Northwest governors, ministers harden position on Tinubu’s running mate
Governors elected on the platform of All Progressives Congress (APC) from the Northwest geopolitical zone, yesterday, maintained that the party’s presidential standard bearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, should choose his deputy from the zone.
The party stakeholders from the zone have, however, pledged to ensure the victory of Tinubu in the 2023 presidential poll.
Leaders from the zone also resolved to aggregate their interests and engage Tinubu. The decision of the Northwest APC leaders comes on the heels of ongoing consultations by Tinubu with critical stakeholders on the choice of his running mate.
The parley by the group comprising the party’s governors, gubernatorial candidates and ministers who met in Kaduna State was aimed at prevailing on Tinubu to cede the Vice Presidency slot to the zone, assuring that the zone will replicate the electoral feat of the party in 2015 next year.
APC’s National Vice Chairman (Northwest), Dr Salihu Lukman, in a statement made available to The Guardian, said: “The meeting noted the contribution of the Northwest to the emergence and growth of the APC and its electoral viability, with the region providing about 39 per cent of the votes the APC recorded in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.
“Therefore, the zone resolved to aggregate its interests and vital concerns and engage accordingly with the presidential candidate of the party.”
The group welcomed the initiative to commence this consultative meeting as vital for strengthening the APC in the Northwest and improve leadership engagements and cohesion within the zone.
Tinubu had earlier submitted the name of Ibrahim Kabir Masari from the Northwestern state of Katsina to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) as his running mate.
Party sources had indicated that Masari is only a ‘place holder’, as his name was submitted to meet the INEC deadline and that he would be changed within the window of substitution provided by the electoral umpire.
The development comes barely 24 hours after the defection of the two-term governor of Kano State and Senator representing Kano Central Senatorial district, Ibrahim Shekarau.
Shekarau, whose defection was announced on Wednesday by the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan, during the plenary, had defected from APC to team up with the presidential candidate of New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Rabiu Kwankwaso.
Just as some of his contemporaries who left in a gale of defection, Shekarau stated in his resignation letter that he dumped the ruling APC over the unresolved issues of injustice, marginalisation and unfairness by Kano State governor.
Shekarau’s defection and unholy alliance with Kwankwaso have allegedly unsettled the APC and further changed the direction of ongoing consultation and negotiation among the northern governors.
A party chieftain, who craved anonymity, said Shekarau’s defection and proposed coalition between the NNPP and Labour Party’s presidential flagbearer, Peter Obi, has changed the dynamics of the negotiation.
“What it means is that usual bloc votes for the APC in Kano and Kaduna could be decimated by the NNPP and leave APC in a disadvantaged position. This could worsen if the party runs with a Muslim-Muslim ticket and NNPP unveils Obi to the Christian residents in the Northwest.”
Also according to another source, the zonal leadership caucus of the party insisted that only such gesture of inclusion could guarantee their active involvement in the presidential campaigns starting in September. They stressed that their position is supported by the high voting numbers from their zone.
MEANWHILE, another interest group is pushing for the VP slot to come from the North-Central zone. This was after 19 Northern states APC youth groups and stakeholders nominated the Executive Secretary of the Nigerian Christian Pilgrims Commission, Rev Yakubu Pam as its preferred running mate to Tinubu.
The group, which made this known, yesterday, at a press conference in Abuja, said it came to the conclusion to zone the ticket to the Middle-belt and subsequently settled for Pam after an exhaustive consultation for the purpose of equity, justice and fairness.
According to a statement signed by its convener, Alhaji Abubakar Isah, Secretary, Hon Mutazu Kabiru Adamu and the heads of 19 states, the youths said the choice of North Central is strategic, a reward for its critical role in the country during elections.
On its reason for backing Pam, the APC youths and stakeholders said the respected Christian cleric is a bridge builder with an extensive network in Northern Nigeria.
