The road to the special convention of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to elect its presidential candidate was tinged with hazy permutations, melodrama and political machinations. Pundits and party chieftains point to one direction for the heightened drama: President Muhammadu Buhari.
The development aggravated the tension ahead of the convention as various interest groups used the president’s silence to intensify horse-trading and peddle the name of the president to sell the candidature of their preferred aspirants.
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Daily Trust reports that the battle to succeed President Buhari had been fierce and tension-soaked in the ruling party. From the 23 aspirants who were screened by the John Oyegun-led screening committee, the electioneering had been breath-taking as members of the party studied the body language of Buhari who once said he had a preferred successor but failed to name him.
Up to the last minute of the electioneering, the president kept members of the party guessing on his preferred successor, with different contradictory statements; saying at one time that he had a preferred candidate and at another recanting the claim on his successor.
So many chieftains of the party were apprehensive over the president’s indecision amidst speculations that he might want to have his way.
He did that during the race for the chairmanship of the party. He settled for Senator Abdullahi Adamu at the eleventh hour amidst grumbling from party stakeholders, including the governors of the party. But he had his way. Adamu emerged as the consensus candidate and was eventually affirmed at the convention held on March 26.
But while many aspirants were banking on the president’s endorsement to win, pundits said that pasture was a miscalculation as the president was not known to put a spirited fight for anyone.
As far back as January this year, Buhari granted an interview to Channels Television where he hinted that he had a favourite to succeed him but he would not reveal the name.
He said he was “open to the emergence of anyone,” but later, when pressed, added that he had one person in mind but he would not name him so that he would not be eliminated.
Pressed on whether he had any favourite in the APC, he added: “No. I wouldn’t because the person could be eliminated if I mention it. I better keep it secret.”
‘I am not interested in my successor’
Earlier in the interview, Buhari said: “I am not interested in who becomes the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) as I am open to the emergence of anyone.
“No. Let him come, whoever it is. The only important thing (is) I made sure that on record, nobody should ask me to come and give any evidence in any court.
“Otherwise, whoever it is, he will be in trouble. Because all the important things are on record. I made sure about that. Important issues are all on record.”
‘Allow me to choose my successor’
Days after the conduct of party primaries for other elective positions in 2023, the president met the party’s governors under the aegis of the Progressive Governors’ Forum (PGF), urging them to allow him to pick his successor.
Buhari at the meeting on Tuesday May 31, stated that state governors were given the opportunity to pick their successor, so they should also allow him to do the same at the federal level.
Buhari said, “In keeping with the established internal policies of the party and as we approach the convention in a few days, therefore, 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.
“We gave governors re-election tickets or opportunity to pick their successors; allow me pick my successor.”
Adamu unveils Ahmed Lawan as Buhari’s successor
The APC national chairman on Monday flew a kite when he announced Senate President Lawan as the consensus candidate endorsed by President Buhari. The announcement was greeted with a flurry of angry reactions, especially from the camp of 13 other aspirants in the race.
His announcement came after governors of the party from the North backed power shift to the South.
Buhari counters Adamu, says delegates to decide his successor
However, the kite failed to fly anywhere as the president, through a statement from Presidential spokesman Garba Shehu countered the national chairman, saying Buhari had not anointed anyone as his preferred candidate.
Shehu expressed the president’s determination to ensure that “there shall be no imposition of any candidate on the party.”
He quoted Buhari as speaking during a meeting with the governors at the State House, Abuja, saying the party is important and its members must be respected and made to feel they are important.
The president said he had a clear mind about what he was doing and asked the APC governors to feel the same. “You were elected as I was. Have a clear mind as I have. God gave us the chance; we have no reason to complain. We must be ready to take pain as we take the joy. Allow the delegates to decide. The party must participate, nobody will appoint anybody,” he said.
As of press time, it was not clear if the president would walk his talk by allowing a free and fair contest spearheaded by the 2,203 delegates who have converged on the FCT in the past 48 hours to exercise their franchise even as analysts say Buhari’s indecision has aggravated the tension in the build-up to the primaries.
A public affairs analyst and political scientist, Gbade Ojo said, “All eyes being on Mr President is making him a dictator. In a democracy, Mr President doesn’t have to dictate who should be his successor.”
According to him, if the president’s favourite is not the preference of majority of the party’s members, the person might suffer legitimacy crisis.