Nigerians have urged the outgoing state governors and President Muhammadu Buhari to accord the voting masses their constitutional right to choose who leads them in a democracy.
The call became necessary following President Buhari’s disclosure last Wednesday that he was keeping close to his chest the name of his successor.
Some state governors have also been quoted as saying that they know who would succeed them or that they were still waiting to hear from God the names of those to succeed them.
Some Nigerians who spoke with BusinessDaySunday thought that the job of selecting/electing president and governors in a democracy must be the prerogative of the electorate as imposition or anointing of successors had bred rancour in the past and has also left the country poorly governed.
Nigerians are being regaled with stories emanating from seats of power about choosing successors.
Last Wednesday, President Muhammadu Buhari, during an interview with the Channel Television said he had his own agenda regarding the person that would succeed him, but that he would be keeping that close to his chest until the days draw closer because he would not want the person eliminated before the time.
A few days ago, Governor Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State said he was keeping the identity of his likely successor close to his chest and that he was yet to hear from God on the personality of his successor.
Governor Emmanuel took the seeming usurpation of voters’ rights to a high level when he said: “God in due time will reveal his successor.”
It would seem that the governor had foreclosed the role of voters and would be ready to ensure that he foists a successor on the people under the guise that such a person is the divine choice.
This mindset is common in Government Houses across the country, among the outgoing governors. And it is this mindset that seems to be making voters irrelevant in the electoral process in the country, resulting in increasing voter apathy.
Since President Buhari’s interview with Channels Television, one major question many Nigerians have continued to ask is whether it is the business of the President to choose a successor in a democracy.
It is a common practice to see outgoing governors and even presidents impose their successor on the people and their political parties in Nigeria. In most cases, since the candidate is ‘anointed’ by the governor they often win the primaries of their parties easily.
In several instances, such ‘anointed’ candidates do not have a challenger at the primaries mainly because the governors control the structure of the political parties in their states.
In the last two decades, the practice has attracted wide criticism among Nigerians and well-meaning individuals across the country, who say it is undemocratic.
They say in a democracy, it is a right of the people to choose their leaders by themselves, not someone else choosing for them, otherwise, such a person would only be loyal to his godfather and care less about the people when he assumes office.
Logically, it is believed that outgoing governors impose their successor to cover their tracks after leaving office; some also want to protect their legacies. However, some governors have refused to follow the trend.
Speaking on the issue recently, Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, said the insistence to install a successor by any state chief executive had always been for selfish reasons.
“The insistence to plant a successor is mainly for selfish reasons. Everyone with the right capacity should come forward to tell people why they should vote for him/her,” Wike had said.
Similarly, several Nigerians who spoke in separate interviews on the issue said often non-performing or corrupt governors guilty of embezzling public funds are most guilty of the practice because saying they impose their stooge in office to shield themselves from being probed.
They noted that the problem with the practice is the tendency of having incompetent successors, answerable and loyal to their godfathers, taking office and perpetuating the cycle of unaccountability and gross non-performance in government.
A Political Analyst, Gideon Ayogu described the practice as a misnomer and against the true spirit and ethos of democracy, saying it had contributed to bad governance in Nigeria.
According to him, “The on-going practice in which governors attempt to impose their successor is prevalent here in Nigeria. However, it is a misnomer and against the true spirit and ethos of democracy. In most cases, the motive behind this practice is a selfish one as the majority of governors who engage in it are often non-performing or corrupt ones guilty of embezzling public funds and, as such, would rather plant or impose their lackeys or stooge in office to shield themselves from being probed.
“The downside of this unwholesome practice is the tendency of having incompetent successors, answerable and/or loyal to their godfathers, taking office and perpetuating the cycle of unaccountability and gross non-performance in government.
“The ongoing practice in which governors attempt to impose their successor is prevalent here in Nigeria. However, it is a misnomer and against the true spirit and ethos of democracy.
“In most cases, the motive behind this practice is a selfish one as the majority of governors who engage in it are often non-performing or corrupt ones guilty of embezzling public funds and, as such, would rather plant or impose their lackeys or stooge in office to shield themselves from being probed.
Speaking further, he said aspirants should be allowed to test their popularity among the electorates.
“Interested candidates for political office must be allowed to test their popularity, while the electorate is equally given the ultimate decision on whether they succeed in taking office or not,” he added.
