- State helmsmen to shortlist two aspirants for chair
- Zoning battle rages
- Convention guidelines out
Governors are holding tight to their influence in the All Progressives Congress (APC).
As the ruling party gets set for its convention on February 26, the governors have resolved to screen the chairmanship aspirants and recommend two preferred choices for President Muhammadu Buhari’s approval, it was learnt last night.
There are 11 aspirants for the office of chairman, all of them from the North.
The party said yesterday it has not decided on the zoning of offices.
Those who have expressed interest to lead the party are Alhaji Tanko Almakura, Alhaji Saliu Mustapha, Senator Sani Musa, Senator Modu Sheriff, Senator George Akume, Senator Danjuma Goje, Sunny Sylvester Monidafe, Mohammed Estu, Isa Yuguda, Sani Shinkafi and Abdulaziz Yari.
None of them is prepared to step down.
As the battle of zoning rages on, Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello is lobbying to prevent zoning of the party chair to Northcentral where he comes from so as not to jeopardise his bid for the party’s presidential ticket.
The APC governors, who pushed for the sack of the Adams Oshiomohole exco, also at the weekend overruled the plan by some members of the caretaker committee to shift the convention beyond next month.
“Governors have resolved to propose two aspirants to the President. Anyone he picks will be supported to become the chairman,” a source said.
Buhari, who is the party’s leader, is expected to pick any of the two shortlisted aspirants as the next national chairman.
Most of the aspirants are now besieging the governors, while some of them were jittery about zoning.
They were said to be mounting pressure on the governors and members of the kitchen cabinet of the President to ask Buhari to leave the chairmanship open.
But the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) caucus appeared to be having the upper hand in seeking the concession of the chairmanship to it.
Sources said APC governors agreed to recommend two aspirants to the President to avoid rancour.
A governor, who spoke in confidence, said: “We are working towards a crisis-free national convention, especially the choice of our next national chairman.
“Although our party leader, President Buhari, is saying that he has no interest in any aspirant, we know his body language says otherwise.
“We are aware that security agencies are presently profiling all the aspirants at the instance of the presidency.
“As governors, we have decided to assist the President and the party by limiting the choices of chairmanship aspirants to two at the national convention.
“We are already consulting among ourselves on the two aspirants to recommend to the President, party leaders and other stakeholders to pick one from the list.
“The truth is that the ultimate decision rests with the President, who is our leader. In the end, it will be the lot of President Buhari to build consensus in the party on the preferred aspirant.”
As of press time, a Northern governor and some aspirants have been lobbying against zoning of the office of the national chairman.
Another source said: “This governor, who has presidential ambition, is working in alliance with some aspirants to prevail on party leaders and CECPC members to leave the office open to all the six geopolitical zones in the country.
“The governors are, however, determined to push ahead with their unity agenda to shortlist two aspirants.”
It was learnt that if the CPC gets the chairmanship seat, it might be a straightforward battle between Tanko Al-Makura and Mustapha, who is a former Deputy National Chairman of CPC.
Al-Makura and Mustapha played key roles in the merger talks in 2014.
Yesterday, the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) released the guidelines for the February 26 convention.
Also, the ruling party said the report of the Reconciliation Committee headed by Senator Abdullahi Adamu would be ready on January 31.
According to the caretaker committee, the sale of forms for party offices will commence on February 14.
But, the CECPC clarified that party offices have not been zoned, contrary to reports in some quarters.
Also, Senate Chief Whip Orji Kalu, who had earlier called for the postponement of the convention, retraced his steps, saying that the guidelines were in order.
At its 19th regular meeting, which lasted for two days, the caretaker committee released the timetable and schedule of activities for the convention.
Its secretary Senator John James Akpanudoedehe told reporters that zoning was not on the agenda of the meeting.
He said: “I’m here to debunk the fake news going around on the social media that we have zoned offices. We are yet to meet on the issue of zoning.
“The news and rumour making round are fake. We never discussed the issue during our deliberations. People should disregard the story because it is fake news. It is not true.”
According to the timetable, the caretaker committee will receive the interim report of the National Reconciliation Committee on January 31. It will consider and adopt reports of state congresses on February 2.
The schedule of activities signed by the Secretary also showed that the inauguration of the state executives will take place on February 3.
Sale of forms to aspirants for national offices is slated for February 14 at the party National Secretariat while submission of completed forms will take place on or before February 19, 2022
The caretaker committee also fixed the publication of sub-committees for February 19 and screening of aspirants between February 20 and 22.
Akpanudoedehe said the Screening Appeal Committee will hear and resolve complaints on February 23 while the accreditation of statutory and elected delegates to the National Convention will take place between February 24 and 25. The National Convention will hold on February 26.
The secretary said the hearing of complaints arising from the National Convention will be conducted on February 28.
Speaking to reporters at the Senate, Kalu said he looked forward to a peaceful convention.
He said: “I am expecting a very good Convention and very good atmosphere. We are going to make Nigerians proud after the convention.”
On his visit to President Muhammadu Buhari last night, Kalu said his mission was not about his rumoured presidential ambition.
He said: “This is not the first time I go to see the President. The presidency is a place where people go in the afternoon, I went in the night to avoid the media.
“I go there regularly. It is a family affair and I went there to discuss national issues, issues of security, the issue of well being of our country and the issue of the Electoral Act.
“The discussion was very fruitful and it was held in the night. Is that why you should come to ambush me?”
On whether he has informed the President of his desire to contest the presidential ticket of the APC, Kalu said: “Did the party zone the 2023 presidency to the Southwest? I told you before that when the party zones it officially to the South, I will declare my interest.
“I told you the only two zones that have not tasted the presidency are the Southeast and the Northeast.
“Once they zone it to anyone of them, I have the capacity and the capability; I will roll and I will rock like a hurricane.”
On why he should wait for APC to zone the ticket to the Southeast, Kalu said: “A serious-minded person will like to be fair to Nigeria, fair to the society and to be fair to the atmosphere because the party is not owned by me or you the media.
“This party is owned by Nigerians and the APC members. It is only APC that can decide, like at the forthcoming convention, where the Presidential ticket will be zoned to.”
He said that he does not believe in Igbo presidency, but a President of Igbo extraction.
He stressed: “I believe in Nigerian President of Igbo extraction,” he said.
On the agitation for power shift to the Southeast, he said: “It is overdue. I believe that we should produce the next President and it is going to happen.
“I don’t need to push; I have to push along with the other regions.”