Details have emerged on how the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, shunned overtures from North-West governors to pick one of them as his running mate.
Rather than bowing to the pressure from the governors, Tinubu on Sunday picked a former Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima.
It was gathered that the governors preferred the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu and his Kaduna State counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai, but Tinubu initially offered the ticket to the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum.
It was learnt that one of the causes of the delay in selecting a running mate was the refusal of Zulum to accept Tinubu’s offer.
Top sources told The PUNCH that Tinubu had offered Zulum the ticket on a silver platter but he refused to take it.
An associate of Tinubu who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Based on wide consultations as well as a survey, Zulum was the most popular option. He was repeatedly offered the ticket but he turned it down for two main reasons. The first was that he was eager to complete his tenure as governor of Borno State and implement his reconstruction programme.
“Secondly, his loyalty to Shettima was also a factor. Zulum was Shettima’s commissioner when he handpicked him as his successor in 2019. They have maintained a cordial relationship which is rare between governors and their predecessors. Zulum finally stated that he would only accept the VP slot if Shettima asked him to take it.
“But it was difficult for Tinubu’s men to ask Shettima to plead with Zulum to take the job when it was obvious that Shettima also wanted the job. With INEC’s deadline fast approaching, Shettima became the sure option. In any case, Shettima’s loyalty to Tinubu has never been in doubt. So, it became easy to settle for him.”
Earlier last week, the six North-West governors who are members of the All Progressives Congress had met with a view to ensuring that Tinubu picks one of them as a running mate.
One of the governors, who was said to have been interested in the position was Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State who is one of the biggest advocates of the Muslim-Muslim ticket having successfully implemented it in his state.
However, El-Rufai’s frosty relationship with the Christian community was said to have discouraged Tinubu.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State could also not be considered despite his closeness to Tinubu because of the party crisis in his state that had contributed to the popularity of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and the New Nigeria Peoples Party.
It was learnt that associates of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, had reached out to Tinubu with a view to ensuring that he gets the ticket since he is the only northern Christian governor in the APC.
However, Lalong’s popularity in the North was said not to be strong enough to boost Tinubu’s chances.
In a chat with The PUNCH on Sunday, federal lawmaker, Mr James Faleke, who is the founder of the Tinubu Support Group, said picking Shettima was a master stroke.
Faleke said the streets of Borno had been agog with celebrations since the former governor was announced as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC.
“The thinking behind it is who will deliver? It is not about religion. The entire Borno is rejoicing over his choice as VP. He is very popular. Even Governor Zulum has thanked Tinubu,” he said.
The Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Dan Manjang, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Lalong had no ill feeling over his non-selection.
The commissioner said, “The selection of the running mate to the APC presidential candidate remains the prerogative of the presidential candidate himself. And he (Tinubu )would not have done that (selection of ex-Borno gov) without the knowledge of the party. Of course, the Governor (Simon Lalong) would have been happy if he was chosen as the running mate. But since that did not happen, he has no ill-feeling towards the party’s decision on the issue as he remains a loyal party man who will work for the success of the APC during the 2023 poll.”
Earlier on Sunday, Tinubu met with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in Daura, the President’s hometown.
Speaking with journalists after the meeting, Tinubu revealed that he had picked Shettima as his running mate, adding that he had not informed the former governor of his decision.
In a later statement signed by his Campaign Spokesman, Bayo Onanuga, the APC candidate said he was aware of Shettima’s religion. However, he decided to pick him still because the task of rebuilding Nigeria was beyond religious affiliation.
He reassured Nigerians that his selection was not based on religion nor taken to please certain individuals, communities and organisations.
The ex-governor said, “I am mindful of the energetic discourse concerning the possible religion of my running mate. Just and noble people have talked to me about this. Some have counselled that I should select a Christian to please the Christian community. Others have said I should pick a Muslim to appeal to the Muslim community. Clearly, I cannot do both.
“Both sides of the debate have impressive reasons and passionate arguments supporting their positions. Both arguments are right in their own way. But neither is right in the way that Nigeria needs at the moment. As President, I hope to govern this nation toward uncommon progress. This will require innovation. It will require steps never before taken. It will also require decisions that are politically difficult and rare.”
Shortly before Tinubu’s declaration, Ibrahim Masari, the APC chieftain who had stood as a surrogate running mate, announced his decision to step aside.
Masari, the surrogate running mate, stepped aside to pave the way for the name of the substantive running mate to be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission within five days to the deadline.
While calling for understanding in a statement released on Sunday by his media team, the national leader of the APC stated that he was focused on returning Nigeria to its past glory.
Tinubu added, “Today, I announce my selection with pride because I have made it not based on religion or to please one community or the other. I made this choice because I believe this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians, period, regardless of their religious affiliation or considerations of ethnicity or region.
“May I say this to all of you, especially to those who will be disappointed in my selection based on religious considerations. I will not and cannot ignore the religious concerns and ethnic sensitivities of our people. Taking them into due consideration is an important part of good and able governance.
