Four months to the national convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC), top shots of the party have commenced intense underground moves and consultations for the ruling party's national chairmanship seat.
The Governor Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee was inaugurated on June 25, 2020, to administer the party's affairs following the dissolution of the Adams Oshiomhole-led National Working Committee (NWC), which will lapse in June this year.
The Buni-led committee, which was first given a six-month timeframe to address critical issues in the party, got an extension of six months in December last year. In extending the committee's tenure, the National Executive Council (NEC) of the party said their convention, where a new set of NWC members would emerge, would be held after the party's membership revalidation and registration.
The exercise is ongoing across the country and barring any change, the convention will be held before the end of the Buni-led committee's tenure.
Multiple party sources told DailyTrust that the party's six chieftains from the North had commenced consultations for the chairmanship position. All of them are former governors who played vital roles in the formation of the party in 2013. All the aspirants are, however, yet to formally declare their intentions for the seat.
So far, four persons have manned the chairmanship position of the party since its formation in 2011. Except for the incumbent chairman, a sitting governor (Yobe), three others, Chief Bisi Akande, Chief John Odigie Oyegun and Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, were former governors.
Daily Trust Saturday gathered from impeccable sources that the six former governors: Abdulaziz Yari (Zamfara), Senator Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Senator Danjuma Goje (Gombe), Senator George Akume (Benue), Senator Kashim Shettima (Borno) and Ali Modu Sheriff (Borno), are eying the seat. While three of the former governors are serving senators, two were formerly at the upper chamber. Yari lost his bid to the parliament in 2019 following the internal wrangling that rocked the party in Zamfara State.
Al-Makura belongs to the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) element of the APC. He is being promoted by his successor in Nasarawa State, Governor Abdullahi Sule.
Weeks ago, Governor Sule, while flagging off the membership registration and revalidation exercise of the party in the state, urged other blocs to support the state to produce the next national chairman.
But Al-Makura, a business tycoon who represents Nasarawa South senatorial district, is yet to declare his intention to vie for the position formally. Sources around the former governor told our reporters that said enjoyed the full support of most of the CPC elements in the APC.
Senator Goje, a 68-year-old former governor of Gombe State, is a ranking lawmaker. He has been representing the Gombe Central senatorial district since 2011.
The former governor, who stepped down from the race to the Senate presidency for Senator Ahmad Lawan a few days to the inauguration of the Ninth Assembly following President Muhammadu Buhari's intervention, said to be eying the chairmanship seat of the party.
As a key player in the formation of the party, Goje enjoys his colleagues' support in the parliament and beyond. In a recent interview, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige, mentioned the senator as one of the APC founding fathers who would speak on the zoning arrangement this year.
Akume, a two-term governor of Benue State, is the current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-governmental Affairs. He represented Benue North-West senatorial district, popularly known as Zone B, in the National Assembly. He was the Minority Leader of the Senate from June 2011 to June 2015.
A credible source close to Akume told Daily Trust Saturday in a telephone chat yesterday that some top politicians in the APC were prevailing on the minister to join the chairmanship race.
"He is committed to the ideals of the party and has worked very closely with Mr President. If the party feels that he should take up the assignment of national chairmanship, he is available. He is willing to accept any assignment by the party. But he is yet to declare his intention," our source said.
Yari belongs to the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) bloc of the APC. Until 2007 when he was elected as a member of the House of Representatives (Anka/Talata Mafara federal constituency), he had been an official of the party, rising to become its national financial secretary.
In 2011, he defeated Mahmuda Aliyu Shinkafi, a sitting governor in Zamfara State, following the support of his then godfather, Ahmed Sani Yarima. He ruled for eight years.
His inability to tackle banditry during his tenure in Zamfara State was a minus for him. His feud with a faction of the APC in the state, led by Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa, over the party's governorship primaries cost the party the state in the 2019 elections. But a new atmosphere is permeating the party in Zamfara as Yari and Marafa's camp recently reconciled.
Sources around him said he was not leaving any stone unturned to actualise his dream. He is one of those promoting zoning the presidency to the South. One of the sources said he was banking on the support of serving governors as he is close to many of them."
But another source said: "Things have changed. Most of his colleagues are not interested in his candidature because of two things. One, the way he managed the party in his state and the issue of the probe around him. They see another Oshiomhole in him."
Senator Kashim Shettima
Shettima, a two-term governor of Borno State, endeared himself to many between 2011 and 2019 when he held sway in the state, regarded at the Boko Haram insurgency's hotbed. Despite the insurgency, Shettima succeeded in addressing some of the developmental challenges in the state.
In February 2019, he was elected a senator for Borno Central, replacing Senator Baba Kaka Bashir.
Our reporter learned that some stalwarts of the party have already started scheming for him ahead of the convention while taking his time to consult widely.
Shettima's former adviser on infrastructure, Bashir Maidugu, a lawyer, told Daily Trust Saturday on the phone yesterday that his boss should be considered for the national chairmanship slot by the party's top echelon because of his outstanding leadership qualities.
He revealed that some politicians were scheming for him because of his political antecedents, experience and ability to handle crises, and his enthusiasm to serve the party genuinely.
Senator Ali Modu Sheriff
He is Borno State's first governor to serve two consecutive terms (2003-2011). In 2003, he ran on the platform of the ANPP and won. He was re-elected in 2007 and sworn in on May 29, the same year.
Sheriff later played a key role in the formation of the APC. He also served as a senator representing Borno Central for three terms.
In the buildup to the 2015 general elections, Sheriff jumped ship to the then ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP). The party was later entangled in a prolonged leadership crisis and intense legal tussle, which nearly led to its extinction during Sheriff's reign as chairman.
He was accused of being an agent of the APC to destabilise the party. The former governor later returned to the APC after his dramatic exit from the top hierarchy of the PDP. There are feelers that he would contest the chairmanship slot of the APC.
He has, however, maintained sealed lips and low profile as much has not been heard from him for a long time. But many believe Sheriff was entangled in underground political scheming.
Those close to him say he is banking on his immense experience, political capital, and deep pocket to make things happen to his advantage, using his position as one of the APC founding members and other connections.
Meanwhile, agitations to zone the party's presidential ticket to the South are ongoing. Various camps in the southern part of the country are awaiting the party's convention for a final zoning decision. If the North produces the chairman of the party, the South will produce the presidential flag-bearer.
Reacting to why APC stalwarts from the South are calm over the chairmanship slot, a political analyst, Chief Jackson Lekan Ojo, told our reporter that they were playing save.
"If any politician contests from the South, they would be blocking their chances of taking a shot at the presidency in 2023. That is why people like Gbenga Daniel and Adeyeye are out to form 'SWAGA,' which is purely a political campaign for Bola Tinubu.
"They know that the zone cannot produce the presidential candidate and national chairman of the party at the same time. Based on this, nobody would want to contest from the South for now," he said.