Barely 72 hours to the deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for political parties to supply it with the names of their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, the main parties are having a hard time choosing the running mates to their presidential candidates.
Each party is considering how to balance the religion and regional divides in such a way that would help it win the general election in 2023.
Stakeholders in the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have insisted that the running mate to the party’s presidential flag bearer, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, must be a northern Christian.
The APC national stakeholders have urged the party’s leadership to ensure national inclusion which, according to them, would help to manage divisive tendencies and promote national unity.
This is in spite of the fact that Kashim Shettima, Nasir El-Rufai and Abdullahi Ganduje are still on the card.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja yesterday, spokesman of the APC national stakeholders, Aliyu Audu, implored the governing party to narrow its search for the vice-presidential candidate of the party to a Christian from the North, which he said the party has in abundance.
The stakeholders noted that just as the APC was able to ensure the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a southern Muslim as the party’s presidential candidate, the party leadership should also work towards the emergence of a Christian running mate from the northern part of the country.
Audu stated: “Having successfully crossed the hurdle of producing a presidential candidate from the southern region, All Progressives Congress is now faced with yet another important hurdle it must cross before the deadline for the submission of nominations by political parties elapses.
“The bone of contention this time around lies in which of the two dominant faiths will produce the vice presidential candidate. there have been arguments that vice presidential candidate which is primed to come from the north must be of the Christian faith, while some others have argued that for the APC to stand the chance of winning the 2023 presidential election, the person must be a Christian, since the South has already produced a Muslim as the presidential candidate.
“The APC national stakeholders are deeply concerned about the raging controversy which has heated the polity in the last few days. While we are conscious of the fact that religion should not be a determining factor in our leadership selection process, the peculiar circumstance the nation finds itself in calls for due reflection in the decisions we take, so long as they border on our national lives.”
He noted that at present the country is deeply divided along the fault lines of ethnicity and religion and these sensibilities cannot be ignored in critical decision making.
“This is why we think that the All Progressives Congress must be guided by the sense of these sensibilities in the selection of the vice presidential candidate of the party,” he said.
The stakeholders warned that picking another Muslim as vice presidential candidate would further fuel the division in the country and give room for mischief makers to take advantage of the differences.
“The northern APC has in its fold capable individuals from the Christian faith with proven track record that can deliver just like anyone from the other faith. Their capability to deliver on the ideals of the party aside, they also have the capacity to win elections for the party. Suffice to add that no individual wins elections for any political party, it is the collective effort of all and we are sure the APC can achieve this,” Audu added.
On their part, youths under the auspices of North East APC Youth Stakeholders Forum insisted on special consideration for the zone in choosing a vice presidential candidate.
The chairman of the forum, Haruna Sardauna, said the VP slot should be given to anybody from North East, irrespective of whether he is a Muslim or Christian.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, Sardauna noted that giving the VP slot to North East would neutralise the stronghold of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and help in mobilising massive support from the region and other zones to ensure victory for Tinubu and the APC.
The youth stakeholders said, “The North-East region had consistently given block votes to the APC and supported candidate from the other regions, right from its inception. We, therefore, appeal to our national, state critical and non-critical stakeholders, especially our father, President Muhammadu Buhari, our candidate, Bola Tinubu and Abdullahi Adamu-led APC National Working Committee to zone it to us.”
Also, the immediate past secretary-general of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr Anthony Sani, has advised the APC standard bearer Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the leadership of the party to pick a Christian from the North as vice president.
This, according to him, is the surest way to have peace and unity in view of the pervading realities in the country.
He urged Tinubu not to be intimidated by anyone under any pressure to fall for what can bring disunity and increased suspicion in the country.
According to him, the former speaker of the House of Representatives Hon. Yakubu Dogara fits perfectly into the new consideration.
He said, ” Dogara is a young man with sufficient public intelligence with a rich electoral asset. If you look at his electoral value, he has never lost any election.”
Sani stated this in Jos, the Plateau State capital, yesterday while speaking to newsmen.
He argued that the former speaker was able to command national respect because of his liberal disposition.
“My suggestion does not mean that I have influence on Tinubu and the leadership of APC, but Tinubu has earlier said he knows how to hunt for his first eleven and as far as
I’m concerned Dogara can make his first eleven.”
