Nigeria’s ruling party, All Progressives congress (APC), recently held its elective national convention, the first since it formed government at the centre in 2015.
At the end of the exercise, which began last Saturday but spilled over to Sunday, 21 members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and 36 non-member of the body, emerged.
A total of 6,800 delegates voted at the convention to elect the officials.
Adams Oshiomhole, the immediate past governor of Edo State, and Mai Mala Buni, were returned unopposed as national chairman and national secretary, respectively.
Aspirants for a few other positions were also elected unopposed through affirmation following the decision by their opponents to step down at the convention venue.
The remaining positions were keenly contested after aspirants failed to reach a consensus.
Prominent amongst the offices that were keenly contested include Deputy National Chairman (North), National Publicity Secretary, National Organising Secretary and National Woman leader.
It was gathered that ahead of the convention the APC governors agreed to present a candidate each. Some of the candidates however were believed to have conflicted with those preferred by President Muhammadu Buhari.
Some of the positions keenly contested for are:
Deputy National Chairman (North)
The incumbent, Lawali Shuaibu defeated a former member of the House of Representatives, Farouk Aliyu, to retain his seat in the NWC.
Mr Shuaibu, a former senator, hails from Zamfara State and his challenger hails from Jigawa State, both in the North-west zone. Both men had shown interest in the position in 2014. However, Mr Aliyu then of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) was prevailed to step down for Mr Shuaibu of the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
Few weeks before last Saturday’s convention, there were indications that Mr Aliyu would replace Mr Shuaibu. Mr Aliyu was said to be enjoying the support of President Muhammadu Buhari who reportedly rooted for the support of the party’s leaders and governors for Mr Aliyu
Mr Aliyu has always enjoyed warm relationship with the president. In fact, he coordinated the president’s campaign in Jigawa State 2015 thereby fueling speculations that it was indeed a payback time for the former lawmaker.
Perhaps, it was this reason that informed Mr Shuaibu’s late entry into the race. The former senator was initially not interested in returning but had to change his mind when he was persuaded by some interests to pick the nomination forms. Mr Shuaibu is a known ally of influential party leader, Bola Tinubu, from their days in the ACN.
Although, Mr Buhari reportedly asked to be allowed to produce the occupants of three positions, namely national chairman, national secretary and national organising secretary, this newspaper gathered that Mr Aliyu’s name was on a supposed president’s list submitted to governors and party leaders seeking their support.
“Some of the governors and party leaders wanted everything to go round and although, no one has worded it, the feeling was that the president has already produced the national chairman and secretary,” said a source, who was one of the delegates to the convention.
The fate of Mr Aliyu was however sealed when his governor, Abubakar Badaru, who was also the chairman of the national convention committee, refused to show significant interest in who occupies the coveted post unlike his Zamfara counterpart, Abdulaziz Yari.
Mr Yari reportedly lobbied his fellow governors to ask delegates from their states to vote Mr Shuaibu.
With Mr Shuaibu’s emergence, the ACN bloc of the party will be occupying the position for the second time.
Several weeks before the convention, there were clear indications that Mai Mala Buni will pick up the job once again.
The return of Mr Buni, of the ANPP bloc of the party, was reportedly backed by Mr Buhari who lobbied the party leaders and governors to work for him.
The governors, who had assumed enormous power within the party’s system were said to be initially against his candidature until the president waded in.
The president reportedly requested the governors to support Mr Buni’s reelection when he hosted them to a breaking of fast in his Aso Rock residence.
But this did not stop the emergence of other aspirants for the position zoned to the North-east, comprising Borno, Taraba, Bauchi, Gombe Adamawa and Yobe.
The APC is in power in four of the states, namely Borno, Bauchi, Adamawa and Yobe from where Mr Buni hails.
Aspirants from other states, particularly Borno, were determined to replace Mr Buni, who has been in office since 2014.
Indeed, three aspirants from Borno State emerged to challenge the incumbent. They were Kashim Imam, a former Presidential Liaison Officer to the Senate during former President Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure, Abdulrahman Terab, a former member of the House of Representatives, and Waziri Bulama.
Mr Ibrahim who was a member of the PDP was backed for the position in 2014 by former governor of Borno State, Ali Sheriff, who recently returned to the APC after the Supreme Court ousted him as national chairman of the opposition party (PDP).
Mr Sheriff reportedly backed Mr Kashim this time around but his candidature was opposed by Governor Kashim Shettima.
Sources indicated that Mr Shettima perceived that allowing any of the contestants from Borno, particularly Mr Imam, to become the head of APC national secretariat would mean handing over the Borno structure of the party to Mr Sheriff, his (Shettima) erstwhile political godfather.
