Former Governor Tanko Al-Makura of Nasarawa State and the lawmaker representing Niger East, Senator Sani Musa are favoured by the leadership of the All Progressives Congress to emerge as the national chairman of the APC, The PUNCH has learnt.
A top source in the party said while Al-Makura was being favoured by most of the governors, some strong forces in the Presidency and the Senate were backing Musa.
These came to the fore on Monday as the APC governors at their meeting in Abuja on Sunday agreed to hold the party’s national convention on February 26 and February 27, 2021.
However, the decision on the convention is subject to the final approval of the National Executive Committee of the party led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.).
The Electoral Act states that any political party planning to hold its national convention must inform INEC at least 21 days prior.
A top APC official said, “The governors have agreed on February 26 and February 27. So, this will be proposed to the President for approval.”
The PUNCH, however, learnt that the date could be shifted due to the fact that INEC would be conducting six by-elections on the same day.
According to INEC, the by-elections will hold in Akure North/Akure South Federal Constituency, Ondo State; Jos North/Bassa Federal Constituency, Plateau; and Pankshin South State Constituency, Plateau.
Others are Ogoja/Yala Federal Constituency, Cross River; Akpabuyo State Constituency, Cross River; and Ngor-Okpala State Constituency, Imo.
“The by-elections holding on February 26 may be a challenge but the governors are bent on having the convention in February. The issue now is that INEC needs a notice of 21 days. If the letter is sent to INEC on January 20, it means the election will be held in the second week of February but on February 12, the area council elections will be held in Abuja. So, you see it is dicey,” said a source.
The APC governors announced after a meeting in Abuja in the early hours of Monday that the February date remained sacrosanct.
The, however, avoided announcing a particular date, saying the forum is only an organ of the party and, therefore, cannot announce a date on its own.
Chairman of the Progressive Governors’ Forum and Kebbi State Governor, Abubakar Bagudu, disclosed this while addressing journalists
The meeting which began at about 9pm had in attendance all governors of the Forum except Aminu Masari of Katsina and Muhammad Yahaya of Gombe.
Speaking after the meeting, Bagudu said, “The progressive governors met tonight to discuss numerous issues affecting the forum and member states and we acknowledged some of the achievements in the states and members of the forum as well as the President who visited Ogun and Borno states where he commissioned projects.
“We have had challenges in some states and we commiserated with them. We spoke about our unanimous appreciation for Mr President and especially the confidence he has in the forum.
“We also passed a vote of confidence in the National Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee of the party chaired by Governor Mai Mala Buni and assisted by two other governors including Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State and Gboyega Oyetola of Osun State; who have done an incredible job of running our party successfully, mobilising people into the party.”
The governor explained that the forum discussed the February national convention stating that it had unanimously agreed that it would hold in February; as opposed to speculations of an impending postponement.
He said, “We discussed our coming convention which you may recall, I had cause to address the press when we visited Mr President in November. We expressed that both Mr President and the party had agreed that convention should take place in February.
“So we took inputs about the reviews and we noted all the misrepresentations in the press and sought to correct it.
“The Progressive Governors’ Forum is one united body as you can see evidently from the attendance. And our decision is unanimous. We are united behind Mr President and we thank him. And we are united behind the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee.”
Asked what date in February the convention will hold, he said, “Yes, February is still realistic. But we are just one group of stakeholders. Our party respects institutions. It is the appropriate organ of the party, the National Caretaker Committee that will announce a date.
“We have agreed and they will announce a date in February. The announcement comes from the party. It is a party decision. There are other stakeholders that they are consulting with and to show respect and institutional limits, we are not going to overstep our bounds.”
In attendance were the Governors of Yobe, Mai Mala Buni; Borno, Babagana Zulum; Jigawa, Muhammad Abubakar; Ondo, Rotimi Akeredolu; Niger, Abubakar Bello; Kaduna, Nasir El-Rufai; Ekiti, Kayode Fayemi; Kogi, Yahaya Bello; Ogun, Dapo Abiodun; Zamfara, Bello Matawalle; Ebonyi, Dave Umahi; Osun, Gboyega Oyetola; Lagos, Babajide Sanwo-Olu; Plateau, Simon Lalong; Imo, Hope Uzondinma; Nasarrawa, Abdullahi Sule, Cross River, Ben Ayade; Kwara, AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq, Kano, Abdullahi Ganduje; and Deputy Governor of Anambra State, Nkem Okeke.
Meanwhile, The PUNCH was informed by multiple sources on Monday that Al-Makura and Musa were being tipped for the party’s chairmanship seat.
A reliable APC chieftain said Al-Makura, who was from the Congress for Progressive Change arm of the APC, was being backed by governors of the party.
He said, “Al-Makura is being tipped as the next chairman because he is a safe option and has no problem with any of the governors. He was the only CPC governor in 2011 and he resisted all temptations to defect to another party but remained loyal to President Buhari. And you know Buhari cherishes loyalty.
“Also, he is a former governor so his emergence will correspond with APC’s longstanding tradition of electing former governors as national chairmen. The APC national chairmanship position will not be given to a newcomer or anyone that is having a crisis in his state.
Another source stated, “Some powerful forces in the Presidency are supporting Musa, who sparked controversy in 2019 when he introduced Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulation Bill.”
In a related development, following internal controversies between the governors of the APC and the Mai Mala Buni-led Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee over the party’s National Convention, the Director-General of the Progressive Governors’ Forum, Salihu Lukman, resigned on Monday.
Lukman’s resignation comes barely 24 hours after the first meeting of the Progressive Governors’ Forum in the Kebbi Governor’s Lodge, Abuja, on Sunday night.
The PUNCH learnt that although the APC governors were meeting to discuss the National Convention, they also deliberated whether or not the DG should be forced to resign.
According to a party source, while some of the governors opposed Lukman’s resignation, others insisted that he be shown the door.
In recent times, Lukman has grown more critical about the party’s lacklustre body language towards the national convention, particularly the Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee, which he accused of disrespecting the decision of party members.
A PUNCH report last week quoted the PGF boss warning that the APC’s laxity in holding a convention is only a foretaste of the frictions that might hinder other critical milestones in the run-up to the 2023 elections.
He also faulted the idea of zoning, calling it a blast from the PDP years, which has done a great disservice to the quality of Nigeria’s leadership for decades.
The former PGF Boss also criticised the Buni-led Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee for leaving a communication gap that the opposition has exploited.
At the time of filing this report, our correspondent reached out to Lukman for a reaction but received no reply.
In a related development, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has said that the APC-led government’s incapacity to harmonise and synergise its policies with the states it controls speaks volumes about its incompetence.
He also chastised the governing party for failing to deliver on its promises to Nigerians.
Lawal spoke in Abuja on Monday while chairing an event organised by the Support Groups Management Council to drum support for the presidential bid of the APC National Leader, Bola Tinubu.
He stated, “Since forming a government at the centre and in many states across the federation for the past seven and a half years, the objective of building a cohesive and virile political party has eluded the leadership of the APC.”
By Eniola Akinkuotu and Stephen Angbulu