By Salihu Moh. Lukman
During the consultative meeting with Progressive Governors, on Tuesday, May 31, 2022, Your Excellency unambiguously conveyed the resolve to provide every needed leadership for our great party, APC, to remain strong and united to improve our electoral fortunes. Highlighting some of the internal policies, which allowed ‘first term Governors who have served credibly well …to stand for re-election’ and ‘second term Governors …accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions’, Your Excellency solicited for ‘reciprocity and support of Governors and other stakeholders in picking’ your 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.’
This simply means that you want to exercise the same privilege, which is being exercised by Governors in determining who succeeds you as the standard bearer of our party, APC, for the 2023 Presidential election. Ordinarily, this should not be a problem. Both party members and leaders will always trust Your Excellency’s judgement. However, the big worry is whether loyal party leaders and members should just reduce themselves to being ordinary observers when very sensitive issues with very high potential to diminish and damage Your Excellency’s revered status in the country is being considered. Noting that the current phenomena of poor relations between predecessors and successor governors are largely a product of poorly instituted political succession arrangement in the country, which is impulsive and imposing, it will be highly risky to adopt the same succession framework as it can erode all your lifelong achievements as someone who contribute a lot to strengthen Nigerian democracy.
Perhaps, it is important to emphasise that your contribution towards strengthening Nigerian democracy should not be reduced to your emergence as the elected President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2015. Your most important contribution has to do with the leadership role you played in facilitating the merger negotiations of opposition parties, which produced the All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2013 and eventually also providing the highly inspirationally measured leadership, which defeated the Peoples’ Democratic Party (PDP) in 2015. As President of the Federal Republic and leader of APC, you have continued to provide that measured leadership, which has been largely responsible for our electoral victories since 2015. More than anytime, at this point, when you will not be on the ballot in 2023, your measured leadership will be much more required to guarantee us sustained electoral victory.
Recalling the unfortunate third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo and how that eventually eroded all his achievements as a leader, it is necessary to caution against any transition initiative that risked being unpopular. Any initiative that potentially took 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 wholescale rigging mode such that elections results were announced even before counting processes were concluded. It was so bad that even late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua who was the main beneficiary had to acknowledge that it was a bad case.
Noting that today the PDP is more desperate now to return to power, our party must do everything possible to take the upper moral standing. Already, the PDP has oriented its 2023 campaigns based on lies and deceits. For instance, although it is very convenient for them to complain about the sharp divisions that exists in the country today and heap the blame on APC, by the way they went about nominating their Presidential candidate, they took Nigerians for granted and ignore every reality facing the country. Outside weeping every sentiment against the APC, they completely fail to outline any proposal in terms of how they want to unite Nigerians.
As a party, APC must be able to demonstrate much more sensitivity to the challenges of national unity by ensuring that the eventual standard bearer for the 2023 Presidential election embodies commitment to equity and justice as the underlying principles sustaining the corporate existence of Nigeria as a united country. This is not just about representation in terms of where the candidate comes from but mainly about the negotiation framework leading to the eventual selection of the candidate. In the case of the PDP, negotiation was limited to monetary transactions with the less than 1000 delegates who eventually elected Alh. Atiku Abubakar as the Presidential candidate of the PDP. With all the limitation imposed by the current Electoral Act, the delegates at the APC Convention who will be electing our Presidential candidate will not be less than 4000. For a party with more than 40 million members, this is a far cry and will be weak in terms of being democratically accountable in terms of decisions of delegates reflecting expectations party members. Once the choice of delegates correlates with expectations of over 40 million party members, invariably, it will most likely equate with the expectations of majority of Nigerians.
It is important therefore to caution our party that we must keep faith with basic tenets of democracy as our major campaign message to Nigerians for the 2023 elections. This was eloquently highlighted in Your Excellency’s message to our Progressive Governors when you stated that ‘the key to electoral successes is the ability to hold consultations and for members to put the nation above other interests.’ The temptation for leaders to choose their successors is democratically risky and very costly. If in 2013/2014, Your Excellency, could submit yourself to internal democratic process, it is important that your successor also follow the same process.
It may also be necessary to highlight that a major disadvantage with succession arrangement whereby Governors chose their successors is that it negatively affects relationship between the successor and the predecessor, which undermine capacity to influence actions or inactions of successors by their predecessors. Your Excellency, since the period of negotiating the merger that produce our party APC, I have been a proponent of ensuring that our party take every step to preserve our leaders who could exercise moral authority. This means that leaders who are highly respected on account of their standing in society should not hold elective or appointive positions. It was for that reason that I openly campaigned against your aspiration to emerge as the Presidential candidate of our party for 2015 election.
Sir, recall that one of my arguments was that as President, the capacity of party leaders to influence your decisions will be weak. Without going into details, Your Excellency, this has come to pass. The big fear is that combining both legal and moral authority, being our President, if you are to nominate your successor to what extent can other party leaders influence your decision? If party leaders are unable to influence your decision with respect to the choice of successor, what will be the guarantee that your choice can aggregate the expectations of Nigerians?
Your Excellency, I ask these questions without prejudice to the unflinching confidence of party members in terms of your personal disposition to make all sacrifices necessary and make the best decision for our party and our nation. Notwithstanding, however, there is the overriding requirement to appeal to you to kindly resist the temptation. I would have wished we have enough time for open debate within our party. Unfortunately, as things are, we have less than one week to settle this matter. Sadly also, combination of inherited reality, and perhaps vested interests of some party leaders, processes of internal debates around this matter are being impeded. Even meetings of NWC are not exploring these issues. Even logistical issues of organising the National Convention are being handled informally. And as far as our National Chairman, Sen. Abdullahi Adamu is concerned, relating with you and probably directly communicating positions of members of NWC, is his exclusive jurisdiction, which limits you to selective perspective that may only be self-serving to some party leaders.
Being a party, which came with the promise of change, how our leader can directly access the views of party members is important. At the risk of again being projected to be against some party leaders, I want to appeal to all party leaders to unite in showing restraint at this point of transition. I want to strongly appeal to Your Excellency to kindly continue to make every sacrifice necessary to provide measured leadership to our party and our nation. Your revered status was earned not by following so-called conventions, which have narrowed our democracy. You have always summoned the courage to initiate leadership responses that are selfless based on commitment to principles of justice and equity.
I am confident that Allah (SWT) will guide you into taking the right decisions that would broaden the democratic scope in APC, continue to endear our great party to Nigerians and facilitate our electoral victory in 2023. Like in the case of December 10, 2014 APC National Convention, everything will be done at the June 6, 2022 APC National Convention to guarantee level playing field for all aspiring Presidential candidates of our party. Any recommendation to the contrary will be inimical and injurious to the electoral fortunes of our great party, APC.
May God protect our democracy and bless our nation, Nigeria. Amin!
● Lukman writes from Wuse,Abuja