As the electioneering gathers momentum ahead of the February 2023 general elections, President Muhammadu Buhari has declared that he was not ready to name his likely successor to guard against him (the successor) against being eliminated.
President Buhari also accused the National Assembly for being undemocratic over its choice of direct primaries for political parties in the vetoed Electoral Act 2010 Amendment Bill 2021.
The president spoke Wednesday at an interview session on Channels Television, monitored by Blueprint in Abuja.
Asked who was his ‘favourite’ successor in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) in 2023 after he must have completed his eight-year tenure, the president sounded non-committal.
“2023 is not my problem. I am not interested in who succeeds me. I don’t have any favourite,” Buhari said.
Asked to mention his successor, he said: “No, I wouldn’t because he may be eliminated if I mention it. I better keep it secret.”
The president’s position, some analysts say, has created some tension and put some top shots believed to be eyeing the nation’s plum job within the ruling party, in some suspense of sort.
Those believed to be on the line to be eyeing Buhari’s seat within the ruling party are Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, APC National Leader Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, Kogi state Governor Yahaya Bello and Ekiti state Governor Kayode Fayemi among others.
Although the trio of Osinbajo, Tinubu and Fayemi are yet to formally declare their intention to vie for the nation’s top seat, various campaign groups are daily springing up to make case for their preferred choice.
But unlike others, Governor Bello has continued to play host to various groups at the Lugard House Lokoja, even as he seizes every available space to sell his candidature, particularly to the youth and women groups.
On direct primaries
Also speaking on the direct primaries as contained in the dumped Electoral Act amendment Bill, Buhari slammed the National Assembly for not providing the ‘right’ democratic alternatives to Nigerians to elect their choice leaders at the level of primaries.
He withed assent to the Bill and announced the decision on the very last day of the 30-day grace the Constitution allows the president, a development that generated mixed reactions from some quarters.
Worse still, the lawmakers had already announced plan to proceed on Christmas and New Year recess.
Although the Senate initially moved to override the president’s veto, the lawmakers however backed out at the last minute, saying they were going to consult their House of Representatives’ counterparts as well as their constituents.
But when asked whether he preferred consensus arrangement and indirect mode of primaries in picking candidates as against direct primaries, the president said he is not a believer in direct primaries as the option for political parties.
“I want people to be given a choice. You can’t give them one option, and you think that you are being democratic? Let them have the three options of direct, indirect and consensus,” he said.
The president who described the lawmakers’ decision as undemocratic said: “You can’t dictate to people and say you are doing democracy. There should be options. We must not insist it must be direct primaries.”
He, however, assured assenting to the Bill if the National Assembly reworks and returns it, a hint Speaker Femi Gbajabiamla dropped recently in Lagos.
On the travails of Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the proscribed Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), President Buhari ruled out any interference in his judicial trial, saying “he must face the consequence of his action.”
In another breath however, Buhari said “there may be political solution if the people behave themselves.”
“I wouldn’t dare interfere with the judiciary. No. We cannot rule out possibility of political solution, but if the people will behave themselves, all well and good.
“You can’t go to a foreign country and keep on sending incorrect economic and security problem against your country and thinking that you will never have to account for what you have been doing. Let him account for what he has been doing,” he said.
The IPOB leader is currently being tried for treason and related charges, as leaders of thoughts in the South-east recently met with Buhari for a political solution so peace could return to the region.
The president also spoke on the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), which he described in one word as “failure”
Bandits as terrorists
On the ravaging bandits terrorising the North-west, he said they had since been declared as terrorists and would be so treated as security agents have been directed to go after them.
He said a lot had been achieved in restoring peace to the North-west region.
Contrary to views in certain quarters that the security challenge was rising, Buhari said the APC-led government had made significant progress in tackling insecurity, especially in the North-east where the Boko Haram and ISWAP terrorists were holding sway.
He recalled that when his administration took over in 2015, many local governments were under the control of Boko Haram terrorists, pointing out however that as at today, no local government was under the terrorists’ control.
Justifying his position, the president said: “If you ask anybody from the North-east, there were a number of local governments that were in the hands of Boko Haram or ISWAP. None of these local governments now are in their control.”
“Within the last four weeks, there are improvements in the North-east and North-central,” the president further said.
Farmers, herders’ clashes
The president also spoke on the farmers, herders’ clashes, saying bringing back cattle grazing routes remained the best solution to the menace.
Buhari said he had personally discussed with the agriculture minister in this regard to restore the routes as they were during the First Republic in the Northern Nigeria.
The farmers, herders’ clashes had claimed thousands of lives, with some people suggesting ranching as the way out of the crises.
Similarly, the president restated his opposition to state police, saying “state police is not an option.”
Asked about the legacy he would leave behind, the president said: “My legacy is that I have tried for us to conduct ourselves with integrity. We have stopped stealing, misappropriation.”
The president also spoke on infrastructure development and government’s incessant borrowing from the China, saying: “TCN (Transmission Company of Nigeria) is 100% Government. But we inherited what you call DisCOs, they almost buried the country based on geopolitical zones. What was the basis? The people that own the DisCOs, who are they? They are not electrical engineers, they don’t have money? It’s just a political favour. We thought that was unnecessary. I told you now we have something.
“I’m sure you know, what it used to be between Lagos and Ibadan alone not to talk about the rest of the country. But we’ve got the Chinese to have the rail, to do the roads. How can we turn that down?
“So, the Chinese are welcome. Anybody that is prepared to come and help with our infrastructure, I have told you the roads, the rail and the power will be welcome.”