The Guardian
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Not a time for succession distraction


It is curious that lately, the question of who succeeds the incumbent president fed the headlines of major news media in the country. Indeed, since the last general elections there have been sundry indicators in the polity that political actors have begun the race for 2023.

It has taken on four major directions so far. First is the debate of whether the incumbent will serve a third term despite constitutional provisions to the contrary and corresponding rebuttals from the presidency that such an agenda is not on the table. Two is the political activities of elements of the party who helped cobble together the All Progressives Congress (APC) in a historic alliance between the Southwest and the Fulani-led northern oligarchs who believe that the time for reward is nigh. In this regard, some are spreading posters and constituting committees for their overarching ambitions. Three is the messianic claim of being successor to the incumbent by some clerics.

Fourth is the ever-present issue of power rotation between the North and the South and the usual contestation over which section of the country should inherit the levers of power in 2023.

We note that these are inexorable and legitimate dynamics of politics and power. They ought to be normal in routinised power relations. But unfortunately, the governance structure in the country at present is not permissive of such luxury so early in the life of a government that is yet to register anything substantial in the minds of the people. Besides, the country is beset by sundry contradictions.


One, almost 60 years after, the country is yet to resolve its state structure and the call for restructuring is still at its loudest. Two, the economy is comatose, productivity is low and reward goes to the laid-back. To keep the economy afloat the country will need approximately over $7.2 billion for fiscal year 2020 and for capital project the government is unrealistically seeking $29.96 billion credit facility. Also, the country is contending with an unending insurgency in the Northeast amidst widespread insecurity across the country. So, this newspaper is persuaded that overcoming these problems should be the pre-occupation of any serious political elite. Paradoxically, the dominant power elite are self-centred while the interest of the country takes the back stage. This is the reason for the unpleasant echoes of succession politics. Nigerians elected a president to do the business of governance, solving the litany of problems highlighted above and not to get embroiled in the business of succession at this point. It has been a huge distraction. What is worse, for anyone to call on the president to choose a successor, is not only mischievous, diversionary, mortgaging of fair-play but an affront to the sensibility of Nigerians who have the definitive right to choose who to lead them. We call on President Muhammadu Buhari to focus on governance if his administration intends to leave any legacy behind.

Furthermore, and without ambiguity, we state here that in a democracy the parties are the engine room and it is their business to deal with the important question of elite recruitment. Political parties ideally should throw up candidates who are subsequently endorsed by the electorate, the repository of political sovereignty. As affirmed by the presidency, the question of who succeeds the incumbent in 2023 is best answered by Nigerians who will make the ultimate decision through the ballot. Truly, while the discursive space can shape would-be successors, it is certainly not the business of hallucinating prophets and pollsters. It is the people who will decide at the end of the day those who will lead them.

Leaders are interested in their successors for reasons of self-interest and continuity. Self-interest ranks high on the barometer of governance in these parts because of the preponderance of abuse of power, misapplication and misappropriation of state resources.

Correspondingly and often, incumbents desire to cover the tracks of their misdeeds while in office and circumvent the consequences. National creed settles the issue of continuity. Part of the reason why the country finds itself in this mess is the absence of a national creed.

Countries with national creed do not bother much about continuity because whoever takes over presumably will pursue the national creed and will be judged to the extent of compliance or deviation from it. Candidates who find their way in the realm of power are filtered through the discursive space and party machinery. Within the discursive space, candidates are often commended by leadership criteria, namely, charisma, knowledge, integrity, responsibility and ideological orientation.

In the context of our diversity and the recurring need for ethnic balancing there are other variables that determine succession. For example, the federal character principle in the 1999 Constitution as amended speaks to equity and justice in a complex multinational state that Nigeria is and which the current administration undermines daily. However, this cannot be ignored by anyone interested in peace and unity of the country. There is a lot to be done to make Nigeria livable and the Buhari administration should take heed and govern well, lest the masterminds of distraction and sycophants will take over the public space.


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