Nine governors of the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, after an hour-long closed door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at his private residence in Daura, Katsina State, declared their support for Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate to the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in the 2023 general election.
The governors, led by the chairman of Progressives Governors’ Forum, Abubakar Bagudu of Kebbi State, including their host, Aminu Masari (Katsina), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abubakar Bello ( Niger), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Hope Uzodinma (Imo), Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), Simon Lalong (Plateau) and Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), said they had come to pay Sallah homage to President Buhari.
They expressed confidence in the combination of both Tinubu and Shettima to ensure victory for the party at the presidential election.
Bagudu said: “We were pleasantly surprised when Asiwaju Tinubu announced in Daura on Sunday that Senator Shettima was the vice presidential candidate.
“We are very happy at the choice. The two will complement each other and will surely consolidate on the achievements of the President in the past seven years.”
Also speaking, the Imo governor, Uzodinma, said Shettima’s pick as Tinubu’s running mate was a collective decision by all the progressives governors and all the APC governors would work hard to ensure victory for the party next year. He boasted that APC governors would deliver 22 states for Tinubu.
Sources, however, disclosed to The Guardian that APC governors from the Northwest geopolitical zone have decried the choice of Shettima.
A former governor from one of the states, who is now a Senator, confided in The Guardian that incumbent governors from the zone are angry with Tinubu for despising their demand that one of them should be considered.
The Senator disclosed that during series of consultative meetings, the APC presidential candidate was given reasons why he should pick an incumbent, especially from Northwest, but he regretted that Tinubu shamed the governors after they worked for his emergence.
“The governors are very angry now and I do not know how this is going to affect our participation in the election next year. We all know the place of governors in the scheme of things in this country.
“During the consultative meetings that were held to ensure that everybody was on the same page, the governors pointed to the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), where one of them is the running mate. They said they needed that to be sure that they would have a stake in the next administration.
“When Tinubu indicated his desire to look towards Northeast for his running mate, our governors reminded him of how far they went to override President Buhari and ensure that he won the presidential primary. They argued that if he (Tinubu) wanted to go to Northeast for balance, he was invariably showing that the ticket should have gone to Southeast,” the Senator narrated.
He further stated: “Now that Shettima has been chosen, the governors are wondering what they would campaign for in the zone. They are now looking towards Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and Atiku Abubakar to be relevant in the incoming dispensation.
“Things are going to be very challenging for us in the zone, because you have seen that the Labour Party has selected its presidential running mate from Northwest. We all thought that Tinubu would settle for el-Rufa’I or Abubakar Bagudu. He has disappointed everybody and this is a sign of the kind of administration he wants to run,” the source remarked.
The Senator disclosed that it was out of pain and indignation over the development that some governors did not accompany their colleagues to pay Sallah homage to President Buhari, whom they blame for being careless about his succession plan.
MEANWHILE, the Bishop of Anglican Communion, Diocese of Calabar, Rt. Rev. Nneoyi Egbe, has warned that Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian ticket should not be encouraged, adding that Nigeria’s secularity must be respected. He stated this, yesterday, during a media briefing at the Holy Trinity Cathedral, to mark the second session of the 11th Synod of the Diocese of Calabar scheduled for July 13 to 17.
For the popular priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja, Fr. Oluoma Chinenye John, also known as Fada Oluoma, if the ruling party wins in 2023, Muslims would continue in power after Tinubu’s administration.
Oluoma expressed concerns that the move by APC would continue to trigger religious sentiments in the country. He, however, urged aggrieved citizens to vote for other political parties, stressing that other candidates were ready to change the status quo.
He said: “APC is just one party, we have other parties in Nigeria. One of the beauties of democracy is the availability of options. Crying over APC’s candidates in the midst of other candidates questions our readiness to change the status quo or our capacity to make and accept informed decisions.
“There’s only one major reason behind the Muslim-Muslim ticket by APC; electoral victory. Without a Muslim VP, the APC will lose significant votes from the North and probably lose the entire presidency. This is the fear and the reason for a Muslim VP. Don’t let anyone beguile you to make it a religious problem, if you do, you will keep losing the big picture.
“If APC wins 2023 presidency, Nigeria will be democratically handing over power from one Muslim to another. This means that religious sentiments can be thumped in our quest for a better nation. That also means that kindred sentiments like tribe and region can also be thumped,” he said.
IN the same vein, Bishop Mathew Hassan Kukah, Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, has said the decision by APC to present a Muslim-Muslim ticket was a teamwork based on calculation of what would work for the party.
In a statement he personally signed on Monday, Kukah said the decision by Tinubu to pick Shettima as his running mate should not be a thing to worry about, while those angered by the development should support other candidates they feel are better.
The statement reads: “This is what you call team selection and everybody will choose depending on what they think will give them a fair chance. So, people will take responsibility for the choices they have made. For me, it is not something to lose sleep over.
