Presidential primary: Buhari’s stance on successor splits APC

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From Wilfred Eya and Romanus Ugwu

A few days to the presidential primary of the All Progressives Congress (APC), indications have emerged that President Muhammadu Buhari’s bid to determine his successor has split the ranks of the ruling party and rattled the camps of various aspirants.

This comes as a meeting of the APC governors held in Abuja, yesterday, to deliberate on who to support as the party’s presidential aspirant ended without any resolution.

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The president had on Tuesday at a meeting with APC’s  22 governors and National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, appealed that he be accorded the privilege of picking his successor.

In what appeared like a task to the governors, the president  told them before traveling to Spain that he would expect reciprocity from his support to them in their choice of successors in their respective states. He urged them to work together to look for a successor that would carry on his vision for the country.

However when the governors met, yesterday, opinions were divided over the essence of their meeting as some of the governors expressed lack of hope in whatever choice they come up with. Those who argued this way said it looked like the president had his mind set on his choice and it would be waste of time coming up with any candidate for him.

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One of the governors was said to have said any choices presented to the president would amount you mere formality. It was gathered that after much deliberation, the governors said they would better pick two choices and submit their names to the president.

It was learnt that the governors agreed that they would suggest one person from the South and another from the North out of which the President would be asked to make his choice.

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However, multiple sources  told Daily Sun that the president’s stance has thrown the camps of most of presidential aspirants into confusion and also split the party.

It was also learnt that those opposed to the president have expressed the fear that what guarantees victory for political parties is not just who the candidates are,  but the process through which they emerge. And that if the process is flawed so much as to leave members disenchanted, the APC was already on its way to losing the election.

One of our sources said: “The camps of many aspirants have become jittery and currently in disarray over the president comments. From the body language of the president and his recent comment, the primaries would be a mere formality. He was clear that having produced their successors or having won their second terms for those who were only completing their first term that it was only fair for them also to allow him produce his successor. Many of the aspirants especially the frontline ones are already having sleepless nights especially when they recall what happened during the APC national chairmanship primaries.”

This comes as a group, APC National Stakeholders criticised the president’s plan and warned it would amount to imposition and foreclosure of chances for a free and fair contest at the primary.

Its convener, Aliyu Audu, at a press conference in Abuja, said while they recognise the inalienable rights of the President to be interested in whoever succeeds him, it was important that his desire does not negate the need to democratically elect a  candidate who reflects all the values and virtues of the party and has the potential to defeat the candidates of other political parties in the 2023 poll.

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“We say this because the memories of what transpired at the last national convention of the party where the president picked his choice for the position of the national chairman and literally forced the other aspirants to step down in a manner that can best be described as an imposition is still very fresh….If he is influenced by what is obtainable at the states where governors brazenly handpick aspirants at different elections, then it is imperative to remind the president that he is supposed to be the moral compass for us as members of the party and Nigerians as a whole. As the president and leader of the party, it is a moral responsibility that he set examples for the governors and future elected leaders to emulate and not the other way round.

“The best legacy president Buhari can leave for the APC and Nigeria as a whole is the legacy of a deeply entrenched democratic process where Nigerians can freely choose who represents them at whatever level in free, fair, credible and transparent processes.

“This legacy must manifest from the APC which prides itself as a party with progressives ideals different from the other stocks. If the so-called ‘established internal policies’ of succession in the party fulfils all democratic criteria, we would not be having as much crisis in the party as we have witnessed in recent times.”

Also, a member of the party’s National Working Committee (NWC), Salihu Moh Lukman, while rejecting Buhari’s appeal to the governors, described it as undemocratic.

In an open letter to the president titled: ‘Succession and 2023 APC presidential candidate’, Lukman enumerated the dangers and implications of taking such unilateral decision on the party.

He reminded Buhari on the need to replicate the process that ensured his emergence in 2015 in the selection of the party’s flag bearer for the 2023 poll.

The letter read: “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 1,000 delegates who eventually elected 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 4,000. 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.”

Meanwhile, Senate President, Ahmad Lawan,  and one of the presidential aspirants, asked the APC delegates to put monetary incentives aside and elect a standard bearer who does not have baggage.

In a letter addressed to APC delegates, yesterday, he said they should put the country first in their choice.

The senate president said the delegates should vote for him so he could become the presidential candidate of the ruling party and deliver good governance if elected.

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