Nigeria’s ruling political party, the All Progressives Congress, APC last week held its special national convention in Abuja where a long-standing democrat in the mould of Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as the Presidential Candidate for the forthcoming 2023 general election.
The convention widely judged by many as free, fair and transparent has come and gone and with the emergence of a Presidential Candidate, the search for a credible Nigerian as the Vice Presidential candidate has commenced in earnest especially in fulfillment of the electoral umpire INEC’s timelines and processes.
Ordinarily, the choice of a Vice President should not be a problem for any Presidential Candidate, especially for a ruling party and with Nigerians in their millions who are available and perhaps willing to fill such a portfolio. However, the choice of a Vice President may receive wild jubilation in the country or strong condemnation from both party members and the general Nigerian public.
The choice of a running mate in some cases brings aura and prestige around the presidential contest with its attendant political capital. On the other hand, the wrong choice may spell doom, disenchantment and disillusionment. In the foregoing, a Presidential Candidate and the sponsoring political party must always ensure that the choice for the position of a running mate is carefully done with all the odds ticked in affirmation.
For the All Progressives Congress, APC, a party that has been in power since 2015, it is sine qua non that both the Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates must be people who have wide acceptability and have a good understanding of the ideological lining of the party to consolidate on the gains made by the President Muhammadu Buhari led administration in all the spheres.
Already, the APC has in a transparent, free, credible and acceptable party primaries elected a Presidential Candidate who has assiduously fought for the restoration of democracy in Nigeria – a true democrat and party man, a household name in Nigeria and beyond, a man with uncommon acceptability and political tact and sagacity, the Jagaban Borgu, Asiwaju Bolanle Ahmed Adekunle Tinubu who happens to be of Southern Nigeria extraction and particularly from South-West.
In the light of the above, as it is a common political practice in Nigeria, once a Presidential Candidate is of Southern extraction, the Vice is chosen from the Northern region and vice versa. It is needless to begin to lay down examples as this practice was upheld even during the military interventions in Nigerian politics. In this case, since the Jagaban is a Southerner, the search for a running mate is focused on Northern Nigeria.
For the avoidance of doubt, the Northern region of Nigeria is divided into three geo-political zones namely; North-West, North-East and North-Central. A political trajectory reveals that since Nigerian independence, Nigeria has produced three democratic Vice Presidential Candidates who were elected.
During the aborted third republic, the adjudged winner of the presidential election Chief MKO Abiola of the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, had His Excellency, Alhaji Babagana Kingibe as his running mate. On the return of democracy in Nigeria in 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo was elected the President on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, with his running mate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar. In 2010, when Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan was sworn in as the President, Arc Namadi Sambo was nominated and sworn in as the Vice President.
From the above analysis, it should be known that Alhaji Babagana Kingibe is an indigene of Borno State in North-East Nigeria as well as Atiku Abubakar who hails from Adamawa State. More so, Arc Namadi Sambo is from Kaduna State in the North-West geopolitical zone. This in clear terms reveals that both North-East and North-West have occupied the office of the Vice President with the exclusion of North-Central. Should North-Central Nigeria be considered a cannon folder?
In addition, it has also been a recurrent practice that a Muslim Presidential Candidate picks a Christian running mate and vice versa. This was experienced in 1979 when Alhaji Shehu Shagari of NPN picked a Christian, Dr Alex Ekwueme as his running mate. In 1999, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo as a Christian nominated a Muslim, Atiku Abubakar and President Umar Musa Yar’Adua, a Muslim chose Dr Goodluck Ebele Jonathan a Christian as his running mate. Goodluck as the President made sure his Vice was a Muslim in the person of Arc Namadi Sambo.
It is also no news that the incumbent President, Muhammadu Buhari who is Muslim has had Professor Yemi Osinbajo, SAN as his Vice since 2015. It was only during the 1993 presidential election that a popular party with a national appeal – the SDP had a Muslim/Muslim ticket whereby MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates respectively were all Muslims.
The above analysis is to buttress that in the spirit of fairness and equity, the slot of the Vice President of the APC should be a Christian since the Presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu is a dedicated and practising Muslim.
As we analyze a choice of a running mate to the Jagaban, it is pertinent to point out that a credible choice is found in the person of His Excellency, Barr Simon Bako Lalong, the Governor of Plateau State since 2015. Governor Lalong is a governor of a North-Central State, a Christian, a committed member of the APC and above all, a dependable team player and has held forth excellently as the Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum. It is also very instructive to mention that Governor Lalong is the only serving APC Governor in the Northern region who is a christian.
It should be noted quickly that a good number of Vice Presidents in Nigeria were governors. In 1999, Atiku Abubakar was elected Governor of Adamawa State before he was nominated as Vice President. In 2007 when Goodluck Jonathan was given the Vice Presidential slot, he was the Governor of Bayelsa State ditto for Namadi Sambo who was the Governor of Kaduna at the time of his nomination.
Governor Lalong does not compromise on the part of loyalty, a team player – a dependable and worthy change agent. The former Speaker of Plateau State House of Assembly is someone who is tested and trusted and indisputably an exponent of carrying out assigned duties obediently, devotedly and devoid of pretense.
To better appreciate Governor Lalong, it is not out of place to take a look at the situation of Plateau State before he assumed office. Prior to the election of Rt. Honourable Simon Bako Lalong in 2015 on the platform of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Plateau State was bedevilled with all manner of crises and misdemeanors which were given all sorts of colouration translated and captured in political, religious, ethnic grounds etc.
Also, the administration on assumption inherited over N222 billion state debt, myriad of abandoned projects and the over seven-month salary arrears owed the civil servants. Simon Lalong as Governor made sure that peace returned to the once “Home of Peace and Tourism” since no meaningful development can take place where there is no peace. With peace, Plateau State is now flourishing under his watch.
A nomination of Simon Lalong as a running mate to the Jagaban will send out a clear message to the rest of Nigerians that the minority tribes are also considered in the political equation. Lalong will bring a lot of people across party lines to support the presidential ambition of the APC as the Chairman of the Conference of Former Speakers of Nigeria. Lalong will not be a liability but will be an asset to help the APC navigate to the shores of victory come 2023.
As Chairman of the Northern Governors Forum, Governor Simon Bako Lalong has been a rallying point that has the 19 Northern Governors united irrespective of their partisan affiliations. He is a great Nigerian who will add tremendous value to the presidential bid of His Excellency Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu if offered the opportunity to jointly fly the party’s presidential ticket to victory in next year’s general elections.
As one of the Northern Governors who has consistently stood for and defended the cause of the All Progressives Congress, APC his loyalty and commitment to the electoral fortunes of the APC must be rewarded in a way that all party members will be encouraged to inclusively work for the victory of the APC that is poised to move the country forward.
Wole Eghiaruwa, Coordinator, Tinubu Support Organization, TSO United Kingdom