The battle for the national chairmanship of the All Progressives Congress (APC) remains tough for ex-Narasawa State Governor Abdullahi Adamu despite his endorsement by President Muhammadu Buhari, The Nation learnt last night.
His rivals for the position are said to have resolved to push ahead with their ambition and test their popularity during this month’s national convention of the party in Abuja.
The aspirants have the backing of some APC governors for an open race for all as against imposition of the next chairman.
President Buhari is expected to meet with the aspirants on his return from a two-week medical break.
It is understood that Buhari may use the meeting to explain the reasons behind anointing Adamu, and assuage the tension in the party.
However, the Caretaker Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) is yet to commence sales of forms to aspirants in what party sources said was part of the strategy to allow the ongoing consensus building on Adamu and others to reach an appreciable level.
Apart from other offices, it was gathered that only one form may be sold for the office of national chairman to avoid rancour in the party and at the APC convention.
Some governors, especially those from the North-Central, have been reaching out to Adamu’s rivals to accept Buhari’s decision on the former governor.
The horse-trading on APC national chairman was in full swing last night.
Those aspiring to lead the party from North-Central are the pioneer Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Senator Abdullahi Adamu; ex-Nasarawa State Governor Umar Tanko Al-Makura; ex-Benue State Governor George Akume; Mallam Saliu Mustapha (Turaki Ilorin);Sen. Sani Mohammed Musa; a former Chief Whip of the House of Representatives, Hon. Bawa Bwari; and the youngest of the aspirants, Mohammed Etsu.
Aspirants from other geopolitical zones include another former Chairman of the Nigeria Governors Forum, Abdulaziz Yari; ex-Borno State Governor Ali Modu Sheriff; ex-Bauchi State Governor Isa Yuguda; Dr. Sani Abdullahi Shinkafi and Chief Sunny Sylvester Monidafe.
None of the 12 aspirants had come out at press time to step down for Adamu.
It was also gathered that the aspirants had not been briefed on the alleged endorsement of Adamu either by the President or the governors.
Investigation yesterday showed that all the aspirants were intensifying their campaign to lead the party.
A top source said: “None of the aspirants is willing to step down and none has stepped down for Abdullahi Adamu.
“Tension is growing in the party on a daily basis and there is clamour for an open contest by the aspirants in line with democratic tenets.
“The truth is that the aspirants are going about their campaign oblivious of the purported endorsement of Adamu.
“Nobody is talking to the aspirants. No one is telling them the opinion of the President. And Buhari is also not forthcoming. We are only reading his body language and third rated information from the Presidential Villa after any meeting.
“We don’t even know whether Adamu’s candidature was designed by some forces looking for presidential ticket of the party for 2023 poll.
“All the aspirants are in dilemma and they have decided to go on with their campaign.”
When contacted, one of the aspirants, ex-Governor Al-Makura, said he was still going about his campaign.
“I am contesting for the office of national chairman of APC. I don’t know of any endorsement of any aspirant, and I haven’t been told of any endorsement of any aspirant,” he said.
Continuing, he said: “The process for the election of a new national chairman has not commenced because the sale of form is yet to begin.
“As a founding member of APC, I will want to see how this great party progresses. I owe it a duty to respect the guidelines of the party.
“APC is a wonderful party that believes in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which promotes democracy.
“It is not true that I have been asked to step down for anybody. This campaign has taken me one year and it indicates that I will be successful.
“I am still campaigning as I talk to you.”
The Director-General of Tanko Al-Makura Campaign Organisation, Dominic Alancha, in a separate interview, said: “President Buhari is a true democrat and will not do anything that does not conform with democratic norms.
“The constitution of our party stipulates that in a situation where the party arrives at a consensus, a yes or no vote will be called for.
“So, knowing President Buhari as a true democrat, he will follow the due process to arriving at a consensus.
“Therefore, for us as a campaign organization, we are waving the purported endorsement aside with a simple wave of the hand.
“Distinguished Senator Umaru Tanko Al-Makura is very much ready to present himself for an elective convention come March 26, and I am 100 per cent sure he will emerge victorious as the next national chairman of our great party APC, given his competence and capacity in party administration.”
Also speaking, a leading chairmanship aspirant, Saliu Mustapha (Turaki Ilorin) said: “I am still in the race. I am not aware of a consensus candidate. The party has not communicated to me officially about a consensus candidate.”
The head of media of Saliu Mustapha Campaign Organisation, Dapo Okubanjo, said: “Consultations are still ongoing over the issue of consensus as it relates to the forthcoming national convention. So, as far as we are concerned, nothing is cast in stone yet.
