A surprise twist may have disrupted political calculations in the ruling All Progressives Congress ahead of its national convention
- President Muhammadu Buhari's recent declaration for young people to take over leadership positions in the party have favoured two APC chieftains
- Saliu Mustapha, a 49-year old politician from Kwara state, and 36-year old Etsu, an aide to the Niger state governor are now frontrunners in the APC chairmanship race
FCT, Abuja - President Muhammadu Buhari's open declaration of support for the younger elements contesting party positions in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) may have shifted attention to two contenders out of the long list of aspirants for the office of the party's National Chairman.
President Buhari maintained what some political actors described as a bold position on the internal politics of the party.
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While playing host to members of the APC National Lobby Group led by the party's National Youth Leader, Barr. Ishmael Ahmed, at the State House, the president said it was time to give younger elements in the party the benefit of the saddle of leadership in the party.
The president affirmed that the leadership of the party would ensure full participation of young people at all levels of leadership both in the party and at the executive level.
He said young people’s inclusion in critical political positions and in the governance process would encourage learning and mentoring in government and politics.
He, therefore, assured the teeming youth in the ruling APC of his readiness to support credible and committed youngsters vying for elective positions during the party’s forthcoming national convention on February 26, 2022.
“I will also support the aspirations of credible and committed young people who are vying for positions in the upcoming convention.
“It is also in our interest to ensure the longevity of our party by standardizing and institutionalizing the leadership recruitment system. Hardworking and exemplary individuals should be identified and encouraged and mentored.
“It should be a deliberate policy of the progressives in ensuring that we have a robust succession plan in place.”
After Buhari's declaration, the list appears to have been pruned to just two with an edge in the contest.
Buhari’s quest for the younger elements contesting party positions has redirected attention to Saliu Mustapha, a 49-year-old former deputy national chairman of the defunct Congress for Progressives Congress, and Muhammad Etsu, a 36-year-old aide to the Niger state governor.
Saliu Mustapha, who is also from Kwara state and the Turaki for Ilorin, is one of the youngest in the race, next only to Muhammad Etsu, a former youth leader of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party in Niger state.
Mustapha served as the national secretary of the Conference of Nigerian Political Parties (CNPP) between 2011 and 2013 and was a gubernatorial aspirant of the ruling APC in Kwara in the 2019 general elections.
Etsu on his part was said to be a member of the presidential campaign council in 2015 and 2019.
Reacting to the latest developments, the convener of the APC Renewal, Dr. Abdullahi Kyari applauded the president for 'coming out boldly' for the youths of the party.
He expressed confidence in the decision, adding that if followed to the letters, would go a long way in assuaging the general feelings of younger elements in the party who believe that they have been used and dumped by the party and its leadership.
“We are more than happy for this renewed vigour on youth inclusion by no less a person than the president of the country and the leader of our party. This will go a long way in reassuring us that we matter in the scheme of things in the party.
APC convention: Apprehension as Buhari is yet to make public his choice candidate for national chairman
“What the president said on Friday was a signpost to his thought flow on the kind of leadership he expects in the next dispensation of leadership of the party.
“Those who were waiting on the president's body language now have a full-blown open declaration to know the direction of things.
“For us as a pressure group, our next task would be to ensure that this declaration is followed through to the letters without let or hindrance.”
Also reacting, a Lagos-based human rights activist and former president of the Students Union of the Lagos State University, Barr. Nurudeen Yusuf said that the president's declaration was the most strategic thing any smart politician would do at this time considering the mood of the country.
Nurudeen said any political party that requires the huge vote bank of the youths must be willing to go beyond just 'carrying them along' but involving them at the central decision-making table.
“The president is only tapping into the mood of the moment which favours a gradual takeover of the mantle of leadership by the younger generation of leaders in the country.
“I am not surprised that this is happening. It will only be surprising if this declaration is not followed up with or actually materialised.”
APC forum to Buhari: Anoint credible chairmanship aspirant from north-central
In a related development, a group known as the Concerned APC Members Forum has written a letter asking President Buhari to anoint a credible national chairmanship aspirant ahead of the APC national convention.
The group asked the president to choose among those aspiring from the north-central ahead of the convention.
The forum in a letter dated Friday, February 11, and addressed to the president also advised Buhari to look into the records of the various individuals aspiring to lead the party.
Group warns APC members not to elect EFCC-indicted ex-governors as chairman
On its part, the South-South Emerging Leaders' Forum has warned members of the APC not to elect some former governors and individuals in the race who have been indicted for some financial crimes by anti-corruption agencies.
In a statement sent to Legit.ng on Wednesday, January 19, the national coordinator of the group, Barrister Preye Wilson, warned that the ruling party does not need a national chairman that will be dragging in and out of the anti-corruption agencies' offices to explain their dealings in the past.
Barrister Wilson said it is time for the ruling party to deviate from past experiences of electing a former governor as national chairman.