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2023: Succession and the Political Leadership


2023: Succession and the Political Leadership

By Zayyad I. Muhammad

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Most of Nigeria’s current political leaders are in their middle-age and old-oldest age and have reached the peak of the ‘pyramid’ of politics in Nigeria. Add just 10 years to the ages of many top politicians in Nigeria today, we would get nonagenarian, octogenarians; septuagenarians and sexagenarians. For example, President Muhammadu Buhari would be 88, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar 84, former President Olusegun Obasanjo 93, former Military President Ibrahim Babangida  89, former head of state Abdulsalam Abubakar 88, Bola Tinubu 78, Bamanga Tukur 98, TY Danjuma 92, Bisi Akande 92, Murtala Nyako 88, Danjuma Goje- 78, Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso 74, Anyim Pius 69, John Nwodo 78, Bukola Saraki 68, Attahiru Bafarawa 76 and so on.

The dynamics of the Nigerian political landscape is changing. The country needs a well-planned leadership succession arrangement. This is even more crucial because the nation is a developing country. A structured political succession plan will free the current age-old leadership from the burden of ‘carrying the camel and its loads’.

Though succession planning has been happening within the spheres of political leadership in Nigeria, it is always haphazard and mostly shrouded by the vestige of personal interests. It has often been devoid of the country’s interests. Former President Olusegun Obasanjo was recently tackled on his choice of former President Umaru Musa Yar’adua while being fully aware of the latter’s health condition. Obasanjo said his decision was based on the information available to him and Yar’adua’s honesty. This has brought to the fore the need for the Nigerian political leadership to cultivate the culture of having succession advisors and employ the science of succession. It will help them in making sound decisions for the transition of leadership between the current generation of leaders and potential younger successors, while still maintaining some sort of political relevance and influence.

Unfortunately, the current political leadership has a poor mentorship system, especially in terms of teaching the art of politicking and participation in national politics. The most hit are often their offspring and lieutenants.

Picking a successor in Nigeria is a painstaking job because of the complex nature of Nigeria’s politics. Our fault-lines, apparent influence of geography, tongue and faith in our polity are some of the factors responsible for this.  For instance, the political geography- the north, has a large number of these political leaders and the region has some of the oldest people in the national and state assemblies, including as commissioners and council chairs.

The influence of social media in our lives and politics is growing while young people constitute the major users of social media. The 2023 elections would be a make or mar to Nigeria’s political leaders, their politics and their regions. If power returns to the south, the north may have to produce a young vice president and do the painstaking job to populate some of the most sensitive political positions in the region with young people. Nigeria’s political leadership must put in place a structured but feasible succession plan, it is very critical for them, their politics and the country. 2023 must be the starting point.

Zayyad I. Muhammad writes from Jimeta, Adamawa state., 08036070980

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