As the day for the All Progressives Congress (APC) National Convention draws close, expectedly, there is heightened tension and expectations among the party`s critical stakeholders, especially the various national chairmanship aspirants.
New national executives are expected to be elected at the APC national convention, slated for Feb. 26, to manage the party`s affairs which is currently being managed by its Gov. Mai Mal Buni-led Caretaker and Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).
No fewer than 11 aspirants are in the race to contest the APC national chairmanship position. They include Sen. Ali-Modu Sheriff, a two-term former governor of Borno, a former deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mr Saliu Mustapha, and a former governor of Nasarawa State, Sen. Tanko Al Makura.
Others are Sen. Mohammed Sani-Musa (Niger), former governors Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Isa Yuguda (Bauchi), Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Danjuma Goje (Gombe).
Also in the race is the Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs, Dr George Akume, and Mr Sunny Moniedafe, among others.
While speaking on his expectations for the national convention, Sen. Victor Lar, Campaign Director Ali-Modu Sheriff Campaign Organisation, said the party would need to do lots of negotiations ahead of the convention.
To him, adopting a consensus candidate for the position is a sure way to ensure a rancor-free
national convention, especially as it will lead to less friction and acrimony among the aspirants and the party members.
“We will have to do a lot of horse trading to land safely; the whole thing is likely going to be an anti-climax.
“The factions that followed the party’s 2021 State Congresses can only threaten the election if there is voting.
“But if it is a consensus or by presidential approval, it is going to be an anti-climax and then, we will land safely. The moment there is a consensus, everybody will sheath their swords,” Lar said.
He expressed gratitude to the party’s leadership for recognising the APC Former House of Representatives Members
Forum as special delegates to the partys forthcoming national convention, including those in the second republic who are its members.
Lar said this had further boosted the relevance of members of the forum in the APC.
He added that the forum could, however, go further by insisting that the same automatic delegate status be bestowed on members of the various State Houses of Assembly and leaders of various Local Government Legislative Assembly.
This, he said, was because they are leaders whose emergence entailed contesting and emerging as leaders of Legislative Houses, adding that members of the forum should take greater interest in participating in politics.
Speaking on the forum’s recent meeting and round table with the theme:”2023 the way forward”, Lar said the way forward in 2023 starts with a Sen. Ali-Modu Sheriff as APC’s national chairman.
This, he said, was because the party would need someone who thinks like governors, understands their sentiments and appreciates the four cardinal power pillars of the APC.
He explained that the four cardinal pillars of the APC are the presidency which must give approval on all issues, the National Assembly, the party`s officials and its governors
According to Lar, Sheriff understands how the governors think and the vulnerability of the National Assembly, having been a two-term former governor of Borno and a member of the Senate.
“Having been a former party national chairman, Sheriff understands how to deal with the party`s leadership and provide meaningful direction, and he has capacity to relate with the presidency.
“In 2023, I will continue to insist, the peculiar challenge for the APC will be that President Muhammadu Buhari will not be on the ballot.
“And if he is not on the ballot, we need a strong man who understands that the essence of politics and associating as a political party is to win power legitimately.
“And to win power legitimately, you have to appreciate how to contest election and win.
“Sheriff knows what it takes with persons and resources in getting results and that is the person we will need in 2023,” Lar stressed.
Mr Dapo Okunbanjo, a member of the APC Professionals Forum, is of the opinion that the party`s national chairmanship position be zoned to the North Central where Malam Saliu Mustapha, one of the aspirants, comes from.
Okunbanjo who is Mustapha’s Media Aide, however, expressed hope that his principal will emerge victorious at the convention because of his standing.
“We would have loved it if the position is micro-zoned to the North Central, but if it’s left opened to all comers in the North, it won’t change our stance.
“As a candidate, we have done our best to canvass for the support of party stakeholders across the country, particularly the delegates.
“We have traversed the length and breadth of the country, selling our agenda for reforms and consolidation to members and delegates.
“We are confident that regardless of the decision, Malam Saliu Mustapha, the Turaki of Ilorin, is very
well positioned to emerge victorious at the forthcoming convention,’’ he said.
He said even if the party`s leadership decides on adopting consensus or elective convention, Mustapha is the candidate to beat.
Another aspirant, Mr Sunny Moniedafe, while affirming that he is still in the race, denied stepping down for Sen. Umar Al-Makura, the immediate past governor of Nasarawa State, who is also in the race as being speculated in a section of the media.
On the mode of primary, he would prefer for the election of the party
s candidates, Moniedafe said as a party man, he would accept whatever mode of primary the partys leadership adopted.
“I am comfortable with either direct or indirect mode of primaries, so long as the process is transparent,’’ he said.
Moniedafe, however, said that it was incorrect to conclude that he would lose out of the race if the party`s leadership decides to zone the position to the North-East as was being speculated.
