With the 2023 presidential election in sight, the North Central geo-political zone has never been more central in the strategising of the major political parties.
Presently, about six strongmen from the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are jostling to become the national chairman of the party ahead of their national convention.
They include a serving senator representing Niger East, Sani Musa, former governor of Nasarawa State, Sen Umaru Tanko Almakura, former governor of Gombe State, Sen Danjuma Goje, former governor of Nasarawa State, Sen Abdullahi Adamu, former governor of Borno State, Sen Ali Modu Sheriff and former governor of Zamfara State, Abdulazeez Yari.
Also in the race are former deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mallam Saliu Mustapha and former chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Sunny Moniedafe.
In the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the zone has already produced the national chairman in the person of former senate president, Dr Iyorchia Ayu. He was adopted as consensus candidate of PDP leaders in the North and later offered to the entire party which endorsed him, via affirmative votes, at the October 30 national convention of the party.
However, in APC, the unfolding political trajectory might see the party chairman emerge from that zone. This, of course, is bearing in mind that the likes of Goje and Sheriff are selling the North East agenda just as Yari pushes for the North West.
But feelers from the party indicate that the North Central region, which has not produced the chairman of the APC, is strongly considered for the position.
But the debate seems to still be on whether or not the zone should settle for only the presidency and nothing more.
The North Central Renaissance Movement (NCRM) insists that their region has been marginalised in the scheme of things despite being the host of Nigeria’s capital city Abuja.
It said the region has been unable to occupy Aso Rock in the civilian regime.
The North Central Renaissance Movement’s chairman, Dr Nghargbu K’tso, said for peace, equity and justice, all political parties in Nigeria should zone their tickets to the region.
The group, which disassociated itself from politicians from the North Central zone seeking to be political party chairmen, said what the region deserves is to produce a president in 2023.
But some leaders from the North Central geopolitical zone have declared total support for the region to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor and if possible, national chairmen of the prominent political parties.
Under the auspices of North Central Peoples Forum (NCPF) the leaders said Nigeria is facing a political crisis that requires a North Central person to contain and stabilise, just as former military heads of state, Generals Yakubu Gowon, Ibrahim Babangida and Abdulsalami Abubakar did.
The Publicity Secretary of the NCPF, Hon Audu Sule, had said that the zone has been studying the political situation in Nigeria and is working to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor in 2023 but insisted that people vying for political parties chairmanship should pursue their ambitions.
Sule, who differed with some Nigerians discouraging the North Central people from vying for the chairmanship of the APC and the PDP, said having studied political parties’ constitution there is nothing wrong if the people of his region aspire for the presidential tickets as well as the party chairmanship positions.
He added, “Whoever emerges, we will support him or her. It is on record that if the president and the chairman of a political party come from the same region, there will be adjustment. So, we don’t want the North Central people to take the back seat. Let them pursue what is good for us irrespective of position or party,” Sule said.
So far aspirants from the zone have heightened their campaign for the position. But Al-makura, Musa and Mustapha have been lobbying for the North Central zone to get the top party position.
Al-makura, a former governor of Nasarawa State, has been reaching out to stakeholders on the grounds of being the only governor of CPC extraction when the merger happened.
His successor, Governor Abdullahi Sule, has been pushing Al-makura’s case since, arguing that it is time the former governor is rewarded for his sacrifices for the party.
Mustapha, from Kwara State, also considers himself a top sell being a major Buhari disciple and key member of the CPC family as deputy national chairman of one of the major parties that formed the APC. His recent turbaning as Turaki of Illorin was a major plus as it saw top APC chieftains attend the event.
Musa, senator representing Niger East Senatorial District is also in the forefront in the contest for national chairman of APC.
Musa has already declared his intention in his home state capital city Minna, explaining that he has already gotten the support of the state, especially from Governor Abubakar Sani Bello, the leader of the party in the state.
“I want to bring a new vision, new direction in the running of the APC so as to build the most acceptable platform that will continue to foster democratic tenets for constructive development and governance,” he said.
Musa believes the chairman of the APC is not limited to being a former governor.
“The APC chairman should be a person with immense capability and political sagacity to manage the complexity of a big party like ours,” he said.
His candidacy enjoys the support of many groups, including a South West pressure group, the Lisabi Progressives Union who said Senator Sani Musa remains the best to lead the APC.
National president of the group, Adeleke Lukman, said they want the party to present the best candidates for the Presidency in 2023 insisting Sani Musa would be the right man to facilitate that process being a member of the progressive family.
Also, Arewa Women Assembly (AWA) through their chairperson, Hajiya Rukayya Sani, said Musa should be supported to succeed the Chairman, Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), Governor Mala Buni of Yobe State because of his decent track record and his exemplary politics without bitterness as exhibited overtime.
In the same vein, director general of coalition for Youths in Politics (YIP), Olusegun Oshaji, said the choice of Sani is a collective decision to help sustain the legacy of President Muhammadu Buhari-led administration under the auspices of the APC.
“We believe Sen Musa remains the man to sustain President Buhari’s legacy and kick-start a new direction of electing officials that will consolidate on the numerous achievements of the party,” Oshaji said.
While the battle for 2023 presidency gets clearer, the role and place of the North Central in shaping the actions and inactions of political parties cannot be overemphasised.
What is yet to be seen is whether the region can get both strategic positions of national chairman and the presidency by 2023.