After days of negotiations and disagreements, the preferred candidate of the President, Maj. Gen. Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), for the position of the national chairman of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, was ratified as the new party chairman late Saturday night.
The ratification of Adamu and other members of the incoming National Working Committee and Zonal Leaders of the party was part of activities at the convention of the party, which commenced on Saturday and ended in the early hours of Sunday at the Eagles Square, Abuja.
Adamu, a former governor of Nasarawa State, who had emerged as a consensus candidate, was not among those who initially expressed interest in the chairmanship position. However, he was later drafted into the race by the Presidency and some governors.
The persuasion and insistence by the President for Adamu’s emergence forced other aspirants for the national chairmanship position to grudgingly step down on Saturday.
Meanwhile, facts emerged on Saturday night on how leaders of the party across the country arrived at the consensus candidates for the various party positions.
The candidates, who made the Unity List compiled by the party leaders and various stakeholders, were ratified at the convention.
The list emerged shortly before the President arrived at the convention. The most prominent on the list was Adamu.
The consensus candidates, who were assured of the support of the party leadership, would form the National Working Committee of the APC for the next four years.
One of the main tasks awaiting the new NWC is to plan and oversee the party’s primaries ahead of the 2023 general elections.
However, underground horse-trading, negotiations and assurances from different camps were said to have delayed the commencement of the convention slated for 1 pm, as different camps were said to have kicked against the emergence of some of the aspirants as consensus candidates.
The Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo, arrived at the event at 7:59 pm; the President of the Senate, Ahmed Lawan at exactly 7.06 pm, while the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, arrived at 7.03 pm.
Confronted by the delegates’ restiveness over the delay, Gbajabiamila said it was better to start late and get things right.
However, the event did not commence until around 8:23 pm when the President arrived at the convention ground. His late arrival was said to have been a result of prolonged discussions with relevant stakeholders on the sharing formula for the different offices.
Our correspondent learnt from sources close to the party leadership that party leaders who successfully persuaded national chairmanship aspirants to step down for the President’s choice leveraged the opportunity to insist on their candidates being chosen for other positions.
Apart from Adamu, a former deputy governor of Osun State, Iyiola Omisore, was named as the party’s national secretary.
The ratified executives include Senator Abubakar Kyari (Borno State) as the Deputy National Chairman (North), Emma Eneukwu (Enugu State) as the Deputy National Chairman (South), Festus Fuanter (Deputy National Secretary), Muhazu Rijau (National Vice Chairman, North-Central), Mustapha Salihu (National Vice Chairman, North-East), Salihu Lukman (National Vice Chairman, North-West), Ijeoma Arodiogwu (National Vice Chairman, South-East), Victor Giadom (National Vice Chairman, South-South), and Isaac Kekemeke (National Vice Chairman, South-West).
Others are Ahmed El-Marzuk (National Legal Adviser), Uguru Ofoke (National Treasurer), Bashir Gumel (Financial Secretary), Suleiman Argungu (National Organising Secretary), Beta Edu (National Woman Leader), Abdullahi Israel (National Youth Leader), Tolu Bankole (Special Persons Leader), F.N Nwosu (National Welfare Secretary), Felix Morka (National Publicity Secretary), Abubakar Maikafi (National Auditor), Bashir Gumel (National Financial Secretary), Ibrahim Salawu (Deputy National Legal Adviser) and Omorede Osifo (Deputy National Treasurer).
Earlier on Saturday, six national chairmanship aspirants: George Akume (Benue State), Tanko Al-Makura (Nasarawa), Abdul’Aziz Yari (Zamfara), Sani Musa (Niger), Saliu Mustapha (Kwara) and Etsu Muhammed (Niger) stepped down for Adamu.
Two members of the Caretaker/Extra-Ordinary Convention Planning Committee, Ken Nnamani, a former Senate President, and Ismail Ahmed, a former National Youth Leader, both of whom were to contest positions at the convention lost out.
Nnamani lost to Enaukwu as the Deputy National Chairman (South) while Ahmed lost the National Organising Secretary position to Argungu from Kebbi State.
Enaukwu, a former national officer with the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party and the Congress for Progressives Change, was the National Vice Chairman (South-East) of the APC under Chief John Odigie-Oyegun and Adams Oshiomhole leadership.
It was learnt that some members of the three political parties that merged to form the APC complained about the “too many members of the new-Peoples Democratic Party bloc” in the incoming NWC.