By the same token, Tope Musowo, a public affairs analyst, said the practice had contributed to bad governance and the lukewarm attitude of elective office holders to fulfilling their campaign promises to the electorate.
He added that though few of them may not have bad intentions, they are just looking for an individual that would continue with their legacy.
“The reason why some governors like to impose is to have someone who probably has been with them who knows all the atrocities they have committed and who is ‘loyal’ enough to cover their tracks. Some do that because they want someone who will consolidate on their achievements.”
According to him, “Sometimes, four or eight-year tenure is not enough to really build for sustainable development. You can only lay the foundation or prepare the blueprint for others to build on. The fear of many governors who want to impose their successor on the people is having a good hand, who can continue where they stop without deviating from the master plan”.
Also speaking, Ola Ogundimu, who is a teacher, said the practice should be discouraged though it is becoming a norm in the country, because it is undemocratic.
“It is bad and killing our democracy, you can see the way such people behave when they get to office, check from the record most of them are failures. Whichever, whatever reason that might inform that, it is still undemocratic, in a democracy, it is right for the people to choose their leaders by themselves, not someone else choosing for them,” he said.
It is not out of place for outgoing presidents and governors to anoint successors by way of suggesting to the voting masses to look in a certain direction for a good successor.
For instance, when the former President Olusegun Obasanjo was leaving office in 2003, he anointed the late Umaru Musa Yar’Adua as his successor. He also went ahead to manipulate the electoral process to favour his choice candidate. The scar of that electoral malfeasance is all over the Nigerian body polity.
The emergence of Goodluck Jonathan, who was obviously unprepared for the position when it was thrusted at him, also became a huge burden on Nigeria.
From being a vice president, Jonathan became president following the demise of Yar’Adua. But Jonathan lost his second term bid after his popularity plummeted.
“Anointing a successor is more dangerous when the incumbent is seen as a non-performer and the people are eagerly awaiting his/her exit from the power stool. To think of replicating him/herself rankles,” Lanre Ode, a political scientist, said.
According to him, “This appears to be the feeling of many Nigerians who believe that the President should leave the job of getting his successor with them to decide.”
Ode recalled that President Buhari ascended the power stool with a wild ovation. He was seen as a messiah and integrity personified.
“Although some Nigerians had warned the country that a vote for the Katsina-born former military ruler was tantamount to self-surrender to a life of slavery, the voting masses were so fed up with the Jonathanian administration that they believed anybody would be better than the Bayelsa-born politician.
“Moreover, many thought that Buhari, who had contested the Presidency for three times before 2015, must have had a good plan laid out on how to turn Nigeria into a paradise.
“Today, close to seven years after he was elected President, the country appears to have grown worse in every sense of the word and in all departments.
“It is so bad now that some people have already begun a countdown for the current administration, even though the next round of general election is billed to take place over a year from today. On social media, some caricatures are rampant where people had wished 2023 were today or that the next national elections were this year.
“Such wishes could only have been a product of frustration, which also indicates how desperately Nigerians are looking forward to a fresh breath of air.”
Now, for President Buhari to suggest that he has a successor seems a “no, no” for many Nigerians who spoke with BusinessDay.
Reacting to the President’s claim of having a successor, a politician, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said that the Nigerian citizens would like to have a taste of sweetness after a long period of bitter pill.
“It is only those who want to play politics that will tell you that Buhari’s years in office since 2015 have been a blessing to the country and its people. I know many of them who speak well of this government in the open for the sake of their stomach, but in secret, they lament and wish for a change of government,” the politician said.
The Kwara State-born politician further said: “Concerning Buhari’s claim of having a successor, one wonders what manner of a successor that person would be, to continue from where he would leave off in 2023. That, to me, amounts to wishing Nigeria bad luck.”
According to him, “We have this tree in my place that produces fruit we call ‘agbalumo’ (people say it is called- ‘rubber vine’). Sometimes, if you are lucky to get some species of that fruit, you can eat both the inside and outside- so sweet. But if you get the bad type, you’ll hate the tree and its fruit- because of its bitter taste. What Nigeria has got in the last six-and-half years is the bitter ‘agbalumo’ and anybody wishing the country an extension of that bitterness and unwholesome experience does not mean well for Nigeria.”