On June 5, 2020 when President Muhammadu Buhari called for the dissolution of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and appointed Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala-Buni to head the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC), several members considered the move as the best to reposition the ruling party.
The controversial virtual National Executive Council (NEC) meeting, headed by the president sacked the then National Chairman, Adams Oshiomhole, who statutorily represented the zone that produced the party’s national chairman.
Although some members of the party felt uncomfortable with the decision, considering the fact that the new CECPC chairman is a serving governor of northern extraction, the crises that had rocked the APC throughout the two years of Oshiomhole’s chairmanship beclouded the majority from seeing inherent pitfalls in the move. At the time, many party faithful were tired of Oshiomhole’s leadership style and the feeling that the National Leader, Bola Tinubu was using the former governor of Edo State as a proxy to control party machinery. But the yearnings for change also prevented them from realising that a party machinery, which was going to ‘completely’ exclude the southern zone, would be a breach of the party’s constitution.
With the development, the north now controls the presidency, Senate and chairmanship of the party while Southwest holds leadership of only the House of Representatives.
In fairness, the Buni-led CECPC has been able to douse many tensions within the initial six-month frame of its stewardship, putting in place another NWC to steer the affairs of the party pending the congresses and the national convention, the shocking extension of its tenure by another six months in December 2020, had since been generating ill feelings within party ranks.
And when the CECPC came up with the idea of registration/revalidation of party membership, it sent tongues wagging, with party faithful alluding to sinister motives. Former interim national chairman, Chief Bisi Akande, who is also a strong associate of the national leader, frowned at development, alleging a game plan. But he was criticised by those who felt President Buhari was on the right track by granting support to CECPC’s tenure extension.
The Guardian has, however, learnt that most party members, who initially hailed the Buni-led committee and the presidential support it had been receiving since June last year are beginning to grumble, with indications that the party may be heading towards tough congresses and rancorous national convention. It further gathered that the leadership of the party is currently afraid to hold its national convention.
One of the strong sentiments against the CECPC is the fear that President Buhari may likely use it to shift the goal post and retain the presidency in the north or North Central after the expiration of his eight years in office in 2023.
The sentiment is further fueled by the manner Governor Yahaya Bello is going about his 2023 presidential ambition in defiance of the unannounced gentleman agreement of power shift to the South among the founding members of the party.
It is assumed within party ranks that Bello must be getting nudges from the presidency judging by the relentlessness in pursuing his presidential ambition. Another concern is that the presidency, seen as the deliberate creator and director of the CECPC, might be using it to deliberately shut out perceived enemies it does not want to cede power to or allow to contest for the party’s presidential ticket in the run up to next elections.
As a member put it, “There are two ways to it. The CECPC has succeeded in practically weakening the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) such that if the presidential election is held today, irrespective of voters’ desire, the ruling party will retain power.
“Another suspicious agenda of the committee is to ensure that even if power must shift to the South, the next presidential candidate will be at the discretion of the north and not necessarily those willing to contest. A ripple effect of these moves is that the south, especially southwest, has been so divided in the rank and files of the ruling party.
“For instance, Ogun APC is sharply divided among supporters of Governor Dapo Abiodun and his immediate predecessor, Senator Ibikunle Amosun. In Osun State, Governor Oyetola is in a cold battle with his immediate predecessor, Minister of Interior, Ogbeni Rauf Aregbesola. In Ekiti, Governor Fayemi is not on good terms with another camp allegedly loyal to Tinubu while in Lagos, one of the groupings, Lagos4Lagos is audaciously challenging the political hegemony of the national leader.”
It was gathered that the conduct of the CECPC and the body language of the presidency must have been one of the factors that compelled the 17 Southern Governors Forum to recently insist that power must shift to the south in 2023 irrespective of their different party affiliations. The source also said the national leader is a principal target in all the scheming.
Jostle For National Chairmanship Despite Uncertainties
THE CECPC has unfolded plans to hold the party congresses but it is still uncertain how it hopes to achieve it. In spite of the uncertainties, The Guardian gathered that some party members, especially from the north, are intensifying bids and making moves to vie for the position of the national chairman.
