With the presidential election still weeks away Thisday Newspaper put question the directly to the president on whether he planted Amina Zakari in INEC by recommending her to Jonathan.
The president’s answer went beyond what was asked. In response, Buhari said he had not once been approached by any government or president, those of Olusegun Obasanjo, Umaru Yar’Adua or Goodluck Jonathan to nominate a candidate for political appointment.
That in part explains why he has consistently snubbed Obasanjo’s nominees for ministers and other appointments.
But that may not be the only way Obasanjo has influenced Buhari philosophy of politics, of patronage and ascension to power.
Buhari’s recent declaration that no one should have the privilege to become president without working for it or simply because he was anointed by someone is a repudiation of all that Obasanjo stands for.
The president’s frequent reminders of the 12-year ordeal he went through before winning a presidential election suggests he has not forgotten what the powers that be put him through.
For most of his years in opposition, Buhari was treated as an outsider, a political outcast by the ruling elite and now many of them find they have been left on the outside.
But that long road to the presidency also appears to have shaped his idea of what the future of politics in Nigeria should look like.
It is not only a departure from the politics of anointing a successor, it is also an indication of the president’s now belief that to be worthy of being president, a politician has to fight for it, maybe even contest multiple times before claiming the prize.
For most of his years in opposition, Buhari was treated as an outsider, a political outcast by the ruling elite and now many of them find they have been left on the outside
Should the president heed the advice he was given and start to groom a successor, naturally there is no guarantee the choice will represent the will and aspirations of the people.
A consequence of identifying a successor is that it could undermine what is left of the Buhari presidency and make him a lame duck.
Of course, there is always the risk that without a succession plan, the most unworthy or least ideal candidate would emerge president.
Umaru Musa Yar’Adua was a last minute pick of the then ruling PDP to run for office of president back in 2007, in an election he eventually won.
The predecessor in office, Olusegun Obasanjo had plans to succeed himself.
It wasn’t until his plans to amend the constitution failed that Obasanjo began an earnest search for a candidate to succeed him.
And even after realising he had to leave, Obasanjo was determined to control the process of selecting the presidential flag bearer of the PDP.
Anyone could have emerged as the party’s choice if he had allowed a free process. It could very easily have been Ahmed Makarfi who was then governor of Kaduna State.
It could have been former governor of Rivers, Peter Odili or even Rochas Okorocha, who at that time was an inexperienced politician but made a mark at the presidential primaries of the party.
In the end though, Obasanjo’s last minute choice of Yar’Adua would not only foist an unhealthy president on the country but would lead to eight years of political turbulence.
In this early stage, the names that keep coming up are those of Bola Tinubu and Nasir el-Rufai
Today, President Muhammadu Buhari has no plans to succeed himself in office. But apparently, he also has no plans to groom a successor.
And that is just one side of the coin. The other and more significant side is that he is not planning to foist a candidate on his party or a president on the country.
That leaves the race for the presidency wide open come 2023.
Three and a half years away from the next presidential election, virtually every media organisation, political analyst and casual observer is already making predictions who the leading candidates will be.
In this early stage, the names that keep coming up are those of Bola Tinubu and Nasir el-Rufai. Reading between the lines, it is not difficult to figure where the leadership of the ruling APC stands.
And within the party, there is an undeniable effort to cut Rochas Okorocha, the former governor of Imo, to size.
Party chairman, Adams Oshiomhole started the moves by denying Okorocha his preferred candidates at the recently concluded governorship election in Imo and in the process, ensuring he loses his political base.
So far, attempts to squeeze him out of reckoning for the 2023 presidential election seem to be working. But it has come at the expense of the Imo governorship seat for the APC.
In fact, party is without doubt succeeding in closing the door to any possibility of a southeast candidacy for the presidency in 2023.
Going by the kind of contentious primaries APC held to elect candidates to run for governor and the National Assembly seats last year, it is more likely that actions of party are what could split the party
The same cannot be done to Governor el-Rufai of Kaduna. There is even a rivalry building up between him and Tinubu with aides of the former governor of Lagos accusing an unnamed politician from Kaduna of trying to tarnish Tinubu’s image, set him up against and then split the party ahead of 2023.
Going by the kind of contentious primaries APC held to elect candidates to run for governor and the National Assembly seats last year, it is more likely that actions of party are what could split the party.
At the presidential primary for the APC ticket, no one was courageous enough to challenge the president.
Ironically, it was the opposition PDP, which has a reputation for imposing candidates that allowed a free and open contest to determine its flag bearer for this year’s presidential election.
With the stakes so high and the number of political heavy weights contesting for the ticket, anything less than fair play would have doomed PDP’s chances of reclaiming the presidency months before the first votes were cast.
In the end, it succeeded in putting up a good fight at the election only because it held primaries that was fair to all.
The opposite was the case back in 2015. The PDP simply refused to sell nomination forms to anyone seeking to challenge Goodluck Jonathan.
The prelude to that was the marginalisation of several of its governors within the party. It cost the party the presidential election.
And before joining the newly formed APC, former Vice President Atiku Ababakar had one condition, that he would be allowed to contest for the party’s presidential ticket in a free and transparent process.
Though he eventually lost to Muhammadu Buhari, that was exactly what he got; an opportunity to vie for the ticket in a fair and transparent manner.
And again, when Atiku chose to rejoin the PDP before the 2019 election, he got the same commitment and opportunity of a fair contest to represent the party despite coming from the outside.
Looking ahead to the next presidential election, the question is no longer about whether Adams Oshiomhole has the track record and the democratic credentials to preside over free and open primary process, without interfering or working to impose his preferred candidate.
Beyond the party chairman, whose political doctrine seems to align with that of Obasanjo but is obviously at odds with President Buhari’s, what is already shaping the politics of 2023 is the stand the president has taken by stating he has no plans to groom or name a successor
In such a high stake game, his unwillingness to be an unbiased referee could reduce the chances of the APC retaining the presidency.
His actions in 2019 led to losses in the governorship seats in Zamfara, Adamawa, Taraba and Imo. Miraculously, the party survived his interference in Ogun.
But beyond the party chairman, whose political doctrine seems to align with that of Obasanjo but is obviously at odds with President Buhari’s, what is already shaping the politics of 2023 is the stand the president has taken by stating he has no plans to groom or name a successor.
Even at the state level, this is not something many departing governors have the courage to do. And in the last election, there isn’t one state where Buhari imposed a governor on citizens.
That is reason to believe he could do the same with the presidency. So, the question now is; whose position will carry the day, Buhari promising an open contest or Oshiomhole’s preference of a closed political space?