By Festus Okhifo
AS the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, begins preparation for its national elective convention before the end of the year, former Borno State governor, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, appears to be going the whole hog to woo party members to support his bid for the national chairmanship of the party.
A founding member of the party, Sheriff caused quite a stir when in 2014, he left for the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, emerging its national chairman two years later. It was a feat many attributed to his vast political network, experience and knowledge of party administration, dating back to his active participation in politics during the late General Sani Abacha dictatorial regime.
Elected twice as governor of Borno State, the APC stalwart was earlier elected senator on the platforms of the National Republican Convention, NRC; the United Nigeria Congress Party, UNCP and the All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP.
Before the ANPP merged with other political parties to form the APC, Sheriff was the chairman, Board of Trustees, BoT, of the party. Although, the Court of Appeal sitting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, declared him the authentic national chairman of the PDP in February 2017, the Supreme Court in July of same year sacked the National Working Committee he chaired, thus paving way for the acting chairmanship of Senator Ahmed Makarfi.
In what appeared an expression of dismay about the apex court’s judgment, Sheriff returned to the APC and has since remained an active chieftain in the past few years. Prior to last week’s nationwide local government congresses of the APC, Sheriff demonstrated his altruistic disposition to the party by traversing the length and breadth of the country, mobilising grassroots support and appealing to Nigerians, old and young, on the imperativeof sustaining the legacies of the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government beyond 2023.
Not surprisingly, a good number of party faithful have since identified the former governor as the right man to succeed the caretaker working committee chaired by the Yobe State governor, Mai Mala Buni, given his (Sheriff’s) knowledge of the power game and network of friendship cultivated and nurtured over the past three decades.
In a statement reported by a national newspaper, an APC chieftain in Borno State, Mustapha Gambo, underscored the suitability of Sheriff as Buni’s successor thus: “He has a temperament uncommon among politicians of today. The unique thing about this aspiration is that chieftains of the party, made up of former governors, serving and ex-National Assembly members, members of State Houses of Assembly across the states of the federation, serving and former ministers to mention a few, want him to come on board and pilot the affairs of our party at this critical time.”
According to him, APC parades seasoned leaders, many of whom have paid their dues over time. However, the politics of 2023 is such that a greenhorn with limited knowledge of party administration “is not what we need if we must realise our dream of renewing our tenancy of Aso Rock beyond 2023.”
He continued: “Those that have been linked with interest in the office of the national chairman of the APC, no doubt, are respected leaders and stakeholders in the Nigerian project. We can’t deny the fact that these are men who have written their chapters in the historical compendium of our country’s journey to democracy.
But what is the challenge before us today? There are internal issues bedevilling the party as we speak and a bigger problem still is the herculean task of sustaining the legacy projects of President Muhammadu Buhari beyond 2023.
We need to win the next presidentialelection and convince Nigerians that voting APC was the best electoral decision they could ever made. “We need a strong character, a man who has seen it all in the field of business and politics. APC needs a man who is contended with what the Almighty God has given to him; not a leader who is coming to rehabilitate himself and revive dwindling businesses.
This is the strength of Sheriff’s aspiration and commitment to a party he has done a lot for since it came into existence in 2013.” Gambo’s optimism notwithstanding, questions have been asked as to how the former governor would succeed in charting a new course for the APC, given his affiliation with the PDP in the past.
Simply put, will Sheriff outbid the PDP in the quest for votes given that he once asked Nigerians to dump the ruling party’s ship? Gambo, erstwhile senior political adviser to the then governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima said that Sheriff’s experience while calling the shots at the PDP should be seen from the position of strength rather than weakness.
His words: “We should count it as joy that a man who once presided over the affairs of the major opposition party in this country is not only a leader in APC today but he’s willing to avail us his energy, time and experience if we rally round and make him our national chairman. I laugh when people make reference to his chairmanship of PDP and say he shouldn’t be APC national chairman. Let me put it this way: Politics is a game and to beat your opponent, you
must understand his strengths and weaknesses. “It is for this reason that experienced coaches are the most sought after in the world of football today. Jose Mourinho coached Chelsea and left for Real Madrid, and later Inter Milan; but Chelsea brought him back again and like in his first stint, he won the club another English Premier League title. Zinedine Zidane left Madrid and returned to the same club.
Carlo Ancelotti is back with the Spanish elite club many years after leaving them. Do you know why? Experience is not what you buy over the counter. “Those aspiring to be APC national chairman today are constitutionally right to pursue any legitimate aspiration but none of them has the wherewithal of Senator Ali Modu Sheriff.
None comes closer to the knowledge he parades in terms of understanding the nation’s vast political landscape and its people. With the general elections only some months away, APC can’t afford to experiment with novices in party administration. The outcome would be disastrous”. Findings revealed that the former Borno State governor is reaching out to the state chapters of the party across the country with a view to gaining advantage over his co-aspirants.
Aware of the place of lobby in the game of politics, Sheriff is leaving nothing to chance even as he is said to be in constant touch with the 22 governors elected on the platform of the party ahead of the convention. Apart from his foray into politics, the former governor and senator is a successful businessman with interest in real estate, oil and gas as well as construction.
He is yet to formally declare interest in the race for the APC national chairmanship but in the words of Gambo: “Alhaji Sheriff will do the needful at the appropriate time. He has the time to make his aspiration known.”
•Okhifo, a political analyst, wrote from Abuja