By Dirisu Yakubu
The Buni-led caretaker committee, it would be recalled got the nod of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC to stay on for a six-months extended period in December, 2020 and only recently, got a vote of confidence from the Progressive Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body of governors elected on the platform of the APC.
The six months elapse this month, with convention now expected to hold where members of a new National Working Committee, NWC, are expected to be elected.
In the past few months, the party hierarchy has not hidden its intention to hold on to power even after the expiration of the second term in office of President Muhammadu Buhari.
Speaking way back in March this year, Buni had stated that consolidating on the achievements recorded by incumbent administration beyond 2023 is a task the ruling party was set to pursue and attain.
He had said that ”the constitution of the Strategy and Contact Committee is to consolidate the achievements we are making in building a strong party with a solid structure that would accomplish APC to stand the test of time.
“Our vision is to provide a wheel that will drive the party to go beyond 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th and even 10th term of office to effectively implement the party manifesto, improve the lives of Nigerians and to remain Nigeria’s leading political party.
“This committee is key to our process of transition towards successful congresses and national convention and, to establish a very solid, reputable and reliable future for the party.”
By way of simple arithmetic, the APC boss simply told Nigerians of the intention of his party to hold on to power at the centre for the next 34 years.
As the party delegates await the release of official time-table to announce the date and venue of the convention, gladiators for the plum seat of the APC national chairman are leaving nothing to chance in their bid to draw up a winning strategy for the party in the 2023 general elections.
Who are these gladiators and what are their chances?
Senator Ali Modu Sheriff
Modu Sheriff holds the record of being the first elected governor to serve two consecutive terms in Borno state following his election in 2003 and again in 2007 on the platform of the defunct All Nigeria People Party, ANPP.
Born 65 years ago, Sheriff attended the London School of Business, majoring in Insurance, Banking and Finance. He was elected Senator to represent Borno Central in the Third Republic first on the platform of the National Republican Convention (now defunct) and again on the platform of the ANPP.
He was a founding member of the APC but left to chair the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, before a Supreme Court ruling reinstated former governor of Kaduna state, Ahmed Makarfi as chairman of the party’s national caretaker committee.
SAS as he is fondly called has since returned to the fold of the ruling party and is now reaching out to stakeholders across the six geo-political zones to buy into his manifesto of making the APC the party to beat in 2023 and beyond.
In the race to the chairmanship position of the party; Sheriff boasts of a rich experience none of the other aspirants can lay claim to.
His knowledge of partisan politics dating back to the botched Third Republic places him at a vantage position.
Added to this is the fact that the former Borno state governor commands the respect of both serving and former federal lawmakers, incumbent and erstwhile governors; all of whom have a huge saying in the selection of delegates expected to vote at the election.
Commentators have been quick to criticize the aspiration of Sheriff with many faulting his time at the helms of affairs at the PDP as a major drawback.
However, a chieftain of the APC who does not want his name in print told our correspondent that Sheriff’s chairmanship of the opposition party a few years ago should be seen as a plus, rather than a minus.
He said: “With due respect to our revered leaders who want to take over the affairs of our party, Sheriff is in a class of his own. His chairmanship of the PDP some years ago gives him an edge over the rest in the pack.
He comes with an institutional memory that can’t be purchased over the counter. The bottom line is that he knows the APC and the PDP very well and that will give us additional potency to keep the PDP down. His knowledge of the enemy makes the fight easier and a winnable one for us.”
That’s not all. The APC chieftain reckoned that Sheriff’s connection with the Presidency will facilitate access that could make things work in favour of the party.
“He has been around and you can’t buy experience. He has his way to the Presidency and it is only logical that such a man is supported by all and sundry in the interest of our party and its members.
As a chairman, I can assure Nigerians that Modu Sheriff will act like Ambassador Plenipotentiary, a man who would douse tension in times of crisis and get this quickly sorted out,” he added.
He also added that the former governor has the listening ears of the lowly and highly placed, noting that the network built over the years would be difficult to surpass by others.
Yari, immediate past governor of Zamfara state is reportedly vying for the national chairmanship of the party. Aged 53, Yari holds a graduate diploma in Public Administration from the Kebbi State Polytechnic.
Following the completion of his two-term in office as governor in 2019, Yari did what most retiring governors often do by contesting a seat at the Senate.
He won same but a Supreme Court judgment nullified his election and those of all candidates fielded by the All Progressives Congress on the ground that they were not validly nominated.
He is wealthy and capable of running a campaign on his own.
His invitation this year for questioning by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, for “conspiracy, diversion of public funds and money laundering,” may not count against him, given the fact that he has not been found wanting and not facing any prosecution although there are fears the opposition will no doubt, make an issue out of this and amplify same to high heavens.
The anti-graft agency had in the first quarter of 2021 summoned Yari for questioning over an alleged attempt to launder the sum of N300 billion while serving as governor of the North-West state. He remains innocent.
Of the four aspirants desirous of piloting the affairs of the ruling, Tanko Almakura is the oldest at 69. A trained educationist at the famous Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, Almakura was the Plateau State Secretary of the defunct National Republican Convention, NRC (1990-1992).
He was elected governor of Nasarawa state on 26th April, 2011 on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change, defeating the then incumbent governor, Aliyu Akwe-Doma of the PDP.
Following the successful merger of the legacy parties into what is today known as the APC; Almakura joined the Buhari team and played a prominent role in his election in the North-Central State. He currently chairs the Senate Committee on Solid Minerals.
The major drawback against the aspiration of Almakura according to a party insider is “his penchant for doing things like a lone ranger.”
Asked to clarify what he meant, the fair-skinned fellow who craved anonymity continued: “You see, Tanko is a great man but we need more than being great to consolidate on what we have been able to achieve since this administration came on board in 2015.
The man we need to take over the realm of the party must be accessible, ready to listen to opposing views.
“As great as he is, what is his rating by the Presidency? Does he command the respect of our governors? What do we want the APC to become from now till 2023 and beyond? These are some of the questions party leaders and stakeholders are currently asking,” he added.
At 48, Mustapha is the youngest of the quartet. Schooled at the Polytechnic Kaduna where he bagged a Higher National Diploma in Mineral Resources Engineering, Mustapha was the National Publicity Secretary of the defunct Progressive Action Congress, PAC.
He was also a one-time Deputy National Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC.
Mustapha’s strength derives from his youthful appeal and connections in high and low places. Like a breath of fresh air, he believes the party needs a fresh beginning, a new order with him as the face, preparatory for the 2023 general election.
Given the powers of governors in this part of the world, how Mustapha will pull through this onerous task of wining the chairmanship seat remains a matter of conjecture.
This is where the hard nut is and whoever cracks it amongst the four, is likely to emerge the substantive chairman of the party which today controls 21 out of the 36 states of the federation.