By Dr Mikailu Barau.

The activities of a group known as Tinubu Support Organization (TSO) in the historic city of Kaduna on Monday, 4th July 2022 are landmarks in the race to the 2023 election within the fold of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

The group among other activities paid a courtesy call to Senator Kabiru Garba Marafa (CON) and conducted a press briefing where they advocated for the Vice Presidential running mate to come to the North-west in order to balance the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu.

The group did not stop at that but went ahead to narrow down its choice to Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State based on its belief that El-Rufai is a highly experienced figure who always stands for progressive policies with massive appeal to the region.

My affiliation to Senator Marafa’s political doctrine makes me committed to the Asiwaju ticket and consider it duty-bound to offer advice for its success.

In a number of instances, I heard Senator Marafa giving credit to Tinubu for his massive support and his fatherly role as APC National Leader to the success of the legislative endeavour that saw the emergence of Sen Ahmad Ibrahim Lawal as a formidable Senate Presidential Candidate in 2015 and eventually the Senate President in 2019.

Beyond the general season of politicking and the breath of all manners of ideas to advance the causes of interest groups and individuals ahead of the 2023 general elections, some stances are worth evaluating due to their appeal to logic and TSO’s is one. Starting with the suitability of which zone is most likely to make the Tinubu project succeed, one needs to weigh the strength and weaknesses of each of the zones the APC presidential candidate is bound to make his choice.

Since Tinubu is from the Southern part of the country, it is expected that his running mate should come from the North to give his ticket the desired broad base and balance.

That is to say that the running mate must come from either the  North-West, North-East or North-Central.

With the deadline for the submission of VP candidates closing in, there are agitations for each of the three zones based on some perceptions. The North-central for instance is agitating to have the Vice Presidential ticket based on the perception that a religiously balanced ticket would serve the APC well. But this idea has not gained popularity because other than its appeal to the  sentiments of religious balance, it may not bring the much-needed votes for the APC presidential candidate to coast home to victory.

While the North-central remains relevant in the political equation, the two states of Benue or Plateau, where ordinarily the choice should have been favoured, are known to be more in support of the PDP. One thing also that rules the North-central out is that APC National Chairman, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, is from the zone.

On the other hand, while picking a running mate to Tinubu from the North-East could also be considered as an option, it equally has its challenges. This is because the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, hails from the North-east which invariably implies that he will most definitely win some of the traditional PDP states in the region like Bauchi, Adamawa and Taraba even if the APC gives its Vice Presidential ticket to someone from the zone. Besides, two states in the region namely, Borno and Yobe have always and will always stand for the APC regardless of whether the VPs ticket goes there or not.  Gombe state on the one hand is also becoming the third state in the league of APC-settled states in the northeast, especially with ranks closed between Governor Inuwa Yahaya and Senator Danjuma Goje’s political groups.

Picking a running mate from the North-West, however, will definitely change the political equation of the zone with states like Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara, Kebbi and Jigawa, the region is the behemoth in terms of voter population in Nigeria and no serious contender for the presidential seat of Nigeria ever toys with it. This is the zone with six out of its seven states all governed by the APC.

Even Sokoto that makes the exception is known to be traditionally and realistically APC considering how the 2019 gubernatorial election was keenly contested with a margin of some 342 votes between APC and PDP. Another reason that makes Northwest a critical geopolitical zone to consider in this regard is the frustration caused by banditry which hits it worst.

But beyond its disposition as the only zone with seven states mostly loyal to APC, North-west Nigeria is the only one so far in the current political arrangement that is yet to be given a sense of belonging by any of the major political parties in the country.

Since the PDP has given its presidential ticket to the Northeast, the APC as a matter of urgency needs to embrace the North-west if it is to get its calculations right. It should not be forgotten that the Northwest is also home to the serving President, Muhammadu Buhari, and giving it a Vice President will be a good consolation to consider.

The danger of not factoring these subtle but forceful variables in the political equation in relation to the interests of the Northwest by APC amounts to a costly gamble that positions either the PDP or smaller parties like the NNPP to prey on the zone which would amount to a political miscalculation on the part of the APC.

It is important for the APC not to let go of the North-west because it is only when the APC shows prospects of reclaiming the entire Northwest states that it can gain the confidence of the North-central and North-east states to queue up behind it.

Coming back to the issue of pencilling down Governor El-Rufai for the position, one can also say without fear of contradiction that this is well thought out proposition as the Kaduna Governor has proven to be the most urbane and cosmopolitan among his peers who could blend easily as Vice President and complement the efforts of his principal.

El-Rufai is also a go-getter when it comes to infrastructural development and pragmatic decisions including those with the promise to address the banditry ravaging the region and the country. This is evidenced in what he achieved both as Minister of the Federal Capital Territory and as Governor of Kaduna State where he transformed Abuja and Kaduna into ultra-modern cities and rolled out demonstrable policies that can end banditry given all the opportunity. Mal. Nasir El-Rufai also has a track record of working seamlessly with Nigerians from other parts of the country irrespective of ethnicity or religion and has brought Nigerians from all parts of the country to work with him even as a state Governor. It is equally instructive to note that Kaduna remains the symbolic capital of Northern Nigeria and  El-Rufai’s role as its Governor endeared him to a wide range of critical stakeholders across the region who adopt the city as a home.

At Senator Marafa Advocacy and Reform Team (SMART), we consider the position of the Tinubu Support Organisation that Governor El-Rufai, who is from the North-west, should be nominated running mate to Tinubu as apt and should be supported by those who genuinely wish the APC success in the 2023 presidential elections.

Dr. Mikailu Barau is a member of APC in Zamfara State and the Coordinator of Senator Marafa Advocacy and Reform Team (SMART).


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