“However, as a party man, Mallam Saliu Mustapha expects that once a decision is taken on a matter as important as that, there are official channels through which they are communicated to concerned parties.
“And until that is done, we believe that the race is still open to all contenders who show interest in being the next national chairman of the All Progressives Congress (APC).”
Another chairmanship aspirant, Sylvester Monidafe, told our correspondent as follows: “I am going ahead to contest. I am not stepping down for anybody.”
A source in the campaign organisation of Senator Mohammed Sani Musa said: “Senator Musa is a committed party man. We await President Mohammadu Buhari’s pronouncement on the issue of consensus.
“We are in the race and we are ready to abide by the position of Mr. President.”
Mohammed Saidu Etsu, a chairmanship aspirant from Niger State, dismissed the purported anointing of Adamu.
He asked all progressive minds in the country to erase from their thoughts the idea of an ‘anointed’ candidate, saying that he was forging ahead with his own campaign because “I am confident that I will come out victorious.”
Etsu said: “We have our machinery on ground across all the 36 states and we will continue with our political campaigns. These are the things that we are ready for at the 26th March convention.”
A governor who was reacting to the development in the party said: “Most of the governors do not want imposition of Adamu. They are agitating that all aspirants should meet in the field and allow APC members to determine their fate at the convention.
“This is my position. I believe democracy must take its course.
“The governors are however afraid of the consequences of rejecting the choice of Adamu.
“The way the game is now, we keep mute when we meet with the President. But when we leave the Villa, we say our minds.
“It has got to a ridiculous extent that we are now suspicious of one another because we don’t know who would stab us in the back. That is the danger of not allowing democracy to work.”
Another governor said the cloudy situation has caused the Caretaker Committee to delay sales of forms to aspirants.
The North-West governor said: “The Caretaker Committee is slowing down to enable the President, governors and APC leaders to build a consensus on the new set of leaders, which can ensure a hitch-free convention. They are applying wisdom to save the party from crisis.
“We have not resolved the zoning formula for offices because we go forward and backward on it. There is no party leadership which can sell party offices’ forms in a chaotic situation.
“Other than the wish of the President on Abdullahi Adamu, there is no consensus on him, even in Nasarawa State. We need to address the issue of the national chairman of APC as soon as possible.”
Responding to a question, the governor said: “In a presidential system like ours, it is difficult to resist the choice of President Muhammadu Buhari.
“But he needs to listen to alternative views because running a party is beyond the chairman alone.
“We want fairness, equity and justice for all members in the party.”
A party source said: “The ongoing consensus building on the next national chairman and other officers is slowing down the sale of forms.
“We want a hitch-free national convention and we need to consult widely.
“After unanimity of opinion, the party may end up selling a nomination form for the office of national chairman to only the preferred candidate.”
A top source said the President was aware of the intrigues in APC.
But he said Buhari would address certain issues, including the choice of a new chairman before the convention.
The source added: “I am aware Buhari has demanded a security report on all the aspirants.
“I have got to know that he has plans to meet with all the aspirants before the convention to assuage tension.
“He is likely to meet with them after he returns from his two-week vacation.
“No one told him before he demanded the list of all aspirants from the Chairman of the CECPC, Governor Mai Mala Buni.
Meanwhile, a youth group in the party, APC Youth Stakeholders Forum, yesterday kicked against consensus candidacy during the national convention of the party.
It said party leaders should emerge through an elective process where all delegates at the convention are made to vote.
The youth stormed the national secretariat of the party to protest any imposition of candidates under the guise of consensus arrangement.
Addressing newsmen at the end of the peaceful protest at the party headquarters in Abuja, one of the conveners of the forum, Malam Yunusa Ahmadu Yusuf, said party members should be allowed to determine who leads them.
“Our demand here is that party stakeholders should be allowed to make their input.
“Members should be allowed to say what they want, who would lead them, how, when, where, and that is what we have settled for and that is why we are here today,” he said.
When told that a national chairmanship aspirant had agreed to accept anyone endorsed by the President, another youth leader, Muktar Akoshi, said President Buhari is a democrat, “he will not impose any candidate.”
He added: “The President believes in the supremacy of the party. So if any individual came out to say we would abide by what the President has said, yes, everybody will give Mr. President the respect of being the President of the Federal Republic and also abide by anything he said. But we are sure that the President knows the definition of democracy.
“He knows that it is only good to allow people to choose who governs them.”