By Eddy Odivwri
After what looked like what street boys describe as “one chance bus”, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) finally resolved to hold its long-awaited convention on February 26, the last Saturday of next month. Nobody believed or expected that the interim status of the Mai Mala Buni-led body with an unusual tongue-twisting acronym—Caretaker Extra-ordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) will last this long. The Yobe State governor has obviously stayed as caretaker chairman of the party longer than was expected. Some party men had gone to court to challenge his continued hold to that office as well as serving as a sitting governor. Many had thought when Adams Oshiomhole was asked to step aside in June 2020, that a plan was afoot to reorganize the party. But nearly two years after, the interim structure which merely had an ad hoc status has remained in charge.
Just before the final agreement on the February 26 date, there were moves by the Caretaker Committee to further shift the convention which was originally scheduled for last December. But the progressive governors insisted that the convention be held as scheduled. The Caretaker committee members who had become very comfortable in their more-than-interim status had argued that there were still some state congresses that had to be conducted, just as the reconciliation efforts within the party were yet to be concluded. It was clear that the Caretaker committee members did not want to hold the convention anytime soon, for obvious reasons. Nobody wants to step down from a sumptuous meal table.
It is even yet feared that the anti-convention members of the caretake committee may yet head to court to stop the convention. But the hope that the convention would hold as scheduled was bolstered by the support from President Muhammadu Buhari who believes the party should have its functional and legalized leadership structure. The Caretaker committee has been directed now to form convention organising committees.
But perhaps more crucial to the party is the power camps that will be in frontal contestation for the soul of the partyat the convention. Who will become the National Chairman of the party? Already, it is said that the party has zoned the position to the North central geo-political zone. The entire north had been in the race for the chairmanship of the party, meaning technically, that the position of the Presidential candidate will come from the south. That means that the southern power blocs will get into full struggle to influence who occupies the chairmanship stool from the northern bloc.
Already, with the declaration of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and Gov Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State as well as those warming up to do so soon, the ring is getting filled. An insight into the future of the party will begin to crystalise shortly before and after the party’s convention next month.
Gov Buni is expected to do the bidding of his master: President Buhari. The duo will be interested in who heads the party structure. From the nuances and even body language of Mr President, it is unlikely that the tilt will be towards the Lion of Bourdillon .
When, in a recent interview, he (Buhari) revealed that he does not want to name his successor so, he is not assassinated, Mr President couldn’t be talking of Bola Tinubu. So who does he have in mind? Would the person be a dark horse? Would he be a major figure in the administration? Would the party structure be manoeurvered in favour of a pre-determined persona? Would the party leadership provide a level-playing field for a free contest?
So, if the organogram of the party is not favourable to the interest of the Jagaban, will his loyalty remain with and in the party? Would he storm out and blow the party to smithereens? Will APC remain stronger or weaker after the February convention?
The battle of who controls the party will be the Act 1 scene 1 of the overall power quest in the party.
The next battle ground after the election would be who emerges as the party’s presidential candidate. Would it be Tinubu? Would it be someone else?
The Tinubu political machine is already revving, with many anchor men springing up in various parts of the country. Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Federal Government, who still has the badge of grass-cutting scandal hanging on his raiment, has picked up the campaign for Tinubu in the north along with other notable northern political leaders. But would that translate to adoption of Tinubu’s candidacy? In the east, somebody was seen distributing free Tinubu-branded recharge cards in a market in Abia State. It is an early indication of the pervasive role money will play in the race ahead. Would the Chairmanship of the party literally be put out for sale to the highest bidder?
Now that the National Assembly has amended the Electoral Act to relax the recommendation of Direct Primary (now with the option of indirect primary and even Consensus candidacy ) at party conventions, it means that the political parties will be at liberty to choose any preferred option. This is would be easier to manage and manipulate, as candidates will be dealing with lesser number of determinants and not necessarily the entire party members. How President Buhari deals with the next APC convention will be quite telling of what to expect in the convention for the selection of party’s presidential candidate. Nigerians are waiting and watching.