Political scientists are always preoccupied with the issue of succession. Incidentally, this is not a challenge associated with constitutional governments alone. Even in the old primitive tribal societies of kings and priests, there were always questions about what would happen after one ruler or how he could be replaced.
In his book, “Succession of Kings”, for instance, Sir James Frazer recounted a story from the ancient Congo: “The people of Congo believed that if their Pontiff were to die, the world would perish and the earth, which he alone sustained by his power and merit would immediately be annihilated. Accordingly, when he fell ill and seemed likely to die, his prospective successor entered his house with a rope or club and strangled or bludgeoned him to death.”
You could argue that the practice was barbaric in that the people tended to nudge fate in a predetermined direction but it was nonetheless one way of resolving the issue. In modern constitutionalism, however, this problem appeared to have been settled with the codification of a set of rules and procedures on how people are to get to power and how they can be replaced. The essence of the constitutional method though is that it tended to expand the space for reasoned elaboration. That perhaps explains the idea of multi-party system, which affords the electorate the opportunity to choose between a set of alternatives.
It is within the foregoing context that one should view the recent registration by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) of the All Progressive Congress (APC) which is set to effectively challenge the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in the 2015 general elections. In the last 14 years of our democracy, we have had presidential elections with predictable outcomes because of the dominance of the PDP and the fragmentation of the opposition political parties. That then explains the excitement of Nigerians about the formation of the APC, notwithstanding the misgivings that many may have about its promoters and their anti-democratic inclinations.
Personally, I am excited about the prospect of the APC because I spent my year as a Fellow at the Weathehead Centre for International Affairs, Harvard University, between 2010 and 2011 interrogating the issue of incumbent presidential elections in Africa. (http://programs.wcfia.harvard.edu/files/fellows/files/paper_adeniyi_final.pdf). My conclusion was that the narrative of elections on the continent is that of a process which presents little or no risk of defeat for the incumbent. “It is my contention that defeating the ruling party/incumbent in Africa would require the creation of strategic coalitions of political parties in which personal ambitions are sacrificed for group goals”, I argued. I then added: “While elections are indeed more transparent when the incumbent leader is not on the ballot-either by reason of death or expiration of tenure- it will take the formation of a broad coalition of opposition political parties to expect victory against a sitting African president seeking re-election.”
Now I want to see how relevant my thesis will be to our local environment. Because if the APC leaders can put their acts together, then we may indeed have a proper presidential contest in 2015. And that, I believe, can only help to strengthen our democracy.