Ahead of the party’s 26th February convention, the battle for the control of the structure of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is gathering momentum.
While about 10 candidates are jostling for the chairmanship position, the ticket appears to be down to candidates from the Northcentral.
It was gathered that governors of the ruling party are united against the candidacy of Alimodu Sheriff, the former Chairman of the PDP. To knock him out, there appears to be consensus to allow the North Central to clinch the ticket.
APC governors in complete take over
The takeover of the party by the governors is appearing to be crystal clear, judging by the swearing-in of the state executive last week; governors’ factions in about 13 states won the battle.
In Zamfara State, governor Bello Metawalle defeated both Abdulaziz Yari and Kabir Marafa factions, while the same thing happened in Kwara, Osun, Cross River and others.
With the States taken over, the governors have set their sights on the national chairmanship, after an attempt to extend the tenure of Mai Mala Buni-led caretaker committee failed.
In the last 18 months reign of Buni, the governors held sway. According to insiders within the party, the governors want someone nominated from their ranks.
ACN, ANPP, CPC rotation
The current APC was a merger of Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN), Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), All Nigerian Peoples Party (ANPP), a faction of All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA) and N-PDP members.
Since the formation of the party, ACN has produced Bisi Akande and Adams Oshiomhole, while Buni was also a member of the ACN bloc. On the other hand, Oyegun belongs to the ANPP faction. Both CPC and APGA are yet to occupy the seat.
There are concerted efforts to ensure that the CPC faction clinches that top position. This arrangement will be cancelling out several candidates.
Geopolitical spread of candidates
The Northcentral has the highest number of candidates in the contest. Tanko Almakura of Nasarawa, Saliu Mustapha of Kwara, Etsu Mohammed and Sen Sani Musa of Niger State and George Akume of Benue State.
Northeast has Isa Yuguda, Sunny Moniedafe and Sheriff, while the Northwest has Shinkafi and AbdulAziz Yari.
Governors with Presidential and Vice Presidential ambitions will be wary of having the ticket zoned to their geopolitical zone. It was gathered that Governor Yahaya Bello is not disposed to the ticket zoned to the north-central.
Sheriff, a former acting Chairman of the PDP, is on the top list of candidates the governors have decided to oppose by all means necessary. His alleged past link to the creation of the dreaded Boko haram group and stint as the acting Chairman of PDP makes his candidacy very tricky.
A former member of the House of Representatives, who spoke with newsmen on the condition of anonymity, said the opposition to Sheriff is not a secret.
“Even from his billboard ‘A man the job needs’, it is clear that he is not a man to be kept on the leash. These governors don’t want another Oshiomhole and if you check the history of Sheriff, especially, his brief stint as PDP caretaker chairman, the governors don’t want him,” he said.
In addition, Sheriff, a former member of the ANPP bloc, is not beholden to any governor, including his State governor, Babangana Zulum. It was learnt that due to the resources available to Sheriff, the governors are not taking chances.
The former governor of Nasarawa State and serving Senator in the 9th National Assembly is one of the leading candidates in the race. Being a former governor will count in terms of experience.
Almakura also has the support of his State governor, Abdulahi Sule. The National Assembly may also favour the idea of one of their own at the helm of affairs.
Since the rejection of the mandatory direct primaries option in the electoral bill, the lawmakers are seeking to get a foothold on the party. Last week, the Speaker, Femi Gbajabiamila hosted some former lawmakers of the APC and it was gathered that a sizable package was given out to them.
The ex-lawmakers, who are delegates by virtue of the APC Constitution, held a meeting in Abuja at the Ibeto Hotel. They have created a bloc and are willing to be persuaded by the factions in the party.
Mr Musa, who sponsored the controversial ‘Protection from Internet Falsehoods and Manipulation and Other Related Matters Bill, 2019’, aka social media bill is gaining momentum in the race.
Musa’s profile shot up the roof when Tinubu said his efforts have been noticed by the leaders and “he will be rewarded.”
However, as a first timer in the Senate and not being a former governor could either be an advantage or a disadvantage for the man fondly called 313. If backed by his governor, Abubakar Bello, the APC governors’ forum may not be intimidated by him, and lawmakers may be at ease.
He is not a member of the old blocs; in fact, he jostled for the PDP governorship ticket in the past, before settling down for APC senatorial seat in 2019.
Mr Mustapha, a former deputy national Chairman of the CPC is one of the dark horses in this race. He is banking on his CPC and North Central connection to appeal to power brokers in his party.
However, people in his camp are not sure if his State governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrasak is fully backing him.
His State, like most other APC States, is highly balkanized. The governor has been fighting to gain total control of the party against Lai Mohammed and Gbemisola Saraki since the victory of the movement that displaced Bukola Saraki, the ex-Senate President.
If Mustapha can get the nod of the governor, though the governor is relatively unknown at the national level, his lack of strong political profile could assuage the governors to support him.
The Minister for Special Duties and former Governor of Benue State is also strongly in the race.
Being a current minister, a former governor and from North Central, Akume could work the machinery to his side.
The fact that Akume is from the same State as Iyorcha Ayu, the PDP Chairman, could be a plus and a minus for Akume.
His credential as former Minority leader could count. But he is a member of the ACN bloc.
The former Chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, Yari, currently is not in control of his State, Zamfara, having lost out to Governor Matewalle in the power struggle.
Yari, a former member of the House of Representatives, has an uphill battle ahead of him. Being from the North West is a minus and fighting with his governor puts him at a disadvantage.
Unless backed by power brokers within the party, who are willing to challenge the foothold of the governors, he may not succeed. Yari’s credentials as ex-NGF Chairman is surely a plus for him.
The former APGA National Secretary and serial governorship candidate in Zamfara State is also in the race.
Just like Yari, his zone puts him at a disadvantage and the fact that he only decamped from APGA to APC in 2021 also serves as a minus.
However, his knowledge of party administration could be an advantage and Matewella’s backing to check Yari could mean something at the Eagle Square.
Isa Yuguda from Bauchi State, Etsu Muhammed of Niger State and Sunny Moniedafe of Adamawa State are equally in the race.