Tuesday, 18 January 2022 10:13

APC faces integrity test, five chairmanship aspirants on EFCC radar

Looking at the profile of the 11 aspirants vying for the position of the National Chairman of the All Progressives Congress

When on June 25, 2020, the National Executive Council of the All Progressives Congress led by the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), appointed a Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Convention Committee with Governor Mai Mala Buni as chairman, the expectation was that by December of the same year, a national convention would have been conducted and a new national chairman and National Working Committee elected.

Eighteen months later and after three extensions, the 13-member caretaker committee has failed to deliver on its mandate while the party now has scores of factions in several states, a development which has only deepened the crisis since the ouster of erstwhile Chairman and former Governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole.

With the APC unable to effectively tackle its internal frictions despite the interventions of a reconciliation committee led by Senator Abdullahi Adamu, there are now fears that the party would not be able to meet its June deadline of producing a new party leadership, a development which could prevent the party from even participating in the 2023 elections. 

Since, Section 223 of the Nigerian constitution says all political parties are to elect officers in intervals not exceeding four years, it is implied that the APC must have an elected leadership by June 2022. This is because the last time it held its convention to elect leaders was in June 2018. Aware of the APC’s predicament,  Buhari said last week that if the party could not agree on a date, then it could lose to the Peoples Democratic Party.

The 22 APC governors are now consulting on when it should hold its convention. Also, several cases instituted in court are not helping matters. The party has also not begun selling forms to aspirants. However, this has not stopped those interested in the chairmanship seat from erecting billboards and placing posters along strategic roads in Abuja. With the APC governors on Sunday agreeing on February 26 as the convention date, it seems the coast is clear for the aspirants. In a few days’ time, there will be a flurry of activities, with aspirants unfolding their agenda

Integrity question 

But what should be the criteria for electing a national chairman given the precarious situation the APC finds itself? Also, should such a position be zoned to the North given the fact that Buhari, a northerner, is already on the verge of completing two terms?

President Buhari, who claims the fight against corruption is the cornerstone of his administration, has constantly frowned against corrupt persons taking up positions of leadership. With some of the aspirants still battling cases at the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, will the President as the leader of the party, and the APC hierarchy be willing to look the other way or will they insist that anyone is free to contest? Providing an answer to this question would require looking into the profiles of the 11 aspirants.

Abdul’Aziz Yari

Yari is the immediate past Governor of Zamfara State in the North-West. After spending two terms as governor between 2011 and 2019, he was elected into the Senate. However, the Supreme Court declared that the APC had no candidate in the 2019 elections due to its failure to hold primaries before the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission. This effectively led to the sacking of Yari and others.

The former governor now heads a faction of the APC in Zamfara State having rejected the leadership of Governor Bello Matawalle. His inability to manage the crisis in his state that caused the APC to lose the state in 2019 therefore puts his leadership powers to question. Also, Yari, who is a former chairman of the Nigerian Governors’ Forum, has been a regular guest of the EFCC. In a court document filed in 2017, the EFCC stated that it received an intelligence in January 2017 alleging “conspiracy, criminal misappropriation of public funds involving the sum of N19,439,225,871.11 out of the Paris Club refunds made by the Federal Government in favour of the 36 states of the federation”. The commission had in the court filing, sought an order of forfeiture of N500m and $500,000 allegedly recovered from Mr Yari.

Tanko Al-Makura

Senator Al-Makura was governor of Nasarawa State, North-Central from 2011 to 2019. He is rumoured to be one of the favourites due to his closeness to the President since their days together in the defunct Congress for Progressive Change. However, he has also been on the EFCC radar in recent times along with his wife. Last year he visited the EFCC headquarters a couple of times to answer questions on money laundering running into billions of naira. The former governor, however, said he was only invited by the EFCC but never detained.

 

Ali Modu Sheriff

Sheriff was governor of Borno State in the North-East between 2003 and 2011. A founding member of the APC, Sheriff defected to the PDP ahead of the 2015 elections and later served as the acting chairman of the party in 2016. In 2018 he returned to the APC.

Sheriff has also been under investigation by the EFCC for nearly a decade and has been detained several times for allegedly mismanaging public funds while he was governor. In 2016 he was grilled for allegedly receiving N40m out of the N23bn funds disbursed by a former Minister of Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alsion-Madueke. Sheriff’s penchant for switching political parties could work against him.

