A former Minister of Communications, Adebayo Shittu, has warned that any attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to impose a candidate on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of its presidential primary next week could backfire.
Shittu gave this warning Wednesday on Channels TV while reacting to the president’s address to the Progressive Governors’ Forum at the consultative meeting held at the presidential villa, Abuja on Tuesday.
The president had said: “In keeping with the established internal policies of the Party and as we approach the Convention in a few days, therefore, I wish to solicit the reciprocity and support of the Governors and other stakeholders in picking my successor, who would fly the flag of our party for election into the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.”
This has been interpreted by political analysts as a clue that the president had picked a preferred candidate he believed would continue his programmes if successful at the 2023 general elections.
But the minister who was in charge of the communications ministry during Buhari’s first tenure warned that the president should not impose any candidate on the party, advising that delegates should be allowed to pick their preferred candidate.
He said: “I will appeal to Mr President to appeal to our governors that they should, as democrats, as progressives, ensure that a level playing field is provided for all aspirants.
“Let delegates from every nook and cranny of this country have an opportunity to make their choices so that Nigerians will see that we are doing better than the other parties.
“We have had several states in the past where governors attempted to bring in their preferred candidates over and above what is equitable and it has backfired.
“It is not a standard that we must try to build on. We are a democratic party and the fact that some governors have in the past imposed candidates can not be a justification for us to continue to perpetuate anti-democratic (acts).
“They should not bamboozle people, they should not intimidate, they should not do anything that will compromise the right to fairness in bringing in new candidates.”
Shittu said the 2023 election would be different from the previous ones as there are stronger candidates on parade now.
“In 2019, it was essentially a two-party affair but this year, with what we have seen with the NNPP coming up, with Labour Party coming up with a very strong candidate in Peter Obi. We must appreciate that actions will naturally have consequences.
“We must learn from our circumstances, we must learn from our environment and know that it may not be as easy as we think.
“We must also be warned now that the youths are coming up, stronger and more agitated for change.
“We must be able to give the impression to the general public, particularly the youths, that we are being fair to all aspirants and that as democrats, as progressives, we are not giving the impression that some people are being overpampered above others.
While saying competence should play a part in picking a presidential candidate, he called on the party to throw the ticket open just as the main opposition party, PDP, did.