Gentlemen of the Press, Ladies and Gentlemen:

Following my State of the Nation address on Sunday, January 5, 2020, I am constrained to make some brief clarifications due to the  unrecognisable reconstruction of my utterances in the media, and the subsequent responses to these distortions. Speaking on the theme “Unveiling the True Enemies of Nigeria,”I surveyed, in about an hour, the various forces militating against the emergence of the New Nigeria at the turn of a new decade. While highlighting the commendable efforts  of our founding leaders in contrast with their wayward successors who occasionally masquerade as democrats, I challenged Nigerians to set aside differences of ethnicity, religion and partisan affiliations  as  we  unite against our common enemies. I also highlighted the grave dangers of the proposed Social Media Bill and an increasingly alarming tendency to clamp down on perceived dissent and opposition. I concluded by offering counsel to President Muhammadu Buhari on three key areas of focus as his second and final term draws to a close, namely: Strong Leadership, Strong Institutions, and Strong Succession.ii

My use of the word “succession” has drawn curious reactions from various quarters. Apparently, and without my participation, it has been interpreted as my asking Buhari to foist his choice on the nation in flagrant disregard of democratic principles. I neither did this, nor did I insinuate at any point that Buhari should “pick”iii or “choose”iv his successor as some news outlets have conjured. My exact words:“…the third pivotal objective of governance should be to build a strong post-Buhari legacy facilitated by accurate succession…Therefore, even as we build institutions of democratic governance, a key responsibility that history has bestowed on President Muhammadu Buhari at this turning point in our journey to nationhood is to institutionalise systems  of accurate succession that will build and sustain the Nigeria we desire. THIS IS A TASK THAT MUST BE DONE.” [Emphases mine]v

There is no variance between this and my earlier suggestion in October 2018 during the State of the Nation broadcast of that year. I said: “We need leaders who have the mental fortitude to navigate the complexities of our national realities and conceive appropriate solutions to our national dilemmas; we need leaders who  possess  the power of execution and the ability to see to it that solutions are effected and policies implemented – this is the breed of leaders we need in 2019 and beyond.“…we must interrogate the method by which such leaders are produced. How effective is this electocracy masquerading as a democracy? Does our current system guarantee the emergence of the best and brightest leaders or does it constrain us to the choice between the devil and the deep blue sea?  Have we helped ourselves by asking Nigerians to get their PVCs without paying attention to what happens at the primaries? What have we done at this time to ensure that after elections, a president or governor is not surrounded by people who will misadvise or incapacitate him or her? What safeguards have we put in place to ensure that an elected leader is surrounded by the right set of lieutenants, including ministers and advisers? How much consideration have we given to leadership succession? Beyond 2019, who are those trusted hands in whose care we must place our  beloved  nation? How can we begin to position such leaders in the current dispensation? Every serious political party must place these issues at the front burner. Any party that is unable to spell out its leadership selection criteria, as well as its long-term succession plan, should be rejected by Nigerians.” [Emphases mine]vi

Again, the focus remains on systems of succession, which I sought to highlight using the Singapore, China and South Africa examples, while being mindful of our local realities. This was clearly conveyed when I  said: “as we build institutions of  democratic governance.” I took this for granted; anyone who was not mindful of this either did not read or listen to my remarks in context, or deliberately chose to side-step that crucial detail and respond to a phantom non-issue. When you take a text out of context, you become a con. The reference to China had nothing to do with the Chinese system of government but more to do with Deng Xiaoping’s deliberate move to discover, develop and strategically deploy young leadership talents over an extended period as that country began a path to modernisation. Similarly, my reference to Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew was to underscore the role of pioneer or pivotal leaders of nations     in institutionalising or resuscitating foundational values. Furthermore, the example of Mandela’s Succession Plan in South Africa was done within the proper democratic framework of a free, fair and credible election.

Find the entire press release here; Rejoinder_Much Ado About Succession_PDF