After months of uncertainty, the die is now cast in the race for the National Chairmanship of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC.
February 2022 has been announced as the month for the National convention,at the instance of President Muhammadu Buhari and suddenly, aspirants for the party’s top job have been roused from slumber.
So while the main opposition party, Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, seems to have settled its leadership crisis by settling for 69 year old Iyorchia Ayu as party chairman by some form of concession,it does look like Nigerians are in for a real political battle,barring any unforeseen circumstances.
For many analysts, those jostling for the position of APC chairman fall into two main categories, neatly defined by the age groups of the contenders.
The first category are those representing the younger generation. Those in this group includes Saliu Mustapha from Kwara State, Barr. Muhammed Bello from Taraba State, Muhammed Etsu from Niger State, and Sunny Moniedafe from Adamawa state.
The other is largely composed of older men who are mostly former governors or serving and former senators.
They include Senator Tanko Al-Makura, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, Senator Kashim Shetima, Senator George Akume, Senator Danjuma Goje, Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, and Senator Abdulaziz Yari.
While the old guards believe in the advantage of their old age and administrative experiences, the young turks believe in the freshness of their ideas vis-a-vis the dominant mood globally about giving a chance to young and upwardly mobile personalities in the onerous task of nation building.
In the aftermath of the PDP convention, many analysts have opined that APC would need to redefine its appeal among young Nigerians, by presenting candidates and leaders who can navigate the thorny paths between the older and younger generations.
Apart from the burden of age, which could limit vitality with the next general exactly one year after the convention, analysts believe many of the aspirants in the other categories have different political and corruption baggage that would be off-putting for many Nigerians, especially the critical youth constituency.
Others have crisscrossed parties in a manner that raises suspicion about their loyalty to the ruling party.
THE OLD GUARDS
Ali Modu Sheriff
Senator Ali Modu-Sheriff, a former governor of Borno State, hails from the North East zone.
He was a founding member of the APC, but he defected to PDP in 2014 after a failed bid for its chairmanship, amidst allegation of imposition.
When he was drafted into the PDP to complete the tenure of ex-Governor Adamu Muazu, it ended in a bitter legal battle that nearly sank the party.
In his new coming, he doesn’t seem to have the blessing of his state governor, Professor Babagana Zulum, who seem to be at home with Kashim Shettima. Modu Sherrif is 67.
He is a prominent member of the club of former governors having being a two-term Benue state governor from 1999 to 2007 on PDP platform.
67-year old Akume was to later join one of the legacy parties,ACN on whose platform he entered the Senate and became minority leader.
Although an incumbent minister, he is also interested in APC’s top job and may be banking on his wide contacts including his close relations with the leadership of the ACN tendency in the ruling party.
Senator Tanko Al-Makura, a serving Senator and former governor of Nasarawa State, is an astute politician.
He proved his mettle when he emerged the only Congress for Progress Change (CPC) governor in 2011, and he hopes to catch in on his CPC background.
But his multibillion Naira corruption case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) is still a sword hanging delicately on his neck. He is 70 this year.
Aged 69, Senator Danjuma Goje was a former Governor of Gombe State under the platform of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), taking office in 2003.
He has been around for a while, but many do not see in him the rallying persona the APC needs at this critical juncture of its life.
He is presently locked in a running battle with his state Governor, Inuwa Yahaya.
Abdulaziz Yari is enmeshed in a long-running feud with party members in his state, most prominently his home state Governor, Bello Matawale.
Analysts opine that his inability to manage the crisis under his watch cost the party the control of the state in 2019.
Although at 53 he is middle-aged, he has numerous corruption scandals around his neck, which analysts say could count against him.
Senator Musa, the serving senator representing Niger East Senatorial District, is widely respected for his professional accomplishment and academic credentials.
A passionate ICT oriented person, he has proven his mettle in many areas of governance and electioneering. He is said to also be in his 60’s.
THE YOUNG TURKS
On the other hand are Barr. Muhammad Bello from Taraba State, Sunny Sylvester Moniedafe from Adamawa State, Muhammed Saidu Etsu from Niger State and Saliu Mustapha from Kwara State.
Young, educated, and with a clean slate, the trio are leading a new generation of party voices who believe that APC requires a breath of fresh air at its helms of affairs in order to be able to sustain its hold on power in 2023.
Mohammed Saidu Etsu
Mohammed Saidu Etsu from Niger State. At age 36, he is the youngest of all the aspirants, and he is believed to enjoy the support of the state Governor, under whom he is presently serving as a Senior Special Adviser on Rural Electrification.
While declaring his ambition, Saidu said that his decision to contest the APC plumb job was consequent upon the party’s decision to encourage youth participation in leadership positions and his vision to participate at the highest level of the party.
He said, “there is an emerging need to galvanise the youths of the six geo-political zones in Nigeria towards supporting my ambition which shall be carried out under the aegis of my campaign organisation (APC Reset Agenda).”
Muhammad Bello Mustapha is a constitutional lawyer and former governorship candidate from Taraba State, North-East Nigeria.
The Ahmadu Bello University trained lawyer first cut his teeth in student union politics and has in the ensuing years become a political heavy weight in his native Taraba State.
He was the pioneer National Youth Leader of The Buhari Organization (TBO) and the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) gubernatorial candidate in Taraba State 2011 General Elections.
In 2018, Barr M.B Mustapha contested for the office of the APC National Secretary.
He however stepped down for the then consensus candidate from the zone, Mai Mala Buni, who incidentally is the incumbent acting National Chairman of the party.
There is also the youthful Saliu Mustapha. At 49, he appears as the perfect build for the APC’s bid to maintain its hold on power in the age of the #EndSARS.
With age on his side, if he becomes the new chairman of the APC, he is bound to use that as an advantage to sway the youths on his side and the APC.
The middle aged Mustapha is also seen as the bridge between the old and the young. He is equally considered as a link between the north and south if his background and upbringing are anything to go by.
He was among those that followed President Muhammadu Buhari when they formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) and to the legacy party, the APC. In all his sojourn in the political terrain, he held various position getting to the position of the deputy national chairman of Buhari’s CPC.
He is also a former gubernatorial aspirant of the APC in the 2019 gubernatorial elections in his home state of Kwara.
He stepped down his ambition for the incumbent Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq, who is also of the CPC extraction.
A staunch supporter and ally of President Muhammadu Buhari, he has been with him since their days in the All Peoples Party (APP) and the thick and thin of the struggles for the formation of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) through to APC.
Seen as the dark horse in the race, Mustapha enjoys the massive support of his state governor, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, for being a bridge builder in the local chapter of the party in Kwara.
He also enjoys support of young idealists within and outside the party, and many analysts believe it would count for him.
So these are the men that will in coming weeks be striving to sell their candidacy to stakeholder groups in the party.
For now, there are no suggestions that like PDP, APC would toe the path of PDP by opting for one of the candidates under a consensus arrangement so the die is indeed cast in the battle of two generations.