The National Convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is to hold in February, 2022 with no specific date announced, though there are rumours that the exercise would hold either first or last week of the second month of next year.
Though the timeline for the Convention in which substantive National Officers of the party would be elected after more than one and half year the party is being administered by a Caretaker, one issue that has not been settled or made public is the geo-political zone or region that should get what, especially for the office of the National Chairman.
Before the appointment of the Governor Mai-Mala Bun of Yobe State-led Caretaker/Extraordinary National Convention Planning Committee, the then National Chairman who was removed along with his members of the National Working Committee (NWC), Adams Oshiomhole was from Edo State, South-South Nigeria.
Oshiomhole had emerged APC Chairman in 2018 at the expiration of the tenure John Odigie-Oyegun, also a former Governor of Edo and held sway until he was sacked when the Appeal Court up held his suspension in 2020 and Buni Committee was constituted by the National Executive Committee, the highest decision making body of the party.
Due to the several upward reviews of the Caretaker’s Committee timelines up to the moment after the initial six months, the four years tenure of Oshiomhole and the slot of the South-South which would have expired in June 2022, have been disrupted if not truncated.
Now, as all eyes are on the 2022 Convention of APC, nothing is said of South-South slot and the party is yet to talk about zoning of the party positions, almost throwing it open with zones in the North clamouring for the position of National Chairman.
There are permutations that the clamour for power shift to the Southern region is the reason while the party is being care on announcing the zoning of the National Chairman as it has been the practice though not in parties Constitution that the President and National Chairman of his party do not come from the same zone.
So far, majority of the top contenders for the National Chairman of the APC are from the North and if anyone from the region emerges, it implies that the party would concede the Presidential ticket to the Southern region.
Amongst the top contenders to the position of APC National Chairman are George Akume, Benue (North Central); Ali Modu-Sheriff, Borno (North-East); Saliu Mustapha, Kwara (North-Central);
Sunny Monidafe, Delta (South-South); Tanko Al-Makura, Nasarawa (North-Central); Abdul’aziz Yari, Zamfara (North-west), Sani Musa, (North-Central) and Isa Yuguda, Bauchi (North-East).
Beyond the geographical zoning, the issue of the legacy parties, Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANNP), part of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and the new People’s Democratic Party (n-PDP) is coming to play in who becomes next APC National Chairman.
Going by this, CPC is mostly favoured in the present calculations as APC Chieftains are of the view that the unwritten agreement was for the defunct CPC led by Muhammadu Buhari to produce the President which he became, ACN to take the National Chairman which the first interim Chairman, Bisi Akande, the first substantive Chairman, Odigie-Oyegun and Oshiomhole took the slot.
A Chieftain of the APC told BusinessDay that it is as a result of that arrangement that Buhari from the then CPC emerged as President, Akande, Oyegun, Oshiomhole all of ACN became National Chairman, Ahmad Lawan of ANNP later became President of the Senate while other key positions are being held by the APGA and PDP blocs.
The party’s Chieftain who does not want to be mentioned said: “The Chairmanship position of APC is for CPC though the party has not decided on the zone from where it will come but anywhere it is zoned, CPC will have the upper hand based on the party’s internal arrangements as I told you. CPC will take the National Chairman, ACN will take National Chairman and other positions will be shared amongst ANPP, APGA and PDP bloc.”
Another factor for the consideration of who the next National Chairman and other Officers to be is the Youth clamour for positions in the party’s hierarchy.
Only last Sunday, APC National Caretaker Committee Youth Leader, Ismaeel Ahmed who said the party has never placed so much emphasis on zoning but what he called ‘balancing’, however, advocated for consideration of youths for party positions.
“We want certain positions zoned to us as young people. And those positions once they are zoned, we are also craving the indulgence of the leadership of the party to allow us as young people and stakeholders to be able to decide the leadership of at least that wing of the party and so ditto for women.”
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Where the contenders stand
Akume, a former Governor of Benue State and the current Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, was a member of the PDP under the platform of which he served his two terms as Governor and one term in the Senate. He however, joined ACN in 2011 and returned to the Senate in 2011. After the merger that formed APC, he was also elected into the Senate for the third time.
The Minister is known for his political mobilisation, evident in snatching Benue away from the sitting PDP Government for the APC. Also, prior to the 2015 that brought APC on board, Akume was the Minority Leader, the highest political office holder that led his party to victory. There was consideration that he should be rewarded with the Presidency of the Senate but that did not happen due to political exigencies. He is receiving tremendous support in his present ambition to become APC National Chairman.
