The presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress for the 2023 election, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, may in the next few days name either Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State or his predecessor, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate, investigations by Saturday PUNCH have revealed.
With about 12 days to the July 15 deadline for political parties to submit the final names of their presidential candidates and running mates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, it was learnt that Tinubu, after a thorough consultation, settled for the two names.
According to a staunch ally of Tinubu, the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, was also being considered but was eventually dropped, even though he played active roles in the emergence of Tinubu as the candidate of the party.
Sunday PUNCH on June 26 reported that Tinubu, who is currently in France and is expected to return to the country soon to finalise the running mate issue before the deadline, had limited his search to Borno, Kano and Kaduna states, with all the prospective running mates being Muslims.
APC governors from the North-West had intensified moves to ensure the region produced the running mate. The PUNCH reported on Friday that the governors, governorship candidates, ministers and other stakeholders from the zone at a meeting in Kaduna on Thursday expressed their resolve to push their cause, using their voting strength as a tool of negotiation.
But according to the ally, Tinubu would only have to make final consultations to choose between Zulum and Shettima when he returns to the country. Zulum is believed to have a wide acceptance in the North given his record of performance especially in the face of Boko Haram insurgency, while Shettima, an ally of Tinubu, also showed his deep support for his candidacy when he rose in his defence after the Abeokuta (Ogun State) outburst where Tinubu decried attempts to frustrate his bid.
The source said, “The race for the running mate for Asiwaju has been reduced to just two men. They are the Governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, and his predecessor, Kashim Shettima, who is the senator representing Borno Central Senatorial District. All things being equal, the running mate should emerge between these two men.
He stated, “Yes, it is true that the Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai, was also being considered. He played an active role in Tinubu’s emergence. His support was one of the surprises among the many people that worked for him. If he (El-Rufai) is picked, he actually deserves it.
“Don’t forget that he is also an influential governor among his colleagues, but I think it is beyond that.”
The source also revealed that “Tinubu is returning to face this issue of a running mate once and for all and he is likely going to see to its end before Sallah, which is July 10.”
Another source, who is a member of the defunct Bola Tinubu for President Campaign and member of the House of Representatives, said the candidate might settle for a governor.
He said, “The position is likely going to a serving governor either from the North-East or the North-West. But I think North-East is being favoured because the zone has yet to produce a President and we need to share the votes from the zone with Vice-President Atiku Abubakar who is from the zone and he is also the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party.
“If we pick Zulum, the noise about a Muslim-Muslim ticket would reduce. I think the Christian community would accept him. He is hard-working and might be considered on merit by the people. Christians won’t mind supporting him. His name would resonate all over.”
Asked if the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, was not being considered, the source answered in the negative. “No, he is not being considered again. He wants it, but he is no longer in the equation,” he added.
The APC presidential candidate had in the interim submitted the name of Ibrahim Kabir Masari as his running mate pending the conclusion of consultations on choosing the substantive running mate for Tinubu.
The likelihood of the party fielding a Muslim/Muslim ticket had also generated widespread criticism, with major individuals and groups, like the Christian Association of Nigeria, rejecting the move as a combination that would not stand. But the supporters of the candidate and the party had argued that competence should be prioritised above religion.
‘No France meeting’
Meanwhile, Tinubu’s media aide, Mr Tunde Rahman, on Friday night denied media reports that he (Tinubu) met with the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, in France.
The Special Adviser to the Governor of Lagos State on Drainage and Water Resources, Mr Joe Igbokwe, on his Facebook page on Thursday said Wike was having a meeting with Tinubu in France.
Igbokwe, a former spokesperson for the APC in Lagos State, wrote, “While they are on social media abusing everybody, Governor Wike goes to France to meet Asiwaju. Abuse, calling names, hate and bigotry are no strategy. They hated and abused PMB (President Muhammadu Buhari) since 2015 and now they have transferred the aggression to Asiwaju. We wait and see.”
But in his statement on Friday, Rahman dismissed Igbokwe’s post.
He said, “We have seen a viral social media post made by one of the chieftains of All Progressives Congress in Lagos State and media reports emanating from same about a supposed meeting in France between APC presidential standard-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, and His Excellency, Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State.
“It has become imperative to set the record straight. Although Asiwaju Tinubu is presently in France, he didn’t have any meeting with Governor Wike whether in that country or anywhere whatsoever. This, however, does not detract from the fact that the APC presidential candidate holds Governor Wike in high esteem. And given the national and across-party lines appeal of Asiwaju Tinubu’s candidature, he will not hesitate to meet any important national leader when desirable.”
Rivers PDP speaks
The spokesperson for the PDP in Rivers State, Sydney Gbara, has described as false the reports that Wike travelled to France to meet with Tinubu.
He said, “There is nothing like that. His Excellency went on vacation after working so hard towards the special convention and you saw how he travelled round the country to campaign. It is only natural for a man who has worked that hard to take a little time out to rest.
“He has said it times without number that he is a party man, so, it is out of place for people to begin to insinuate that he would want to have a secret meeting with Tinubu in France or any other place. He is a man who does anything he wants openly. He’s not a pretender.”
Atiku, Wike’s rift
The disagreement that erupted after the presidential primary of the Peoples Democratic Party has yet to abate, as there are indications that Wike is still unhappy with the party and its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar.
