The famous line in President Muhammadu Buhari’s inaugural speech in 2015, is “I belong to everybody and I belong to nobody.” The statement has been interpreted on many occasions and situated in his actions too. One of those actions to situate this famous line is his demand to be allowed to ‘pick’ his successor. This means that most of the All Progressives Congress (APC) aspirants are on their own. The question is, who among them will he pick?
In a speech to the state governors, Buhari said, “In keeping with the established internal policies of the party …, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the president,” The party delegates are controlled by the governors, some of whom are also interested in running.
Buhari has often displayed an “I don’t care attitude” in some national issues, and as he belongs to nobody, he may not care about the hues and cries of those his demand does not suit especially the presidential aspirant and national leader of the APC, Bola Ahmed Tinubu who has claimed, “If not for me that led the war front, Buhari won’t have emerged…it’s my turn.”
The demand by the president to pick his successor – a successor, means that whoever he picks, will automatically become the next president which may be in contrary to the tenets of democracy and making the election as a done deal.
Not only that the APC hiked the amount for the expression of interest form to 100 million naira probably to prune the number of aspirants, it can also be a fundraising strategy for the party, Twenty-three aspirants bought the form, each of them formidable with a lot of political weight in their accord.
Buhari, picking the party’s candidate will be seen as imposition of a candidate on the party and this will not bode well within the party. But, the same tactics was used by the president during the APC convention that ushered in the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu.
President Buhari whose tenure has not been very stable with widespread insecurity, inflation, and many uncertainties may affect the candidate that earns his endorsement. It can also put his administration in a positive light should he apply justice for the people of the South-east that he condescendingly tagged “a dot in a circle” and the “5 percenters.” Should Buhari courageously endorse a candidate from the zone, though it may be seen as patronising but it could affect positively the way he is viewed in the region.
Whatever the intention of the president is, his decision to make the demand just a few days to the party’s primaries can be a strategy to arm-twist the presidential hopefuls since there is not enough time to sort out these differences before the Monday June 6 primaries.
The National Vice Chairman, Northwest of APC, Dr Salihu Lukman, has admonished the President not to fall into the temptation of imposing the presidential candidate on the party. He said, “Any initiative that potentially takes away the rights of party members to elect candidates would potentially mobilise Nigerians against the party and rubbish Mr. President. This was the case in 2007, which eventually pushed the PDP into whole-scale rigging such that election results were announced even before counting processes were concluded.”
By the gesture of the president, it is further evident how the nation has been led for a long time which is tyrannical in that the elites keep shortchanging the masses by being the ones to handpick the candidates. When that is not achievable, the delegates that they also handpicked will be greatly influenced to vote the candidates chosen by these elites and party lords. At no time are the people given the opportunity to scrutinise and vote their choices in the primaries. When the people choose their leaders from the primaries, is when Nigeria’s democracy will be deepened.
PANDEF in a statement by its National Publicity Secretary, Hon. Ken Robinson noted, “It’s unfortunate that the vast majority of citizens, and even members of political parties, do not participate in processes that produce those who would go on to contest elections and eventually become our president, governors and lawmakers. We now have situations where less than 800 persons choose a major party’s presidential candidate, in a country of over 200 million people. It is absurd! And when you talk, they will readily assert that it is a party affair. This has to stop. There must be an urgent review of the entire leadership’ selection process to involve greater participation of citizens, particularly membership of the political parties.”
The demand by the president could jeopardise the unity and the chances of the party. How the president will get his way across these aspirants will determine if he succeeds or not.
Atiku’s claim to be a unifier
The candidate of the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar cannot claim to be a unifier when he argues for and disregards the zoning principle as it favours him. The PDP reneged in zoning the presidential seat to the South-east. But the former Vice President only chose to reap from the injustice. That singular act does not make him a unifier as he could not propagate and stand by justice and fairness.