Ahead of the national convention of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) scheduled for Saturday, the serving governors and other major critical stakeholders have narrowed the contest to four leading aspirants from the North-central.
Blueprint also gathered that the names of the four shortlisted aspirants have been forwarded to President Muhammadu Buhari to make his choice.
This is coming amid uncertainty surrounding the February 26, 2022 date announced by the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC).
Investigations revealed in Abuja Sunday that some party stakeholders had perfected plan to sell to Mr President, an idea of holding congresses in the zones where zonal leaders would emerge before the national convention.
An APC chieftain who confided in one of our correspondents said the proponents of such idea believed a strong reason must be advanced to convince the president on why February 26 date for the national convention is not feasible.
The source said: “Remember the party conducted congresses at Ward, Local Government and up to state level. Therefore, the zonal leaders should also emerge before the national convention. It is a logical thing. Again this will reduce the level of acrimony among our members.”
Blueprint had reported that the party was yet to sell the nomination forms to the aspirants, yet to inaugurate all the committees for the national convention and also speak on the zoning formula.
Further to this, the aspirants are yet to be screened by the appropriate committee to be saddled with such responsibility.
Put together, another party source said, “In a matter of days, the Buni committee may have to announce a change in the convention date. This is most probable when one looks at all of these things that are not yet in place.”
The lucky aspirants, though not in particular order include; Senator Mohammed Sani Musa from Niger state, Senator Umar Tanko Al-Makura from Nasarawa state, Mallam Saliu Mustapha from Kwara state and ex-Governor George Akume from Benue state.
But apart from the quartet, there are about ten others from the North-east and North-west jostling to lead the APC in same capacity.
Similarly, Al-makura is a lawmaker and two-term governor of Nasarawa state. Born in 1952, he was the only Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) governor President Buhari had in his kitty during the merger negotiation that produced the ruling APC in 2014.
In 1980, Al-makura emerged the youth leader of the National Party of Nigeria (NPN) in the old Plateau state. He was elected into the Constituent Assembly of 1988–89 representing the Lafia–Obi Federal Constituency of what is now Nasarawa state.
The politician was also the state secretary of the National Republican Convention (NRC) in the old Plateau state from 1990 to 1992.
As a close political ally to the president, stakeholders are of the view that he may be considered for the party’s top job.
The lawmaker currently represents Niger East in the National Assembly. Born in 1965, Musa has been in politics for the better part of his adult years having also come from a family of politicians
As chairman of Activate Technologies Limited between 2011 and 2017, he coordinated the design, planning, production and delivery of Permanent Voter Cards (PVC) and Smart Card Readers (SCR) which the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) deployed for the 2015 and 2019 general elections.
Musa is also the chairman of the all-important Senate Services Committee and also a member of eight other committees in the upper chamber.
The lawmaker has sponsored about 12 bills including the National Rural Employment Guarantee Bill, 2021; FCT Borderline Community Development Commission Bill, 2021 and the Critical Infrastructure Protection Bill, 2021 among others.
Though rumoured to have some governors’ support, it is not however sure if the presidency would be favourably disposed to his candidature.
Mustapha, considered by many as a bridge between the old and the young, is a native of Ilorin, Kwara state. Born in 1972, the Turaki of Ilorin started his political career in the early 21st century when he became the first national publicity secretary of the Progressive Action Congress (PAC), a defunct political party that contested in the 2003 presidential election.
Mustapha became a member of the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP) during which he was committed to Buhari’s presidential ambition.
In 2009, when a breakaway faction of the ANPP, led by Buhari, formed the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC), Mustapha became the deputy national chairman of the party. He held this position until the party merged with other amalgams to form the APC.
Considering his wealth of experience in party administration coupled with his loyalty to Buhari since their days in the ANPP till date, the Kwara born politician, it is believed, may ultimately emerge the party leader.
Above all, observers believe, President Buhari’s recent statement that youth be given prominent roles within the party and administration may also work in Mustapha’s favour.
Akume is a former Benue state governor and current Minister of Special Duties and Inter-Governmental Affairs.
Born in 1953, Akume became governor in 1999 and served out two terms of four years each.
The former governor later won another election to represent his people in Nigeria’s Senate. He was the Minority Leader of the Senate from June 2011 to June 2015.
He was re-elected Senator for Benue North-west in the April 2011 elections, running on the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) platform, during which he was chairman Senate committee on Army.
In this contest for the position of the national chairmanship, Akume is seen in some quarters as the most experienced with home-based support, reach across the country and the only Christian on the list.
Forum cautions on Al-makura
Meanwhile, the Progressive Disability Forum(PDF), the disability wing of the APC, has warned against using the ‘disability’ condition of Al-makura as a basis to disqualify him from the party’s chairmanship race.
The forum, in a letter signed by its national coordinator, Abdulaziz Onibare and addressed to President Buhari, stated that the party would be in contravention of the National Disability Act and its constitution if such move succeeded.
“It has come to our notice that some groups of people are moving around castigating the person of His Excellency, Senator Umaru Tanko Al makura, questioning his capacity on the basis of his disability. They didn’t question his capacity when he was contributing his millions, time and energy for the progress of the party,” it said.
The group said the lawmaker’s disability should not be a yardstick to measure his competence to lead the party, stating that he had paid his dues as a true party man.
To this end, the forum said, the former governor should be given the opportunity to lead APC to a resounding victory during the 2023 elections, and pleaded that its members’ contribution to the party should not to be allowed to go in vain.
It lamented that the leadership of the party had continued to marginalise the group as it has never held any tangible positions, adding that: “We should be given the opportunity to lead this party, and our disability cannot be counted as a barrier. Hence, we felt it a point of duty to emphasize it.”
Clamour for youth
In a related development, the Coalition For Democracy and Credible Election (CODECE) has urged the party to elect a youth as its next national chairman to reflect Buhari’s words on youths.
This appeal was contained in a letter titled;” Our Utmost Advise(sic) on the Most Suitable Candidate” and signed by the group’s national coordinator, Amb. Mohammed Atta.
“With due honor and respect, we write to convey the mood of the nation to you as the election year draws nearer, and the All Progressives Congress (APC)’s National Convention slated for February 26, 2022 is few days away.”
“It is on good record that your Excellency had in the last six (6) years given more recognition, opportunities and support to the youths of Nigeria more than any leader before you. This much, you recently demonstrated when you directed the office of the Secretary to the Government of the federation (SGF), Ministers and Heads of Agencies to give consideration for the appointment of youths into public service,” they said.
The letter further reads: “To re-echo your commitment to integrity, rule of law and fairness which you stand for, we strongly believe electing youths into political positions is the ultimate goal your administration will aim at”
“One of the greatest legacies you have lived for is integrity. Therefore, the choice of the next APC chairman should reflect your words, with the election of a young, energetic and vibrant Nigerian, with public trust and unquestionable character.”