Nigeria: Buhari’s failure to prepare his succession


Much to the amazement of onlookers like this writer (who are not accustomed to politicians being selfless), 11 (mostly Muslim) Northern guvs-- maybe presuming Buhari of wanting to enforce a fellow Northern Muslim flagbearer-- demanded, in writing, that APC's 2023 candidate be a Southerner.

Zoning-- power rotation and job-sharing based upon geographical considerations-- is a huge deal in Nigeria at both state and federal levels. And the governors’  headline-grabbing declaration was, they stated, motivated by a desire to be honourable and patriotic and to "maintain a principle in the interest of developing a stronger, more united and more progressive nation."

They may have added that Buhari's government is very unpopular, that Peter Obi, the most popular opposition politician from the South, is becoming significantly popular which any attempt to perpetuate Northern supremacy-- which is commonly regarded as being mainly responsible for the nation's numerous ills-- is most likely to cause a definite electoral defeat.

' Consensus prospect'

Party Chairman Abdulahi Adamu, a staunch Buhari acolyte, was clearly not reading the space perceptively when he attempted, a number of days after the governors’ weekend intervention and the day prior to the APC Convention, to foist another Northern Muslim (the obedient Senate President Ahmed Lawan) as a "consensus candidate" on associates who were demanding change.

An outraged chorus of disapproval occurred.

The governors quickly disowned Adamu while Buhari entered into full-blown possible deniability mode and quickly distanced himself from Adamu's audacious statement, claiming that the Lawan selection wasn't his concept.

It was apparent that Adamu wouldn't have actually dared fly such a controversial kite without consent from his principal. No one questioned for one nanosecond that Adamu was acting out a script that they had drafted together.

This inability to effectively set up a political baby and beneficiary will definitely go down in history as one of the most made a mess of political gambits Nigeria has ever seen.

However Buhari is famous for disingenuous aloofness when difficulty looms and for not standing by besieged subordinates; and he surprised no one when he strolled off to an overseas task, leaving Adamu to bring the can alone.

At the end of the day, Lawan only got 8% of votes cast by primaries delegates; and Buhari had to grit his teeth and see Tinubu, an APC grandee and his least favourite major aspirant-- triumph and achieve a landslide triumph.

' Massive humiliation'

This inability to successfully set up a political son and successor will definitely go down in history as one of the most mishandled political gambits Nigeria has ever seen.

" This enormous embarrassment would never ever have occurred to any of his predecessors!" says Dotun, a Tinubu fan and APC member I talked to.

So why did it happen to Buhari in a nation where democracy is mostly theoretical and presidents wield huge clout, ruthlessly control their parties and rarely lose essential battles of wills?

Some of Buhari's supporters-- a threatened species, it needs to be said!-- have tried to put a positive spin on his failure.

According to a tweet from Festus Keyamo, the minister of state for labour and work, Buhari does not have the dictatorial tendencies of ex-President Olusegun Obasanjo (who freely warded off those he did not like by any means needed while claiming to completely appreciate the rule of law) and has "provided for the world to see a total transparent process to choose a possible successor; no IMPOSITION; NO INTERFERENCE; who's the democrat now?"

Others ask to vary and see persistent ineptitude where Keyamo sees virtue.

Reno Omokiri is a legal representative who worked for the former President Goodluck Jonathan. He frequently rails against those who believed Buhari would do better and has noted contests in which people linked to the president performed poorly:

" Buhari is not politically smart sufficient to anoint his follower. Take a look at what took place in his own state [Katsina] His nephews were beat in the APC primaries. His in-law was roundly trounced in Kaduna. In Kano, his aides were defeated. And in 2023, his candidate will be defeated by Nigerians!"

Other than that Buhari's prospect has actually been kicked into touch by Tinubu, who can fairly be described as the candidate the APC troubled its leader.

A force of nature

My view is that a man who overcame a president, vice-president (also ran, Professor Yemi Osinbajo) and a senate president is a force of nature.

Tinubu consistently collected a seemingly endless war chest, developed a big nationwide fan club and forensically strategised. Avoiding him from participating in the APC Convention was just way he might have been stopped.

Buhari did not have the balls or insight to use the tools he had at his disposal-- the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, for instance-- to take Tinubu down before a Convention that was primarily occupied by people who wanted to crown him.

Embracing Tinubu as his Chosen One was the only other way in which Buhari-- who lost election after election till Tinubu tossed his significant weight behind him and handed most of the SouthWest geopolitical zone to him on a platter of gold-- might have been successful in selecting his own successor.

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