By Clifford Ndujihe, Politics Editor & Omezia Ajayi
PRESIDENTIAL Candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, is facing his first major hurdle as the standard bearer of his party. Who will be his running mate? Will he be a fellow Muslim or Christian? Will he be one of the 14 APC governors from the North or another party stakeholder?
To answer these questions and select a running mate that will make APC have a ‘’winning ticket” Tinubu has begun consultations with critical stakeholders of the party to receive inputs on the choice of his running mate, Vanguard has learned.
To this end, Tinubu, yesterday, met with APC Governors behind closed doors. Although, details of the meeting were not immediately available, an aide to one of the governors said discussions about the party’s vice presidential candidate could not be ruled out.
“Although, I was not part of the meeting, but definitely, it is first a thank you visit, then other issues would be discussed. The choice of a running mate cannot be ruled out of the discussions. You know the governors really did a lot for Asiwaju and so it follows that he would naturally carry them along when making critical choices”, said the governor’s aide.
Plateau State Governor and Chairman, Northern Governors Forum, Simon Bako Lalong, former House Speaker Yakubu Dogara and the Secretary to the Federal Government, Boss Mustapha, are among those being touted as possible running mate to Tinubu.
While Lalong is atop the list, there have been allegations by his opponents that many of the delegates from Plateau State did not vote for Tinubu.
Tinubu on Thursday also met with the Senator Abdullahi Adamu-led National Working Committee, NWC, of the party.
Although the meeting was behind closed doors, a short video made available to Vanguard saw Adamu with other NWC members stepping out of the meeting and assuring of greater support for Tinubu. He specifically assured Tinubu of the support of the entire party structure.
Speaking after he led the NWC to pay a congratulatory visit on Tinubu, the party chairman said he would work with others to ensure that the APC candidate emerges Nigeria’s president, next year.
“Action speaks louder than words. We are here to join our brother, to congratulate him and to assure him that we are together. This is our project. By the grace of God, we will deliver him as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in 2023”, he stated.
Tinubu had emerged presidential candidate of the party on Wednesday in Abuja having polled 1, 271 votes to defeat his closest rival, Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi who garnered 316 votes.
Vice President Yemi Osinbajo came third with 235 votes while Senate President Ahmad Lawan came fourth with 152 votes.
As part of reconciliation efforts, Tinubu, yesterday, visited Vice President Osinbajo in Abuja. The visit lasted 30 minutes. He was accompanied by Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos.
Race for running mate
As consultations continue, there are fears that Tinubu, a southern Muslim, may pick a northern Muslim as running mate to enhance the chances of the APC beating the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, which has a northerner, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, as its candidate.
If the APC picks a northern Muslim as Tinubu’s running mate it means the party will be fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket as the Social Democratic Party, SDP, did in 1993 with late Chief MKO Abiola and Ambassador Babagana Kingibe.
In 2015, the scenario almost played out with Major General Muhammadu Buhari and Asiwaju Tinubu but strident outcry in the polity led to the nomination of Professor Yemi Osinbajo.
The rumour of the move flew in the social media during Tuesday’s presidential primaries of the APC and Asiwaju Tinubu quickly dismissed it as hog-wash.
Currently, leading APC stalwarts considered as likely running mate to Tinubu include serving and out-going APC governors, who played crucial roles in getting the South to clinch the presidential ticket of the party.
They include Chairman of Progressive Governors Forum and Governor of Kebbi State, Atiku Bagudu; Chairman of Northern Governors Forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simeon Lalong, Governor Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa), who stepped down for Tinubu at the APC primaries; Governor Abdulraman Abdulrasak (Kwara); and Governor Babagana Zulum (Borno).
Others are Governor Aminu Bello Masari (Katsina), Governor Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Governor Bello Matawale (Zamfara), Mallam Nasir el-Rufai (Kaduna), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Yahaya Inuwa (Gombe), Abubakar Bello (Niger), and the Yobe State Governor, Mai Mala Buni.
Also in view are Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, Yahaya Bello and Senate President Ahmad Lawan. The duo contested the presidential primaries and lost to Tinubu.
However, all those mentioned above are Muslims apart from Governor Lalong. Some prominent Northern Christians who could become Tinubu’s running mate are Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Boss Mustapaha; and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.
Party sources said a Muslim-Muslim ticket may be the best option for Tinubu to win because with it “he will get the support of the majority of the North, and the South-West. Even with a Christian running mate, the South-East and South-South may not vote for Tinubu.”
However, an aide to the former Lagos State governor said the APC standard bearer will consult with all party stakeholders to take a decision on the issue.
“The party will decide on Tinubu’s running mate. It is a collective thing. He is a democrat and party man to the core. Tinubu will not take a unilateral decision,” the source said.
Muslim-Muslim ticket’s no go area — Babachir Lawal
Meanwhile, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Engr Babachir Lawal, has said that picking a Muslim running mate will not fly.
Speaking on Channels Television Programme, Politics Today, he said a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a no-go-area given the fragility of the Nigerian state where mistrust exists between the two major religions.
He said if Tinubu picks a Muslim as his running mate, that ticket will be dead on arrival to Christian Northerners, and urged Tinubu to banish the thought of a Muslim-Muslim ticket as his surest route to Aso Villa.