THE search for the running mate of All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate Bola Tinubu intensified on June 14 as President Muhammadu Buhari and APC governors met over the party’s vice-presidential slot for the 2023 general election at the State House in Abuja.
The meeting, which was held behind closed doors, was attended by some APC governors, including Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi; Nasir El-Rufai, Kaduna; Babagana Zulum, Borno; Mohammed Badaru Abubakar, Jigawa; Abdullahi Sule, Nasarawa; Simon Lalong, Plateau; Yahaya Bello, Kogi; and Hope Uzodinma, Imo.
The Chief of Staff to the President Ibrahim Gambari, and the Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Boss Mustapha, also attended the meeting.
The meeting is coming amid indications that the APC will present a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket for the 2023 general election.
Checks by The ICIR reveal that all those being considered for the party’s VP slot are Muslims.
The support of APC Northern governors played a major role in Tinubu’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate, and reports later emerged that the former Lagos State governor had promised the governors the VP slot.
The Northern APC governors are all Muslims.
Among the governors, Zulum of Borno State in the North-East is being tipped as a possible running mate for the APC presidential candidate.
The ICIR learnt that some major stakeholders in the APC want the North-East to produce the running mate to counter the advantages Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Atiku Abubakar is expected to have in the North.
Atiku is from Adamawa State, also in the North-East.
However, although the incumbent Northern APC governors played a crucial role in Tinubu’s emergence, there are strong indications that a former governor on the party’s platform is most likely to become the running mate.
Former Borno State governor Kashim Shettima is believed to be Tinubu’s preferred choice as running mate.
Shettima was the governor of Borno State from 2011 to 2019, and is currently representing Borno Central Senatorial District in the Senate.
Shettima was very vocal in his support for Tinubu in the build-up to the APC presidential primary, to the extent of launching personal attacks on Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
As the debate raged over who is a better candidate between Tinubu and Osinbajo, Shettima said Osinbajo is better off as an ice cream seller.
“Osinbajo is a good man; he’s a nice man. But nice men do not make good leaders because nice men tend to be nasty. Nice men should be selling popcorn, ice cream,” Shettima said.
He added, “Nobody has doubted the competence of Professor Osinbajo. He’s a very cerebral person, but we believe that in terms of intellect, capacity, reach, and the ability to move this nation forward, and most importantly, for us to win the upcoming election, the best candidate that the APC has is Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”
Shettima later apologised to Osinbajo for the remarks.
Following Atiku’s emergence as PDP presidential flagbearer, Shettima insisted that Tinubu was the only candidate the APC could present to match the former vice president.
“The dynamics have changed with the emergence of Atiku as the candidate of the PDP. We need someone who can match and even overshadow him in terms of brand name recognition, in terms of capacity. This is why we are championing the cause of Asiwaju Tinubu,” he stressed.
After condemnations trailed Tinubu’s outburst in Abeokuta, Ogun State, where he declared that Buhari would not have become President without his support, Shettima was among the few in the APC who openly supported Tinubu.
The outburst was seen as a sign that Tinubu was losing out in the race for the APC presidential ticket.
Shettima warned that it would be catastrophic for the party if Tinubu did not emerge as the flagbearer.
“We are in a democratic situation but I’m afraid it might be catastrophic for the party (if Tinubu loses out). I’m not a prophet of doom; I’m an optimist. We have done our own bidding and by God’s grace, our candidate will emerge as the presidential flagbearer of the APC,” Shettima said.
Defending Tinubu’s outburst, Shettima said the former Lagos governor’s remarks were distorted.
“It is not a subject of dispute but a question of time. He (Tinubu) has paid the price, and in Abeokuta, he made some remarks that were deliberately distorted and quoted out of context.”
Shettima worked as a university lecturer and in the banking sector before going into politics.
Like Shettima and Zulum, other names linked to the APC VP slot are Muslims. They include Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of the Federation Abubakar Malami, Aviation Minister Hadi Sirika, Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations Amina Mohammed and Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, a former presidential liaison officer to the National Assembly.
Barring unforeseen developments, the APC is set to present a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, despite misgivings by Nigerians, especially Christians.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) recently warned political parties against fielding candidates and running mates from the same religion for the 2023 presidential election.
National Secretary of CAN Joseph Bade Daramola warned that Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim presidential tickets would fail.
A former National Chairman of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Bode George, expressed similar concerns, said any political party presenting a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket for the 2023 general elections lacks respect for Nigerians.
A group of APC members known as the APC National Stakeholders Forum has also kicked against a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The group called on the party’s leadership and the APC governors to reserve the VP slot for a Northern Christian.