“It came to my notice that many people are worried about the zoning of the APC National Working Committee (NWC) Chairmanship.
“That if it is zoned to the North-East, it will spell doom for me, far from it, my desire is for the position to the zoned to the North-East.
“If it is not, I have said it in different fora that I will pick form for the other positions zoned to the North-East,’’ Moniedafe said.
He said though he had the required qualification and experience to be APC`s national chairman, clinching the position is not a one way matter to him.
“I want to make the assertion that I have the required experience and qualifications to be in any position of the NWC, except the Women and Youth Leader.
“In that case, if by chance the North-East zone is not favored, we will go ahead with any position zoned, I will contest,’’ he said.
Moniedafe said if he fails to emerge as APC`s next national chairman, he would support whoever emerges as long as the person had the same vision and objectives with him.
He added that whoever
emerges as the party
s national chairman at the Feb. 26 national convention, should ensure the partys supremacy and a better and adequate reward system for its members.
Moniedafe who claimed to be an indigene of Adamawa by birth, said the party`s national chairman should also ensure a synergy between the three arms of government.
He decried the spate of recent defection of some APC members to opposition political parties, especially in Kano and Zamfara, saying that the action amounted to “stomach infrastructure’’.
While acknowledging that some of those who defected may have done so because they felt they had not been properly rewarded, Moniedafe said that was not enough reason to defect.
He added that as an individual and a party man, even though he had sacrificed a lot for the APC, he had not been adequately compensated.
He further added that he had suffered neglect and lack of reward in the APC, but never thought of defecting to other political party, this, he said should be the mind set.
“Today, I have not been adequately compensated, but am still in the APC, if they don’t have the kind of mindset I have, they might decamp, but can two wrongs make a right, no.
“Ones you decamp, it means you are following your stomach, decamping is not the solution, stay in the house and make a change,’’ he said.
He, however, noted that if the party
s National Reconciliation Committee had been swift enough by starting the reconciliation process early in some of its states chapters, the situation would have been arrested.
In his remarks, Mr Ade Omole, leader of the APC in the United Kingdom, said as the date for the party’s national convention draws close, it is time for all displeased groups and camps within the its fold, home and abroad, to sheath their swords and work in unity ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Omole praised aggrieved party members who had instituted cases against the party in several courts for withdrawing their lawsuits, adding that despite
perceived grievances, the party remains one indivisible entity.
According to Omole, what the party needs at the moment, is unity of purpose across all its state chapters to enable it to go into the 2023 general election as a united front and formidable force.
A chieftain of the APC and the Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Political Affairs in the Vice President’s office, Malam Gambo Manzo, however, appealed to its leaders and stakeholders to bury their differences ahead of the party’s national convention.
He decried the horse-trading that had greeted the move by some stakeholders aspiring for different positions within the party and called on its leaders and stakeholders to embrace peace and unity in order to ensure a successful and rancor-free national convention.
Manzo also called on aggrieved members of the party across the six geo-political zones to put their differences behind them and work toward a united, peaceful and rancor-free convention.
According to him, this will provide the platform for the APC to consolidate its hold on power beyond 2023.
Manzo said it is imperative for the party to elect a well-experienced, committed and tested party loyalist who would carry its stakeholders on board, ahead of the forthcoming general election.
He emphasised the need to have leaders with proven integrity and track records as well as the right strategy and sense of organisation to plan and win big for the party.
The APC chieftain further said that the party could not afford to allow the current turmoil within its ranks and file to persist, adding that its leaders must put things in order for the party to win the 2023 elections.
He, however, expressed confidence in the party’s Sen. Abudulahi Adamu-led National Reconciliation Committee’s ability to unite all aggrieved party stalwarts and end the polarisation
of its ranks.
Manzo urged the party leaders to work on Buhari’s advice that they close ranks and work together for the success of the party in the forthcoming election, without giving the opposition a ground to retake power in 2023.
Mr Preye Wilson, National Coordinator, South-South Emerging Leaders’ Forum (SELF), while reacting to a media report titled: “APC faces integrity test, five chairmanship aspirants on EFCC radar”, cautioned the APC against electing aspirants indicted for financial crimes, as its leaders in the Feb. 26 national convention.
To him, the APC does not need a national chairman that would be visiting offices of anti-corruption agencies to explain his past financial dealings, ahead of the 2023 general elections.
He cautioned that electing indicted chairmanship aspirants as APC National Chairman, would create room for blackmail by opposition parties.
Wilson while admitting that all Nigerians were free to contest the APC national chairmanship position, said the party does not need the distractions that would come with a chairman having an anti corruption case hanging on him.
He, therefore, charged the party leadership to properly investigate the aspirants ahead of the the national convention.