In days preceding the last Special Convention of the ruling APC, President Muhammadu Buhari made a plea to the Party’s stakeholders that he should be allowed to choose his successor.
Events which followed suggests that the APC Governors’ Forum and indeed other critical stakeholders in APC did not agree with the President. Democracy is about free choice. It is about giving people opportunities to choose their leaders without hindrance.
By asking other key stakeholders to allow him to anoint a successor President Buhari attempted to take away the educative value of democracy to the citizens. There is no better way of educating citizens than giving them the opportunity to participate directly in the selection of their representatives.
It is believed that a credible election of leaders remains a salient indicator of democratic consolidation and peaceful means of changing governments. Public office is not the property of the incumbent. It belongs to the citizens who should be able to reclaim it in an orderly and peaceful way.
Selections of flag bearers play a significant role in deepening democracy; it enables the governed to decide who governs them. If Mr President was allowed to produce his successor, he would have disenfranchised thousands of party members.
The gumption behind Mr President’s request was eloquently expressed by President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda when he said: ‘I’m not ready to hand over power to people or groups of people who have no ability to manage a nation…why should I sentence Ugandans to suicide by handling over power to people we fought and defeated? This viewpoint is a direct onslaught on democracy as it seeks to undermine the national Constitution.
This might be why most African democracies are perceived as civil rule not democracies. Without mincing words, the request of Mr President is undemocratic and an antithesis to enshrining and strengthening democracy in the country. Therefore, the refusal of the key stakeholders to grant him this request is a commendable gesture. We also commend the APC Governors for pushing for power shift to the South.
Their insistence on the conduct of primary election has fortified the Party’s internal democracy by allowing party members to select the flag bearer. Mr President, too despite the error of judgement in his quest for support to appoint a successor, must be commended for capitulating.
Sadly, avoidable damage has been inflicted on the personal integrity of the President and the unity within the party. First, the assertion by Mr President that he belongs to no one and belongs to all is now seriously being questioned despite his denial that he had no preferred candidate.
The question is if he had no preferred candidate why did he ask for permission to anoint a one 48 hours to the Convention? Was he planning to scan the horizon and come up with one within 24 hours? We do not know who Mr President’s preferred successor was.
If it was not Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the path ahead could be turbulent for the Party’s cohesiveness. The thinking of Tinubu followers will be that their leader emerged despite an attempt to exclude him. Such a mindset could affect the campaign and the personal relationship between Tinubu and Mr President.
At the Party level, the allegation that the Party Chairman Senator Abdullahi Adamu unilaterally announced a consensus candidate will leave a sore in the relationship between the party echelon, the candidate, and his followers.
It is on record that Senator Adamu was the immediate Chair of the APC Reconciliation Committee and Tinubu refused to meet with his team despite several efforts during that assignment leading to gossip within the party that there was no love lost between the two of them. It is now time for all stakeholders to unite and reduce tension within the Party that usually spills into other spheres of our national life.
To conclude we need to remind our political leadership that a democratic system must involve the following: regular elections, open decision-making process, right to vote and be voted for, respect for basic human rights, presence of a vibrant civil society, open competition for political power through viable political parties, freedom of association, separation of power, and the rule of law.
A well-established democratic system must consist of the above elements. The strength of the idea of democracy lies in the principle of people’s participation in governance.