Again, the governor, who completes his second term in 2019, reportedly figured out that the emergence of Mr Imam, who was a front runner, as national secretary, could spell doom for him, especially with the 2019 elections around the corner.
Mr Shettima was said to have worked in concert with the Yobe State governor, Ibrahim Gaidam, to return Mr Buni. The Yobe governor had asked the APC national secretary to forget his ambition to run for governor.
With the granite support from the two governors, Mr Imam whose candidature had been sold to some top leaders of the APC, was compelled to step down at the convention venue. Messrs Terab and Bulama followed suit making Mr Buni to return unopposed.
National Publicity Secretary
Although aspirants from other states showed interest, the race for the position, zoned to the north-central, was essentially between the forces of the Senate President, Bukola Saraki, and the Kwara State Governor, Adulfatah Ahmed, on one hand and the Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed on the other hand.
Duro Meseko and Abubakar Usman, both of who hail from Kogi State, had indicated interest in the race and picked nomination forms. Mr Meseko however withdrew during the convention leaving only the incumbent, Bolaji Abdullahi and Lanre Issa-Onilu, from Kwara State as well as Mr Usman in the race
Interestingly, the trio of Abdullahi, Issa-Onilu and Meseko are professional journalists who worked for ThisDay newspaper.
Messrs Abdulfatah Ahmed and Lai Mohammed have been embroiled in a battle of supremacy over who controls the party in Kwara State.
The two groups held separate congresses in the state last month.
While the Saraki/Ahmed camp rooted for Mr Abdullahi’s reelection, Mr Issa-Onilu was the preferred choice of the Mohammed’s group and some officials of the presidency.
Mr Mohammed and the presidential hawks were reportedly determined to stop Mr Abdullahi to spite Mr Saraki who is perceived as an “enemy” of the Buhari administration.
However, Mr Abdullahi emerged winner following the horse-trading between the APC governors, beating Messrs Usman and Issa-Onilu to second and third places, respectively.
Mr Ahmed was said to have sold the Mr Abdullahi’s candidacy to his colleagues all of who allegedly agreed to produce at least a member of the NWC from their states.
National Organising Secretary
The battle for the office of the National Organising Secretary, though zoned to the South-east, was clearly an Imo affair and one between the state governor, Rochas Okorocha, and the former organising secretary of the party, Osita Izunaso.
Both men lead different factions of the party back in Imo State. The Izunaso group has as members the state deputy governor, Eze Madumere, a serving senator, Ben Uwajumogu, and a former senator, Ifeanyi Araraume.
The groups conducted separate congress at the ward, local and state level last month and in the end, the officials produced by the Izunaso group were recognised and inaugurated by the national secretariat from where he (Izunaso) was pulling the strings being a national officer.
The governor unsuccessfully pleaded with the NWC, then led by John Odigie-Oyegun, and some other party leaders to intervene to no avail. Of interest is the fact that the same NWC had also appointed Mr Okorocha as Chairman of its Screening Appeal Panel.
Mr Okorocha sponsored Emma Ibediro, a former secretary of APC in Imo, against Mr Izunaso, who insisted he would seek reelection, especially with the new party structure firmly under the control of his group, Allied Forces.
The two groups carried their fight to Abuja where they clashed on Saturday at the Eagles Square venue of the convention.
However, at the end of the voting, the result was declared in favour of Mr Ibediro, Mr Okorocha’s favourite. Mr Izunaso lost the election with a slim margin of 1,459 votes to 1,749.
Although Mr Izunaso was expected to win, Mr Ibediro’s eventual victory is largely attributed to the bargain between Mr Okorocha and the APC governors. The governors were said to have resolved not to allow Mr Okorocha, who is their Chairman of the Progressives Governor’s Forum, disgraced.
It was gathered that the votes secured by Mr Izunaso came from states not controlled by the APC.
Mr Izunaso’s supporters have alleged fraud and accused Mr Okorocha and Mr Badaru of manipulating the voting at the convention.
National Woman Leader
A former Director of FAAN, Salamatu Umar, defeated incumbent Ramatu Aliyu for the position zoned to north central.
PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Mrs Umar, from Kogi State, was the candidate of the wife of the president, Aisha Buhari.
Our sources said APC governors earlier proposed that incumbent Mrs Aliyu should continue because of the support she had among the party faithful across the country.
At a point during their series of meetings ahead the convention, the governors were said to have changed their minds to support Mrs Umar, who was also preferred by Governor Yahaya Bello.
It was further gathered that during the meetings Mr Bello insisted that since the position of the national publicity secretary had been ceded to Kwara governor, he should be allowed to produce the national woman leader. Ultimately, he had his way.