Isa Yuguda

Yuguda was governor of Bauchi State, North-East, between 2007 and 2015 as a member of the Peoples Democratic Party. Although his publicity has not been as pronounced as others, he told journalists last month that “I confirm that I have declared an interest. But I am still making consultations before my final decision”. Yuguda joined politics after reaching the pinnacle of his career as Managing Director of the defunct NAL Merchant Bank. He also served as Minister of State for Transport and later aviation in former President Olusegun’s administration.

 

Yuguda is also on the EFCC radar. His successor, ex-Governor Mohammed Abubakar, launched a probe into his administration, alleging that he spent N6.181bn as security votes within a period of four months in 2015 during his tenure. The state cited a curious withdrawal of N2,191, 248,744.71 within 10 days under the guise of security votes. Yuguda’s house was seized by the EFCC. However, nothing has been heard of his case since he joined the APC in December 2018.

Danjuma Goje

 

Senator Goje was Governor of Gombe State between 2003 and 2011 as a member of the PDP. After leaving office, he spent eight years battling corruption charges levelled against him by the EFCC but in 2019, after 17 charges were struck out by the court while two were still pending, the Office of the Attorney-General of the Federation controversially withdrew the case in 2019 during the race for the Senate Presidency when Goje stepped down for the Presidency’s anointed candidate, Senator Ahmad Lawan. Goje, who had been engaged in an intense feud with Governor Inuwa Yahaya in recent months, recently buried the hatchet with the governor after the national leadership of the party intervened.

George Akume

Akume was governor of Benue State, North-Central between 1999 and 2007 as a member of the PDP. He soon became a subject of an EFCC investigation for allegedly diverting billions of naira in public funds and was detained by the commission. His bail was, however, taken by a retired Assistant-Inspector General of Police, Farida Waziri. After the removal of Nuhu Ribadu as EFCC chairman, Waziri was nominated as his successor. During her screening at the Senate, Waziri denied standing surety for Akume but in an intriguing twist, Mrs. Beckie Orpin, the media aide to Akume, said in a statement in 2009 that Waziri only helped Akume to retrieve his seized passport from the EFCC.

After his tenure as governor, Akume went on to become a senator and now Minister of Special Duties in President Buhari’s cabinet. Recently, his godson turned foe, Governor Samuel Ortom of Benue State, asked the EFCC to revisit his alleged corruption case and pursue it to a legal conclusion. Akume’s leadership qualities and loyalty to the party shone when he was the Senate minority leader in the 7th Assembly. He was among those tipped to be Senate President but decided to step down based on the party’s advice. His loyalty to the APC could work in his favour.

Saliu Mustapha

Mustapha is one of the few aspirants that have never been elected into office. The Turaki of Ilorin is from Kwara State, North Central and is also a former Deputy National Chairman of the defunct CPC (now part of APC). The CPC factor could work in his favour. He is among the youngest candidates, has had no known corruption case and is a technocrat. However, the APC’s tradition of only electing former governors as party chairmen could work against him, but he insisted the party needed fresh blood.

Sani Musa

 

Senator Musa is the lawmaker representing Niger-East senatorial district. He sparked controversy in 2019 when he introduced the “Protection from Internet Falsehood and Manipulations Bill 2019” popularly known as the anti-social media bill. He was also the Managing Director of Activate Technologies Limited which supplied the machines used in printing the Permanent Voter Cards to the Independent National Electoral Commission. Musa is said to be very close to Senate President Ahmad Lawan and has strong backing from some leaders of the party. However, the fact that the APC leadership usually favours former governors as party chairmen may work against him.

Sani Shinkafi

Shinkafi was until recently a staunch member of the All Progressives Grand Alliance having run for the governorship of Zamfara State on APGA’s platform in four different elections. He defected to the APC along with Governor Bello Mattawalle and now serves as an aide to the governor. His lack of a strong base in the party as well as the crisis in the APC in his state coupled with the fact that he has never held any national office before, reduce his chances of emerging as APC national chairman.

Sylvester Moniedafe

Originally from Delta State but born in Jimeta, Adamawa State, Moniedafe has remained in Adamawa where he plays politics. He has been part of several committees of the APC but has never held any elective position.

Etsu Mohammed

At just 36, Mohammed is the youngest aspirant. Mohammed is an aide to Governor Abubakar Bello of Niger State Niger and a former youth leader with ANPP (now part of APC).   ,,

 

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