A retired Permanent Secretary, former Local Government Chairman, former Governor, former Senate Minority Leader, Akume has all it takes to be APC Chairman, also that there is clamour for the position to be conceded to the North-Central. Again, in a country where religion plays significant role in politics, Akume is favoured as a Northern Christian. Whether his ACN roots would affect his chances depends on the ultimate decision of the party.
He is a former two terms Governor of Borno State and a former Senator who also became the National Chairman of the PDP as well as Acting National of the ANPP. Modu-Sheriff has been emphatic on his stake in the APC which made him most qualified to be the party’s National Chairman.
Modu-Sheriff also made his mission clear that: “I am bringing my experience as somebody who knows the terrain of Nigeria. I am bringing my experience as a two-term Governor of a State. I will be bringing my experience as a leader of the National Assembly. I am coming to the table as someone who understands the terrain. I am coming as someone who has run political parties in different aspects. I am not a newcomer. I am not a novice.”
If party administration experience is a factor in the next contest for APC National Chairman, the former PDP National Chairman, ANPP Acting National Chairman and BoT Chairman would have the day except if his North-East zone and legacy party, ANPP is shut out.
The Turaki of Ilorin, though relatively young as compared to other aspirants, has paid his dues in politics, particularly party administration. He was the Deputy National Chairman of the CPC and led the party into the merger that produced the APC in 2014. He is from Kwara North-Central Nigeria. Geographically, Mustapha may be North but he has Southern mien as Kwara is predominantly Yoruba. This may count for him as he could represents a bridge between the North and South. Also, the demand by the youths to have representation in party’s leadership may favour him. Another strong factor to his credit is that he is of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) bloc. It is believed in some quarters that if fair play is applied, Mustapha should get the job on the consideration of his CPC background. What is not certain is whether he could break into the ranks of the ‘powerful’ governors who would want one of their own, a former colleague to take charge of APC affairs.
The former Nasarawa State Governor and Senator representing the State’s Central zone is mostly favoured by the clamour for CPC to produce the next APC Chairman. He meant a lot to the CPC bloc as the only one to emerged as a governor on the party’s platform in 2011 and continued in the same office when APC came on board. The Senator is also from the North-Central, the zone that is seriously agitating for the office and a former governor. Whether he will weather the storm if APC throws the position open to any bloc or zone and/or the demands of the youths is considered are what one cannot say.
He is a former Governor of Zamfara who was the Chairman of the Nigerian Governors Forum (NGF) before his tenure elapsed in 2019. Yari was amongst the first party Chieftains from the North to indicate interest for the position of APC National Chairman and has been the visible contender to the office from the North-west. As a former Governor and one of the leaders of ANPP that worked hard for the merger to lead to the formation of the APC Yari is a serious contender. What could not be ascertained is his fate if the CPC permutation works as well as the crisis in his Zamfara State Chapter of the party.
The Senator representing Niger East Senatorial District of Niger State is also in the race for the APC National Chairman. He is from the North-Central zone which is angling for the post. He is in the good books party leaders and he recently took his campaign to the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu. Musa is hinging his ambition on the need to bring new vision and direction into the party. As a lawmaker, the aspirants stand to enjoy the support of his colleagues in the National Assembly who are all automatic delegates to the Convention. What cannot be said is whether his State Governor, Sani Abubakar who he said is supporting him would convince his colleagues governors who call the shots in the party to support the Senator.
The former FCT Chapter Chairman of the defunct ACN who proudly calls himself as the Urhobo man from Adamawa is in the race on the conviction that whether zoned to South or North he is favoured. Also, if consideration is given to the South-South botched tenure, Monidafe who is the most vocal aspirant from area now would be lucky.
He had told BusinessDay in an exclusive interview that: “I decided to contest because I saw a zoning formular somewhere which I was later told is not genuine whereby the National Chairman was zoned to the North East.
“I just told you my story, I will be 64 years in September, I was born in Jimeta in Adamawa State. That is where I come from, that is my State; scholarship everything. After I declared my intention sometimes ago I was told that that zoning arrangement was not genuine.
“They are looking at giving the South South the chance to complete the tenure of Oshiomhole. Now the truth is that if you also said you want to give it to the South-South, my father’s grave is in Agbaro close to Warri, I am qualified as well. We should think outside the box. So you have somebody like me who is Delta by origin, Adamawa by birth and FCT by residence.” Can he contend with the Northern forces to emerge APC National Chairman? It is a question that has so far deferred a precise answer.
The former Bauchi Governor and Minister of State for Transport in the government of President Olusegun who was moved to the Ministry of Aviation (May 2003 – June 2005) is contesting the position from the North-East. Yuguda was at various times a member of ANNP and PDP the last party from where he joined APC. His ANPP and PDP roots may work for him and as a governor; he may have the political connection. What is not certain is how deep he is in the party, considering that his State is governed by PDP.