Barring any last-minute development, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) appears ready to hold its national convention in February next year for the election of new members of the National Working Committee (NWC). The Mai Mala Buni-led National caretaker committee is yet to release the guidelines for the convention. JIDE ORINTUNSIN examines the chances of the chairmanship aspirants
After the February 2022 national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), the 19-month reign of the 13-man Governor Mai Mala Buni-led National Caretaker/Extra-ordinary Convention planning Committee (CECPC) will come to an end. The committee was initially inaugurated on June 25, 2020, by the party’s National Executive Committee (NEC), to last for six months, but through political manoeuvring and scheming in connivance with the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF) had its tenure extended twice.
Barring any last-minute change, the party looks set to make a date with history in February next year, as members will be electing its third set of National Working Committee (NWC) members. There has been a series of activities within the party in the last four weeks when the February date was announced; with more aspirants throwing their hats into the ring, jostling for one position or the other in the new set of NWC. Even without an official pronouncement on zoning arrangement, the jostling, consultations and scheming for various positions by members are instructive and indicative of the fact that stakeholders are set to have the full statutory organs of the party in place in line with the dictates and spirit of the party’s constitution.
While some aspirants are awaiting the details of the zoning arrangement, some have declared their intentions to contest for various offices. This explains the avalanche of posters, banners and billboards of aspirants contesting every available space within and around the APC national secretariat in Abuja. As at the last count, no fewer than 10 aspirants from the North (an indication that the office may have been zoned to the region) are jostling to be the third elected national chairman of the over 40 million members strong APC. The position was vacated by Oshiomole on June 25, 2020, in a “palace coup” allegedly planned by the governors of the party and executed by its NEC.
Though the Buni-led CECPC is yet to release the guidelines for the conduct of the national convention, the intimidating influence and control of party structures by the state governors during the party’s just-conducted ward, local government and state congresses are pointers to the enormity of the powers of the state chief executives in determining who gets what position at the convention.
The gladiators jostling for the party’s highest office include Sunny Moniedafe; Senator George Akume; Senator Tanko Al-Makura; former Minister of Aviation, Mallam Isa Yuguda; former governors of Zamfara and Borno states, Abdulaziz Yari and Ali Modu Sherrif, Senator Sani Mohammed Musa; Malam Saliu Mustapha and of recent a young Minna-based politician and right activist, Mohammadu Saidu Estu joined the race.
Yari is one of the forerunners for the plum office of the national chairman. His ambition to be the party’s third elected chairman was first made public late last year. A committed party loyalist, Yari believes he has what it takes to lead the APC to victory come 2023. He relies on his towering credentials of being a one-time 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 of clinching the position.
Acknowledged to have a very strong base at home in Zamfara State, the defection of the incumbent Governor Bello Matawalle from the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in June this year has eroded his influence and altered the power balance in the state; a development political pundits say may have a debilitating effect on his chairmanship ambition.
The outcome at the just conducted congresses in the state showed that Yari may have lost control of the party structure. While Matawalle and Senator Kabir Marafa had parallel congresses, Yari’s faction, led by Lawan Mohammed Kaura, boycotted the three exercises held last month in pursuant of a court case challenging the dissolution of the state executive committee, being led by his group shortly after the governor defected.
Recent news of a possible defection of the strongman of Zamfara State to an opposition party has dealt a big setback on his aspiration. For the pro-Yari group in Zamfara, the campaign of defection was the handy work of those who are afraid of the rising profile of the immediate past governor.
Even his former political opponent and now ally, Senator Kabir Marafa described the defection tale as laughable. Hear him: “We (Marafa and Yari) are senior engineers and architects in the project team that designed, built, and maintained the APC from inception to date. This is the wishful thinking on the part of the minions parading themselves as the new owners of the party today. We are not going to leave the complex in the hands of those who were labourers, masons, plumbers, and carpenters in the design and construction days; no way! We are not going anywhere. Emir no de go transfer.”
