President Muhammadu Buhari dropped the hint few months ago. During a live television interview, he told the nation that he had a preferred presidential candidate, although he did not disclose his identity.
Also, few weeks ago, his media adviser, Femi Adesina, confirmed that his boss will anoint an aspirant, stressing that he has the right to endorse in his capacity as a Nigerian, politician and leader.
Yesterday, the president indicated that he was ready to unveil his candidate for next year’s election.
However, he is seeking collaboration with party stakeholders to ensure a smooth selection.
In searching for a successor or trying to anoint a candidate, it appears the president is taking into consideration three issues. The first is the public mood. Thus, he wishes to uphold national interest.
The second is the mood of the party because it is the platform that will field the aspirant as standard bearer.
The third is comparative analysis of the opposition candidate and flagbearer of the ruling party. The president wants his party to retain power. Therefore, he is locked in introspection. He wants to encourage APC to throw up a popular candidate who can win election.
These challenges stare President Buhari and the party in the face, six days to the presidential primary scheduled for Eagle Square, Abuja.
After the consultation with the governors, they too decided to brainstorm on the speech.
Ahead of nominations for 2023 polls, the National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, had declared that APC governors should call the shots as leaders of state chapters. The governors anointed their successors and endorsed most of the parliamentary candidates in their respective states.
The President noted that “the party has successfully established internal policies that promote continuity and smooth succession plans.”
He pointed out that “first term governors who have served credibly well have been encouraged to stand for re-election. Similarly, second term governors have been accorded the privilege of promoting successors that are capable of driving their visions as well as the ideals of the party.”
Some of them also picked tickets to contest for the Senate.
Urging APC to replicate the procedure at the presidential primary, the president pleaded that the outcome of the primary should reflect the changing dynamics of public expectation and the positive quality of the APC regarding democratic principles.
In particular, the president emphasised that the candidate should be someone who would give the Nigerian masses a sense of victory and confidence, even before the elections.
In keeping with what he has affirmed as the established internal policies of the party, President Buhari solicited what he described as “the reciprocity and support of the governors and other stakeholders” in picking his successor, who would fly the presidential flag.
To build support for the proposal, he promised to sustain the consultation involving all aspirants and stakeholders up to the day of convention.
The President has anticipated the tension likely to be unleashed by his course of action. Therefore, he said that consultation is critical to the diffusion of “anxiety occasioned by different factors.”
Stakeholders and other observers have been dissecting the President’s speech to the governors.
Since last week, attention has shifted to the APC, following the transparent, democratic and substantially free and fair primary that threw up former Vice President Atiku Abubakar as candidate. Majority of party members look forward to a similar seamless process at the coming APC convention.
As the leader of the party, President Buhari is soliciting for unity. This is very essential. To that extent, he is objective. A divided party cannot win election. A fractured party will be overrun by the opposing party that is more cohesive. That happened to the PDP in 2014/2015 when it was decimated and weakened by intra-party squabbles.
The president also laid out the criteria that the APC candidate should possess. He said he should be one that is generally accepted and can win the 2023 election. Therefore, he is realistic.
The choice, he said, should elicit optimism in the party’s rank and file . This is of utmost importance as the PDP has picked a candidate it believes can lead it to victory.
Should the President’s preferred candidate fall below expectation, it will be difficult to sell him to the electorate. The consequence is that the candidate will be rejected by voters.
The president also spoke about the need for the APC to pick a thorough-bred party man. His prescription is also difficult to fault. The choice must be one who symbolises the party’s virtues; someone who had toiled and sweated for the party to be the formidable force that it is today.
The implication is that the aspirant should be a co-party founder and joint builder, and an aspirant who has mass appeal.
The president specifically called on the governors and other stakeholders to join him to ensure that the process of choosing his successor is rancour- free.
Is this a subtle way of asking the governors to allow him to choose the flagbearer the same way he allowed them to pick their would-be successors ?
Has he passed the message to the governors and only enjoining them to see to its execution the same manner that his choice of Adamu was ratified by the governors and later, by the April convention?
How can the process be packaged as a collective enterprise that will not trigger post-primary crisis?