Convention: How APC Leaders Boxed Ali Modu Sheriff to a Corner
By Daily Trust
The outcome of last week’s national convention of the APC suggests Senator Ali Modu Sheriff may have been lured to a cul-de-sac as far as the affairs of the party are concerned.
Indications that the former chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the defunct All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP), Senator Ali Modu Sheriff, will not have a smooth sail in the All Progressives Congress (APC) emerged in 2012 when the final touches were being put on the merger of the three parties that resulted in the APC.
As discussions were going on between the components of the parties that merged, Sheriff’s associates, desirous of giving him an edge in the structure of the then emerging party, flew what later turned out to be kite, that a meeting of the merger committee had agreed to appoint the former governor of Borno State as chairman of the Board of Trustees (BOT) of the APC.
Even before the idea could fly, elements of the other components of the merger rose in protests and kicked vehemently against the idea saying it is inconceivable for the party to contemplate such a move.
Dr. Haruna Yarima, then a member of the the defunct merger committee representing the Congress for Progressives Change (CPC), said the APC will not even toy with the idea of giving Sheriff such a prominent position as he said the consequence would be unbearable for the party.
“There was nothing like that in our last meeting of the APC. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, General Muhammadu Buhari and Malam Ibrahim Shekarau cannot be so much carried away by the merger issues to forget so soon the antecedent of Sheriff and give him the BOT chair of APC.
He does not have progressive antecedent, character and principle. He does not have simple principles,” Yerima said.
All went quiet on that front when the party succeeded in deferring the idea of naming a BOT but decided to concentrate on forming an interim National Working Committee (NWC) to run the affairs of the party while established an informal advisory board, called national leaders of the party.
Buhari and Tinubu assumed positions as national leaders of the party and were addressed as such while nothing was said of Sheriff who equally held a prominent position and was respected in the All Nigeria Peoples Party (ANPP).
There were indications early enough to show that Sheriff had struggled to get the party to see what he termed as an anomaly, so that he would be given the toga of a national leader of the party as well, since the respect he was accorded in the ANPP was similar to what Buhari and Tinubu enjoyed in their original parties, but the leaders of the APC were said to have kept the request in abeyance until the congresses of the party started.
Torn between fighting the national leaders of the party and losing relevance in his home base, Sheriff chose to do something about the home front while running to Borno State to ensure he helps his associates into key position in the state exco of the party.
The bid to stop the Borno governor, Kashim Shettima, from having a field day, by putting only his supporters in positions of authority in the state exco of the party, led to a clash between the two men that at the end of the day; the national leadership of the party had to intervene and the duo were made to agree to share the key positions among their supporters.
From then, Sheriff, it would seem, had decided he had borne enough of how the party was treating him and would have to do something about it.
The opportunity came at a National Executive Committee (NEC) meeting of the party when after failing to get the party leaders see things his way, the ex-Borno governor accused Tinubu openly of trying to hijack the party.
He was said to have expressed his displeasure at how things were being run in the party saying some of the party leaders were not being democratic but were running the party like pocket dictators.
After that incident many had expected that Sheriff would leave the APC but he remained to the surprise of many.
The reaction of Sheriff’s group to the outcome of the APC national convention however revealed that he had joker which he had intended to play at the national convention to get him back into reckoning as a force in the party.
His plan, as it turned out, was to ensure that one of his trusted allies within the party secures the position of either the national secretary of the party or its national chairman or both while again retaining his trusted aide, Dr. Umar Duhu, as the national vice chairman, North East of the party.
Sources say he was one of those not keen on the idea of retaining Bisi Akande as chairman of the party based on the belief that Akande is ‘Tinubu’s boy.’
He was however said to have supported the idea of moving the chairmanship position to the South South when it was mooted by the governors within the party as it presented an opportunity for the blocs to compete for the positions and a chance to give Tinubu a run for his money.
While Tinubu and some of the party leaders quickly mobilized for the elderly John Odigie –Oyegun, the governors rallied round former governor of Bayelsa, Timipre Sylva.
But both aspirants were not in the fringes of Sheriff’s influence and he chose to support a different candidate Tom Ikimi for the position.
Sheriff, as it turned out, wanted somebody who would give him due recognition as a force to reckon with in the party and sought to assist Ikimi get the job.
The Sheriff group found a common position with that of the governors when talks of a consensus candidate failed and began warming up for a contest on the convention ground.
But the party leaders were said to have weighed the implication of throwing the contest open and how Sheriff, who is known for his deep pocket, could cash in on that to give them a bloody nose and decided to avoid the option of an open contest and succeeded in convincing the governors to prevail on both Sylva and Sam Sam Jaja to step down offering the governors the secretary position.
Both the governors of Yobe and Borno later saw the wisdom in the suggestion by the leaders of the party as they were not comfortable with another of Sheriff’s men, Kashim Imam, becoming the party scribe and agreed that it would be better to allow the leaders of the party have their way in presenting a national chairman, while the governors could present a candidate for the national secretary position so that both ways, Sheriff would be excluded.
A gaping hole still appeared in the position of the vice national chairman of the party for North East, where Sheriff’s confidante, Umar Duhu was standing unopposed and another person was quickly mobilised to stop Duhu, thereby shutting the door on Sheriff on all the entry points he had thought would get him into reckoning as a leader in the party.
Duhu confirmed what transpired saying Sheriff was not only being victimized by the party leaders but that his associates including Ikimi, Imam and himself were schemed out of positions in the party.
“Sherriff views the outcome of the congresses as a witch-hunt. All his associates including Kashim Imam, Umar Duhu and Tom Ikimi were not considered at the convention despite endorsement. Even though there is appeals committee, Sheriff is angry with the APC but has not decided whether to join another party,” Duhu said.
On what happened to his dream on continuing as national vice chairman, he said, “I was the only candidate standing and cleared by the screening committee, but Bitrus Lawal’s name was smuggled in by Buhari. Buhari and Tinubu witchhunted me not because I am not capable, but they said because of my close association with Ali Modu Sheriff.”
He lamented: “What wrong has Sen. Sheriff done to Buhari, after Sheriff had assisted Buhari severally in the ANPP days to secure the presidential ticket?
A source in the APC who would not want to be named said the APC leaders are wary of Sheriff because of his closeness to the presidency and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) leaders.
Another source said even as talks were going on, some of Sheriff’s associates were being seen at the villa and that it would be a mistake to allow such people into key positions in the leadership of the major opposition party in the country.
“You know this time around we don’t want to take things for granted. We want to ensure we take care of the home front before we face the PDP in the general elections,” he said.
But another source dismissed the claim that the party leaders have something against Sheriff saying his problem is mainly with the governor of his state.
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