Race for APC Chairmanship Revs Up With New Entrant

The ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, is facing an embarrassment of riches of a sort in their coming national convention where a new national chairman will be elected. At the last count, about eight heavyweights, including five former governors, have thrown their hats into the ring.

These are Tanko Al-Makura, former governor of Nasarawa State and serving senator; Kashim Shettima, and Ali Modu Sheriff, former governors of Borno State; Danjuma Goje, a former governor of Gombe; and Abdulaziz Yari, a former governor of Zamfara State. Other aspirants are: Ibrahim Baba, a former member of the House of Representatives from Bauchi; Sunny Moniedafe, a former chairman of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN in Abuja, from Adamawa State, and Mallam Saliu Mustapha, a former deputy national chairman of the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, President Muhammadu Buhari’s party that entered into the merger to form APC.

Last week, Mustapha revved up his campaign for the leadership of APC’s National Working Committee, NWC, in Abuja with a meeting with the media. Down to earth, Mustapha is easily the toast of the media. But will he be the toast of APC in February when the chips are down at the national convention? A lot of people think so. They say he is the game changer.

He is said to be detribalized and speaks Hausa, Igbo, Okun, and Yoruba. In his 50s, he was born in Ilorin, Kwara State, and holds a degree in Mineral Resources Engineering from the Kaduna Polytechnic.

At the young age of 25, he became the national publicity secretary of Progressive Liberation Party, PLP, and later the first national publicity secretary of Progressive Action Congress, PAC, now defunct. He later joined All Peoples Party, APP, and All Nigeria Peoples Party, ANPP. In 2011, he was elected the national deputy chairman of CPC and he led the party into the historic merger that produced APC as the national chairman, Tony Momoh, was away at the time. In 2018, he contested the APC gubernatorial primary in Kwara State and lost.

He is presently the Turaki of Ilorin Emirate, a traditional title conferred on the most eminent sons of the Emirate by the Emir of Ilorin, Ibrahim Sulu Gambari.

On how he sees his chance in the crowded race for the party’s top job, Mustapha sounded optimistic. “The race is open. It is time we participate; we get involved. I’m not just in the race for the title; I believe I have a lot to give to the country and the party. It is work in progress. There is room for improvement. I have gathered experience over the years which I believe I can use to improve on what we have. For me it is a team work to see how we can change the narrative.”

On the state of the country, he said security is paramount. “Security is everybody’s business; when we have a secure environment everything will move forward.” Mustapha says he has the support of the Governor of Kwara State and that the usual conflict between party chairmen and their governors will not arise in his state. “I share a very cordial relationship with the Governor. I was also a governorship aspirant in Kwara in the last election, but due to irregularities, I was disqualified. I didn’t go to court because of our friendship. If I had gone to court, our case would have been worse than that of Zamfara State. The Governor is also canvassing for me because it is an advantage to have a national chairman from Kwara. We have come a long way together.”

On the state of the party he wants to lead, Mustapha waxed diplomatical: “We are quiet because in APC, we don’t like washing our linen in public. We are resolving our differences and re-strategizing. We are not perfect. Let’s subject ourselves to the rules of the party.”

So what is he bringing on board? “Goodwill, experience and youthfulness; I want to bring on board a party that will adhere to their manifesto. I will also bridge the gap.”

Against five former governors, does he not feel intimidated? “No. APC chairmanship is not exclusive to ex-governors. Before they became governors, they were ordinary citizens like us. The chairmanship of parties should not be reserved for ex-governors.” What will the APC look like under him? “APC will not be a law unto itself. APC will be an open book. The idea of one man show does not go well.”

On the clamouring for the dissolution of the caretaker committee ahead of the convention, Mustapha observed that “It is an extra-ordinary convention planning committee. It is not time to say, this person is right; this person is wrong. It is to bring about a successful convention.

This diplomatic attitude may be what APC needs to tide it over a dicey period ahead of the next general elections in 2023. The chairman that will be elected in February will oversee the process of electing or selecting the presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 election. Aspirants to that position are aligning with chairmanship candidates thy feel will favour them. That posture is believed to be what blew away Adams Oshiomhole, former chairman of the party. The forces that catalyzed his fall are still very much active, making it a very slippery ground for the chairmanship aspirants.

After the Oshiomhole-led NWC was forced out, the party appointed a reconciliation and convention-planning committee headed by Mala Buni, Yobe State governor, and gave it six months to complete its assignment and hand over to an elected leadership. The six months elapsed and the committee failed to deliver on the terms of reference, leading to increasing fears that the committee is scheming to remain and superintend over the 2023 election primaries. Some dissatisfied party faithful are in court challenging the continued stay of the committee.

Expectedly, all the chairmanship aspirants are from North Central and Northeast as President Muhammadu Buhar is from Northwest. This is in anticipation that the APC 2023 presidential ticket would be zoned to the southern part of the country where the Southeast, Southsouth and Southwest are jostling for the top job.

Insiders in the party are cautious about which candidate to support for now as they are not sure   who Buhari may favour.

Race for APC Chairmanship,

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