The Rivers State chairman of the party, Desmond Akaowor, said only Atiku knew how to end the looming crisis in the party. He noted that the former vice-president would have to decide when he wants to win the election or retain the tag of a candidate.
He said votes from Lagos, Kano and Rivers states were critical for any candidate that would win the election, noting that Atiku could not afford to joke with Rivers State, given Tinubu’s influence in Lagos and the influence of Rabiu Kwankwaso and Ibrahim Shekarau in Kano.
He added, “They inaugurated a committee for the Osun State governorship poll. How many PDP governors out of the 13 were there? Only two. Is it a good sign? We have lost Ekiti, and now Osun is going this way, and we are saying there is no problem. These things have ripple effects.
“When Ojukwu was confronted with the civil war, he said let those who started the war end the war. This means the person who picked Ifeanyi Okowa (as his running mate) should know what to do. Like Governor Ortom (of Benue State) has also reacted; you (Atiku) said you would make a phone call, which means you don’t care.”
He argued that Atiku promised to make Wike his deputy but reneged despite that the committee that was set up recommended the same. “The solution lies with the man who has the yam and the knife. He was the one that made a unilateral decision and only he can give a solution as well,” he added.
A former Commissioner of Information in Rivers State, Mr Ogbonnaya Nwuke, also said reactions from Ortom and former governor Ayo Fayose showed that Wike might not be happy. He warned that if the issue was left unhandled, it would affect the party’s fortunes, noting that Atiku’s neglect of the committee’s recommendation wasn’t helpful.
Nwuke added, “If you are looking at the reaction of his friends who are speaking up, it is obvious that something is not right. Beyond that, only Wike can speak on what his next line of action will be. My view is that the flag bearer of the party is the one who should reach out meaningfully, not hide behind a mask and set up clueless committees. Those things mean nothing. The buck will stop at his table.”
A former president of the Nigerian Bar Association, Onueze Okocha, who is an ally of Wike, said Wike remained a loyal party man and would stick with the party no matter what.
Okocha said, “Governor Wike does not need any placation. He has always been a loyal party man. As long as the best interests of the party are protected and preserved, Wike will go along. I can say so on his behalf.
“I don’t think Wike is angry about anything. He has an open mind. He is a politician.”
While advising Atiku, he stated, “Wike is such an important member of the party, so are all others. He should ensure he carries all interests along and makes sure there is some form of consensus building. That is the way political parties make progress.”
Jang, Bafarawa speak
A former Governor of Plateau State, Jonah Jang, has called on the party’s national leadership to adopt a unified approach in resolving the controversy surrounding the emergence of Okowa as Atiku’s running mate or be ready to face defeat.
In a statement titled ‘2023 elections: PDP must unite or face defeat’ in Jos on Friday, he said it was wrong to neglect Wike when he was recommended by the majority of the selection committee. “You cannot ignore a decision of a committee you set up yourself and expect people to be happy,” he said.
He said further, “While it is no longer news that the presidential primaries have come and gone and a candidate emerged, it is disheartening that the manner in which the vice-presidential candidate emerged is nothing but sheer disregard for processes.
“We cannot disregard people who have dedicated themselves to building the party and expect to make meaningful progress. That such people are treated the way the party is currently doing is a pointer to the fact that more is to come. We cannot fold our hands and watch the party drift away from the tenets which have made it the only truly democratic party in Nigeria.”
Also, a former governor of Sokoto State, Attahiru Bafarawa, has dismissed alleged cracks in the PDP.
He said since Atiku got the party’s ticket, he represents the party that any internal problem should be solved from within.
He said, “If it happens that you say Ortom and Fayose have left the party, then we have a problem, but in-house we have to sit and everybody will air their views and if there is anything, we will see how we will move forward. But none of them has left the party. Reconciliation is still going on. There is no cause for alarm.”
Speaking on Fayose’s insistence on southern presidency, Bafarawa said, “Go and ask him; he was a member of the zoning committee, he signed the agreement and the committee submitted its report. So, whatever recommendation was taken, he was there and the recommendation was taken to the National Working Committee and National Executive Council.
“So, it is unfortunate for him to come and say that. As far as I am concerned, Fayose, a former governor, is very responsible and he is a good character and I respect him. Nobody has left the party yet for us to say we have a problem. As far as I am concerned, it is a family matter which I believe our presidential candidate has the capacity to resolve under the party leadership.”
Asked to comment on the fact that governors in the PDP seem to be taking a back seat and watching some issues going in the party, Bafarawa said there should be no complaint.
Disregard rumours – Group
The National Publicity Secretary, Atiku Support Organisation, Dr Victor Moses, has said Nigerians should disregard the rumours of Wike defecting to another political party.
According to Moses, Wike is committed to the PDP and will not leave the party, stating that he has a brighter future in the PDP than any other party.
He said, “Governor Nyesom Wike is not leaving the PDP. He is committed and one of the most valuable players of the PDP. I can assure you that Wike as a young man with age on his side has a brighter future in the PDP than in any other party.
“His performance during the recent PDP primaries shows that the future belongs to him. Wike is committed to supporting His Excellency Atiku Abubakar to defeat the APC. Please, ignore the fake news in town.”