As Buhari lights up Nigeria – Punch Newspapers

When Nigeria goes to vote in the presidential elections on February 25, 2023, it will be the first presidential election in 20 years in which Muhammadu Buhari will not be on the ballot. He will be time-limited after serving the two terms allowed by the Constitution following three previous failed attempts from 2003 to 2011.

The nominating conventions of Nigeria’s major political parties have now concluded with clarity as to who will compete to become Nigeria’s 16e Head of State succeeding Muhammadu Buhari. Against former Vice President Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples’ Democratic Party, the ruling All Progressives Congress will field former Lagos State Governor Bola Ahmed Tinubu. They will be the first two candidates.

Azubike Ishiekwene described the story of the APC candidate’s choice as a chronicle of Buhari’s mastery of “strategic ambivalence”. There is little evidence to support the existence of such strategic sorcery.

On the eve of the scheduled start of the convention, 11 governors of northern Nigerian states all on the APC platform issued a joint position affirming that “the search for a successor as the APC presidential candidate shall be limited to our compatriots in the southern states”. In the same statement, they called on “all Northern state aspirants to stand down in the national interest and allow only Southern aspirants to advance to the primary.” This was a big deal because governors collectively determine who wins the party’s nomination for president through their control of delegates from their various states.

Of the 23 candidates for the ruling party’s nomination for president, only Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa); Yahaya Bello (Kogi); Ahmad Lawan (Yobe); and Sani Yerima (Zamfara) were from the North.

Moments after the release of this statement, reports leaked that President Buhari had also endorsed the position of the northern governors. It seemed a logical next step after the president informed his party the previous week that he wanted to be granted the privilege of nominating his successor to lead the party in next year’s elections. There was an important point of difference between the position of the northern governors and that of the president: while the governors urged all aspiring northerners to abandon their ambitions and step down, the president chose to remain silent about it. .

Oddly enough, after informing the party of his desire to anoint a candidate to succeed him, President Buhari hopped on the presidential jet and quickly flew to Ibiza for three days. Returning from Spain just three days before the Convention, the President again flew to Ghana. He couldn’t spare the time or attention needed to get the result he wanted. There was no strategic genius there. Rather, it has stoked the political vacuum that northern governors have been only too happy to seize.

Alongside his reported endorsement of the rotation of power to the south, the Avant-garde The newspaper reported a claim by a senior northern politician and former Nigerian foreign minister, Sule Lamido, that President Buhari was aware of a scheme that would lead to the emergence of Senate Speaker Ahmad Lawan. , and former Transport Minister Rotimi Amaechi as the APC presidential ticket. This seemed strange because Lawan, unlike this position, is from the North.

On the same day, Lawan paid a high-profile visit to another of the APC presidential aspirants and Governor of Ebonyi State, David Umahi, after which they reportedly reached a mutual support agreement in the race for the ticket. left. At that time, in light of the Northern Governors’ announcement, Dr. Lawan should have presented his withdrawal from the race and not garnered endorsements from other competitors.

It should have been obvious that in politics there is no coincidence.

In the early afternoon of the following day, Monday June 6, party chairman Adamu Abdullahi reportedly told a stunned National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC that their consensus presidential candidate would be Dr Lawan and that all hell seemed to break loose.

First, the 11 northern governors quickly pushed back against this announcement, reaffirming their position on moving the ticket south. Then, a senior NWC member disavowed the announcement, saying it didn’t come from them. Quickly, on behalf of the President, a statement was scrambled to say he had no preferred candidate and saying he was determined to see that there was no imposition of any candidate on the party.

Notably, Garba Shehu, the alternate presidential spokesman who issued this statement, was not present for the frantic consultations among party leaders on the subject. The statement also explicitly contradicts the position, first announced by the president in a high-profile interview in January 2022, that he had a preferred successor.

It was hard to know what to believe — the statement issued on the president’s behalf or the very words he said himself. In the end, the world waited in vain for Buhari to reveal his successor or mobilize his plan behind such a person.

None of this reveals a mastery of strategic ambivalence. Instead, the journey to the APC Convention produced the kind of orchestrated confusion that characterized the past seven years of this second Buhari misadventure. It is not the first time in the contemporary history of Nigeria’s political transition that a president of military background seems to lose his temper when he needs to keep it.

It seems inconceivable that Abdullahi Adamu, a seasoned politician who had served eight years as state governor and two terms in the Senate before becoming party chairman this year installed single-handedly at the behest of the president, has become a rogue at all by nominating himself a candidate “by consensus” without the knowledge or without the approval of the president. Indeed, the mere suggestion of the idea that he did not know hurts Buhari much more than an acknowledgment of what he did know.

It seems more plausible that what happened was that the president, having authorized or asked Mr. Adamu to make the announcement, quickly threw him under the bus when it became apparent that he was probably under -estimated the backfire that followed.

Such a pattern would be very much in keeping with the narrow and nepotistic perspective that defined the Buhari years. A look at the underlying fundamentals of the Nigerian trajectory highlights the logics that may fuel a reluctance on the part of the North within the APC to cede power.

The violence has destroyed the social capital, enterprise and innovation in the region that produced most of Nigeria’s leaders, to the point that its elite sees its own survival only in terms of seizing power at the center from which it can redistribute income obtained mainly from the south. in order to buy or postpone more violence from an impoverished underclass. But to maintain this would require an internal colonial arrangement that could jeopardize the Nigerian enterprise beyond a point of no return.

The alternative to gaslighting the country in this way was to light the party.

The consequence was a nasty demolition derby of a party primary whose outcome was settled in favor of the only bidder who could afford the bullion vans to buy the entire value chain of delegates, from the political factory to the wholesale and retail logistics. When the ruling party convention started in Abuja, all the foreign currency notes in the federal capital dried up in the banks and the Currency exchange officeending up in hotel rooms and the wallets of party officials and delegates.

The contestants included “one sitting vice president, one sitting senate president, five current governors, five ex-governors, one ex-senate president” and four ex-ministers. As it happens, Buhari was forced by his own cynical ineptitude to become a spectator in the theater of his own succession within the party. He did not bear witness to a legacy worth fighting for.

The result was a hostile takeover of the party by a co-founder driven to extreme distraction by his own exclusion from the fortunes of the party he built.

It will be time to assess the ensuing contest landscape, but what emerges is clear. The two largest parties split along regional lines with the emergence of Rabiu Kwankwaso’s New Nigeria Peoples Party in the North West and Peter Obi’s Labor Party platform in the South East. They could become kingmakers.

This formation ensures that General Buhari, the man who promised improved security and coexistence in 2015, will lead Nigeria to perhaps its first centrifugal elections since independence. It is a sad comment on this misadventure of Buhari that the contest to replace him may become one in which the country will vote on whether or not they should stay together.

Odinkalu, lawyer and teacher, can be reached at [email protected]

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