By Ochereome Nnanna
PRESIDENT Muhammadu Buhari’s handling of the presidential primaries of the All Progressives Congress, APC, is a military tactic of creating confusion to achieve a short-term goal. This is unlike the “direct attack” methods used by his predecessors.
Since 1999, two departing leaders have handed over power to their preferred successors. In 1999, General Abdulsalami Abubakar had chosen General Olusegun Obasanjo to succeed him. He enlisted the support of Northern leaders for this purpose.
He also forced Northern presidential aspirants off the race. Picking Obasanjo from jail and railroading him through the nascent Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, ensured that the Ota chicken farmer got elected though he had no prior electoral clout.
When Obasanjo finished his eight-year tenure, he also picked Governor Umaru Yar’Adua, who was already going back to his job as a Chemistry lecturer. Obasanjo also ensured that ailing Yar’Adua, who had very little national appeal, still won the 2007 presidential election by a landslide. President Goodluck Jonathan did not qualify to look for a successor.
Buhari is the third president who is privileged to choose a successor, having exhausted his constitutional terms. In January 2022, he performed a doublespeak on the issue when he said: “I don’t have any favourite for 2023 and if I do, I won’t reveal his identity because if I do, he may be eliminated before the election. I better keep it secret”. Most Nigerians read this to mean he had a preferred candidate.
He came out clearer on Tuesday last week when he told APC Governors to allow him to choose his successor. Instead of naming the lucky fellow, Buhari waited till Monday, June 6, the eve of the three-day convention, to dribble his fellow party leaders. He told the APC Governors that he had “no preferred candidate”, had “anointed no one”, and “there shall be no imposition of any candidate in the party”.
Buhari sounded too good to be believed. This apostle of “consensus” who literally rammed his preferred candidate for National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, down the throats of the party members, was now sounding like a genuine democrat. Shortly after the meeting, however, Adamu told the National Working Committee, NWC, that Senate President, Ahmed Lawan, was Buhari’s preferred candidate.
The import of this was that Buhari did have a preferred candidate, but all aspirants still had to contest for the delegates’ votes. I believed Adamu that Lawan was Buhari’s chosen candidate. Lawan is an old Buhari acolyte. They were together in the Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, which Buhari formed and brought into the APC. Buhari was instrumental in making Lawan the Senate President. In return, Lawan has been a very willing pro-Buhari “rubberstamp” leader of the National Assembly.
Of all the party’s aspirants, Lawan, who has Kanuri and Fulani blood, is the only candidate who can continue Buhari’s pet Fulanisation and Islamisation agenda as president. In choosing Lawan, Buhari has continued his extreme nepotism even to the extent of choosing a Northerner and Kanuri/Fulani to succeed him.
That makes the ongoing APC convention all the more tension-soaked. Going into this exercise, Bola Tinubu is on paper the front runner. His fear that a consensus candidate would be propped up to shunt him aside has been assuaged. As the delegates prepared for the marathon convention, the question was whether Tinubu could still leverage on his seemingly limitless financial war chest to win. Or would the APC Governors wilt under Buhari’s intimidating stare and ask their delegates to vote for his choice, Lawan?
Can the 13 APC Northern Governors insisting that power should return to the South stand their ground in defence of the unity of Nigeria as they earlier claimed? If that happens, that will be the wonder of the new millennium! It will be an act of sacrificial patriotism never witnessed before.
You may wonder: why did Buhari settle for a “Maradona” approach in choosing his successor unlike his predecessors who were gung-ho about theirs? The answer is that his predecessors were in total control of their governments and parties until they handed over. In Buhari’s case, he has lost control of pretty much everything as a leader.
As a party leader, Buhari has never really led the APC. He has failed to unite the factions that bonded to give him victory in 2015. He has not even bothered to make the effort. In his distribution of the spoils of victory, his CPC cronies have fed fat off the milk and honey of Nigeria, with Tinubu’s Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, collecting the crumbs. The nPDP which helped swing victory for him left because they got nothing.
Tinubu and his minions have trenchantly supported Buhari. They have endured many humiliations, including the killings in Yorubaland by people suspected to be from the North. They have borne all manner of unfriendliness from Buhari and his kinsmen because of the hope that after Buhari, it will be the turn of the South-West. They had believed with all their heart that the North- West and South-West will continue to leverage on their perceived “population advantages” to rotate power between them to the exclusion of the South-East.
Buhari had to settle for a hide-and-seek approach to keep the party together long enough for his preferred candidate to emerge. What happens to the APC thereafter is something we wait to see. Personally, I hope the APC disintegrates. APC has brought sorrows, tears and blood to Nigerians. Indeed, the blood of dog and baboon have mixed as predicted in 2012. It will be a great tragedy for another president to emerge from this party after Buhari’s eight-year nightmarish rule.
If the APC falls apart, good for Nigeria!