The All Progressives Congress governors on Monday at a meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), expressed reservation over the manner the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, handled the selection of his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima.
The PUNCH gathered that it took the intervention of the President to pacify the governors and rally them to support the Tinubu-Shettima ticket when they visited his Daura home.
Sources at the private meeting between the President and the nine APC governors said although the APC candidate reserved the right to pick his running mate, they had not concluded their discussions with Tinubu before he went ahead to announce Shettima.
The PUNCH had on Monday reported that the North-West governors preferred the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu; or his Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai; because of the voting strength of the zone.
It was learnt the governors were angry when they heard that Tinubu had picked Shettima. Tinubu had earlier revealed on Sunday that he hadn’t even informed Shettima of his decision to pick him as his running mate.
“At the meeting the governors expressed their anger over Tinubu’s decision to pick Shettima. It was as if he didn’t even care about the opinion of the governors even though he will rely on them for mobilisation. Buhari, however, pleaded with them to accept Shettima since he is a loyal party member,” said an aide to one of the governors.
A source close to a North-West governor said the governors were all surprised by Tinubu’s announcement.
“We all watched the announcement on television just like every other Nigerian. Tinubu did not discuss this with anyone. He even admitted that he had not informed Shettima of his decision to pick him as running mate. This was not proper at all and the governors made this known,” he said.
An associate of Tinubu also told The PUNCH that Tinubu was not supposed to have made the announcement in that manner.
“What happened was just like Tinubu’s announcement at the Presidential Villa in January when he told the media about his intention to contest. Sometimes, he makes these announcements in the spur of the moment. Many of us were shocked,” he added.
Confirming the governors’ surprise at Tinubu’s announcement, the Chairman of the Progressives Governors Forum, Abubakar Bagudu, told journalists at the end of the meeting that they were surprised by the choice of Shettima as the APC vice-presidential candidate.
He said, “We were pleasantly surprised when Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu announced in Daura on Sunday that Senator Kashim Shettima was the vice-presidential candidate. We were happy that it was no less a person than Senator Shettima who was announced the vice-presidential candidate.
“No doubt, Senator Shettima would complement the good qualities of Asiwaju Tinubu. We are very happy with the choice. The two will complement each other and will surely consolidate on the achievements of the President in the past seven years.”
Bagudu added that their visit to Daura was to felicitate the President over the Sallah celebration.
Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong also said that while the choice of vice-presidential candidate was the prerogative of the Presidential candidate, all the APC governors would work to ensure the party’s victory at the 2023 general elections.
He declared, “A Presidential candidate has the prerogative of picking his deputy, but ours is to ensure the party’s victory in the presidential election.”
But the Imo State Governor, Hope Uzodinma, said Shettima’s choice was a collective decision by all the progressives governors, adding that all the governors would work hard to ensure victory for the APC in the 2023 elections.
He said, “The choice of Senator Shettima as the vice-presidential candidate is a collective decision. We shall work hard to ensure victory in all our states.”
Other governors at the meeting were: Aminu Masari(Katsina); Abdullahi Ganduje(Kano); Abubakar Bello(Niger); Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa); Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti); Simon Lalong(Plateau) and Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna).
Lawan hails Shettima
The Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, and the Senate North-East APC Caucus also hailed the party over its choice of former Borno State governor as the vice-presidential candidate.
Lawan who allayed the fears of Nigerians in a statement signed by him on Monday said the choice was for the best of the country
He added, “A loyal and committed member of our party, Senator Shettima has what it takes to be an excellent running mate to our standard bearer, and Vice President of Nigeria from next year.”
Also Speaking on the selection of Shettima, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, said it was a wise decision.
Gbajabiamila, who said Tinubu settled for “one of the best hands for the job of Nigeria’s Vice-President,” described the former governor of Lagos State as “the biggest talent hunter in the country.”
The Speaker said Shettima had over the years proved his mettle as a shrewd and progressive politician whose eight years as Governor of Borno State – from 2011 to 2019 – was a defining moment for the state.
This was contained in a statement issued on Monday by the Special Adviser to the Speaker on Media and Publicity, Lanre Lasisi, titled ‘Speaker Gbajabiamila Welcomes Shettima’s Choice as Tinubu’s Running Mate.’
