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Editorial

APC Primary: Mr President, Let Democratic Ideals Determine Your Successor

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The glaring difficulty President Muhammadu Buhari and his ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are having in picking the standard-bearer of the party in next year’s presidential election is a telling epitaph of how the country has been run these seven years. It eloquently summarizes what is at the heart of the malaise plaguing the government at the center. The same tardiness that made the government take over six months to assemble an underwhelming cabinet in 2015 seems to be at play here. How can a party whose forms are the most expensive not diligently be about its business and treat same with dispatch? Even after reportedly getting INEC to extend the “fixed and firm” June 3 deadline for the conduct of political parties primaries, APC is still at sea as to how or who to pick among its cleared presidential aspirants, despite spying on its neighbour, the PDP.

It was therefore heartwarming that the party was able to pull off its screening of its overcrowded presidential battlefield, pruning the number from 23 to 13. But with the chairman of the screening panel, John Odigie-Oyegun, disclosing that only youthful aspirants made the list of cleared aspirants, we hope that this won’t create further upheaval in the polity, particularly as a leading aspirant in the party yesterday indicated that he truly means to fight dirty in his quest to actualize a lifetime ambition.

The quandary, in which the APC currently finds itself, was long foretold and the party had all the time to put its house in order now it seems the chicken has come home to roost. It beggars belief that there was no succession plan all this while. Unfortunately, whatever ails the party in power ails Nigeria, hence this editorial. On Tuesday, President Buhari told the 22 governors serving on the platform of the party to allow him to choose his successor on the basis that he allowed first-term governors to get a return ticket while those serving out their tenure were allowed to impose a successor. Naija News cannot but wonder where lies the interest of the electorate in these subversive acts of impositions.

The official report was that the President merely asked members of the Progressive Governors Forum to put heads together and produce a widely acceptable candidate that can guarantee victory at the polls for the party. However, what caught everyone’s attention was the President being quoted as telling the governors, “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 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023… first term Governors who have served credibly well have been encouraged to stand for re-election. Similarly, second term Governors have been accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions as well as the ideals of the party.”

This statement is less than noble and shouldn’t be coming from the President, and is condemnable on all fronts. Little wonder, it wasn’t part of the statement initially issued by Buhari’s media adviser, Femi Adesina. The umbrage it has so far generated is very much in order. Conscientious citizens have every reason to be worried that Buhari used “successor” when he should be talking about “APC flag bearer”. This was a Freudian slip that throws up the concern that Buhari is looking beyond commandeering his party into imposing his anointed candidate on the nation. Here’s a President who takes no prisoner. It can be recalled that when asked what he will do if the 2019 election didn’t go his way, Buhari said he will congratulate himself because he was not going to lose the poll. It’s quite unfortunate that such rhetoric is being reiterated by the President ahead of the 2023 election.

Mixed messaging is what Nigerians have been getting from the President whenever he is being asked about his likely successor. In an interview on Channels Television in January 2022, the president said he does not care about who succeeds him. Buhari in his own words: “2023 is not my problem, I don’t care who succeeds me; let the person come, whoever the person is. The important thing is, I make sure I put them on record. Nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in court, otherwise, whoever it is will be in trouble”. In another breath, he admitted having a preferred successor, but opted to keep the identity of the person close to his chest in order not to put him in harm’s way. “It is (a) secret. No, I wouldn’t say (the name of the person) because he may be eliminated if I mention it. I better keep it”. How the President moved from not caring about who succeeds him in 2023 to have a preferred candidate is at the root of the prevarication and intrigues besieging the APC. Perhaps, the President does not care about who succeeds him, so long as it is not a particular aspirant.

Naija News finds it very disturbing that governance has been reduced to this base level. One can only imagine the price Nigeria pays for this unnecessary distraction that those in charge of the affairs of the country have walked themselves into. If only the attention and resources given to politicking in the country had been better prioritized, students of public universities won’t be vegetating at home for over 105 days now with their future put on hold! It’s regrettable that politicians have now shed every pretense about placing their narrow interest over the public good. If they still want the people to think they matter in the scheme of things, Buhari won’t be asking to be allowed to produce his successor because he allowed governors to return themselves or impose whoever they wanted on their states. What then is the essence of expending billions of naira on the conduct of general elections? Why then should citizens be subjected to the stress of queuing to vote or suffering the inconvenient restriction of movement imposed on election day?

No, Mr. President, the fate and future of 200 million Nigerians is too consequential to be decided by you. There is a reason why popular participation is the holy grail of democracy. The people, not you, should decide their President. It is scandalous for you to talk about allowing state governors to circumvent the right of the people to choose their leaders. We don’t want you suffering the same regret and heartbreak suffered by your predecessor and retiring governors who went all out in installing who they supposed to be stooge as successor.

As the APC presidential primary holds on Monday, Naija News demands a democratic and peaceful process. Delegates rather than the powers-that-be must be allowed to present the Nigerian electorate with the right candidate to be considered as the next President of the Federal Republic. The latitude to disqualify as many as 10 aspirants should be enough for forces out to abbreviate the rights of Nigerians. Naija News also calls on the APC delegates to vote their conscience and not sacrifice the country for a mess of pottage.

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