Adebayo Folorunsho-Francis and Dirisu Yakubu
Strong indications have emerged that members of the ruling All Progressives Congress’ National Working Committee may clash with the party’s governors over a plan by the latter to adopt ex-governor Abdullahi Ganduje as the new national chairman of the party.
The development followed the sudden exit of Senator Abdullahi Adamu and Senator Iyiola Omisore as the party‘s national chairman and national secretary, respectively.
The crisis rocking the ruling party had on Tuesday led Adamu and Omisore to resign from their positions after they were accused of high-handedness and financial mismanagement by some members of the NWC.
However, barely 48 hours after the development, Progressives Governors’ Forum, the umbrella body of the party’s governors, met in Abuja and reportedly agreed to back Ganduje as Adamu’s successor.
Hours after the news went viral, party chieftains and members of the NWC were divided over the plan to make the 73-year-old ex-Kano State governor the substantive chairman of the party.
Some APC NWC members who spoke to The PUNCH said they were opposed to the governors’ plan, insisting that the office had been zoned to the North-Central geopolitical zone. Ganduje is from the North-West Geopolitical zone.
However, a source close to the former Kano State governor confirmed that Ganduje, believed to have been penciled down as a minister, was considered at the eleventh hour as the right candidate to reunite aggrieved members of the National Working Committee and supporters of the party.
“Nobody predicted the choice of Ganduje. In fact, he wasn’t among the top four ex-governors to replace Adamu in the first place.
“We believe President Tinubu must have considered him as a loyal and trusted ally who can turn things around at the party secretariat. It however took the intervention of the Chairman of the Progressives Governors’ Forum, Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State and his Kwara State counterpart to persuade Ganduje to accept the assignment,” he said.
The source also noted that the immediate past governor of Kano State had been given a free hand to recommend another loyal member of his camp to occupy his ministerial job.
Ganduje had on Wednesday reportedly visited President Bola Tinubu in the company of three APC governors at the Presidential Villa in Abuja.
On the same Wednesday night, Uzodimma had an emergency meeting with members of the PGF at the Imo State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro.
The crucial meeting, which started at about 9.54 pm did not finish until 11.12 pm.
In attendance were governors Dapo Abiodun of Ogun State; Umar Bago (Niger); Francis Nwifuru (Ebonyi); Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq (Kwara); Acting Governor of Ondo State, Lucky Ayedatiwa; Fr. Hyacinth Alia (Benue), Uba Sani (Kaduna); Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos); Mai Mala Buni (Yobe); and Dikko Radda (Katsina).
Addressing journalists after the meeting, Uzodimma denied there was crisis within the party, saying the APC governors were in support of Adamu and Omisore’s resignation.
He said, “Their resignations have also been accepted by the leadership of the party. There is now an acting chairman and acting Secretary.”
When reminded that the constitution of APC did not allow caretaker and acting committee, the Imo governor contested it.
Uzodimma, however, maintained a sealed lip over the controversial debate on Ganduje.
Efforts made to reach the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, proved unsuccessful.
He neither responded to calls nor attended to the text messages sent for clarification.
However, findings by the PUNCH revealed that a number of NWC members were opposed to Ganduje’s choice.
The APC National Vice Chairman for North-West, Mallam Salihu Lukman, kicked against replacing Adamu with Ganduje, saying the action might upset the zoning arrangement of the party.
Lukman’s warning came in the wake of speculation that the President might have penciled down the ex-governor as the next chairman of the ruling party.
In a statement issued in Abuja on Thursday titled ‘APC: Way Forward,’ the NWC member said the move would be the height of insensitivity, if it turned out to be true.
The statement read in part, “So far, as things are, only the President and governors blocs are active in the negotiation to produce and engage leaders of the APC. Already, part of the speculations emerging from the governors’ bloc is that Dr. Abdullahi Umar Ganduje is being considered to succeed Sen. Abdullahi Adamu. If this is true, it only suggests insensitivity and taking members of the party for granted. This is without prejudice to the person of Dr. Ganduje.
“This is because such a choice will completely distort the zoning arrangement that informed the present configuration of the leadership of the National Assembly. With the Speaker of House of Representatives and Deputy Senate President coming from North-West and North-Central shut out of consideration, to propose the party’s National Chairman to move to North West from North Central will be unjust and almost a political suicide.”
