Adebayo Shittu, a former minister of communications, has cautioned that any attempt by President Muhammadu Buhari to force a candidate on the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) prior to the party’s presidential primary next week will backfire.
Wednesday on Channels TV, Shittu issued this warning in response to the president’s address to the Progressive Governors’ Forum during the consultative meeting held Tuesday at the presidential palace in Abuja.
The president stated, “In accordance 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 selecting my successor, who will fly the flag of our party for election to the office of President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023.”
Political observers have seen this as evidence that the president has selected a candidate he believes will continue his programmes if elected in the 2023 general election.
However, the minister in charge of communications during Buhari’s first term cautioned that the president should not impose a candidate on the party, recommending that delegates be allowed to choose their preferred candidate.
He stated, “I will ask to Mr. President to appeal to our governors that, as democratic progressives, they should assure a level playing field for all candidates.
“Allow delegates from every nook and region of our country to vote, so that Nigerians would know that we are performing better than the other parties.
“In the past, governors in a number of states failed when they attempted to choose their preferred candidates regardless of what was equitable.
“It is not a standard upon which we must attempt to build. We are a democratic party, and the fact that some governors in the past have imposed candidates cannot justify us perpetuating anti-democratic practises (acts).
“They should not use deception, intimidation, or anything else that would damage the right to impartiality in the selection of new candidates.”
Shittu stated that the 2023 election would be different from past ones due to the presence of stronger contestants.
“In 2019, it was simply a two-party race, but this year, with the emergence of the NNPP and the Labour Party’s nomination of Peter Obi as a formidable candidate, this is no longer the case. We must recognise that all activities have natural repercussions.
“We must learn from our situations and environment and recognise that it may not be as simple as we believe.
“Now that a new generation of youths is emerging, they are stronger and more impatient for change.
“We must be able to offer the general public, especially the millennials, the sense that we are being fair to all applicants and that, as democratic progressives, we are not giving the image that certain individuals are being overly favoured.
While asserting that competence should play a role in the selection of a presidential candidate, he urged the party to open nominations, just as the principal opposition party, PDP, did.