The group said he “is viewed as a trusted ally who hasn’t failed to exhibit sincerity of heart and purpose in his assignment geared towards peaceful coexistence and mutual understanding amongst the various religious and ethnic groupings.
“We believe such a move is not only to reward the North Central for its loyalty and cooperation with the rest of the North, but also the fact that the region parades one of the best brains to galvanise the much needed stakeholders’ cooperation in the Northern part of the country”, the statement said.
“Consequently the unanimous endorsement of Rev Yakubu Pam is an indication of his level of acceptance in the North West owing to his sterling track record in service and his numerous contributions to peace and tranquility in Northern Nigeria and the country at large.
“Rev Yakubu Pam indeed has garnered administrative experience that spans decades in active service to the country and humanity. This much has been evident in the numerous positions of authority he occupied that includes but not limited to the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the 19 Northern states, to mention but a few.”
HOWEVER, a source within the Northern Governors’ Forum confided in The Guardian that during a meeting with Tinubu prior to his trip outside the country, the Northwest governors reminded the APC presidential contender how they facilitated his emergence at the special convention early last month.
“They reminded him how he pressed for Muslim/Muslim ticket in 2014 and challenged him to show that he was not a hypocrite by settling for a Muslim running mate,” he said, adding that Tinubu was also dissuaded from picking his deputy from Northeast, where the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) candidate, Atiku Abubakar, hails.
Checks by The Guardian revealed that the former Lagos State governor is keen on nominating his partner from Northeast against the backdrop of agitations from party leaders from the zone that they deserve the Vice President’s position as a gesture to woo APC supporters against Atiku.
However, while the APC presidential candidate was showing positive inclination towards Northeast, Borno State governor, Prof. Babagana Zulum, was said to have told Tinubu’s men that instead of offering him the VP slot, he prefers his predecessor, Senator Kashim Shettima, to take it up.
This is just as the APC governors insist that the prospective VP candidate must come from among them in line with what obtained in the opposition PDP, where the incumbent Delta State chief executive, Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, was selected.
It was also gathered that the APC governors warned Tinubu against repeating Atiku’s mistake by unilaterally picking a governor that would not enjoy the endorsement of his colleagues in a veiled allusion to one Northwest governor.
“Chairman of Progressives Governors’ Forum, Abubakar Atiku Bagudu and his Jigawa State counterpart, Abubakar Badaru, have been tipped for the position of running mate,” the source disclosed, noting that while Badaru is being considered for stepping down for Tinubu, those pushing Bagudu say it was necessary to avoid infringing the positions of the Electoral Act 2022.
But when contacted, the Special Advisers to Governors Bagudu and Badaru, Yahaya Sarki and Habibu Kila, respectively, said they could not confirm whether their bosses had been chosen, adding that they were not privy to the discussions.
Bagudu’s media aide, Sarki, explained that details of such deliberations and outcome could only come from the APC national organising secretary or the presidential candidate himself.
Inside sources in the Presidency disclosed that some influential members of President Muhammadu Buhari’s kitchen cabinet are said to be worried that former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, instead of Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, was the first runner-up in the presidential primary.
According to a source, the group, often referred to as the cabal, believes that the various allegations of perjury and inconsistencies in Tinubu’s nomination forms are enough grounds to engineer his substitution with the first runner-up, which would also help APC solve the running mate puzzle.
But alarmed by the plot to supplant Tinubu, a Yoruba group, Igbimo Apapo Yoruba Lagbaye, accused Northern political leaders of doing everything in their power to ensure that Tinubu did not feature on the ballot.
The President-General of the group, Aare Omoluabi Oladotun Hassan, who spoke to journalists in Abuja, stated: “The council was reliably informed of the plot to repeat the political treatment meted against Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Chief MKO Abiola to pave way for Atiku Abubakar’s emergence as president in 2023.
“The decision to pursue Tinubu’s disqualification through the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) was taken after some Northern power brokers realised the futility of their attempt to impose Senator Ahmed Lawan as the APC presidential candidate.”