Gbajabiamila said, “Asiwaju is widely known as the biggest talent hunter in the country who has over the years assembled an army of performers in governance irrespective of their ethnicity or religious leaning. This unique feature also can be found in Senator Shettima following his track record of excellence in both the private and public sectors.”
Similarly, the Deputy President of the Senate and APC governorship candidate in Delta State, Senator Ovie Omo-Agege, congratulated Shettima on his emergence as Tinubu’s running mate.
Omo-Agege, in a personally signed congratulatory message, said Shettima as a lawmaker, played a key role in his own emergence as Deputy Senate President in 2019.
“He was and continues to be a major player, not only in the National Assembly but in our nation at large. He is a large-hearted and forward-looking leader, inclusive in perspective and shorn of all bigotry. Our Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, couldn’t have made a better choice”, he stated.
Clark, Yakasai disagree
However, two elder statesmen – Edwin Clark and Tanko Yakassai – expressed divergent views over the same faith ticket of the APC.
While Clark described the Muslim/Muslim ticket as dangerous, Yakassai said it was not new in Nigerian politics.
Opposing the APC’s decision, Clark, who is the Convener, Pan Niger Delta Forum, described the development as dangerous signals that could further fuel rumours of an attempt to Islamise Nigeria “bearing in mind the antecedents of the major backers of Tinubu’s ambition, which include the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir Ahmad el-Rufai; and Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State.”
Clark in a statement said it would be impossible for Muslims to exclude others from the affairs of Nigeria.
He added, “There is presently a sharp division in the country, even on religious lines, and all patriots are seeking ways to salvage the situation. Therefore, Alhaji Tinubu’s decision to take a fellow Muslim as his running mate will further worsen the situation in the country. He should know that patriotism is a quality of a good leader.
“On the reasons adduced by Alhaji Tinubu on why he chose Kashim Shettima as running-mate, is the APC Presidential standard bearer telling Nigerians that there are no Christians in the APC from the north who are “competent, capable and reliable?”
However, Yakassai said the Muslim/Muslim ticket is not strange.
Yakasai, who spoke in Kano on Monday, noted that he was confident that “the joint ticket is representative and it will fly.”
The former Special Adviser to late President Shehu Shagari on National Assembly Matters said that “this is not the first time a candidate or leaders of this country and their deputies shared the same faith.”
According to him, “When Major General Muhammadu Buhari seized power in 1983, his deputy who was the Chief of Staff, Supreme Headquarters, Major General Tunde Idiagbon, were both Muslim from the North.
“Late MKO Abiola – a southern Muslim – and his running mate, Babagana Kingibe, recorded a landslide victory in 1993 general elections. Therefore, it’s not something new to Nigeria, and I’m particularly not disturbed that history has repeated itself. Certainly it will work.
“Tinubu is from the South-West from a minority religion; if you ask him to take a minority Northern Christian, it will be a minority ticket, and such arrangements negate the principle of participatory democracy.”
Borno CAN reacts
Reacting to reports that he has endorsed the choice of Shettima as the APC running mate, the Borno State Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Bishop Naga Mohammed, described this as untrue.
According to him, he neither granted any interview to any journalist nor issued any press statement to that effect.
Mohammed in an interview with The PUNCH said the story which had gone viral was taken from what he said in 2017 (five years ago) when Boko Haram was devastating Borno State at a time when Shettima was the governor.
“Nobody called me. No journalist called me. Right now, I’m angry and not even composed to talk very well. The story they are carrying was in 2017 when Boko Haram was devastating Borno when Kashim Shettima was the governor,” he said.
Also, the Bishop of Calabar, Anglican Communion, Rt Rev Nneoyi Egbe, rejected the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.
He called for a proper review of the 1999 Constitution as amended, adding “Our institutions are built on lies. That is why we cannot fight corruption.”
But the Northern Progressive Christian Alliance hailed the choice of Shettima, saying Nigerians should rise above ethnic and religious sentiments.
The Christian group, in a statement jointly signed by the Chairman and Secretary; Rev Moses Bitrus and Pastor Nicolas Abimaje, argued that the running mate as well as other political positions shouldn’t be measured on the basis of tribe, religious and regional interests, “but on who can work and tackle the plethora of problems facing Nigeria.”
It challenged those accusing Shettima of financing the Boko Haram insurgency to provide evidence.