It further read, “We must caution our governors that since the emergence of the APC, governors have served almost as the conscience of the party. Any consideration for such an insensitive and unjust consideration of Dr. Ganduje to become the National Chairman of APC must be discarded. If anything, the position of National Chairman of the APC must be retained in North-Central. Part of the challenge of managing the current transition within the party is getting the NWC to properly take the driving seat in managing and facilitating negotiations to produce and engage leaders of the party. The NWC must sit up and guide the unfolding negotiations. No single power bloc should be allowed to appropriate the process.”
Continuing, Lukman urged the president to speak up to douse the tension and intervene on time with the ultimate aim of returning the APC to its founding vision of progressive politics.
According to him, no single power bloc should be allowed to usurp the process.
Also, some member of the NWC who spoke to the PUNCH on condition of anonymity, backed Lukman, saying it was the turn of the North-Central to produce Adamu’s replacement.
“Our thinking is that some persons are trying to play Ganduje’s card into the mind of the president. The North-West should not be seen struggling for the party’s leadership after being compensated with the Speaker of House of Reps and Deputy Senate President. Why else should they be clamouring for the position of APC national chairman?” a member of the APC NWC queried.
On his part, APC Deputy National Chairman (South), Emma Eneukwu, reiterated that the talks of former Kano governor taking over the party leadership were still in the realm of speculation.
“It is still speculation and not official to us. So we can’t comment on what is not concrete. We are hearing it as rumour that he (Ganduje) is the preferred candidate to the party,” he said.
National Vice Chairman for South-East, Dr Ijeoma Arodiogbu, believes the news may not true.
He said a few NWC members had a brief meeting on Thursday, but the issue of Ganduje was not brought up.
“We are talking about three things here. The party leadership is different. The administration is different, so also is the legislature. That should answer your question. I don’t think the party has taken any decision on the issue. That may come in the next couple of days.”
In a related development, Deputy National Organising Secretary, Nze Chidi Duru, also expressed surprise at the news without giving further details.
Meanwhile, the former Deputy Spokesman for the ruling party, Yekini Nabena, expressed reservation about the controversy.
Nabena, however, stressed that the choice of whoever would emerge as the next national chairman would be decided through votes at a mini convention.
He also expressed concerns that the current crops of APC NWC were built on a wrong foundation.
He said, “Ganduje cannot just be made as the next substantive chairman. Of course, there has to be a mini-convention. If that’s what the president wants, he has to talk to the governors. He will be voted for at the national convention of they want him there.
“Definitely, his coming will divide the system (NWC) because if it is zoned to the North-Central, why take it out of the region? As I said before and I am still saying it, you will spend all your time patching things if the foundation is wrong. And the house will keep getting cracks. Those are the cracks we are seeing.
“If you cannot accommodate somebody in your cabinet, why bring him into the party leadership? It will cause more problems. And if the party is not ready to work with you, they may decide not to call for a mini convention. It is only the party chairman and secretary that have a right o call for a convention. Well, we are waiting for the appropriate time. As I said, once you get the foundation wrong, you will continue to fight to amend it.”
Gololo backs Al-Makura
Meanwhile, a former member of the Board of Trustees of the APC, Garus Gololo has called on those who wish the party well to support a former Governor of Nasarawa State, Tanko Al-Makura, to succeed Adamu.
Gololo in a telephone conversation with The PUNCH noted that in the interest of fairness, Adamu’s successor should be a leader of the party from the North-Central zone.
Faulting those drumming support for the immediate past Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, Gololo wondered what criteria qualifies him (Ganduje) for the role.
“Al-Makura should get the role in the interest of fairness. He is from the North Central and it makes sense to give the zone the position.
“Why are they mentioning Ganduje? Was he able to win Kano State for the APC? What are they talking about?
“If we are talking about fairness, the Deputy Senate President is from the North-West, the Speaker is from the North-West. Now, they are talking about taking the chairmanship of the party to the North-West. Is that fair?” he queried.
Gololo further charged Tinubu to be guided by justice even as he urged him not to forget that it was not only the North-West zone that gave the vote which fetched him the Presidency.
“The North-West is not the only zone that voted to make him (Tinubu) President. He should consider this as the leader of the party and ensure that the position is retained in the North-Central,” he added.