However, the Talata Marafa-born politician, who is a focused fighter, seems set to accomplish his mission of leading Africa’s largest political party. He said: “If God decides that it should be, it is going to be. People can manoeuvre and do all sorts of calculations, but they will not prevail. All I know is this, I can lead this party and they know what I can do. Some persons can fabricate lies but at the end of the day, the truth will prevail. There are so many other things they have said that is a mere tissue of lies meant to try to get a good man down but they will never succeed.”
The former Borno State governor is the most controversial and visible figure in the national chairmanship race of the APC. A tested grassroots politician, Sheriff is a leader of the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP) — one of the legacy parties that metamorphosized into the APC. He broke the record in 2007 when was re-elected as governor; in the history of Borno State, nobody has achieved that feat before. An alumnus of the prestigious London School of Business, the Ngala-born Ali Modu Sheriff has promised to bring his wealth of experience in the private sector, as a lawmaker in the upper chamber of the National Assembly and as party administrator in four political parties to bear if elected as the chairman of APC come February 2022.
A tested party administrator, Sheriff’s political clout in 2014 saw him emerging as the national chairman of the then ruling PDP shortly after he dumped the APC. But, his tenure was cut short by a Supreme Court order. His NWC was sacked by the apex court. By April 26, 2018, he returned back to the APC. In his bid to secure the plum job at the convention, it is on record that Sheriff has traversed almost all the 36 states, holding crucial and strategic consultations and meetings with the various blocs and tendencies in the party for endorsement of his ambition.
A man of enormous financial and political muscle, political pundits continue to see his past in PDP as an albatross to his APC national chairmanship aspiration. Despite his measurable influence in Bornu State, it is on record that his relationship with Governor Babagana Zulum is nothing to bank on. Political mind readers said Zulum’s heart and body language are visibly in support of Senator Kashim Shettima (another aspirant from the state).
Perceived to be a very strong-willed and bold person, some political pundits argue that the emergence of a Sheriff-led NWC will bring back the Oshiomole era. To them, the Ngala born politician may be a hard nut to crack. In the view of an Enugu based party chieftain: “As much as the party needs a firm leader now, we must also look for a person with great virtue of diplomacy. A Sheriff-led NWC will be too difficult to handle. His emergence will bring back the Comrade Oshiomole days. He may be too tough to handle.”
But a leader of the Sheriff’s mobilization team, Cairo Ojugbo said the party needs a man of the Sheriff’s pedigree at this crucial period.
A smooth and silent political operator, Isa Yuguda is a former governor of Bauchi State. The former Minister of Aviation is another gladiator seeking to lead the ruling APC NWC. An accomplished banker, Yuguda prides himself as the most qualified party man for the job of the chairman. He tells anyone who cares to listen that his mission to serve is divine and based on his knowledge and understanding of the dynamics of power.
If elected as the national chairman, Yuguda has promised to ensure justice and equity are entrenched in the party. He has also spoken about guaranteeing party supremacy, which he assured would help put an end to the various crisis rocking the APC. He said: “I felt I was strongly favoured by the Almighty God who created us. Rather than relegating myself to the bush where I am now, I have decided to come back and offer myself because I know I have been favoured.”
Yuguda has gone out of public glare in recent times. Indeed, he sees his chairmanship aspiration as a re-launch to politics. He recently told reporters in Abuja that despite the ‘terrible’ nature of Nigerian politics, he is happy to return to the murky political waters to offer his services because he has been highly favoured by God.
He said: ”I was privileged to serve Nigeria for six years as minister and eight as governor. I think I have served long enough in the Villa to know the dynamism in the power at the centre. This is why I said let me give it a shot; if it be, good and fine and if it doesn’t, the Almighty Allah will not say I did not come out.”
His chances of clinching the position appear to be slim because he does not belong to any of the major political blocs within the party.
Senator Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Bornu State is a highly influential federal lawmaker whose administrative acumen, excellent human relations and intellectual capability are the unique selling points that are at play in his chairmanship aspiration.
Barely three months to the convention, Shettima is yet to make public his intention. But, political watchers and major tendencies in the party appear to prefer his chairmanship. His supporters are quick to brandish his high sense of justice, especially in his choice of a performing successor.
The political pedigree of Shettima as a former two-term governor of Borno State and now a lawmaker put him in high stead for the assignments and responsibilities of the office of the national chairman of the APC.
