his ambition as many godfathers want to maintain their political relevance as powerbrokers.
Senator Kashim Shettima
Shettima, a two-term governor of Borno State, endeared himself to many between 2011 and 2019 when he held sway in the state, regarded at the hotbed of the Boko Haram insurgency.
He was applauded by many during his tenure as governor, especially his contribution to stemming insurgency and taking care of internally displaced persons. But some say his openness and criticism of the Buhari administration may work against him.
In December 2020, the former governor was quoted in the media as saying, “Buhari is not God. If there are things that need to be corrected, we are going to point it out to him equivocally and unambiguously, but without playing to the gallery.”
Despite insurgency, he succeeded in addressing some of the developmental challenges in the state.
In February 2019, he was elected a senator for Borno Central, replacing Senator Baba Kaka Bashir.
Despite his attitude to speaking to leaders right from his days as governor, it appears President Buhari holds him in high esteem, going by his recent tribute to the governor of Borno during his birthday, a development seen as a tacit endorsement.
This is what the president said two weeks ago:
“I am proud of Shettima for his achievements in office as one of the best governors in the country for the All Progressives Congress (APC).
“Despite the challenges of insecurity, he was able to make his mark. Because he was able to keep his key campaign promises, he proved his mettle and did not disappoint the electorate. Senator Shettima will be remembered for many things, including the fact that he handed the state over to Prof Babagana Zulum, a capable and deserving successor.”
One of his former advisers told our reporter in confidence that some politicians were scheming for him because of his political antecedents, experience and ability to handle crisis, as well as his enthusiasm to genuinely serve the party.
He, however, said the former governor was taking his time to consult widely before deciding on the matter.
He is a former governor of Gombe State and senator representing Gombe Central since 2011.
The former governor, who stepped down from the race to the president of the Senate for Senator Ahmad Lawan few days to the inauguration of the Ninth Assembly following the intervention of President Muhammadu Buhari, is one of those said to be eying the chairmanship seat of the party.
As a key player in the formation of the party, Goje enjoys the support of his colleagues in the parliament and beyond.
In a recent interview, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, mentioned the senator as one of the founding fathers of the party.
Analysts say Goje’s chances of winning the party’s chairmanship maybe affected by his feud with Governor Inuwa Yahaya of his state.
Goje and Yahaya are at daggers drawn over the control of the party structure in the state ahead of the 2023 polls.
It is believed that governors, to a large extent, determine what politicians from their states become at the federal level, especially in circumstances where both are from the same political party like the two Gombe top politicians.
It was learnt that Goje is being prevailed upon to contest, but is still considering his chances.
Aspirants from North-Central
Akume, a two-term governor of Benue State, is the current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs.
He is said to be one of the forces to reckon with in the chairmanship contest of the APC as he is close to President Muhammadu Buhari.
He represented the Benue North-West senatorial district, popularly known as Zone B, in the National Assembly. He was the minority leader of the Senate from June 2011 to June 2015.
A credible source close to Akume told Daily Trust on Sunday in a telephone chat yesterday that some top politicians in the APC were prevailing on the minister to join the chairmanship race.
“Senator Akume will stabilise the party by injecting new blood into it because he is committed to its ideals and has worked very closely with Mr President.
“If the APC stakeholders feel he should steer the ship he will be available to do just that. He is willing to accept any assignment by the party,” he said.
But Akume is yet to formally declare to run.
Senator Tanko Al-Makura
He is a former governor of Nasarawa State and belongs to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) elements of the APC. He is being promoted by his successor, Governor Abdullahi Sule.
Months ago, Sule, while flagging off the membership registration and revalidation exercise of the party in the state, urged other blocs to support the state to produce the next national chairman.
But it is believed that the invitation by the anti-corruption agency to the senator in July may affect his chances to clinch the party’s ticket. He was a guest of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over allegations of corruption. But the former governor denied the allegation. The APC was overwhelmingly voted in 2015 following its promise to tackle corruption.