“But ethnicity and region cannot always and fully determine our path. To forge ahead as a nation toward development and prosperity, we must break free of old binds. We must recalibrate our political calculations to where competence and fairness matter more than reductive demographics.”
CAN, Kukah react
Reacting to Tinubu’s declaration, however, the Christian Association of Nigeria said it was unfortunate that the APC candidate had failed to take the country’s religious diversity into consideration.
Before now, there had been warnings from CAN, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and Civil Society Organisations against fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election.
In an interview with The PUNCH on Sunday, the Spokesman for the CAN President, Rev. Adebayo Oladeji, said making such a decision in a polarised country was a wrong move.
He stated that if having a pastor as the vice president of the country and Christian clerics and worshipers are being killed, the security of lives and properties of Christians under a Muslim-Muslim could not be guaranteed.
Oladeji, however, warned that Nigerians should be ready to face the consequences of their actions if they endorsed and vote for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
He said, “We knew this was what he was going to do and we have warned against it. It is up to Nigerians to decide on what they want. You are all alive when we warned Buhari not to allow Muslims to dominate the security architecture of the country and he did it.
“I think we can see the way the criminals are operating with impunity. So, if Tinubu says he is opting for a Muslim-Muslim ticket in a polarised country like ours, if Nigerians endorse him and vote for him, whatever happens, Nigerians will face the consequences.
“We are raising our alarm, it is an irony that Buhari they regarded as an extremist when we raised an alarm to warn him against a Muslim-Muslim ticket, he heeded and opted for a Christian as his vice presidential candidate.”
But revered Catholic Bishop, Matthew Kukah, said Tinubu was free to pick whoever he wanted just as a coach is free to select the players on his team.
Kukah, who is the Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, said it was up to Nigerians to decide if they want a Muslim-Muslim President and Vice-President or not.
He said, “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.”
Also speaking with The PUNCH, Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Ignatius Kaigama, said Nigeria was not ripe for a same faith Presidential ticket.
The cleric added, “When you decide that only one religion will produce the major actors, excluding others who will become like strangers, it would not be fair and just. For the sake of religious sensitivity in a place like Nigeria, it is good that we have a balance so that we become like one big family.”
Also, Rev fr. Mike Umoh, Director of Social Communication, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, argued that the Muslim-Muslim ticket was insensitive.
“We have made our stance and made it clear. Muslim/Muslim ticket doesn’t make sense; it is unhealthy and insensitive for now,” Umoh stated.
The President, Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association, Luke Shehu, maintained that the APC would not get the votes of northern Christians.He said, “If this is true, then believe me APC will not get the desired votes from the Northern Christians, the generality of Christians and they will lose the votes of the Hausa for simply being a Fulani man. This is because evidently, the Hausas have been provoked by the recent incessant attacks and kidnapping by the Fulani marauders.
“These recent developments have brought to their memory their experiences and lost since Danfodio and Ahmadu Bello.”
Zulum hails Tinubu
Reacting, however, the Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo, described the choice of Shettima as perfect.
Keyamo in a tweet said, “Quintessential banker and economist, suave gentleman and politician, intellectually fertile, economically sound, intergenerational mobile (he’s young, yet experienced), fiercely loyal, phenomenally complimentary to Tinubu. Kashim Shettima is the perfect choice as VP”.
Also, Zulum hailed Tinubu for picking Shettima as his running mate.
The governor, in a statement he personally signed, said he was sure that with both Tinubu and Shettima on the ticket, the APC would win next year’s election.
“It has been my greatest wish that Kashim Shettima gets this elevation that he so much deserves as one of Nigeria’s highly patriotic leaders. For me, and I am sure for many leaders and members of the APC, Tinubu’s choice of Shettima is the wisest choice at this point in time.
“Shettima’s choice is very personal to me and together with our leaders and all stakeholders and members of the APC, we shall campaign vigorously, work day and night, to collectively secure overwhelming victory for the APC in 2023,” he said
Zulum added that there is hardly any tribe in any of Nigeria’s 36 states and the FCT that Shettima cannot knowledgeably speak about.
“He knows the social, cultural, religious, economic and political structure of virtually all the 36 States and the FCT,” said the Borno governor.
Professor Jacob Ayantayo of the Department of Religious Studies, University of Ibadan, in an interview with The PUNCH, said, “A Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a problem, we are just theorising, and if that is what is going to pay him, so be it. We are not politicians, politicians are in their own world, to them, It is a game of number, not sentiment.”
Also, a professor of African Traditional Religion, Lagos State University, Ojo, Danoye Oguntola-Laguda, said, “A Muslim-Muslim ticket can still go. Nigeria is a secular state; section 10 of our constitution says no religion shall determine the politics of the state and all other interests. There is always going to be the interest of others while picking candidates, while we are saying this, it is just a norm, not a rule. In 1993, people came up with the argument that it won’t work, but it eventually worked. There is nothing wrong with a Muslim –Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket as the case may be.’’