As the All Progressives Congress (APC) prepares for its national convention later in the year, following the nod received from the governors of the ruling party, many aspirants have intensified their lobby to succeed the Chairman of the National Caretaker and Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe State, THISDAY has learnt.
Prominent among the APC chairmanship aspirants are a two-term governor of Zamfara State, Mr. Abdulaziz Yari; two-term Governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura; another two-term governor of the state, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; former Governor of Benue State and Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs, Senator George Akume; a former Governor of Borno State, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff; and another former Governor of the state, Senator Kashim Shettima.
A former governorship aspirant in Kwara State, Mr. Salihu Mustapha, is also in the race and is the youngest aspirant, while speculations are rife that a former Governor of Gombe State and senator representing Gombe Central senatorial zone, Senator Danjuma Goje, is also in the race to succeed Buni.
Despite the Supreme Court’s judgment on the Ondo State governorship election, which put a question mark on Buni’s dual role as governor and chairman of the ruling party, coupled with multiple litigations challenging his position, APC governors had given the Buni-led committee a go-ahead to organise the party’s local government and state congresses, as well as national convention.
The latest in the gale of litigations challenging Buni’s chairmanship of the APC was filed last week by Mr. Samuel Irabor on behalf of 100 members of the party, urging the Federal High Court in Abuja to dissolve the Buni-led 13-member caretaker committee of the APC.
The plaintiffs argued that the committee falls short of the statutorily required 24 members that must be spread across not less than two-thirds of Nigeria’s 36 states and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja.
In the suit marked, FHC/ABJ/CS/938/2021, the plaintiffs also told the court that the chairmanship of the caretaker committee by a sitting governor holding dual executive offices is prohibited by Section 183 of the Nigerian Constitution and Article 17(4) of the APC Constitution.
It is also the contention of the plaintiffs that the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, lacked the legal backing to administer Oath of Office to Buni as caretaker chairman of the party.
However, despite all the suits challenging the legality of the Yobe State governor’s appointment as the chairman of his party, the APC governors had thrown their weight behind the Buni-led committee to organise the national convention.
Though the ruling party had on many occasions clarified that it had not zoned the presidency and other offices ahead of the 2023 general election, all the aspirants for the party’s chairmanship position are from the North.
This has rekindled the hope for the emergence of the party’s presidential candidate from the southern part of the country.
Yari, a two-time Governor of Zamfara State, had indicated his interest to run for the office of the National Chairman of the APC.
He had after the completion of his two-term in office as governor in 2019, decided to retire to the Senate Chamber of the National Assembly like most governors do by contesting a senatorial seat.
However, the Supreme Court judgment which nullified all the elections won by the APC in the state truncated his ambition to retire to the red chamber.
Yari is believed to be highly competent and experienced with wide contacts as a former governor and former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF).
However, his alleged high-handedness in the running of affairs of the APC, while he held sway as the governor of Zamfara State, which ultimately led to the loss of the state to the opposition Peoples Democratic (PDP) is said to be working against his ambition to lead the ruling party.
Similarly, the emerging political supremacy battle in the state, where he has locked horns with the newly defected governor Bello Matawale is going to be a major setback in his bid to lead the party at the national level.
APC members have also cited Yari’s alleged consistent intransigence to the resolutions of the Buni-led Caretaker Committee on the leadership of the party in Zamfara State as his albatross.
Also, his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) over alleged mismanagement of public funds running into billions of Naira, has become a sort of a moral burden on his neck.
Al-Makura is another political heavyweight in the race for the position of the National Chairman of APC.
He enjoys the advantage of being a former Governor of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) extraction and a serving Senator.
Sources within the ruling party said Al-Makura is one of the aspirants to watch due to the strong support he enjoys from the governor of his home state, Mr. Abdullahi Sule, who had publicly declared support for him.
However, his recent invitation by the EFCC over alleged mismanagement of multi-billion naira while he held sway as the Governor of Nasarawa State is an obstacle that could ruin his ambition.
