Ahead of Friday’s deadline for political parties to submit the names of their presidential candidates and running mates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, most of the political parties are making hurried moves to beat the deadline.
The commission had said it would not extend the deadline for the submission of the names of the candidates and their running mates.
In the Peoples Democratic Party, the committee set up by the party to advise it on the most suitable running mate for Atiku Abubakar will hold its final meeting on Tuesday, Sunday PUNCH reliably learnt on Saturday.
The panel, which comprised governors, National Working Committee members, former governors and Board of Trustees members, was given the mandate of recommending to the party the best candidate that would be acceptable to many Nigerians and help the party win the February 25, 2023 election.
In the ruling All Progressives Congress, it was also learnt that the party and its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, given the party’s difficulty in finding a Christian from the North, who would boost the party’s chances in the election.
A top source in the party told one of our correspondents on Saturday that even though consultation was still ongoing, the idea of picking either Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who are both northern Christians, was no longer topical due to their limited clout in the region.
The source noted that North-West and North-East had the bloc votes in the region and that if the party could not find a stronger Christian from the two sub-regions, it might settle for a Muslim.
Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s meeting of the PDP panel, a reliable source, who is also a member of the panel, told one of our correspondents that the committee adjourned its previous meeting to enable members to broaden their consultation.
“The deadline for submission is June 17, so the meeting was adjourned till Tuesday, June 14, to give room for more consultation and unification efforts. They will take a final decision on Tuesday,” The source said.
It was gathered from other sources in the party that Atiku, who is a BoT member, would also be part of the meeting, and that the party might take a final decision on the issue.
“Our presidential candidate will be part of the meeting on Tuesday and the major organs of the party are represented as well, so the decision there is as good as final. The announcement may be delayed to ratify the choice and of course we will watch what the other parties will come up with,” one of the sources stated.
Okowa favoured, Wike, Udom make PDP final list
There are strong indications that the Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, is favoured to emerge as Atiku’s running mate as the candidate is said to be favourably disposed to the choice of Okowa, a medical doctor serving his second term as the governor of the oil-bearing state.
Other persons being considered and who are interested in the slot are governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Wike was the first runner-up during the party’s presidential primary held on May 29, 2022.
A top source in the party, who is also close to the candidate, said, “Atiku will consult very well. He has met with the governors on the platform of the party; he has met with members of the national caucus, the PDP Governors’ Forum, members of the National Executive Committee, and even former presidents and heads of state.
“The leadership of the party asked him to bring three names that he thinks he could work with and he did, which are the names people have been mentioning everywhere; Wike, Okowa and Udom Emmanuel. But I think he prefers Okowa. He (Okowa) is believed to have the support of the majority of the governors, including those from the South-East and South-South, where he hails from.
“The preference for him is also strategic. Following the need to carry along the South-East people, Okowa is Igbo from the Igbo part of Delta State. He is calm, a medical doctor and does not insult or fight people, including his colleagues. Even during campaigns, he’s not the type to speak ill of fellow aspirants or candidates.
“Therefore, it’s not likely that there will be any major opposition to his choice. Like I said, he is Igbo and he will create that needed balance between the South-South and the South-East. The Igbo will support him and people in the South-South will also support him.”
There are also insinuations that some PDP governors were against the choice of Wike as Atiku’s running mate.
On why Wike, who was a major contender for the presidential ticket, was not considered, the source, who was privy to some of the meetings held over the issue, told Sunday PUNCH, “Some governors frustrated the move to make him the running mate. They feel he is too powerful. But in all honesty, you need someone like Wike to win the election.
“He can fight dirty and can pull the crowd. But some of the governors, who form a powerful and influential bloc in the party, feel otherwise and you cannot dismiss their views.”
The source said a new twist to the search was the view of some stakeholders that the running mate should come from the South-West.
He added, “As it is now, it is very likely for Tinubu to pick his running mate from North-West. We must not forget that the majority of the votes are from the North-West and South-West. That is where the bloc votes are.
“What some stakeholders are saying is that if he does, it will be dangerous for the PDP to totally ignore the South-West, because North-West, which has the highest votes, may give Tinubu that advantage.