Despite his enormous goodwill among former and serving governors, federal lawmakers and party chieftains across the board, Shettima supporters are quick to play up President Muhammadu Buhari’s one-time testimonial on the chairmanship hopeful. In a presidential congratulatory message, Buhari was quoted to have said: “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.”
In a developed democracy this testimonial was enough to earn any candidate the office of his dream, but here in Nigeria, many factors will be at play. Though Shettima enjoys the backing of his successor (Governor Zulum), his strange relationship with his political godfather — Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, who is equally on the ballot paper for the same office may hinder Shettima’s ambition of becoming the next APC chairman.
Tanko Al-Makura is another high contender for the job. The 69-year-old businessman turned politician was the former governor of Nasarawa State. He is of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) legacy bloc of the APC; the only bloc that is yet to have a shot at the national chairmanship seat since the establishment of the party. Promoters of Al-Makura’s candidacy also believe that he may enjoy presidential backing, owing to his CPC roots.
Like Shettima, Al-Makura also enjoys the support of his successor, Gov. Abdullahi Sule. He also enjoys the support of some members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum (PGF); being one of its earliest members and the Senate caucus.
Until his recent encounter with the anti-graft agency — The Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), Al-Makura was seen as a top contender and less controversial figure in the race.
Senator Danjuma Goje, a former governor of Gombe State is another former governor seeking to lead the party during the post-Buhari era. Goje got elected as governor in Gombe State under the platform of the PDP. His political influence was instrumental to the APC taking over the state during the last general elections.
Currently, a third-term senator representing Gombe Central and chairman Senate Committee on Appropriation, Goje is a committed party man. His loyalty saw him dropping his ambition to run for the 9th Senate presidency. He stepped down for current Senate president, Ahmed Lawan.
A highly respected politician with national clout and appeal, Goje’s campaign handlers have promised that his leadership will deliver a party where the constitution, hierarchy and supremacy are respected.
But, Observers in the Northeast have expressed fear that the cold war between the lawmaker and Governor Inuwa Yahaya over the control of the party structure 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.
Sunny Moniedafe is the first to declare his intention to succeed Oshiomole as the next APC national chairman. As early as the beginning of the year, the former FCT chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) has thrown himself up for contention for the office of chairman of the APC.
Born and raised in Adamawa State by parents from Delta State, he describes himself as the best man for the job. He said his candidature will unify the party because he neither plays ethnic nor religious politics.
Moniedafe added: “I’m vying for the office of national chairman of the APC because I want to give the party a new sense of direction. I have no godfather and I am no pushover. I will contest if it is zoned to the Northeast. If it is not zoned to us, I will contest any position zoned to us because I want to serve.”
He may not have occupied any elective office, but Monieafe insist that his administrative experience in party management even before the APC was established is legendary. He said: “If given the opportunity to serve as national chairman of the APC, my team will, first of all, re-affirm the respect for and supremacy of the party’s constitution, and ensure its effective implementation, whilst maintaining utmost discipline.
“I will put every bit of my energy to institute an effective working synergy among all party structures and arms of the government, which is critical to ensuring that promises made during campaigns are not mere rhetoric, but will be accelerated and fulfilled to the letter for the good of Nigeria and its citizens, as well as excellent global relations.
“My dealings as a national chairman will exhibit absolute transparency in the party’s affairs as one of its hallmarks. We will be free of any form of influence or corruption whatsoever.”
Saliu Mustapha’s name may not be very popular — he may have not been in the elite club of former governors — but he is well known in the political circle. The young and silent businessman turned politician is as good as any of the aspirants. Mallam Saliu Mustapha represents new hope in the political landscape of the country.
An astute grassroots politician from Kwara State, he has paid his dues in political party administration. Mustapha, a founding member of the APC, was the national deputy chairman of the defunct CPC. In his entire sojourn in the political terrain of well over two decades, he has held various administrative positions.
A second most senior member of the defunct CPC, Mustapha may cash in on this to clinch the party’s highest office; more so when the CPC bloc is angling to produce the next national chairman. Both the defunct ACN and the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) blocs have had their slots; so it is the turn of the CPC bloc to produce the next national chairman.