Sani also wondered why the controversy on whether he should pick a Christian northerner or a Muslim, adding that the constitution is very clear on it in respect to the federal character which says “No group should dominate as such a thing will not promote unity of the country.”
“As far as Nigeria is concerned the dividing lines today are about three – ethnicity, religion and regions – and there is no way the president can pick his running mate from his region.
He further stressed “So if there are three dividing lines, for instance, if the president comes from a region, the vice president from the other side. If the president is coming from the south, naturally the vice president should come from the North.”
He argued that because religion is also part of the three dividing lines, the constitution expects that the vice president should come from the opposite side of the president’s religion.
“Some people have been saying it should not happen that way, but the country today is divided along ethnic, regional and religious lines. So, there is no way Tinubu will pick his vice president from the south or northern Muslim”.
According to him, Tinubu has made it very clear that he is coming to unite the country and not to divide it further.
“With the way I perceive Tinubu, he wants to unite the country so that it will be peaceful for the younger generation to inherit; he is not expecting Tinubu to pick a Muslim from the North as his running mate,” he said.
CAN, Oodua Youths Back Christian As Running Mate To Tinubu
Meanwhile, Christian Youths in Nigeria have declared that they will vote against any political party that field Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2023 presidential election.
According to the youths, they will mobilise votes against any political party that fields candidates of the same religion.
Speaking at a press conference in Abuja, the president of the Youth Wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria (YOWICAN), Belusochukwu Enwere, said the call for a Muslim-
Muslim ticket by certain individual is callous and deceptive, adding that it was a move with sinister agenda.
To this end, the youths called on the APC) to drop the idea of fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2023 election.
Enwere who also described the call as a true definition of bigotry, a slap on the entire Christendom and also a ploy to destabilise the nation.
“This is an insult, devalues, and dehumanises millions of Christians. Any political party that fields a Muslim/Muslim ticket or Christian/Christian ticket should know today that they are about to fail. Nigeria is a secular state.
“Does it imply that northern Christians are not regarded as northerners again. If we claim that we are together, then there should be no reason not to accept a northern Christian,” he said, adding that Christians are not second-class citizens.
Similarly, the Oodua Youth Parliament has enjoined Tinubu to pick a Northern Christian as his running mate in the 2023 Presidential election.
In a statement issued by the Speaker, Abdulmojeed Oyeniyi, the youths alleged that there is a conspiracy to sabotage Tinubu’s mandate, adding that picking a Christian running mate from the Northern part of the country will give him the needed victory.
“Against the wishes of some northern elite holding onto divisive and extremist views, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT) emerged as the Presidential candidate of the APC.
“But the same people who felt they have failed in their calculations have not given up. They have risen up again and this time, they want to scuttle the chances of Tinubu so that power will remain in the North for another eight years.
“They are now using their extremist Imams and youths on social media to threaten the peace of the country and subvert the victory of Tinubu that is certain if the right Christian from the North is chosen as his running mate.
“Some of these northern elite who have already shown their bigotry and intolerance even on national television are conspiring to sabotage the South West chances of having power in 2023 after they ruled for eight years.
“They are now bent on ensuring that power is handed over to another northerner and they won’t mind undermining their own party, the APC’s chances so that Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) can win in the general election.
“As we celebrate the June 12 Democracy Day, we believe that this move by some northern oligarchy to subvert the South West of the right to have a democratically elected president must be rejected and resisted by all advocates of democracy both at the individuals’ levels and institutions,” the group said.
They said the malicious sabotage bears similar trade mark with the one that stopped MKO in 1993, adding that if allowed to go through, it will retard the integrity the Nigeria’s democracy has built both in the eyes of Nigerians and also in the eyes of the international community particularly the bilateral friendship with Britain and the United States.
“The consequence of a breakdown in bilateral relations with the West could weaken Nigeria might in defeating terrorism, which is already spreading across the country as seen in bloody attack that killed worshippers in Saint Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo, on the eve of the APC primary election.
“America, British and friendly nations will simply withdraw all forms of supports in fight against terrorism, including economic aids and slam sanctions leading to more poverty in the land. We do not want this,” they said.
Stakeholders Push For Afukonyo As Tinubu’s Vice
Meanwhile, the hope of getting a suitable running mate to the APC flagbearer, Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has taken a new dimension as intellectuals and strategists met in Abuja and agreed to chart a good course for High Chief Ezekiel Irmiya Afukonyo to be paired with Tinubu.
