By Henry Umoru, Assistant Political Editor
The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC has finally announced February 26 for its National Convention after a series of intrigues and pessimism on whether the event will hold next month or not.
Chairman of APC Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC, Governor Mai Mala Buni cleared the coast on Tuesday last week of the date for the convention.
With the disclosure, the race for the national chairmanship of APC that had begun last year will now be intensified by various aspirants.
Several stakeholders are making behind-the-scenes consultations on their prospects of taking over from the Caretaker National Chairman, Governor Mai Mala Buni, but the game from all indications and the zoning formula is over for other geo-political zones of the country as the contest has been zoned to the North Central region.
Before now, the political climate, especially within the APC family has been showing that the battle line is drawn between the Chairman, Senate Services Committee, Senator Sani Musa representing Niger East Senatorial District and some former governors for the position of National Chairman of the APC, but with the zoning of the position to the North Central, it appears that the only person contesting with Senator Musa who has been widely endorsed by Stakeholders, some governors, leaders of the party, is the former Nasarawa State governor and a serving Senator, Tanko Al- Makura.
It would be recalled that the Buni-led Caretaker committee got the nod of the party’s National Executive Committee, NEC to stay on for a six-month extended period in December 2020 and also got a vote of confidence from the Progressive Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body of governors elected on the platform of the APC.
Now that the Ides of February 26 is here for the National Convention, it will then bring to an end, the administration of Buni.
Vanguard has gathered that at this year’s National Convention, with the position of the National Chairman zoned to the North Central, Senator Sani Musa, popularly called 313 and former Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State are favoured by the leadership of the APC to emerge as the national chairman of the party.
Vanguard gathered that before the convention, consensus would be arrived at, with the position being zeroed to Niger State and with Musa from the state, the coast is said to be clear for him.
A top source in the party said that while Al-Makura is being favoured by some of the former governors, some strong forces in the Presidency, some Governors, former Governors, the Senate, very many members of the House of Representatives, Stakeholders of the party, members and supporters are backing Musa.
According to the source, Musa has become the underdog that has long been pencilled down for the position from the North Central geo-political zone of the country against the backdrop that President Muhammadu Buhari is said not to be comfortable having a former Governor to occupy the position, thereby making the pendulum shift for Musa, a serving Senator from Niger State for the plum job.
Even though some Governors are supporting Al- Makura who is their own from the Congress for Progressive Change arm of the APC was being backed by governors of the party, many are kicking against the move that a former Governor must occupy the seat.
Since the APC came on board in 2013, following the merger that took place, the party has been chaired by only former State governors beginning from Chief Bisi Akande, Osun state; Chief John Odigie-Oyegun, Edo state; Comrade Adams Oshiomhole; Edo and to the incumbent National Chairman of its Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee CECPC, Governor Mai Mala Buni of Yobe state.
This as gathered, is fuelling why there is a push for a paradigm shift from a former Governor to one who has not served in that capacity in Nigeria to be the head of the National Working Committee, NWC of the party.
From all indications and now that the APC has settled that the National Chairmanship slot is narrowed down to defunct Congress for Progressive Change(CPC) bloc of the coalition that formed the party in 2013, the CPC as seen as Buhari’s own party will get the chairmanship of the ruling party at the February 26 national convention of the party.
Against this backdrop, Senator Sani Musa and Tanko Al-Makura, two serving Senators of the party, are the current frontline candidates.
Since the merger in 2013 that led to the victory of the APC in the 2015 general elections specifically the presidential election, the CPC bloc has not held the position of the National Chairman of the party as all the three past chairmen came from the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN.
It was gathered that as part of moves to stabilise and sustain the APC after the tenure of President Muhammadu Buhari, the leader of CPC, the group has made a case for the chairmanship slot of the party while the presidential slot may have been conceded to the ACN and that may have explained why the Chairmanship slot has been zoned to the North Central with Senators Musa and Al- Makura as former CPC members and they are both close to the CPC bloc and to the President, but Musa is said to be closer.
Last year, Senator Musa had advanced reasons for coming out as APC National Chairman and he said, “I want to bring a new vision, a new direction in the running of the APC so as to build the most acceptable platform that will continue to foster democratic tenets for constructive development and governance.
“I have the backing of relevant stakeholders in the state (Niger). I have the support of the majority of the members of the National Assembly, especially the Senators and many APC governors. With their support, I will emerge the next national chairman of the APC.”
One would at this juncture take a look at Senators Musa and Al- Makura, what will work in their favour and against them.
Mohammed Sani-Musa: The Underdog Who is in the lead to Win The Race
The Senator who is the Chairman, Senate Services Committee, representing Niger East, he is a progressive personality, with a strong history of leading high-performance teams to meet or exceed objectives.
With arguments against having ex-governors as national chairman of the party, there are strong indications that Senator Musa is the underdog because he is young, especially for the generational change that is urgently required for the APC and he has the physical energy to run the affairs of the party.
The Senator also has the support of his colleagues from his geo-political zone, the majority at the Upper Chamber, that cuts all the thirty- six states of the country, the nation’s capital and including most members of the House of Representatives.
It has been gathered that as a Senator from the North Central and with arguments that no one outside of the Action Congress of Nigeria ACN tendency has ever led the party, the pendulum is shifting to Musa.
Senator Musa who came from one of the legacy parties, the defunct All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP is therefore being favoured for the position as the Presidential ticket may likely go to another person outside of the defunct ACN and the defunct Congress for Progressive CPC tendency, President Muhammadu Buhari had to be a member of that political tendency.