The three legacy political parties that formed the APC were the Action Congress of Nigeria, ANPP and CPC. However, factions of the All Progressives Grand Alliance and a breakaway group in the PDP, known as the nPDP, were among the founding fathers of the APC.
A minister, who spoke with Sunday PUNCH on condition of anonymity, said, “We are gradually becoming a branch of the PDP with the way we are going. The incoming national chairman and the national secretary were members of the PDP. There are others as well with solid PDP background.
“How then do we abuse the PDP during campaigns? Will people not ask us to differentiate between the PDP then and now? That is why we have to drop some of those proposed for top positions in the incoming NWC. Already, some are already taunting us, referring to us as another arm of the PDP.”
The senator representing Ekiti Central in the Senate, Opeyemi Bamidele, confirmed the rigours the party’s leadership and the President went through before arriving at the unity list.
He said, “Well, I think it was a wonderful thing for several aspirants to have come out to contest for the chairmanship of the party but I think it’s a better deal that the aspirants who have demonstrated capacity to reconcile. It was to the extent that nobody was forced to withdraw. It was an appeal. There was no pressure on anybody. It was an appeal that took a while.”
Hours into the convention, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, pulled out of the race for the national deputy chairman (North).
In a letter addressed to the caretaker committee chairman, Mai Mala Buni, the former Speaker wrote in part, “It was thought that my emergence will no doubt strengthen the party’s position especially in Bauchi State in the North-East where the party couldn’t hold on to two states after just four years and indeed across all the states because of the extensive network and reach to serving and former members of the national assembly.
“But it turns out that our respected party leaders had better ideas. Consequently, they micro-zoned the position to Borno State whose stakeholders under the leadership of our amiable revolutionary leader, H.E Babagana Zulum and Sen Kashim Shetima, have endorsed a brother and long-standing supporter/ally, Sen. Abubakar Kyari, for the position.”
Meanwhile, the Lagos State chapter of the APC said it settled for 36-year-old Dayo Israel and a former Lagos State Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Lateef Ibirogba, as National Youth Leader and South-West Zonal Organising Secretary respectively at a dinner with Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu.
The South-West unity list for the convention was released on Saturday before the convention commenced. In the list, Omisore was nominated as the National Secretary.
It was gathered that Omisore, who was the deputy to a former Governor of Osun State, Chief Bisi Akande, was nominated because of the forthcoming governorship election in the state.
Omisore, whom Akande once described in unprintable words, was said to have been instrumental to APC’s victory in the last governorship election in Osun State.
A top source in the party said, “Governor Adegboyega Oyetola is not very comfortable with happenings in the party in the state due to the issues he has with his predecessor, Rauf Aregbesola. The party needs Omisore again in this forthcoming election, so this position was a form of compensation and to secure his loyalty during the election.”
Meanwhile, a former Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, who was an aspirant for the position of National Secretary, rejected the Unity List.
He told journalists that the consensus arrangement was a violation of his rights.
“For me, I will see the issue of consensus as an element of oppression against my person, against my rights and against the good people of Nigerians, so the question of stepping down does not arise,” he added.
“People tout the issue of consensus whenever they want to cheat others or engage in dictatorship. Consensus cannot be a compulsory agenda. We claim to be a progressive party, why are we not doing things differently from all other parties?
Speaking at the event, Buni asked members of the party whose defections were being challenged in court not to fret, saying their actions did not contradict the law.
The governors who defected from the PDP were those of Zamfara (Bello Matawalle); Cross River (Ben Ayade) and Ebonyi (Dave Umahi). Their defection is currently being challenged in court by the PDP.
Buni, who assumed office two years ago after the removal of the party’s erstwhile National Chairman, Oshiomhole, said, “Those whose defections are being challenged in court have nothing to fear. You have nothing to fear, your defections do not contradict any law. It will never be in vain.”
The Senate President in his remarks said Buhari would continue to provide leadership for the ruling party beyond 2023 when he leaves office.
He said Buhari’s ability to sustain unity within the party against all odds, positions him favourably as the “compass” needed to give direction to the party at all times.
“Let me be explicit; you will not be on the ballot in 2023, but you will remain the leading light and moral compass of APC even after your tenure finishes,” he added.
Also speaking, Gbajabiamila said the party, like our country, was going through a process of rebirth. “We have the power and opportunity to build a political party that can stand the test of time and lead our country to a future of abiding peace and universal prosperity,” he added.