Convention: Jitters as race for APC chair, soul heats up

After a series of postponements amidst power games, the much-anticipated
Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) got a date
last month; who does the cap fit? KEHINDE OSASONA asks in this report.

Any threats?

As the February 2022 date slated for the national
convention of the All Progressives Congress draws near, there are
fears from different quarters that with the array of political
bigwigs vying for the party’s positions, the battle for its APC
and its eventual extinction may have begun.

As at the last counts, political heavyweights which include seven
former governors are on the verge of unleashing their arsenals to
clinch the Chairmanship seat of the ruling APC come 2022.

The contenders

Prominent among those on queue are a former deputy national chairman of the
defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Saliu Mustapha; a former
governor of Nasarawa state, Senator Tanko Al-Makura; a former governor of
Borno state, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; the current senator representing
Niger-east, Mohammed Sani Musa; a former governor of Zamfara state,
Abdulaziz Yari; a former governor of Bauchi state, Isa Yuguda; the Minister
of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume;
a former Borno state governor, Senator Kashim Shettima; a former Gombe state
governor, Senator Danjuma Goje and Mohammed Saidu Etsu. Others are Clement Ebri, Mr. Sunny Moniedafe.

Although most political analysts are of the view that with the current
ratings and the need to reposition the party having suffered
leadership crisis, the party needs strong leadership to
heal all wounds and reconcile splinter groups.

Some pundits who are keen followers of political events in the
country noted that the party would soon slide into an endless crisis,
pointing out that the serving governors’ quest for the party’s soul is
more like a do-or-die thing.
Speaking to this reporter, a political commentator, Felix Ajila,
described the governors as “a very strong pressure group and
stakeholders that determine where the country’s political pendulum swings in most cases.”
According to him, the governors’ support base in terms of funds and
delegates in elections is a threat any day, adding that as a decisive factor, they often emerge victorious.

“The Nigerian Governors Forum has provided a formidable platform for
these governors to not only ply their trade but to also negotiate or
deal with their political foes.

“Don’t also forget that these governors love power and have found in
President Muhammadu Buhari someone who minds his business and meddles less into political happenings; so tell me, why won’t they have their ways in who becomes what?
“Again, there is the issue of agitations among some stakeholders of the party where they warned against a subtle tenure extension of the
CECPC by way of postponing the convention,” Ajila said.

But while allaying party members’ fears, the Governor Mai Mala Buni-led
Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC)
dismissed various insinuations, saying it would soon set up relevant sub-committees.
A pointer to the fears envisaged by stakeholders resonated a few weeks ago when the director-general of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), Salihu Lukman, wrote to the national chairman of the CECPC on the need to revive all organs of the party ahead of its February 2022 national convention.

In its letter, the PGF asked the CECPC to “immediately take steps to
deliver on its mandate of conducting the national convention,” saying
“any further delay in discharging this responsibility is as good as
consciously working to strengthen political opposition to APC.”

 Permutations, rumblings

Despite the moves being made preparatory to the Convention, there appears to be quiet rumblings as aspirants are already deeply involved in permutations to outshine one another.

Not only that, Blueprint Weekend gathered that prominent aspirants
gunning for the presidency in 2023 did not want to take any chances,
as they have also been pitching their tents with their preferred aspirants to win at the Convention.

Although the party has not come out to officially zone the various
offices to each of the six geopolitical zones of the country, many of
the politicians of northern extraction had in anticipation that the
presidential candidate of the party might be zoned to the South and are
now pushing for the aspirations of many of the aspirants from the North.

Apparently, the move as earlier predicted by political analysts may
have laid to rest the arguments on whether or not the ruling APC has
ceded the coveted seat to the Southern part of the country.

As at the last counts, three zones of the North namely; North-east,
North-west and North-central have already fielded aspirants in a contest that has
now been tagged; ‘Battle of the giants’ by pundits.

Who goes home with the crown?

While carrying out background checks on the aspirants and their
chances, this reporter learnt that APC might have zeroed the
delegates’ choice to aspirants from either the North-central or the North-west.

Senator Al-Makura, an aspirant and a serving senator from
Nasarawa state, for instance, appears to have a huge support base.
Blueprint also learnt that his candidacy is being discussed in hushed tones
amongst the political stakeholders in the party.
A trusted ally of President Buhari, Al-Makura can also boast of his governor’s support, which has now become one of the needed advantages an aspirant must have.

There are also reports that some APC members have continued to throw their
weights behind Al-Makura’s aspiration.
While flagging off the APC membership revalidation exercise in the
state in Gudi, Governor Sule said, “If Nigeria would be kind to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Nasarawa state is the only place to look at.

 “Today is history for us and I think for this, I will always identify
with distinguished Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura who is the architect of
modern Nasarawa state from the time he brought CPC, the only state as
part and parcel of the alliance that formed APC.
Apart from the fact that he is still recovering from losing his state to the opposition PDP, the former governor of Zamfara state governor,
Abdulaziz Yari, would be contending with a lot of forces including that of Senator Marafa and those who are yet to forgive him for the
political suicide that culminated in the emergence of Governor Bello
Mattawale’s PDP-controlled Zamfara.

Another odd against him is the political wedge between him and one of
the aspirants to the throne and prominent politician who was
instrumental to the emergence of former APC Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole.

Known to be a political fighter with a never say die spirit, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff from the North-east is another contestant who is never a push over. Sheriff had after losing out as chairman of the PDP returned to the APC, of which he was a pioneer member.

While indicating his readiness recently, he was quoted as saying, “In
the APC, we have respect for the constitution of our great party, and if the position of the national chairman is zoned to the North-east,
where I come from, I will contest, God’s willing.”