Some members of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have slammed President Muhammadu Buhari over his request to the party’s governors to allow him to pick his successor ahead of Monday’s Presidential Convention of the party.
They wondered if the president is now being influenced by the antics of state governors who often resort to imposing their stooges as successors, saying the president is supposed to be a moral compass to the state chief executives.
The stakeholders, who spoke under the aegis of APC Rebirth Group, said President Buhari’s desire to reciprocate gestures must not compromise the party’s internal democratic processes.
Convener of the group, Engr. Aliyu Audu, at a media parley in Abuja, conceded that the stakeholders recognize the inalienable rights of the president to be interested in whoever succeeds him and the natural desire to reciprocate the gesture of support he received in his 2014 bid to be the party’s flag bearer for the 2015 presidential election.
They, however, held that “the choice of the president should not amount to an imposition or foreclose the chances of a free and fair contest where the candidate who reflects all the values and virtues of the party and has the potential to defeat the candidates of other political parties will be democratically elected.”
The stakeholders also recalled how the current National Chairman of the party was imposed on stakeholders in the lead up to the March 26 national convention.
We say this because the memories of what transpired at the last national convention of the party where the president picked his choice for the position of the National Chairman and literally forced the other aspirants to step down in a manner that can best be described as an imposition is still very fresh.
In a January 6, 2022 interview with the Nigerian Television Authority NTA, the president stated clearly that he would not play the role of a kingmaker in the choice of his successor and any other elective office, just as he stated that he tried about three times to contest for President before he emerged, and so anyone that wants to become the next president should also work for it.
Barely a month ago, while fielding questions from journalists after observing the Eid-el-Fitr prayers in Abuja, the president equally said that he has no favourite candidate for the 2023 Presidential election. Instead, he said the one who would succeed him is ‘the person that Nigerians elect’.
Our understanding of this statement is that the Nigerian he referred to include members of the All Progressives Congress through direct or indirect process should also elect whoever they want to fly the flag of the party in the general elections.
One then wonders what has informed the change of position of the president on how his successor or any other elected official should emerge. If he is influenced by what is obtainable at the states where governors brazenly handpick aspirants at different elections, then it is imperative to remind the president that he is supposed to be the moral compass for us as members of the party and Nigerians as a whole. As the president and leader of the party, it is a moral responsibility that he sets examples for the governors and future elected leaders to emulate and not the other way round.
The best legacy President Muhammadu Buhari can leave for the APC and Nigeria as a whole is the legacy of a deeply entrenched democratic process where Nigerians can freely choose who represents them at whatever level in free, fair, credible and transparent processes. This legacy must manifest from the All Progressives Congress which prides itself as a party with progressives ideals different from the other stocks.
If the so called ‘established internal policies’ of succession in the party fulfils all democratic criteria, we would not be having as much crisis in the party as we have witnessed in recent times. As we speak, the ongoing primary elections of the party across the country which ought to have been concluded are still subject of infighting in a number of places. Is this the kind of legacy the president wants to leave behind?
As someone who came in through a free, fair and credibly contested democratic process in 2015 and also won re-election through the same process in 2019, the president must not only ensure that this standard is maintained, he must keep to his own words and advice as vividly expressed in the January 6 interview on the Nigeria Television Authority that the APC must conduct itself properly and ‘allow the system to work.
At this point in the life of the APC, winning the 2023 presidential election is equally as important as who flies the flag of the party in the election, especially if protecting the legacies that the Muhammadu Buhari led APC administration has put in place in the last 7 years is of great concern. What guarantees victory for many political parties is not just who the candidates are, but the process through which they emerge. If the process is flawed so much as to leave members disenchanted, you are already on your way to losing the election.
For the APC to avoid finding itself on this path, it must not make the mistake of forcing anyone on the party in whatever guise. The president is free and has the right to have his choice of candidate, but let everyone be made to test their popularity in the field so that representatives of the party in the form of delegates will choose who they deem to be the best, more qualified and popular to win us the 2023 presidential election.