Party sources said if the damning evidence presented against him by the petitioners from his home state is anything to go by, then the former governor may as well bid his ambition farewell as it is unlikely that the APC and especially President Muhammadu Buhari would accept anything short of a clean slate from the party’s chairman.
Another former governor of Nasarawa State, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, representing Nasarawa West senatorial district is also in the race.
Adamu is also a very competent and experienced politician and first civilian governor of the state.
A former minister and secretary of the Board of Trustees (BoT) of the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Adamu is as influential as any politician could aspire to be, and has been on the corridors of power for decades.
However, sources in the APC said his old age is counting against him.
Adamu also has to deal with the opposition at the home front as the governor of the state, Sule has thrown his weight publicly behind Al-Makura, Adamu’s fiercest political rival in the state.
Another aspirant for the office of the Chairman of APC, Sheriff is an experienced political heavyweight and fighter, who led the PDP during its crisis.
Sheriff was elected as a Senator in 1999 on the platform of the All Peoples Party (APP).
In 2003, he defeated the sitting governor, Mala Kachalla, at the party primaries, and won the election on the platform of All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP). It was the APP that changed its name to ANPP.
Sheriff was re-elected as governor in 2007.
He is a founding member of the APC but he defected to the PDP in 2014.
He later became the national chairman of the PDP after the party lost the 2015 elections. His leadership was however marred by crisis and the party became factionalised.
The Supreme Court later declared the other factional leader and former Governor of Kaduna State, Mr. Ahmed Makarfi, as the authentic chairman of the PDP. In April 2018, Sheriff returned to the APC.
No doubt, the former governor of Borno State is a crafty and dogged politician with a very deep pocket to prosecute any political ambition.
However, committed APC chieftains are said to be uncomfortable with the alleged ‘spoiler’ role he played in the PDP and his inconsistency, which makes him switch political parties at will.
He was also alleged to have sponsored the terrorist group, Boko Haram Islamic sect, an allegation he had dismissed as “rubbish”.
Shettima is another two-term Governor of Borno State and former Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum.
These positions he had held may count in his favour as he contests for the chairmanship of the ruling party.
His cordial relationship with the governor of his home state, Prof. Babagana Zulum, is also an added advantage to his efforts to realise his ambition to lead the APC.
However, whatever achievements he recorded as Borno State governor were blighted by the Boko Haram terrorists.
Mustapha is not only the youngest of the contenders but one of the two in the race who is neither an incumbent nor a former governor or Senator.
Nevertheless, the Kwara-born businessman brings to the table a robust experience in party administration that spanned decades.
He also has a vast political network within the progressive fold.
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 the days of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), where he served as a Deputy National Chairman under the Tony Momoh-led NWC of the party between 2011 and 2013.
Mustapha also has grassroots influence in his home state and a rich network of friends across the country.
Mustapha is said to be running a campaign that appeals to both the young and the old members of the party.
Codenamed B.R.I.D.G.E.S, Mustapha’s campaign seeks a return to the party’s founding ideals of progressivism and internal democracy.
However, he has never held a top political position like governor or member of the National Assembly and this may count against him.
A former governor of Benue State under the platform of the PDP, Akume is also said to be in the race.
Akume, a two-term governor was re-elected Senator for Benue North-West in the April 2011 elections, on the platform of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Since he lost the senatorial seat to Senator Emmanuel Yisa Order-Jev of the PDP in the 2019 general election, his political fortunes at the home front have nosedived considerably and this led to a total loss of control of the state by the APC.
But his experience as a two-term governor, and his current position as a serving minister in President Buhari’s cabinet, will boost his chances.
However, APC sources have described him as being ‘docile’ and ‘laid back’ in his campaign for the party’s chairmanship.
Goje is also said to be in the APC chairmanship race but his alleged ambition has remained in the realm of speculation.
The former Gombe State governor and Senator representing Gombe Central had after his victory in the 2019 general election, formally declared that he would not seek any political office again.
Chuks Okocha and Adedayo Akinwale in Abuja