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The National Convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) is near-at-hand and political gladiators from different parts of the country have commenced hypogeous permutations, bidding for the National Chairmanship position.
The convention, likely to hold in June — save for unforeseen contingencies, will usher in the next leader of the party.
The office became vacant following the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC) by the National Executive Committee (NEC) over alleged abuse of office in June 2020. A caretaker committee headed by Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni, is expected to oversee the affairs of the APC pending the election of a substantive Chairman.
Although less heated at the moment, the contest will shape the face and fate of Nigeria’s biggest political party in the next general election, thus, requires painstaking and well-thought-out moves.
Whoever will be handed the baton of leadership as the third elected national Chairman of the party is tasked with the resolution of some crises and relics of the controversial revalidation and registration exercise, and ultimately lead the party to the 2023 polls.
By the virtue of zonal arrangements, political analysts and party stakeholders believe that the office should go to the North since the party plans to cede the Presidency to the south. This is in tandem with the fact that the previously elected Chairmen of the party, John Oyegun and Adams Oshiomhole hail from the South.
Since the body language of top APC chieftains suggests the possibility of a northern APC Chairman, there are also micro agitations to consider the North-Central, a perceived marginalised region. This might as well be used to negotiate with the Kogi state Governor, Yahaya Bello, who has shown interest in the Presidency and had campaigned rigorously, hinging his ambition on the marginalisation of the middle-belt.
Within the time frame left, some political juggernauts from the Northern region have declared interest in the office and it is expected that more will surface in coming days.
This newspaper, however, takes a cursory look at those who are likely to join the race to succeed Adam Oshiomole and their chances at the poll.
Some interest groups have been canvassing for a Yari-led national working committee since 2020. Abdulaziz Yari, a two-time Governor of Zamfara state has also voiced his interest in the office.
“If they say the zone where I come from is favoured to pick it, of course, whole-heartedly, I will go for it. So, I know how the game is being played and I am ready to do it if I am trusted. So, there is no issue there,” he he once said after meeting with Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the Presidential Villa, Abuja in 2020.
Yari, as a former Governor has the clout to emerge victorious at the poll having headed the Nigeria Governors Forum (NGF) in the past. He will gain the support of some of his former colleagues in the forum.
However, the ambition of the former Zamfara Governor may suffer a setback owing to the division in Zamfara APC and the fact that he had lost control of the state to the PDP over procedural errors.
As good as his aspiration might be, Yari has no incumbent governor in his state, who will sit among the APC governors to speak for him in their meeting whenever the need arises.
The first Governor of Borno state to serve two terms and a former Senator, Ali Sheriff, has also expressed his readiness to run for the chairmanship of the APC.
But this is with a clause —if the position is zoned to the North East.
“If it goes to another zone, I will not contest. But if it stays in our zone, I will contest,” Sheriff had told journalists.
But this uncertainty has not stopped Sheriff from forming an alliance as is evident in his intimacy with the Caretaker Chairman, Governor Mai-Mala Buni. He was at Buni’s polling unit to lend moral support to the Governor During the recently concluded local government election in the state.
While he is at an advantage due to his stint in national politics, Sheriff’s aspiration may not sail through due to his controversial removal as the PDP Chairman and replacement with Ahmed Makarfi.
Also, previous allegations of being a sponsor to Boko Haram, Nigeria’s major security threat, might work against him.
Another former Borno state Governor, Senator Kashim Shettima, may also be gunning for the national Chairmanship position if the North East is favoured. Although Shettima has not been vocal about his ambition, some stakeholders have prevailed on him to join the race, reliable sources said.
Shettima governed Borno between 2011 and 2019, a period when the state was the epicentre of Boko Haram insurgency. He currently represents Borno Central Senatorial District in the red chamber.
As a former Governor and chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, he wields so much influence in the Northern region but this may not translate to victory at the APC Chairmanship contest if his former political godfather, Sheriff, is interested in the same post.
Recall that things fell apart between the duo before Sheriff decamped to the APC in April 2018.
Senator Tanko Al-makura from Nasarawa is another potential contestant in the APC Chairmanship race.
Al-Makura, who was a former Governor of Nasarawa is a product of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) element of the APC. His candidacy is backed by the incumbent Governor of Nasarawa State, Abdullahi Sule.
Governor Sule, who did not specifically mention Al-makura, had urged other blocs to support the state to produce the next national chairman during the revalidation and registration exercise.
If the former Governor decides to contest, he will likely emerge with the absence of a contender from his home base.
Some groups have also thrown their weights behind the former Adamawa state Governor, Murtala Nyako, positioning him for the number one seat in the party.
Nyako, a retired military officer, is yet to officially declare his interest in the office but should he contest, might face some hurdles largely based on his impeachment and allegations of financial impropriety.
He was impeached as the state Governor in 2014 after the state House of Assembly deliberated on the report of an investigative panel that found him guilty of all the 16 allegations of gross misconduct leveled against him by the House.
His impeachment was later voided at the appellate and supreme courts but he was not reinstated.
In his own case, Danjuma Goje is not only a former Governor but also a former cabinet member under ex- President Olusegun Obasanjo.
Goje, who currently represents Gombe Central at the Senate, is said to be eyeing the APC national Chairmanship position.
But as feasible as his emergence may seem, it may be thwarted by the corruption allegations against him.
Goje was in 2019 discharged, after eight years of prosecution for alleged N25 billion fraud while serving as Gombe State governor, a move suspected to serve as a compensation for ceding his quest for the Senate Presidency, for Ahmed Lawan.
The corruption case might be dug out if he chooses to pursue his chairmanship aspiration.
There are indications that Benue-born politician Senator George Akume, is also interested in the race.
Akume was re-elected Senator for Benue North-West in the April 2011 elections, running on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He won another term in 2015 but lost to Senator Orke Jev of the PDP in 2019.
If there is anything that will add colour to his ambition, it is the fact that he is currently serving in President Buhari’s cabinet.
While Akume may be popular on the national political sphere , it is unlikely for the minister to gain massive support from his state, which is currently controlled by a PDP Governor.
Saliu Mustapha is not only the youngest of the eight contenders but the only one who has not occupied either of any Executive or Legislative position before.
Nevertheless, the Kwara-born businessman brings to the table a robust experience in party administration that spanned decades and a vast political network within the progressive fold. He has been relevant in the APC since its formation. He is also a well known long-term political ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, starting from his days in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) to Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), where he served as a Deputy National Chairman under the Tony Momoh-led NWC of the party between 2011 to 2013.
If the party decides to zone the office to the North-Central, Mustapha may be the party’s best shot owing to his relationship with the who-is-who in the APC and his grassroots influence not only in his home state, Kwara but also the North-Central, the zone that he directly oversaw for the Buhari’s CPC.
It is believed that his relatively young age would count with promises of connecting both the younger and older generations of the party. He is also said to enjoy a clean slate of zero scandal or corruption baggage unlike others.
Meanwhile, the only impediment on his way is his age. At 49, it is unlikely if he has the wherewithal to wrestle with the big guns in the party who have lined up to grab the ticket. Also, the lingering crisis in Kwara APC, which has caused a rift between the state Governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed. Although Mustapha and Gov. AbdulRahman are of the same CPC extraction, it remains to be seen whether the latter would consider this long time relationship to support his fellow kingsman for the party plum job.
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