Lagos and Abuja — National Vice Chairman, North West, of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Dr. Salihu Lukman, yesterday, warned that the decision by President Muhammadu Buhari to choose his successor would be inimical to the electoral fortune of the party.
He said anything short of giving all the presidential aspirants a level playing field at the June 6 convention holding in Abuja might spell doom for the party in the 2023 elections.
But another chieftain of the party and senator representing Bauchi North Senatorial District, Adamu Bulkachuwa, has said the president’s choice of a consensus candidate was democratic, and would further unite all party members.
Lukman, in a statement titled: “Succession and 2023 APC Presidential Candidate: Open Letter to President Muhammadu Buhari” added further that the decision by the president could damage his reputation.
“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.
“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 a 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,” he said.
The National Working Committee (NWC) member stated categorically that Buhari’s contribution towards strengthening Nigeria’s democracy should not be reduced to his emergence as the elected President in 2015, but that his contribution has to do with the leadership role he played in facilitating the merger negotiations of opposition parties, which produced the APC in 2013.
More than anytime, Lukman said at this point, when Buhari would not be on the ballot in 2023, his measured leadership would be much more required to guarantee the ruling party sustained electoral victory.
He recalled that the unfortunate third term agenda of former President Olusegun Obasanjo eroded all his achievements as a leader, adding that it was necessary to caution against any transition initiative that risked being unpopular.
According to him, “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 election results were announced even before counting processes were concluded. It was so bad that even the late President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua, who was the main beneficiary had to acknowledge that it was a bad case.”
The party chieftain said APC must be able to demonstrate much more sensitivity to the challenges of national unity by ensuring that the eventual standard bearer of the party 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.
He emphasised that the temptation for leaders to choose their successors was democratically risky and very costly, adding that, if in 2013/2014, Buhari submitted himself to internal democratic process, it was important that his successor also follows the same process.
Lukman, therefore, urged Buhari to resist the temptation, even as he lamented that with a few days to the party’s convention, vested interests of some party leaders, processes of internal debates around the matter were being impeded, while meetings of NWC were not exploring the issues.
But Bulkachuwa, on his part, insisted that the position of Buhari over consensus candidate was only fair as he gave the governors a free hand to choose their successors in their respective states, insisting also that the governors should not interfere with the choice of Buhari’s successor.
Speaking on the Morning Show of ARISE NEWS Channels, Bulkachuwa maintained that Buhari had pending programmes, which he started in 2015 and would last till after his administration.
“It is only sensible that Mr. President be allowed to choose somebody he believes would continue with what he has started already. It is also too early to ask who he has in mind, as in a few days, we’ll all know who the person will be.
“I believe he is right in asking governors of the party to allow him to choose his successor, which means that he wants to have a consensus candidate. We have seen what happened with the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and now they are busy trying to mend fences between the aspirants and we should avoid such mistakes in the APC,” he said.
Speaking, also, the Director General, Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, said the President’s move wasn’t dictatorial as insinuated by some section of the public.
Okechukwu, who was also a guest on the Morning Show on ARISE NEWS Channels, further explained the process could be likened to a democratic consultation as Buhari has been consulting with different stakeholders.
He said the president’s choice was also targeted at saving the naira, because if there was dollar rain, where there were about 731 delegates, what would happen where there were 2, 322 delegates, could only be imagined as the naira would be completely battered.
He, however, promised to talk to the president to bring onboard somebody, who has electoral value and possibly recognizes the rotation convention.
“Mr. President is simply taking the interest of the country and the APC at heart. We cannot put aside the agitation coming from the southern part of the country, who are insisting it is their turn to produce the next president for equity, harmony and good conscience, which is the corporate interest of Nigeria,” he said.