“If people feel unhappy with the kind of choices that have been made, that is why we are democrats, you can’t force it. We outsiders cannot force a choice of any candidate. It is now left for you to look at the choices that have been made. And there is no guarantee that all Christians will vote for Christians and all Muslims will vote for Muslims.”
THE Council of Church Leaders and Ministers in Nigeria has said that the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket is trampling on the religious rights of Nigerians. Addressing a press conference in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital yesterday, the Council expressed disappointment in the choice.
The Chairman, Church Leaders and Ministers Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Abel Aiyedogbon, speaking at a press conference to herald their 26th yearly conference, said: “Our political leaders are not sensitive to the feelings of citizens because the behaviour of the political class most of the time evidently shows that personal ambition and interest are the overriding goal and not patriotism.
“How will anybody think about fielding candidates of the same religion for the first and the second place when the Constitution of the country recognises secularity?
“One will not be wrong to say that trampling on the religious rights of Nigerian is manifest in the idea of the Muslim-Muslim ticket, which some people are now championing. It should be noted that people maligned and presented as inconsequential are not likely to forget. The suggestion of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is all about impunity and a callous lack of consideration for others.”
FORMER Federal Commissioner for Information and South-South leader, Chief Edwim Clark, has lampooned the nomination of Shettima. According to Clark, the convener, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), with the action of Tinubu in appointing a Muslim to run with him, even as a Muslim, in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country, he feels threatened for Nigeria as a country.
In a statement in Abuja, the elder statesman, who is the leader of the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum (SMBLF) lamented that with a very sharp division in the country, Tinubu’s action and that of the APC would further worsen the situation.
He said: “I feel threatened for our beloved country because of the way things are going. Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious nation, with Christianity and Islam as the major religions, even though Nigeria is a secular state.
“In compliance with Constitutional provisions of inclusiveness, the number one and number two positions in the country, viz, President and Vice President, have always been occupied by practitioners of the two major religions, to ensure balancing.
“It will be recalled that Tinubu could not be chosen in 2015 as VP to President Buhari because he is a Muslim. What has changed? One quality of a good leader is consistency. A good leader must act in the same way at all times, to all people. He must not display double standard.”
FORMER governor of Anambra State, Dr Chukwuemeka Ezeife, has described the APC pairing as provocative and insulting in a secular country like Nigeria.
Ezeife, in a chat with newsmen, said Nigeria has two strong religions, Christianity and Islam, and wondered why anyone would consider fielding a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket in the 2023 general elections.
“There was a time MKO Abiola and Kingibe, two Muslims, ran and won the election but that time had gone. We didn’t have the kind of religious intolerance that we have now, then.
“Yes, it happened in the past and that past had a different tone. We shouldn’t use it as precedence. This present time is pregnant with hatred, with all kinds of men exhibiting hatred for man and religion.
“If I were to meet Bola Tinubu tomorrow, I will tell him to change and have a Muslim-Christian ticket. It is just like saying, you Christians can go to hell. It looks like an insult, provocative to field Muslim-Muslim ticket or Christian-Christian ticket,” he said.
THE youth wing of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide (OYC), in its reaction, has said that it is looming danger ahead.
OYC, in a statement signed by the National President, Mazi Okwu Nnabuike, said the choice of Shettima was against the law of natural justice. He said the level of killings and violence targeted at Christians under the present administration was unprecedented and expressed concern that the Christian community would become a totally endangered specie under a Muslim-Muslim presidency.
HOWEVER, President of the Senate and the Northeast caucus of the APC in the National Assembly have described the emergence of Shettima as the vice presidential candidate as an excellent choice. In a statement Lawan personally signed, on Monday, he said the former two-term governor of Borno State entered public service with impeccable credentials, which he has burnished by demonstrating great competence, integrity and courage in all the positions that he has held.
“On behalf of myself and the Northeast caucus of our great party, I congratulate Shettima on his nomination as the running mate to our presidential candidate. Tinubu and our party have made an excellent choice in Senator Shettima.”
ALSO, a group, Northern Progressive Christian Alliance (NPCA), has thrown its weight behind the APC Muslim-Muslim pairing. The group challenged people with evidence of Shetima’s link with Boko Haram to present their evidence.
The group said the decision to back Shettima was on the ground of competence, performance and love for Christians during his days as Borno governor. “It is high time Nigerians rose above ethnic or religious sentiments in the consideration of choice of leaders at all levels of governance,” it stressed.
The group, which disclosed this in a statement signed by the Chairman and Secretary, Reverend Moses Bwala Bitrus and Pastor Nicolas Abimaje respectively, said the election of a president and his running mate as well as other political positions shouldn’t be measured on basis of tribe, religion and regional interests, but on who can work and tackle the plethora of problems facing Nigeria.
Reacting to an allegation that Shettima was sponsoring Boko Haram, it stated: “We challenge those behind the allegations to provide evidence with an assurance that our group will mobilise Nigerians to reject him outright and if there is none, they should stop the campaign of calumny.”