Ahead of its National Convention in February 26, there is confusion in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) over the zoning of its chairmanship, with some of the aspirants insisting that it had be decided, and that the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) should just announce it. Others are saying no decision had been reached and want zoning jettisoned.
On the flip side, except the unforeseen happens, the Chairman of the CECPC, who is also governor of Yobe State, Mai Mala Buni, is scheming to be on the chairmanship ballot paper when the party converges on Abuja February 26, to elect new National Working Committee (NWC) members.
The Buni-led CECPC had consistently resisted pressure to hold the elective National Convention, with a plan to sit tight and conduct the party’s primaries for the 2023 elections, but recent push from President Muhammadu Buhari forced it to bend backwards, resulting in the announced convention date.
Aspirants from outside the North-central, where the National Chairman’s position is rumoured to have been zoned, are anxious for a quick official position from CECPC on the issue, to know whether to halt the time and resources being expended on their campaigns or not.
Also, by yesterday, some chairmanship aspirants from the North-central were insisting that the party’s stakeholders had all agreed that the position of Chairman be zoned to the region and that the CECPC should just do the needful by making a formal announcement.
One of the chairmanship aspirants from the zone and the Minister of Special Duties, George Akume, yesterday insisted that the party had zoned the chairmanship to North-central and commended the party’s leadership for doing so.
Akume, who spoke in Abuja through Simone Shango, the Chairman, Contact Committee of his Campaign Organisation, said it was normal for the party to “deny the zoning arrangement at this point, but a formal announcement would be made soon.”
However, the former Governor of Borno State, Ali Modu Sheriff, who is also a chairmanship aspirant, described the claim that the position had been zoned to North-central as fake news, adding that other aspirants are afraid of going into the convention with him.
Sheriff insisted that he was the target of the rumoured zoning of the position to the North-central, saying he remained the candidate to beat.
He is of the view that anyone can be chairman “but not everybody has the capacity to be the chairman.”
Another chairmanship aspirant, Mallam Saliu Mustapha said while it still remained “a rumour” that the APC chairmanship had been zoned to North-central, it was still in line with his expectation.
Mustapha who spoke through his media aide, Dapo Okunbanjo said he remained the frontrunner for the number one party position.
He said, “As for this zoning, we’ve heard this but we still consider it a rumour just like what the CECPC said. And if indeed it’s zoned officially to North-central, it will be in line with our expectations. We still see ourselves as frontrunners in the race whether it’s zoned or not, but what we are doing is to take things one step at a time.”
The source that leaked Buni’s move to THISDAY last night, added that the need to perfect the Yobe State governor’s game-plan influenced the delay in announcing the zoning for the office of National Chairman and other party positions.
The source said: “Buni wants to remain National Chairman; forcing him to organise a National Convention was just a temporary setback. The plan is to declare the National chairmanship position open to the entire North, so that he can contest. Buni has 14 APC governors with him in this plot. His main ally, Abubakar Malami, the Minister of Justice had already cleared the way for him by openly declaring a few weeks back that he could legally combine the office of governor with that of the party’s chairmanship.”
THISDAY learnt further that Buni, Malami and the 14 governors working with him in the plot would soon meet President Buhari, to convince him on the need for the Yobe governor to continue as chairman of the party.
“Once they get Buhari’s support, the deal is done. All the other chairmanship candidates will have to step down. Even if they don’t step down, Buni’s name will be the only chairmanship candidate one on the official list of contenders to be voted for on D-Day. This is the list that will be forced on delegates. This guy wants to conduct the 2023 APC primaries and it will be tough stopping this ambition,” added the source.