“Now, people are saying if a Christian from the South-West is Atiku’s running mate, it will affect Tinubu’s votes in the region, because running with a Muslim/Muslim ticket will spark outrage from Pentecostal Christians and that will affect his votes among even the northern Christians. It will also affect him in the South-South. That is the argument. So, the PDP cannot also ignore the South-West.”
To deepen his consultation, Atiku met with former PDP governors on Friday after he had met with former ministers. He wrote on his Facebook page that the responses from all the stakeholders that he had met reinforced his belief that the party would win if the unity was sustained.
APC considers Bagudu, Shettima, Ganduje, El-Rufai
Fresh information emerged on Saturday that the Tinubu camp had ruled out Lalong and Mustapha, who is from Adamawa State, and might settle for a core Muslim northerner, regardless of their advantage of being Christians.
One of those involved in the consultation for Tinubu’s running mate pointed out that the party might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Reliable sources close to Tinubu also indicated that the former Lagos State governor would rely on the input of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum on who should be his running mate.
The pressure to pick a Muslim as his running mate, it was learnt, was to assuage his many supporters in the North due to indications that there were no popular Christian politicians to sway votes in favour of the APC in the region.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the sensitive issue, affirmed that four men were in contest for the position. The source said, “We have Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; a former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State; and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.”
It was learnt that the Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, made a case for Shettima when Tinubu visited the state during his consultation with delegates. Shettima is a strong supporter of the APC candidate and he spoke out in Tinubu’s defence after his Abeokuta outburst.
Another source noted, “However, the President and the members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum will play key roles in deciding the running mate. You will be surprised to know that Zulum made a case for Shettima when Asiwaju visited Borno during the campaign. He said, ‘Jagaban, please I am going to ask for two favours from you. I want you to pay attention to my state and also consider my principal, Senator Shettima, as your running mate. He has good things to offer and you will enjoy him’.
“For now, the running mate may have to come from these four men.”
It was gathered that Lalong’s name was dropped because he’s known to be very close to the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who came second during the primary.
The source said, “From fresh considerations, we cannot pick Lalong or Boss Mustapha. Apart from his closeness to Amaechi, a factor we are not very comfortable with, Lalong is from the North-Central, which is not a core northern state. Plateau is also considered not to be strategic enough to win elections in northern Nigeria. Using him will be like alienating the entire northern Nigeria.
“Concerning Boss Mustapha, well, he is not with us. Though he belonged to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria like Tinubu, he does not identify with him. He was not part of our campaign and has yet to visit the aspirant (as of Saturday afternoon) since he won the primary.
“In his home state of Adamawa, it’s known that Mustapha cannot win an election there. So, why will you impose such a man on an aspirant that needs the huge votes from the northern region?”
Meanwhile, Amaechi has expressed his readiness to work with Tinubu. In his short response to an inquiry on whether he was ready to work with the party’s candidate, the former minister said, “Yes, we met. He came to my house and we discussed and resolved to work together.”
‘Muslim-Muslim ticket debate, conspiracy to distract Tinubu’
The National Vice Chairman (North-West) of the APC, Salihu Lukman, said the debate over a perceived Muslim-Muslim ticket was a ploy to distract Tinubu, adding that he was not surprised to find party members among those second-guessing the outcome.
Lukman in a statement in Abuja on Saturday, stated, “Most of those trying to use religious arguments to influence the choice of running mate for Asiwaju Tinubu are impliedly arguing that a Christian northerner can only win presidential election if his/her running mate is a Muslim from southern Nigeria.
“In the same vein, this will be politically disadvantageous, if not impossible for any Christian from the North or Muslim from the South to win the presidential election. Such a backward national mindset must be changed.”
He said the 2023 presidential campaigns must not be reduced to the level of ethnic and religious sentiments if Nigeria was to move forward.
Allow northern govs decide your running mate, stakeholders urge Tinubu
Some stakeholders and chieftains of the APC, on Saturday, urged the party’s presidential candidate to allow the northern APC governors to choose his running mate.
They argued that since the northern governors suggested that the party should zone its presidential ticket to the South, they were still in a better position to field a running mate.
The Director-General, Voice of Nigeria and foundation member of the APC, Osita Okechukwu, told one of our correspondents, “On the issue of the running mate, I will advise our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to weigh the opinion of the northern governors on this matter. They stand in a better position, better than any other organ of the party, in consultation with Mr President to give us a candidate.”
