Fresh information emerged on Saturday that the political camp of All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, has ruled out Governor Simon Lalong and Boss Mustapha- Secretary to Government of the Federation as possible running mate to the ex-Lagos governor in next year’s election.
It was gathered that the Tinubu’s men might settle for a core Muslim northerner, regardless of Mustapha and Lalong advantage of being Christians. One of those involved in the consultation for Tinubu’s running mate pointed out that the party might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Reliable sources close to Tinubu also indicated that the former Lagos State governor would rely on the input of the President Muhammadu Buhari and members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum on who should be his running mate.
The pressure to pick a Muslim as his running mate, it was learnt, was to assuage his many supporters in the North due to indications that there were no popular Christian politicians to sway votes in favour of the APC in the region.
A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the sensitive issue, affirmed that four men were in contest for the position. The source said, “We have Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; a former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State; and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.”
It was learnt that the Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, made a case for Shettima when Tinubu visited the state during his consultation with delegates. Shettima is a strong supporter of the APC candidate and he spoke out in Tinubu’s defence after his Abeokuta outburst.
Another source noted, “However, the President and the members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum will play key roles in deciding the running mate. You will be surprised to know that Zulum made a case for Shettima when Asiwaju visited Borno during the campaign. He said, ‘Jagaban, please I am going to ask for two favours from you. I want you to pay attention to my state and also consider my principal, Senator Shettima, as your running mate. He has good things to offer and you will enjoy him’.
“For now, the running mate may have to come from these four men.”
It was gathered that Lalong’s name was dropped because he’s known to be very close to the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who came second during the primary.
The source said, “From fresh considerations, we cannot pick Lalong or Boss Mustapha. Apart from his closeness to Amaechi, a factor we are not very comfortable with, Lalong is from the North-Central, which is not a core northern state. Plateau is also considered not to be strategic enough to win elections in northern Nigeria. Using him will be like alienating the entire northern Nigeria.
“Concerning Boss Mustapha, well, he is not with us. Though he belonged to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria like Tinubu, he does not identify with him. He was not part of our campaign and has yet to visit the aspirant (as of Saturday afternoon) since he won the primary.
“In his home state of Adamawa, it’s known that Mustapha cannot win an election there. So, why will you impose such a man on an aspirant that needs the huge votes from the northern region?”
Some stakeholders and chieftains of the APC, on Saturday, urged the party’s presidential candidate to allow the northern APC governors to choose his running mate.
They argued that since the northern governors suggested that the party should zone its presidential ticket to the South, they were still in a better position to field a running mate.
The Director-General, Voice of Nigeria and foundation member of the APC, Osita Okechukwu, told one of our correspondents, “On the issue of the running mate, I will advise our presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to weigh the opinion of the northern governors on this matter. They stand in a better position, better than any other organ of the party, in consultation with Mr President to give us a candidate.”
Also, the Chairman of the APC Rebirth Group, Aliyu Audu, said, “The northern governors sat and decided that the ticket should go to the South. The same set of people should be able to decide who will be the running mate. It is not just up to the candidate. It is up to the party.”
The APC’s first national secretary, Tijjani Tumsah, also stated, “Tinubu’s criteria should be competence, a known value addition to the ticket and someone who can deliver. We should not be limited by religion or some other criteria. His criteria should be a competent person from the North.”
As of the time of filing this report, efforts to reach Tinubu’s spokesperson, Mr Tunde Rahman, proved abortive as he neither responded to calls or an SMS sent to him.
Responding to the rejection of Muslim-Muslim ticket by the Christian Association of Nigeria and counter-claims by the Muslim Rights Concern, the Director, Legal Directorate, Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Babatunde Ogala (SAN), told Sunday PUNCH that the APC would not pander to such sentiment.
He said, “What is the business of CAN in politics? That is what I don’t understand? Was CAN there when we were doing our convention? Do they know the processes of how our candidate emerged? I think CAN, MURIC and other religious bodies should concentrate on their religion and stop heating up the polity. The party has not come up with any position; so why the issue of threats? What is their own with issuing threats?
“We will pick the best (running mate) for our party who can deliver the election for us; they should allow the people to decide what they want.”