Also, the Council of Church Leaders and Ministers in Nigeria described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as an assault on the rights of Christians in the country.
Addressing a press conference in Ilorin on Monday, the council expressed disappointment in the choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC Presidential flag bearer for the 2023 election.
The Chairman, Church Leaders and Ministers Fellowship of Nigeria, Pastor Abel Aiyedogbon, while speaking at a press conference to herald the 26th annual conference said, “our political leaders are not sensitive to the feelings of the citizens of the country 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.”
Speaking in the same vein, the Presbyter of the Christ Global Network Worldwide, Bishop Taiwo Akinola, declared that a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket would further complicate Nigeria’s age-long religious intolerance.
Akinola also said that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would add fuel to the agitation against the Islamisation agenda of the country.
The cleric in a 34-paragraph statement in Abeokuta said any party that adopts same-faith ticket is bound to increase the strength of its opponents.
Also, the Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Murtala Ajaka, called on Nigerians to ignore the opposition parties’ sentiment on religion, saying the choice of Senator Shettima as vice presidential candidate had unsettled their camps.
In a statement in Abuja, on Monday, Ajaka assured Nigerians that the fear of the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket being nursed in some quarters only existed in the imagination of the opposition.
But the National Publicity Secretary of New Nigeria People’s Party, Major Agbo, warned that fielding Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate would be the final nail that would seal the ambition of the former Lagos State governor.
The media aide to the Labour Party Presidential candidate, Emeka Obasi, said the APC was treading a dangerous path with its Muslim-Muslim ticket.
He said, “The issue we have at hand is a serious one. This seeming idea of not accommodating all Nigerians by APC and Tinubu is evident through his choice of a running mate that is from the same faith with him. The Muslim-Muslim ticket is not considering the sensibilities of this country.
“The ruling party should have considered that this is a secular state and know that having two Muslim candidates can provoke people of other religions. I honestly don’t know how they intend to manage this.”
Asked if Shettima’s choice would pose a threat to Obi’s ambition, Obasi said that he found the thought laughable.
The Leader, Osinbajo Grassroots Organisation in Ekiti State, Femi Adeleye, said on Monday that the matter of APC presidential and vice presidential candidates who are both Muslims had become a party matter.
Adeleye said, “The Osinbajo group cannot say anything about that. Everybody has seen what is on ground and has right to make a choice. We can’t go to anybody’s mind, it is our party. The decision has been made, it is now for Nigerians to decide, if they accept us, fine,” Adeleye said.
Also, the Coordinator of Progressive Lawyers for Osinbajo, Dr Kayode Ajulo, described the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC as a worrisome move that laid a very dangerous precedent for the country.
Ajulo stated this on Monday during a phone interview with The PUNCH, adding that the choice made by Tinubu was not based on equal opportunities for all Nigerians.
He said, “It is not about whether I support it or not. I am just worried about the significance of that Muslim-Muslim ticket. My worry is that will this now be the precedent that no Christian is worthy to hold a position of leadership in that sphere and level in Nigeria again? My worry today is that a very dangerous precedent is being laid.
“Even in Asiwaju Tinubu’s speech, he mentioned that 30 years ago, Moshood Abiola did it, so again he wanted to do it. The question is, are we now going to give our votes to the North? I preach egalitarianism and equality and I preach equal opportunities. If he should talk about equal opportunities, then we will be able to believe that irrespective of your tribe, religion, or the circumstances of your birth, you should not be barred from that position.
“Today in the United Kingdom, Kemi Badenoch, a British-Nigerian, is about to become the Prime Minister. She is a big contender for that position and she is being accepted; nobody cares to look at the colour of her skin or where she is coming from, all they need is, is she ready to do it. So that is my worry about the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“According to the constitution, it is the presidential candidate that has the sole right or prerogative or discretion to pick anyone, and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has picked whosoever he so wishes, I don’t have a problem with that. My problem is, the significance of that choice to the collective psychology of Nigerians.”
A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Chief Olu Falae, said the forthcoming general election might go on ethnic lines based on the way Nigerians were campaigning ahead of the 2023 presidential election.
The elder statesman said ethnic agenda was ongoing because the current Nigerian state does not make an impact on lives of individuals, alleging that the present administration in the country had failed to present itself as the government of the people.
He stated this in an interview with journalists in Akure, the Ondo State capital.