Besides the fact that Senator Musa is a founding member of the APC, what he has that is going for him is the fact he is reputed to be a highly organized, dedicated, passionate and hardworking person with proven integrity in all the places he has served in both public and private sector from 1986 to date.
Musa’s charisma and generosity have endeared him to many, including his colleagues at the senate and President Buhari. He is been supported by most members of the National Assembly who see him as one of their own and an opportunity to wrest the party from governors. He is seen as a perfect aspirant with no baggage and a National Chairman who will not spend his time visiting the anti-graft agencies to defend corruption cases.
It was also gathered that the CPC bloc has agreed to queue behind him if Al-Makura fails to sail at the convention as he has already been seen and concluded as a fallback candidate for the supporters of Al-Makura.
According to sources, Governors and federal lawmakers would be comfortable with someone like him as national chairman of the party, just as Senators see him as an ideal aspirant with the capacity to re-engineer the internal structures and workings of the party to respond to the yearnings and aspirations of members.
Although former governors now senators are queuing behind Al-Makura, Musa also enjoys support from the South-South and South-East Caucuses of the party outside the National Assembly, a development that has placed him as a strong contender.
APC National Convention: Councillors in Niger endorse Sen Musa
He had been endorsed by politicians in his state, even as the state governor, Abubakar Sani Bello is said to have put behind him some political grievances and has thrown his weight behind Musa following the intervention of some very powerful persons from Niger state on the need to support their own.
He is the immediate past governor of Nasarawa State, he is currently representing Nasarawa South in the Senate and Chairman, Senate Committee on Solid Minerals and another frontrunner for the position of APC National Chairman.
Al-makura was elected governor of Nasarawa State in 2011 on the platform of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), a party formed by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Although Al-Makura is said to have the support of his state governor, Abdullahi Sule and also said to have the blessing of Buhari like Senator Musa. He was credited with funding the CPC while he was governor.
His ambition has however split the Senate caucus with some senators that want Sani Musa to be the party’s National Chairman.
As a member of the CPC during his reign as governor, apart from funding the party, Al- Makura was said to have formed a good relationship with Buhari and became one of the respected governors at the presidential villa when Buhari became president in 2015.
His chairmanship ambition is being supported by some of his former colleagues who were also governors, some Senators in the current 9th Assembly.
What Al- Makura has that will count against him is his case with the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC, just as sources said that the Caretaker Committee of the party had shut down the suggestion that he should be returned on a consensus arrangement when it had its 2-day meeting.
Al-Mukara’s case with the anti-graft agency was based on his administration as the governor of Nasarawa State.
Recall that the senator and his wife were arrested in July 2021 for illegal retention of government funds, misappropriation and money laundering, whose proceeds were used to acquire assets such as Ta’al hotel in Lafia, and some businesses.
EFCC accused the couple of possessing 55 accounts being controlled by their companies, carrying out suspicious transactions, amounting to billions of naira when Mr Al-Makura was the governor of Nasarawa State between 2011 and 2019.
This may have explained why ahead of the February 26 National convention, a group under the aegis of South-South Emerging Leaders’ Forum (SELF) had urged Stakeholders and leaders of the party not to elect as National Chairman, some former governors and individuals who have been indicted for some financial crimes by the EFCC and other anti-graft agencies.
According to the group, it will be out of place for the APC to elect as National Chairman who will be the head of the National Working Committee, NWC a person who is being indicted by the EFCC and others.
In a statement on Wednesday in Abuja, the National Coordinator of the group, Barrister Preye Wilson, warned that as a ruling party, the party does not need a national chairman that will be moved in and out of the anti-corruption agencies’ offices to explain their dealings in the past.
The National Coordinator of South-South Emerging Leaders’ Forum, SELF who was reacting to a write-up titled, “the APC faces integrity test, five chairmanship aspirants on EFCC radar, had said that it is time for the ruling party to deviate from past experiences of electing former governor as national chairman, even as he warned that if any of these allegedly indicted chairmanship aspirants is elected as a national chairman the party will be easily blackmailed by the opposition parties and other critics.
A National Newspaper( not Vanguard) had argued that “President Buhari, who claims the fight against corruption is the cornerstone of his administration, has constantly frowned against corrupt persons taking up positions of leadership. With some of the aspirants still battling cases at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, will the President as the leader of the party, and the APC hierarchy be willing to look the other way or will they insist that anyone is free to contest? Providing an answer to this question would require looking into the profiles of the 11 aspirants.”
However, the South-south forum has urged that the party delegates and leaders at all levels should consider Senator Mohammed Sani Musa’s integrity, track records, firmness and simplicity among those parading themselves as chairmanship aspirants in APC.
Wilson had said, “For us in the South-south Emerging Leaders’ Forum, we believe that the best way the ruling party can continue to discourage corruption as clearly stated in the agenda of President Muhammadu Buhari is to elect a new national chairman that’s free of EFCC or ICPC cases.
“We also note that since the successful merger process the produced the ruling APC former governors have had enough time. From our father former governor of Osun state Chief Bisi Akande, who was succeeded by another former governor of Edo state Chief John Odigie Oyegun and later to another former governor of Edo state Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, we feel it is time to try a Senator and a competent hand at that.
“We, therefore, appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari, Senate President and Speaker, former and serving governors, and all the APC leaders at all levels to support the aspiration of Senator Mohammed Sani Musa from Niger state to emerge the next national chairman of APC.
“This we believe that governing APC will not regret. We have taken our time to investigate all the aspirants, we have listened to them on the various platform and also read about their plans for the party and therefore come to a conclusion that Senator representing Niger East is currently the best to lead an anti-corruption political party among other indices.”
As the battle takes place on February 26 between the underdog and an ex-Governor, we watch as events unfold.