The recent ward and local government congresses of the All Progressives Congress (APC) have heightened the race for national chairman of the party, CHIBUZO UKAIBE, writes.
The recent ward and local government congresses signal the simmering tussle for the soul of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).
As part of the buildup to the national convention which will produce the next party leadership, national chairmanship hopefuls have been posturing themselves for the top seat.
It goes without saying that the recent congresses are part of the essential building blocks for the forthcoming convention, which is shaping up to be keenly contested.
For over a year, the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/ Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CENCPC) of the APC assumed leadership of the turbulent party following the forced exit of the former embattled national chairman, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
In a bid to shore up it’s base and win back confidence, the Buni administration embarked on a membership registration and revalidation exercise.
Although some party faithful felt the exercise was an attempt by the Buni leadership to stay longer in office than necessary, the process has since led to the conduct of congresses preparatory to the elective national convention.
Nevertheless, the ward and local government congresses, held so far, have left a trail of challenges for the party.
The intense contest for the party’s soul in Delta, Kwara, Ogun, Osun, Lagos, Enugu has led to upsets, conduct of parallel congresses and expulsion of members in some instances.
“Such issues are not necessarily strange in party administration. There must be agrieved persons but the party has capacity to address those challenges that much I know,” Abdullahi Ibrahim, a party supporter and analyst, told LEADERSHIP.
His optimism alligns with the position of the party leadership as national secretary of APC, Sen. John James Akpanudoedehe, has urged party leaders to explore all conflict resolution mechanisms, especially the appeal panels.
Insisting that the party leadership acted within the provisions of the constitution, the national secretary, warned that those who take the party to court will be dealt with.
But Tejiro Ayomanor, a political analyst, warns that unless a sense of fairness is seen to be done, the unfolding crisis might worsen.
“There is no way, the consensus arrangement won’t cause friction in some states. However, the party leadership needs to ensure those who feel oppressed are assured they will not just get fair hearing but will be accorded a sense of belonging. In the absence of that you can be sure that this crisis will get worse,” he added.
While party faithful and pundits remain divided over the impact of the challenge arising from the congresses, the likelihood that the next national chairman of the party would inherit some, if not all the crisis, is rife.
The race for the national chairmanship seat of the party has since started, albeit unofficially, as several northern leaders have been consulting ahead of the national convention.
Although there is high possiblity that the position will be zoned to the North in light of a gentleman’s agreement for the Presidency to go to the South after Buhari’s final term in 2023, the array of contenders so far reinforces this prospect.
Some of the mentioned contenders are former two-term governor of Borno State and three term-term Senator, Ali Modu Sheriff; former FCT chairman of the defunct ACN, Sunny Moniedafe; a former Nasarawa State governor, Senator Tanko Al-Makura
Others are former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulaziz Yari; a serving Niger State lawmaker, Senator Sani Musa; former national deputy chairman of defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Salihu Mustapha; and former Benue State Governor and now Minister for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs, George Akume.
As aspirants await the release of the party’s zoning formula, the unfolding issues over the congresses would become far more insightful in determining the next party leadership, party watchers aver.
Major factors, among others, would be experience in national party administration and the extent of an aspirants political network.
Besides being a two-term governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Almakura served as senator representing Nasarawa South.
Almakura’s major cheerleader is his successor in office as governor, Abdullahi Sule, who has argued that the CPC bloc of the APC merger is yet to produce a national chairman since the party was formed. He also argues that the North Central zone should produce the next chairman.
He boasts a good rapport with party stakeholders. He has however handled party assignments including chairman of the reconciliation committee in North East states even though he has little experience in national party administration.
Abdullaziz Yari is also former two-term governor of Zamfara State and ex-chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum which gives him some mileage. He is from the North West zone.
Besides the argument over whether the next party chairman should come from the North-West which just occupied the presidential slot, many pundits aver he has no experience in party administration.
Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff was elected senator in Borno State on the ticket of the defunct All Peoples Party. In 2003, he defeated an incumbent governor, Mala Kachalla.
Of the lot, it would seem like Sheriff has more experience in party administration, having served as the chairman, Board of Trustees (BoT) of ANPP and acting chairman of the party at some point.
Although he left the APC shortly after its formation, Sheriff was later invited by power brokers in Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) to become the national chairman after the party lost the 2015 elections.
Following the collapse of the political romance between Sheriff and PDP power brokers, he said his refusal to dance to their tune led to their going separate ways. While he led one faction of the party in a lonf and winding legal tussle, former Kaduna State governor, Senator Ahmed Makarfi, led the other. The Supreme Court’s recognition of Makarfi as authentic chairman sealed Sheriff’s fate in PDP. He since returned to the APC in April 2018.
Salihu Mustapha came ro the fore of national politics as the first national publicity secretary of the Progressive Action Congress (PAC), a defunct political party that contested in the 2003 Nigerian presidential election. He later became a member of the defunct ANPP and became devoted to the presidential ambition of Muhammadu Buhari. He followed Buhati into the defunct CPC where he became the national deputy chairman of the party, a position he held until the party merged and formed APC.
Sunny Moniedafe as former chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) also has experience in party administration. What’s more, he has shown ability to integrate beyond tribe.
Although his parents are from Delta State, Moniedafe, who was born and raised in Adamawa State, says his candidature will unite the party because he neither plays ethnic nor religious politics.
Senator George Akume is the current minister for Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs and a two-term governor of Benue State. He had served as a Senate minority leader prior to his appointment as minister by the Buhari regime. But his experience as party administrator remains suspect.
When asked about the kind of chairman the party should have, a former political adviser to ex-governor Kashim Shettima, Mustapha Gambo, said “The APC needs a stabilising force and with due respect to all those reported to be nursing ambition to vie for the chairmanship of our party, none of them comes close to what Senator Ali Modu Sheriff brings to be table.”