A competent party source listed some of the chairmanship hopefuls to include former Nasarawa State Governor, Tanko Almakura, another former Nasarawa State Governor, Abdullahi Adamu; one-time governorship contender in Niger State and delegate to the National Convention, Senator Sani Musa; former Gombe State Governor, Danjuma Goje; former Borno State Governor, Modu Sheriff, and a former deputy national chairman of Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mohammed Mustapha.
Tanko Almakura is yet to declare his intention but sources said the chieftain of the defunct CPC is a strong contender. He may stand a good chance being one of the old allies of Mr President. It could not be ascertained whether he will also emerge as the candidate of the APC Governors’ Forum.
In terms of experience and maturity, former Nasarawa State Governor, Adamu is regarded as a party elder endowed with qualities to lead as the chairman. He is seen as a no-nonsense politician, who knows his onions. After serving as governor for eight years, he was elected senator. In 2007, he was a presidential aspirant on the platform of PDP.
Senator Sani Musa, a 56-year-old indigene of Paikoro in Niger State, is said to be on an extensive party-wide consultation and mobilisation. A loyal party man, he has been described as a man of integrity. He is a one-time governorship contender in Niger State, a delegate to the National Convention, and a member of the APC Presidential Election Campaign Committee for 2019.
As senator, he had canvassed the revolution of the electoral system through the use of the card reader and Permanent Voter’s Card just as many have described him as a bridge builder with immense interpersonal skills. He has also served on some Senate committees including Appropriation, Petroleum Resources, Foreign and Local Debts, and Water Resources. In the APC, he served as a member of NEC, Contact and Strategic Committee, and Constitution Review Panel.
The Business Administration graduate from Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, where he was the President of Zodiac, has also served as Special Adviser on Investment and Infrastructure in Niger State; director of Niger State Development Company Limited; Chairman, Task Force on Environmental Management and Managing Director, First Pacific Nigeria Limited. He possesses a Certificate in Conflict Analysis from the United States Institute of Peace.
Musa is held in esteem in the senate as an organised, dedicated, passionate and hardworking politician. He is said to be goal-oriented, focused and patriotic. Testimonies about his conduct in the Senate portray him as a detribalised person who could ride on his wave of integrity to lead the party if given the opportunity. Another sterling quality he possesses is his ability to foster unity across ethnic nationalities, which he is said to have demonstrated in the upper chamber since joining.
“As a member of the APC Presidential Campaign Team 2019, Senator Musa donated the biggest Presidential Campaign Office in Northern Nigeria not to mention his championing of the usage of the PVC during the voting process,” the source added.
Another aspirant is eminent politician from Gombe State, former Governor Goje, who served as former Minister of State for Steel Development and is now a senator. Bold and fearless he is also a former PDP chieftain.
Former Borno State Governor, Modu Sheriff served as a senator for two terms before becoming governor in 2003. He defected from the APC to PDP, where he was briefly the national chairman. There were allegations that he wanted to use the position as a stepping stone to the realisation his presidential ambition. When he was shoved aside as chairman, Senator Ahmed Makarfi became the PDP caretaker chairman. Some months ago, Sheriff retraced his steps to the APC.
Mohammed Mustapha, 48, hails from Gambari District in the Ilorin East local government area of Kwara State. He has distinguished himself in business, politics and humanitarian services. He founded the Saliu Mustapha Foundation to serve as a platform for human empowerment and community development.
Mustapha is a former deputy national chairman of CPC. He played a role in the merger of the CPC with other tendencies that gave birth to the APC. He was a signatory to the merger agreement on behalf of the CPC in the coalition. Before he became the deputy chairman of the CPC, he had served as an Ex-officio and a founding NEC member of the party.
He was the National Publicity Secretary of the Progressive Liberation Party (PLP) between 2001 and 2002 under the leadership of Dr. Ezekiel Ezeogwu. In 2003, Mustapha and other like-minds formed the Progressive Action Congress (PAC). He was the National Publicity Secretary of the party. He was a member of The Buhari Organisation (TBO) and the Buhari Campaign Organisation (BCO).