“A leader’s lasting value is measured by succession”. – John C. Maxwell.
Without a doubt, succession is a major challenge in all political systems, including the hereditary ones, with its so called inimitable advantages. The difference is in how the political gladiators in different countries manage successions.
In Nigeria, baffling shortsightedness and lack of enlightened self interest on the part of the “political class”, or better put, political entrepreneurs, hasn’t allowed them wisen up the to the immense advantages, of putting in place a credible leadership recruitment process, that can reduce the acrimony that usually characterises the election cycle every four year. Hopefully, they will work on it, for the benefit of all and save the country from the upheavals that have become the routine during every election cycle.
The organised private sector has certainly done far better than the political class, with many companies having put in place robust leadership building and succession plans.
Nigeria has paid and will continue to pay a huge price, due to the absence of a credible leadership recruitment process and the persistence of a faulty recruitment process, that relies almost completely on devious scheming or happenstance. This has made succession an all comers affairs, with very grave consequences for everyone. There are no tests of capacity overtime, making anyone who with deep pocket (money) attractive for the crowd of regular politicians,that feed off politics.
In 2007, former vice president Namadi Sambo became the governorship candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Kaduna state within 60 days of joining the party and went on to win the governorship election. As governor, Sambo was an unmitigated disaster. He knew nothing about the evolution of Makarfi’s programmes, and made no effort to, rather he replaced them with an unwieldy 11-point agenda, that looked more like the manifesto of a student union leader. And, as has become the norm, the relationship between both men became fractured.
Years after Makarfi’s debacle, nothing substantially changed. Ramallan Yero was forced on Patrick Yakowa who took over from Sambo. Following the tragic death of Yakowa, Yero, totally unprepared for the assignment, didn’t disappoint anyone with his lackluster performance.
The elections are here again, so are the daily permutations on who will take over from Nasir El-Rufai, whose eventful tour of duty will constitutionally terminate on May 29, 2023. As usual, some of the aspirants are counting on the blessing of El-Rufai, while others have pitched their tent with his political opponents, who were opposed to him, simply because he refused to run his administration,in the manner they were used to. El-Rufai stopped the sponsorship of pilgrimage and distribution of grains during the Ramadan and reduced the number of political appointees, policies that didn’t go down with them.
El-Rufai, with the hindsight (the experience of the Makarfi succession), is believed to prefer that the governorship candidate of the APC would be a member of the team, who understands the governance approach of the last few years, that has made the big difference in the development of the state. Whether the opponents of El-Rufai within the APC can prevent the emergence of such a candidate either by consensus or primaries is another matter.
Going by El-Rufai’s management of the party by consensus, his transparent, fair, and free conduct of the local government council elections, there is absolutely no doubt that as a confirmed team player, he can rally party heavyweights to a consensus candidate.
In the 2019 elections, he strongly backed Suleiman Abdu Kwari,who was mandated to hand Suleiman Hunkuyi a resounding defeat in the senatorial race in Zone 1. He also supported Uba Sani to emerge as a senator.
Should El-Rufai be interested in who succeeds him? Naturally yes! Becausep a clueless successor like Yero, Isa Ashiru, or the aspirant being backed by his defeated opponents, would under one year undo all the hard work of the last eight years. An aspirant is already promising to reverse every policy of the El-Rufai administration, without understanding the implications of reversing some policies,l ike the reform of the public service, which helped free resources for development of the state. What is not clear is, if the reversal will include demolishing the new roads, under the urban renewal programme or the new Kajuru International Market?
The benefits of a having a successor from within the team, is tied to continuity, stability and growth. And even if the need for policy reversal arises, it will be better handled. El-Rufai has a crop of young men and women that have worked with the administration, since its inception in 2015, so they can continue the work, though not necessarily at the same pace or manner.
El- Rufai, is a confirmed democrat, even though it took Nigerians time to come to terms with this fact. Long before it became fashionable, El- Rufai to the dismay of some northerners, was the first notable politician to vigorously push for a southern presidency, after eight years of Muhammadu Buhari. Also, in the 2018 local government elections, the PDP, won some council seats, unlike what obtained in other states. But some people thought it was a fluke,until he repeated same transparent, free, and fair 2021 local government elections. The icing on the cake, was losing even in his ward. It was then that the world took note of a true democrat, in words and deeds.
In 2019, a list of over 40 people, was generated for the deputy governorship position, which became vacant, following the decision of late Yusuf Bala Bantex to contest for the Senate. It was eventually narrowed to four before he eventually settled for Hadiza Balarabe, who had shown capacity for hard work and decisiveness, after wide consultations.
Those expecting a crisis in the succession game will be disappointed, in how the APC will without rancor settle the governorship succession issue.
Going by the quality of the aspirants it is parading, the Kaduna PDP clearly shows an unwillingness to change from its old ways. For the PDP, whose sixteen years of running Kaduna state, can’t in any respect be compared to the seven years of the APC, nothing suggests readiness to provide purposeful leadership. And the reason why El-Rufai the APC must get it right.
For El-Rufai, leadership is not about a title or a designation. It’s about using the position to make impact.
Ado writes from Kaduna, Kaduna state