With the state governors and other stakeholders closing ranks and agreeing to produce a consensus candidate, the prospect of a combat of gladiators for the leadership of the All Progressives Congress (APC) at the party’s National Convention on Saturday may have disappeared.
Like children looking up to their father, party leaders had been waiting on President Muhammadu Buhari to show them direction in constituting the highly coveted National Working Committee (NWC) offices.
On Wednesday, Kebbi State Governor Atiku Bagudu, who is the chairman of the APC governors forum, told journalists that the president had anointed a candidate for the position of National Chairman and that the governors would go ahead to compose the other offices.
Although he did not reveal who the anointed chairmanship candidate is, it was soon confirmed that it is Abdullahi Adamu, a serving senator and former governor of Nasarawa (1999-2007). There had been rumours, for weeks, that he had the president’s backing; since Mr Adamu made a late entry into the race.
Choice by consensus
The Electoral Act (2022) provides for consensus as one of three options for filling party positions – the other options being elections by direct (in which all registered party members are entitled to vote) or indirect (in which only delegates votes) primaries.
Section 84 (9-11) of the Act states the conditions to be met if a party is to adopt a consensus candidate for a general election.
Subsection 9 states:
“A political party that adopts a consensus candidate shall secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the position, indicating their voluntary withdrawal from the race and their endorsement of the consensus candidate.
“Where a political party is unable to secure the written consent of all cleared aspirants for the purpose of a consensus candidate, it shall revert to the choice of direct or indirect primaries for the nomination of candidates for the aforesaid elective positions.
“A special convention or nomination congress shall be held to ratify the choice of consensus candidates at designated centres at the National, State, Senatorial, Federal and State Constituencies, as the case may be.”
Should an aspirant reject the adoption of Mr Adamu, or any consensus choice for any other position, delegates to the APC National Convention on Saturday will have to vote for a candidate to be validly elected.
This scenario is expected, especially for the other offices even if the governors produce a “Unity list.”
The party had allocated the position of National Chairman to the North-central geopolitical zone, based on a general framework that North and South would swap the national party offices they currently hold.
That arrangement automatically knocked out seven of the 13 chairmanship aspirants. Those affected were Ali-Modu Sheriff, Kashim Shettima, Danjuma Goje, Isa Yaguda, Sylvester Moniedafe and Sani Shinkafi.
However, a former governor of Zamfara, Abdullahi Yari, appeared to have rebelled against the zoning arrangement, as he went ahead to pay the N20 million fee to pick the expression of interest and nomination forms.
The other candidates left on the track are Abdulahi Adamu, Saliu Mustapha, Tanko-Al-Makura, Sani Musa, George Akume and Mohammed Etsu, who are all from the North-central.
Below is a profile of the seven aspirants who may be on the ballot for the party’s chair at the convention.
Campaigning with the slogan, the BRIDGE, Mr Adamu entered the race very late in January, months after many of his rivals had been on the field.
After serving two terms as governor of Nasarawa State, Mr Adamu was elected senator for Nasarawa West under the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in 2011. He was later appointed as a member of the party’s board of trustees. However, he dumped the PDP for the now ruling APC in 2013.
Before joining the race for the chairmanship seat, Mr Adamu was appointed in September 2021 as the chairman of a nine-member National Reconciliation Committee of the APC.
While much cannot be said to have been achieved by the committee in appeasing aggrieved party members across the country, especially after the state congresses, his role in the ‘reconciliation’ of two of the leading political figures in Gombe State cannot be denied.
However, Mr Adamu carries some baggage. He was charged to court in 2010 by the EFCC alongside 19 other Nasarawa state officials with 149 counts of corruption. The commission accused him of embezzling N15 billion.
Mr Adamu is the frontrunner for the position by virtue of President Buhari’s support.
Mr Al-Makura announced his interest in the race as far back as March 2021 with a promise to “sustain the gains and secure the future” of the APC.
Although a founding member of the PDP, Mr Al-Makura’s ambition resonates more with his supporters at home, including his successor, the incumbent governor of Nasarawa State, Abdulahi Sule.
As Nasarawa governor, he was the only governor elected under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) before the merger with other legacy parties to form the APC in 2013. Mr Buhari was the leader of the CPC, leading many to project that he would back Mr Al-Makura’s bid as the CPC wing of the APC had never held the top seat before.
Mr Al-Makura too is not new to allegations of corruption. He was arrested and grilled alongside his wife by the EFCC in July 2021, following suspicion of money laundering through their companies.
After the party’s screening process earlier in the week, Mr Akume’s campaign gained momentum.
Mr Akume is the first person to serve two terms as governor of Benue State, elected under the PDP, where he was also elected senator for Benue West after his governorship tenure. He was re-elected to the Senate in 2011 under the platform of the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria, one of the legacy parties that formed the APC.