Nigerians cutting across all strata of life and from the six geopolitical zones comprising retired generals, academia and high-ranking politicians, including the APC founding members, serving and non-serving Senators met in Abuja and resolved to back Ezekiel as the most sellable candidate.
In their separate submissions, they observed that the North East of the six geopolitical zones should be the area that will produce the running mate for the APC presidential candidate.
The stakeholders also observed that the Muslim-Christian ticket is ideal for the party and in the interest of national inclusion, cohesion, unity, peaceful corporate existence, and social justice.
The Taraba-born politician, Afukonyo, in his speech said the APC had been his party of choice since its inception and played significant roles in contributing to its growth and successes with Muhammadu Buhari as a sitting president.
Labour Party settles for Christian/Muslim ticket
The national chairman of the Labour Party (LP) Barr Julius Abure has declared that their presidential candidate, Peter Obi, will choose a competent Muslim from the Northern parts of the country to be his running mate.
According to the Labour, they will fly a Christian-Muslim ticket, adding that those planning a Muslim-Muslim ticket are agents of division.
Speaking at a press conference to mark Democracy Day yesterday, Abure, who said democracy has not in effect reflected a better life for Nigerians, added that Peter Obi and the Labour Party had embarked on a movement championed by the youths for a better Nigeria.
“Nigerians have been divided by the current government. Anything that will further divide the people should be avoided. It was Muslim/Christian ticket and now should be Christian and Muslim ticket which the labour party will fly,” Abure said, adding that Peter Obi’s running mate is coming from the North.
“There is nothing wrong with talking,” Abure said of the ongoing discussions with Peter Obi.
“He has stated categorically that he is not thinking of being a vice president and not thinking of leaving the labour party because it is a movement and we shall not play second fiddle.
“The discussion ongoing is how many people will work for Peter Obi because he is spearheading a movement. Since other regions have had the presidency, the most reasonable thing to do now is to ensure that the most competent person in the South East gets it. But Obi stands out as the best among the candidates and he is not pushing for a regional card because he is eminently qualified,” Abure added.
According to Abure, the consultations that are said to be ongoing regarding Peter Obi, Atiku Abubakar and Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso only centred on how people can support their candidate to win the 2023 general elections.
According to Abure, if Peter Obi becomes the president, he will give the country a better life.
“He says Nigeria will move from consumption to production, that is why he is in the labour party. We know that a productive economy is from the work force which is labour and the Peter Obi project is in tandem with the Labour Party. Obi has the answers to the numerous Nigerian challenges.
“With Peter Obi as president, it is the people that will drive the process and Nigerians should not make the mistake of voting people we already know their antecedents,” Abure said, while calling on Nigerians to get their PVCs.
Wike Deserves To Be VP – Okah
Meanwhile, former Rivers State Commissioner for Information and Communications, Hon. Emma Okah, has declared that Governor Nyesom Wike, deserves to be the running mate of the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.
Speaking with LEADERSHIP in Port Harcourt yesterday, Okah said Wike’s qualification was based on his contributions to the growth and development of the PDP in the country.
He said: *I know that people are offering him that position in view of the fact that he has been there for the party, added to the brilliant effort he put up at the convention.
“So, there is a popular view that given this scenario, they should give it to him. So, whether he is asking for it or not does not matter. On the basis of merit, I think, he deserves that slot.”
Although, Atiku Abubakar is poised to unveil his running mate today, indications, as of press time indicated that the Delta State governor, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa; Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike and Enugu State governor, Hon Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, were the leading candidates for the position.
Meanwhile, former Cross Rivers State governor, Donald Duke, was also thrown into the mix as of last week.
It was gathered that while Atiku was keen on Okowa, a section of his camp is also mindful of the rift between Okowa and his estranged political godfather, James Ibori, who is alleged to be opposing the Delta governor’s candidacy.
However, another camp rooting for Okowa was said to have urged the former vice president to press on with Okowa considering the support he has offered to him.
Another source however confided in LEADERSHIP that Wike has maintained that if the position will come to the South South, he will be interested.
Wike is however said to be rooting for Enugu State governor, Ugwuanyi, if it is zoned to the South East.