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Ahead of key convention, Buhari's allies reassert control of the ruling party

On 26 March the All Progressives' Congress will pick its leaders and decide how to choose its candidate for next year's presidential elections

Late on 24 March, Senate President Ahmed Lawan told journalists that he is confident the national convention of the ruling All Progressives' Congress would follow President Muhammadu Buhari's recommendation that it should pick its national chairman by consensus, not competitive election. Yet many APC officials, due to attend its national convention on 26 March, think otherwise.

The call from Buhari and his allies such as Attorney General Abubakar Malami for the party chairman to emerge 'by consensus' is a turnaround after a plot to unseat the interim chairman and governor of Yobe State Mai Mala Buni and replace him with Kogi State governor Yahaya Bello.

Several state governors, citing Buni's trip to Dubai for medical treatment amid lack of preparations for the party convention, lobbied Buhari to back the plan. Kaduna state governor Nasir el Rufai said that 19 out of the APC's 23 state governors had wanted to replace Buni.

The chairmanship is the most powerful position in the party with powers to shape the rules for choosing its presidential candidate and the keeping a balance between the rival regional factions in the party (AC Vol 63 No 1, Contenders fill the stage).

With the APC favoured to win presidential and national assembly elections due next March, the chairman's decisions will have national repercussions.

Ahead of the convention three leading candidates for the chairmanship have emerged: Senator Abdullahi Adamu, an ex-governor of Nasarawa State whom Buhari is said to favour; Senator Mohammed Sani Musa (Niger State) who has popular support within the party; Senator Umaru Al Makura (Nasarawa State) who is liked by many of the current state governors, a key constituency at the convention.

Also in the running are George Akume, a former senator and governor of Benue State, and Abdulaziz Yari, a former governor of Zamfara State.

All the other major positions within the party hierarchy are due to be filled at the convention, following weeks of horse-trading, most of it linked to preferences among the current presidential contenders (AC Vol 63 No 2, In search of flagbearers).

The party appears committed to choosing a presidential candidate from the south of the country with the strongest contenders coming from the south-west so far. But party insiders expect some new names from the south-east to join the ranks of the presidential hopefuls, at least one with presidential backing, after the convention (AC Vol 63 No 3, Bankers circle the presidency).

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