BY EMMANUEL AZIKEN, POLITICAL EDITOR
The major presidential gladiators this week gave a full face to the options that are before Nigerians in the coming presidential election with the revelation of their running mates.
Nigerians had looked up anxiously to what the major opposition parties would come up with in their choices ahead of the deadline by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC last Monday.
Given that the Vice-President is just a heartbeat away from the presidency the choice of a presidential running mate is expectedly a very serious concern.
President Goodluck Jonathan unlike his rivals had chosen his running mate long before his victory at his party’s presidential primaries. His choice of the incumbent Vice_President, Arc. Nnamadi Sambo was a reassuring token not only to Sambo in his efforts at wooing support for him in the North, but also a deliberate effort at putting political troublemakers at bay.
Instead of enlivening the political ambience, the choices made by the opposition presidential candidates have been remarkably pooh-poohed even by many PDP bashers.
Buhari- Bakare combination
Third time presidential candidate, Major General Muhmmadu Buhari (rtd) who is flying the banner of the relatively new Congress for Progressive Change, CPC chose radical Lagos pastor and civil rights activist, Pastor Tunde Bakare as his running mate.
Bakare was a leading light in the Save Nigeria Group (SNG),which campaigned for the actualization of Dr. Jonathan’s Acting Presidency during the illness of late President Umaru Yar‘Adua.
His choice has understandably raised feathers.
The Shekarau- Oyegun force
The All Nigerian Peoples Party, ANPP presidential candidate, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau on his part picked first civilian governor of Edo State, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun as his own running mate.
Momodu enters with Tanko
Mr. Dele Momodu who is the presidential flag bearer of the National Conscience Party, NCP chose Yunusa Tanko as his vice-presidential candidate.
Tanko, a former civil servant who will be 45 years next week, was described by the Dele Momodu campaign as a symbol for “a fresh beginning for Nigeria,” to complement Momodu.
The pair “represent that radical departure from the incompetence, the corruption and the general backwardness that is currently characteristic of our nation’s leadership,” the campaign said.
Why Ribadu side-stepped Okonjo-Iweala for Ugochukwu
Mallam Nuhu Ribadu the candidate of the Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN chose the relatively unknown Dr. Sunny Ugochukwu who until his selection was the Director General of the Nuhu Ribadu Presidential Campaign Organisation.
The choice of Ugochukwu by Ribadu has been laced in controversy as it is alleged that his first choice was the serving World Bank Managing Director, Dr. Ngozi Okonjo_Iweala. His first choice was, however, reportedly opposed by party fathers in ACN who allegedly saw the pairing as representing two strong minds who may be difficult to bend should they get the presidency.
Ribadu remarkably had worked with Mrs. Okonjo_Iweala in the Economic Management Team of President Olusegun Obasanjo when the presidential candidate was the Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission and she was the Minister of Finance.
However, the most astounding selection was Buhari’s choice of Bakare, the fiery Lagos pastor as his running mate. The selection immediately set tongues wagging as to Bakare’s primary consideration in his attacks against the political class.
Tongues wag over Bakare
Bakare’s choice was immediately flayed even from within by the CPC’s erstwhile national publicity secretary Mr. Dennis Aghanya who called it a political miscalculation. Whereas presidential running mates are expected to bring some positives to the candidates and where not, they should not bring any negatives.
However, the choice of Bakare is in various respects said to be a serious negative to the Buhari campaign.
Buhari who has in the past tried to brush off insinuations of religious extremism is faulted in his choice of a former Muslim.
Irrespective of the fact that Bakare is now a Christian pastor insinuations that Buhari could only cohabit with a former Muslim are bound to arise.
Even more revealing is Bakare’s record of antagonism towards some in the clergy notably, the respected General Overseer of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, Pastor Enoch Adeboye and the Presiding Bishop of the Living Faith Church, Dr. David Oyedipo.
The two clergy men are among the leading Christian pastors in the country with followers in the millions.
While the two clergymen according to Christian practice would not be expected to attack the choice of their adversary as a possible Vice-President, it is doubtful that their flocks would do the same.
Meanwhile, President Jonathan and his supporters who have watched with satisfaction the collapse of the alliance talks by the CPC and ACN are expected to further express relief in the choices made by the opposition presidential candidates.
Bakare according to media reports had in a famous proclamation following Obasanjo’s triumph in the presidential elections said that he, Obasanjo would not live to be President of the country. Obasanjo progressed to serve out two terms in office and is still kicking even in his old age!
As Aghanya, the erstwhile CPC spokesman said: ”With the choice of Bakare, we have lost out in the Southwest, Southeast and South-South. While Nuhu Ribadu and Shekarau will deplete our Northern votes.”
It is an assertion that is bound to make Obasanjo laugh!