NIGERIA: APC, Running Mate And Options For 2015

The All Progressives Congress (APC) is about to discover that deciding on Gen Muhammadu Buhari’s running mate is much tougher than electing their standard-bearer. 

It is not simply because that choice, once it is made, has the potential to make or mar the ticket, it is because navigating the treacherous courses of Nigeria’s competing groups and issues has become almost an impossible task. 

Asked a few days before the primary whether he countenanced picking a Muslim as his running mate, Gen Buhari prevaricated. He said he preferred to defer to his party, and then went on to anchor his hesitations on historical facts confirming that Nigerians previously voted for same faith candidates and running mates. He was, however, indicating that his party was battling to make up its mind, and that one or two of the leading contenders for the running mate position are Muslims.

The incredibly successful conduct of the APC presidential primary, and in particular the election of Gen Buhari, places a huge burden on the party to make the right choice, one that would add value to the principles and philosophy of the party, and one that would inspire and fire the country to put a definitive end to PDP’s reign in 2015. That choice must not diminish the ticket or vitiate its battle preparedness. Two hard choices stare the APC in the face. First is whether to produce a running mate from the Southwest or elsewhere. And the second is whether to gamble on a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

The choice the party makes, in its daringness and appropriateness, will be a reflection of how desperate it wants to dethrone the PDP. Once that choice is made, it will be irreversible. If it is the right choice the dynamics of electioneering will trigger a momentum that will ferry the party into the presidency. 

But if it is the wrong choice, the same cruel dynamics will put the party on the defensive and wreck its chances, perhaps for a long time. No person, indeed no analyst, can claim to have the answer or see into the future. However, propelled by a primary election high, it seems much more sensible for the APC to avoid rashness and overconfidence in order to sustain the momentum, and also to ensure that the issues that will shape the February poll will not be polluted by Dr Jonathan’s desperate government.

First, the Southwest and its leaders may reason that having inspired the formation of APC, and having as it were led it so creatively, though under the weight of accusation by anachronistic members of the Yoruba political elite that the region was being sold cheaply to the Hausa/Fulani oligarchy, they may want to ensure a south-westerner on the ticket. Given the nature of Nigerian politics, especially the enormous powers wielded by the presidency over the ruling party, it is understandable why APC leaders from the Southwest would want someone from the zone on the ticket. 

The problem with that reasoning however is that the impression will be created that their exertions were induced by considerations other than philosophical, and that other powerful concessions bigger and more potent than a running mate cannot be secured. They will be saying that they were not inspired by great democratic principles and nobler motives required to redirect and nurture Nigerian politics and democracy along the civilising lines which contentious Yoruba leaders led by Ayo Adebanjo and others in Afenifere have failed to understand. 

Unknown to many, Nigerian politics is being restructured fundamentally away from the bigotries and antagonisms of the past. That process, masterminded by the APC, must not be aborted.

Second, because Dr Jonathan is at his most vulnerable does not mean he is already dead meat. The APC must therefore weigh the risk of presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket. Given how badly Dr Jonathan and his supporters have muddied Nigeria’s political waters and fouled it with ethnic and religious prejudices, the APC will find it difficult convincing itself it is prepared to sail near the wind with a Muslim-Muslim ticket. 

It is of course nonsensical to religionise party tickets, as if same faith tickets would ineluctably promote one religion over the other. But the APC must be capable of reading the signs of the times, and of making choices that show its perceptiveness and acuity of mind. It must be able to anticipate Dr Jonathan’s campaign tactics and not hand it ready ammunition.

In 2011, Gen Buhari had his best chance of winning the presidency, if only he would reach accommodation with the then Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN). He incredulously made the wrong call. Now, it is not just Gen Buhari’s best chance to win, it is in fact the best chance for his party to win.

They must not make the wrong choice. Apart from choosing the right running mate, the party must take over the general’s campaign, steer it away from the insularity that hallmarked his 2011 campaign, mould him as much as they can into a modern leader with believable democratic credentials and founder’s mentality, and into a politician who envisions great things, has the capacity to relate creatively with the National Assembly, and is capable of taking the people to a height that exists only in their constructive imagination. 

Whatever they do, APC leaders must recognise that their first task is to win and save Nigeria from apocalypse. Nothing must interfere with those noble goals of saving democracy and rebuilding this shattered and dispirited country.

Source: The Nation
Politics 6944908846682909442

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