Mr Akume lost his third term bid for the Senate to Orker Jev of the PDP in 2019, but was appointed Minister of Special Duties and Intergovernmental Affairs by President Buhari.
Just like other top contenders for the top seat, the minister enjoys the support of many groups. But his bid received a major boost last week when the Borno state Governor, Babagana Zulum, rallied support for him.
“One thing about me is that I don’t pretend. Even Mr. President is aware of this fact about my character-traits. To give our very own Christian brothers and sisters in our great party, the APC, the sense of belonging, Senator George Akume deserves the total support of all party chieftains who believe in the unity of our great party, APC.
“All Progressives Congress (APC) is never a political party for the Muslims alone. All Progressives Congress is a political party for both Christians and Muslims. Therefore, all well-meaning members of the APC should rally round Distinguished Senator George Akume as the party’s next national chairman,” the Borno governor pleaded.
The Benue State Government recently wrote to the anti-corruption agencies to prosecute the minister over allegations of fraud.
In the letter addressed to the EFCC, ICPC and the police IG, the Benue State Attorney-General, Michael Gusa, said Mr Akume embezzled over N4 billion from the state’s coffers while in government.
Mr Akume wants to be the third former ACN member to take the APC top seat, after Bisi Akande and Adams Oshiomhole.
Notorious for sponsoring a controversial social media bill, the senator representing Niger East district said his motivation for the seat is to rejig the party’s structures at all levels.
A first timer in the Senate with no major political antecedents before his election, Mr Musa has described himself as a dark horse in the race.
His chances appeared boosted when the APC presidential aspirant, Bola Tinubu, paid him a visit in January.
But the senator, in an interview with PREMIUM TIMES, dismissed the speculation that Mr Tinubu endorsed his bid during the visit.
“I don’t know the journalists that heard my conversation with the APC leader, Asiwaju. As I came back from a medical trip, he visited me to see how I’m doing, just as I visited him in London to see how he is doing.
“That does not translate to support when you are visiting someone. That does not translate to support or no support. It is a personal visit which I appreciate like any other person will come to you not even when you’re ill to your house to visit you. And for the calibre of persons like him to come and visit me, I will appreciate it. But for somebody to say he has said this or said that, I think it is only him that will be able to answer your question,” he told this newspaper.
Of all the seven aspirants left in the race, Mr Musa is one of the two without a known case with the anti-graft agencies in the country.
With the convention barely two days away, the Turaki of Ilorin, Kwara State, Mr Mustapha, has crawled from near anonymity outside his state into name recognition at the national level.
After serving as deputy national chairman of the defunct CPC between 2011 and 2013, Mr Mustapha has not held any major political role until his quest for the APC top seat.
A loyalist of Mr Buhari, the 49-year-old was one of the members of ANPP who followed Mr Buhari in 2009 to form the CPC. This antecedents and longtime relation with Mr Buhari were his core leverage as he canvassed for support.
While he claimed not to be new on the political terrain of the country, Mr Mustapha has anchored his campaign on a promise of “doing it differently.”
“I am not new in politics. I have paid my dues in this terrain. I have always tried to build. Maybe that is why we are not recognised because we have always been in the background,” PREMIUM TIMES reported him to have told journalists.
He was reported to enjoy the support of the Kwara governor, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq.
Arguably the most controversial person in the race due to his recent move, the former Zamfara State governor has refused to back down in his quest for the seat.
Despite being under the EFCC prying eyes, the North-west aspirant snubbed the party zoning arrangement to buy the forms for the race.
Although not constitutionally barred from vying for the seat despite the zoning arrangement, Mr Yari’s role in how the APC lost Zamfara in the 2019 general elections through a Supreme Court judgement contributed to the removal of Mr Oshiomhole-led NWC.
His contest for dominance in the state with Kabiru Marafa, a senator then representing Zamfara Central, led to the legal battles which cost the APC the governorship, federal and state legislative seats in the state that it won in the elections.
Mr Yari served as the state secretary, state chairman and national financial secretary of the defunct ANPP between 1999 and 2007, when he was elected to the House of Representatives.
He was elected governor of Zamfara in 2011 under the ANPP and reelected in 2015 under the APC.
Despite the odds against his candidature, the ex-governor on Tuesday after his meeting with the APC Senate Caucus, told journalists that he remained in the race.
“I do not know anything about the issue of zoning because it was not communicated to me, I only saw it on social media.
“I have picked the form and we are ready to meet at the ballot,” he said, registering his reservation.
Mr Etsu is the youngest aspirant vying for the seat.
The 36-year-old Senior Special Assistant to Governor Abubakar Sani Bello of Niger State on Rural Electrification, said he is in the race for progress and would not be intimidated by any of the heavyweight contenders. He is one of two aspirants from Niger State in the race, alongside the senator, Sani Musa.
Mr Etsu, a member of the defunct ANPP and CPC, has vowed to spring a surprise in the contest.