The confusion over the choice of the authentic running mate to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, is deepening as he has returned to Abuja to continue consultations on the contentious issue.
Tinubu had returned to Lagos on Sunday, June 19, 12 days after he defeated a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi; Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo; Senate President, Ahmad Lawan; and Kogi State Governor, Yahaya Bello, among others, to pick the APC presidential ticket.
Tinubu had in the days following his emergence visited all the contenders for the exalted seat in a bid to solicit their support and build unity in the party.
The APC candidate is expected to name his final running mate on or before the July 15 deadline set by the Independent National Electoral Commission to replace Kabir Ibrahim Masari, whom he named as in ‘placeholder’ capacity.
As the deadline draws near, Tinubu, the APC and the Progressive Northern Governors’ Forum are said to be in a dilemma over the choice of an acceptable running mate as opposition continues to mount over a possible Muslim-Muslim ticket for the ruling party. They have however continued the search for a formidable candidate.
Masari, a chieftain of the APC in Katsina State, is a serving board member of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Plateau State.
The Peoples Democratic Party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, had picked Delta State Governor, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate; while the Labour Party candidate, peter Obi, settled for a former presidential spokesperson, Dr Doyin Okupe, as his running mate in ‘placeholder’ capacity.
The New Nigeria People’s Party, on the other hand, settled for a legal luminary, Ladipo Johnson, to run alongside its presidential candidate, Rabiu Kwankwaso. Both LP and NNPP are still holding talks to have a joint ticket but they have yet to decide on who among Obi and Kwankwaso would be the candidate and the running mate.
However, Tinubu’s choice of running mate is generating controversies the most with different groups kicking against a potentially same faith ticket. The former Lagos State governor is a Muslim married to Senator Oluremi Tinubu, an ordained pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God.
Tinubu, who is from the South-West, is expected to pick his running mate from the North, which is dominated by Muslims. It is believed that Christian politicians from the region are not popular enough to garner massive votes.
The national stakeholders of the APC had urged the party to narrow the search for the vice-presidential candidate to a northern Christian, while the General Superintendent of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, Pastor William Kumuyi, advised politicians to feel the pulse of the nation before settling for the next set of leaders.
According to him, political leaders need to make consultations, especially on speculations around Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian tickets for the presidential election.
“The Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian ticket is a difficult and slippery area,” he said.
A group, Northern Nigeria’s Front for Equity and Good Governance, has also rejected the proposed Muslim-Muslim ticket.
While insisting that there are a number of Christian northerners that the APC can choose from, the group recommended that the search is narrowed down to the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum and Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, for the sake of equity and justice.
Leader of the group, Zakariya Abdul’aziz, noted that religion had never dictated the voting pattern of the North, adding that the region had always participated in national politics as a diverse but united entity with common goals.
A former Chairman of the APC in Lagos State, Henry Ajomale, however, said the presidential candidate was set to unveil a Muslim as his running mate next month.
Speaking with Sunday PUNCH in a telephone interview, Ajomale stated that the slot for the vice-presidential candidate, which is presently being held by would be filled by July 15.
Ajomale told one of our correspondents, “Although we are still consulting, it is certain that the APC will be flying a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“Masari, our placeholder, may likely be substituted before July 15. However, the destination is still between Borno State in the North-East and Kano/Kaduna states in the North-West. Either way, it will be a Muslim running mate.”
The names that have previously been mentioned in the three states are former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima and the incumbent governor, Prof Babagana Zulum. In Kano State, the governor, Abdullahi Ganduje is said to be on the list, while in Kaduna State, the governor, Nasir El-Rufai, is being considered.
Ajomale maintained that the APC could not afford to gamble at such a critical moment when opposition candidates were desperately seeking an inroad to claim massive votes in the North.
He stated, “The truth is that Asiwaju has no choice. The majority of the northerners are Muslims and fielding a Christian northerner is a risk that can split his vote to give Atiku an edge. But if he settles for the former (a Muslim), they will troop out in large numbers to vote for him.”
Meanwhile, the synod of the Christian Reformed Church -Nigeria (CRC-N) on Saturday kicked against the proposed Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by the APC.
The CRC-N synod said Nigeria was a secular state and that choosing a Muslim -Muslim ticket would come with consequences.
This was contained in the communiqué issued at the end of the 154th General Church Council meeting signed by the President, Rev Isaiah Jirapye, and the General Secretary, Rev Sagarga Gargea.
It described the proposal by the APC as a calculated arrangement aimed at pushing Christians out of the political leadership of the country.