Presidential Pendulum Swings Towards Ahmed Lawan
By Prof. Sam Amadi
It is true that in politics, a day is like a year. Two weeks ago no one reckoned the President of the Senate, Senator Lawan, as a frontrunner. Now, he is the candidate to beat and the permutation in the APC shifts to him, not discounting Bola Tinubu, Chibuike Amaechi, and Yemi Osinbajo. It is a measure of the indeterminate nature of Nigerian politics and its logic-smashing character that the whole political calculation of the ruling party now hinges on what becomes of Lawan’s aspiration. Although, he is a late entrant, he has garnered the firm support of the former chairman of the APC’s interim management committee, the party’s strongest Governor in the Southeast and the Chief Whip of the Senate.
This is a great momentum in politics. The Chief Whip has assured that 9 of the 25 APC Presidential Candidates are stalking horses for Senator Lawan and will step down in days to come. Of course, we have to discount some of this revelation because sometimes Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, the Chief Whip, sounds like a political jester. But Senator Lawan is already looking like an avalanche that only Buhari can stop, possibly starting with the latter refusing to sign the late-hour amendment to the electoral law.
But, is Senator Lawan the right person for 2023? How much does his leadership of the National Assembly justify faith in him as a man who can turn things around after President Buhari? Judging by his stewardship as the Senate President, Senator Lawan should not be the next President of Nigeria at this time. It is true that he is one of the most experienced legislators in Nigeria today, having been there for more than three terms. To his credit, he is always looking composed and confident as a leader of a legislative house. As a well-educated politician, Dr. Lawan is articulate and intelligent and holds court well, whether rebuffing his colleagues on the deliberative floor or answering reporters’ questions. He has the capacity to be President in the ordinary run of things.
But should he be the President of Nigeria at this time? The answer is an unequivocal no. He should not be the APC candidate, in spite of coming from a favorable geopolitical zone that, together with the Southeast and Northcentral, has not produced the presidency since the return to democracy. He is cunning and headstrong. As the head of the National Assembly he has not been responsive to agitations for social justice by Nigerian citizens and citizen groups. He has treated such agitations with either indifference or disrespect. As President, he may continue President Buhari’s onslaught against civil society and may help to radicalize disagreement by refusing to acknowledge the need to make radical change. Those who pay attention to his management of the legislature worry that he may be a more difficult nut to crack than President Buhari
Senator Lawan has not articulated a vision of national transformation. He may be a patriot who has plenty friends outsider the north of Nigeria. He may actually be a friendly and broadminded fellow. But being Nigerian President after Buhari requires a sincere commitment to radical reforms and proven capacity to lead policy reforms that will grow the economy and enhance local autonomy. Senator Lawan has not shown he has any of these. He appears to be somewhat mischievous. He loves and excels in playing political hard ball, and therefore may stand in the way of changing Nigeria’s political economy.
Senator Lawan may avow how much he can change Nigeria. But he had more than three years to show some snippets of his new Nigeria. His signature legislative accomplishment- the Electoral Act 2022 – shows the marksmanship of political insincerity. The process for approving electronic transmission does not show principled commitment to responsive legislation and free, fair, and credible elections. A man who declared openly that he would pass any legislation requested by President Buhari, notwithstanding its merits, would not be a president who will stop Nigeria’s slide into abject poverty and utter ruin, at the behest of conservative forces.
As at now, the light is shinning on Senator Lawan in the buildup to the May 30 primary. We hope it dims before that day. He does not deserve to succeed Buhari, a man he has kowtowed to throughout his Senate Presidency.