Also, the Chairman of the APC Rebirth Group, Aliyu Audu, said, “The northern governors sat and decided that the ticket should go to the South. The same set of people should be able to decide who will be the running mate. It is not just up to the candidate. It is up to the party.”
The APC’s first national secretary, Tijjani Tumsah, also stated, “Tinubu’s criteria should be competence, a known value addition to the ticket and someone who can deliver. We should not be limited by religion or some other criteria. His criteria should be a competent person from the North.”
As of the time of filing this report, efforts to reach Tinubu’s spokesperson, Mr Tunde Rahman, proved abortive as he neither responded to calls or an SMS sent to him.
Religion not a problem in choice of running mate – Campaign organisation
Religious affiliation will not be a factor in the choice of a running mate for Tinubu, his campaign organisation said on Saturday.
Responding to the rejection of Muslim-Muslim ticket by the Christian Association of Nigeria and counter-claims by the Muslim Rights Concern, the Director, Legal Directorate, Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), told Sunday PUNCH that the APC would not pander to such sentiment.
He said, “What is the business of CAN in politics? That is what I don’t understand? Was CAN there when we were doing our convention? Do they know the processes of how our candidate emerged? I think CAN, MURIC and other religious bodies should concentrate on their religion and stop heating up the polity. The party has not come up with any position; so why the issue of threats? What is their own with issuing threats?
“We will pick the best (running mate) for our party who can deliver the election for us; they should allow the people to decide what they want.”
NASS caucus joins APC govs in search for Tinubu’s running mate
The National Assembly Caucus of the APC has joined the search for a running mate for Tinubu, Sunday PUNCH has learnt.
The Majority Leader of the House of Representatives, Alhassan Ado-Doguwa, last week hinted that by the current zoning arrangement in the party, the North-East should produce Tinubu’s running mate.
In an interview with our correspondent on Friday, Ado-Doguwa, who is from Kano in the North-West, argued that the APC could win with a Muslim-Muslim ticket, noting that the candidate is a liberal Muslim married to a Christian, Senator Oluremi Tinubu.
He added, “The National Assembly Caucus will rather continue to partner with the governors to chart the best way forward for our great party to deliver in the 2023 general elections. We are also adequately represented in virtually all the decision-making and decision-taking horizons of the party.
“On the tentative zoning arrangement, I believe the North-East should be allowed to produce an acceptable running mate. But whether that will be Ahmad Lawan or not, I cannot tell. My candid opinion is that in this 21st Century, Nigeria has passed that stage where religion will play a prominent role in the selection of our vice-president.”
However, the lawmaker representing Borno South Senatorial District, Senator Ali Ndume, said his involvement in the presidential race ended with the failure of Amaechi to clinch the party’s ticket. He added that Tinubu would determine who would be his running mate.
A member of the National Assembly, who spoke on condition of anonymity, however, disclosed that Lawan, Zulum, Shettima and a former Speaker of the House, Yabuku Dogara, were being considered.
“It is very likely that in spite of all the stories going round to be a Muslim-Muslim ticket. It is very likely. But who that person will be, I am not in the position to tell. Lawan is not in the contest because Lawan is seen as someone who betrayed Tinubu,” the lawmaker added.
I’ll pick credible southern Christian – Kwankwaso
Meanwhile, the presidential candidate of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, Rabiu Kwankwaso, has said the party is currently making consultation to choose a credible southern Christian as his running mate.
He said in an interview with one of our correspondents, “A committee will be constituted to help get the best Nigerian, who will be a Christian from the southern part of the country, as the running mate. The Kwankwasiyya National Movement is already in the southern part of the country and we will get someone who is widely accepted in the southern part of the country as my running mate.
“I am sure they will come with their own benefits to be added to the NNPP for the success of the party. When we come together, no candidate of the APC or the PDP will be able to defeat us.”
Asked how he planned to defeat the two major parties, the former Defence Minister said, “The Kwankwasiyya movement is very popular, and we will even win in the North-East.
“I’m happy that the Electoral Bill was signed into law, and that will make it difficult for anyone to rig us as they’ve always done in the past.”