President Muhammadu Buhari has warned the leadership of his party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), of what may happen if they fail to close ranks to project the party ahead of the 2023 general elections.
Buhari said without unity of purpose among the leaders and other party members, APC might lose the 2023 polls to the opposition.
The president spoke on Thursday during an interview aired by the Nigerian Television Authority (NTA).
Buhari also assured that those defecting from the opposition parties to APC, with corruption charges hanging over their heads, would have their day in the court of law.
He foreclosed the possibility of anyone in the party foisting leadership on members.
The president gave the warning to the leaders of his party while answering a question on the disagreement within the APC leadership, which was believed to be threatening the anticipated national convention of the party, earlier scheduled for this February.
Buhari, who linked his withholding of assent to the recently passed Electoral Act Amendment Bill to the need to give people and political parties the power of choice to determine the system that suits them, also said the APC should be structured bottom-up.
According to him, there is need for a system in the ruling party, where the people would be allowed to choose their preferred candidate from polling unit to ward, to council area, to the state, then to the national levels.
Buhari stated, “We have timeframe we have to work, because the four-year tenure is constitutional. It cannot be interfered by anybody. So, if the party couldn’t agree, then, the opposition can take over. What did the PDP do? They said the opposition could not come together, but when ACN, ANPP, CPC, APGA came together, before PDP realised it, they were off; they are still off, they can see it.
“My position is simple, I think I succeeded in trying to get my position understood in the sense that I said, we start from bottom upwards; from polling units to wards, to local governments, to states and then to Abuja. So, the party, because I’m concerned about my party, the party, in all constituencies they will know their positions. Therefore, when they come to Abuja, they are likely to work together.
“There is no kingmaker from Abuja, no constituency is being dictated to. All constituencies are supposed to produce their leadership in our party. What other parties are doing is their own business, but we want to make sure that our party members understand that they are respected. It is from polling unit, to ward to local government, to state and after, Abuja. So, those who want to the elected at any level, let them work for it. Nobody is going to appoint anybody.”
Commenting on insinuations that politicians from the opposition with corruption cases had been defecting to the ruling party because of the belief that they would get immunity from prosecution, Buhari said no corrupt politician would go scot-free under his watch, even as members of his party.
He said, “I don’t like to accept that joining our party will check our insistence on accountability. We are very serious about people, who aspire to lead at whatever level by their performance, by their integrity both professional and personal.
“But the problem is that we have to work within the system. Even if you suspect individuals, unless there is evidence, there isn’t much we can do. So, really, it is the system that makes it possible for some people to even be corrupt.
“They can’t. Nobody can go scot-free as far as I’m concerned. Imagine what the opposition could do to me if there is something along my record, a lot of confusion could have been caused, but luckily, I think we try to find officers with integrity and that is the best thing for Nigeria leadership at all levels.
“Behave with integrity. If that is done, we will achieve better results. If that is not done, a lot of time will be wasted in talking, quarrelling, and a lot of noise”.
Buhari also addressed the security challenges facing the country. However, he expressed optimism that the situation could be resolved before he leaves office, pointing out that the security forces are working hard on it, just as more equipment and ammunition are being procured.
The president stated, “Yes, the government is capable and is going to do it, because members of the security, the armed forces and others, their own security depends on one Nigeria. So, no matter, when people are selfish, it is their self first. So, even for their own selves, they better stabilise Nigeria and I believe they will do it.
“I know we’re short on resources. For example, dealing with the militants, if people bother to reflect on how we found the North-east and South-south and how much progress we have made.”
He said the government had acquired some helicopters, aircraft, and armoured cars, and their ammunition to enhance security across the country.
On how age had affected his capacity as president, he said the pressure of office had been tremendous, but noted that he could not complain, because he asked to be elected into the office.
He observed that many of his colleagues were now enjoying their retirement, and hoped to emulate them in the next 17 months, when his tenure would end.
Buhari stated, “I think COVID-19 has come to my rescue in the sense that the amount of people that needs to see you, can’t see you. I see my colleagues, they are now resting and I assure you that I’m looking forward to the next 17 months when I, too, would have to be less busy.
“Age is telling on me, working now for 6,7,8 hours a day in the office is no joke. Questions of executive council memos from as many states as possible to be considered virtually every week. So, really, it is a lot of hard work, but I asked for it and I cannot complain.”