Mustapha has promised to be the bridge between the old and the young generations in the party. Rule of Law and party supremacy, as well as strict adherence to the letters and spirit of the party constitution, will be the guiding rules of his leadership. He has also promised to build on the gains so far made by the Buni-led caretaker committee.
The 54-year old lawmaker represents the Niger East senatorial district in the upper chamber of the National Assembly. Fondly called “Sani 313” by his political admirers, the chairmanship hopeful represents the new political yearnings.
He may not have the credentials of being a former governor or minister, the frontline chairmanship aspirant and Gbagyi born businessman turned politician stands out as the man to beat at the party’s February national convention.
Sani cut his teeth in politics through his late father, Alhaji Tanko Bawa Musa, Iyan Minna who was the chairman of Piakoro Local Government Area, and from his elder brother, Abdullahi Musa, a former member of the House of Representatives between 1999 and 2003.
A first-timer and serving senator, Sani 313 launched himself into the murky waters of Nigerian politics in 2017. He contested for the PDP governorship ticket and lost. This forced him to return to his private business. By 2019, luck shined on him and was elected to the Senate to represent Niger East senatorial district on the platform of the APC.
A man of proven integrity, Sani 313 who recently declared his intention to become the next national chairman said: “My experience in private and public sectors, the capacity required to manage diverse people and interests, irrespective of tribe, religion and region is already imbibed by me. I am a mobilizer, a bridge-builder, and a strategist that is passionate about the wholesome development of the nation. I possess a strong interpersonal skill by demonstrating the utmost discretion and integrity in all of my dealings.”
Musa’s political credentials may not be intimidating, what he lacks in party politics, he has in abundance in human management. A focused and humane person, his victory at the convention will bring a new lease to the party.
He has robust acceptability among the old and young party members, as well as among the various statutory organs of the party. This explains the increasing number of endorsements of his aspiration by many groups across the political, ethnic and religious divide in the last three weeks. He was recently adjudged as the best innovative senator by Telegraph Newspaper.
He is believed to have the endorsement of his governor, Abubakar Sani Bello, who may use his influence as a member of the Buni-led caretaker committee to swing support for Sani 313.
A two-term governor of Benue State, Senator George Akume is the current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs. A distinguished Senator, Akume is seen by his supporters as the most eligible aspirant to occupy the post of the national chairman of the APC.
A former minority leader of the Senate from June 2011 to June 2015, Akume who recently opened a campaign office for the actualization of his dream is poised to be the next national chairman of the party. One of his supporters said: “Our leader has all it takes to lead the party. Having successfully governed a state for eight years, he was a senator, where he was elected as Minority Leader because of the traits his colleagues saw in him and now a minister. This is the type of leader we need to bring his experience to bear in piloting the affairs of the party.”
The coast is clear, the party looks set for the national convention and the job schedule for the incoming NWC is designed. What is important is the emergence of a national chairman that will be able to manage the fallout of the congresses conducted, effectively prepare and fashion a strategy that will ensure victory for the party comes 2023.
In the words of a chieftain of the party, Abdullahi Jalo: “The kind of national chairman we need now can unite the party, he must have grassroots appeal and command the respect of all members.”
Mohammed Saidu Etsu (popularly known as Mr. Power — for his struggle to see to the actualization of 20 hours of power supply per day in Niger State since 2018), was born on Tuesday, March 12, 1985, into the family of Alhaji Saidu Etsu and Hajiya Fatima Saidu of Etsu-Tasha, in Edati Local Government of Niger State.
Arguably the youngest of the pack, he is the ambassador of the “Not Too Young to Run Act”. His clean record throws him up a future leader to watch. Not known to be of any major political bloc, Estu depends on the teeming young men and women to see him through in the fulfilment of his chairmanship aspiration.
A grassroots politician and a youth leader, the 36-year-old former journalist with Leadership Newspaper, was an ANPP Youth Leader in his local government between 2006 and 2010 and a pioneer member of the CPC Youth Vanguard in 2011. Mohammed, a political upstart may not have occupied any elected or appointed position, he was a central figure in the “Big Idea” presidential campaign team of the late Sam Nda Isaiah in 2015, a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council in 2015 and 2019