Connect with us

Headlines

Veepee: Atiku scales hurdle; Tinubu’s headache persists

Published

on

Veepee: Atiku scales hurdle; Tinubu's headache persists

By OBINNA EZUGWU

At the elapsing on Friday, June 17 of deadline issued by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for political parties to submit names of their candidates and running mates, only the People’s Democratic Party (PDP), among the leading political parties, was able to announce its definite presidential candidate and running mate for the 2023 polls.

Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, the opposition party’s presidential candidate, had on Thursday, unveiled Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, governor of Delta State as his running mate for the all-important presidential election billed for February 25, 2023, eight months from today.

For the country’s ruling party, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu, its presidential candidate, on Wednesday, quietly submitted the name of Kabir Ibrahim Masari, former national welfare secretary, from Katsina State, potentially as a placeholder while the party continues to chew on the right candidate amid raging controversy over Muslim-Muslim ticket.

But where there could be a groundbreaking event is in the Labour Party, whose candidate, Mr. Peter Obi had on Friday, submitted the name of Dr. Doyin Okupe, director general of his campaign organisation, as his running mate to beat the deadline, while negotiations with Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP) over possible merger continues.

Meanwhile, the former Kano governor, Kwankwaso, is said to have also put in a placeholder running mate in the person Ladipo Johnson.

Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket headache

Obvious from the events of the past week is that the candidates have had some difficulties picking the right running mates, amid several contending issues, notably the opposition against Muslim-Muslim ticket, which is constituting a challenge for the APC in particular.

Indeed for Tinubu, it’s proving to be a huge challenge. He is a Muslim from a largely Christian south, Southwest in particular, ideally expected to pick a Christian from the predominantly Muslim north in order to maintain the delicate balance of religion in an increasingly polarized country.

However, aware that picking a Christian in the north could alienate the Muslims in the region, strong indications had emerged last week that the former governor had finally opted for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, with Kashim Shettima, former governor of Borno State and Atiku Bagudu, Kebbi State governor, tipped as front runners.

It had emerged, for instance, that Babagana Kingibe, former secretary to government and influential power broker in Aso Rock, suggested the duo of Shettima and Bagudu, as well as Amina Mohammed, UN deputy secretary general for Tinubu.

But at the same time, settling for a Muslim is certain to put off the substantial Christian population in the North, particularly in the Northeast and North Central and indeed the rest of the south.

On Tuesday, northern Christians and pastors under the umbrella of Arewa Christians and Indigenous Pastors Association (ACIPA), warned against the move, noting that they were aware of the “intent to hijack Nigeria into a full-fledged Muslim-controlled state.”

The group in a statement signed by the chairman, Reverend Shehu Luke, on Tuesday, said it became imperative to make an official position known to the general public following what it described as a “hijack of Nigeria’s political process.”

“ACIPA have observed with sadness the hijack of Nigeria’s political process and perhaps our future by a few money bag politicians with the tacit conspiracy of some of our legislatures and the Presidency,” the group said.

“We are aware of the plan for a Muslim-Muslim ticket or an alternative “use” of Christian running mate to be Vice President to assuage the Christians while promoting Islamic agenda.

Advertisement

“This was evident in how the office of the present Vice President was reduced to a mere errand position. We knew “they” will never allow him to win the primary after he was used. This is unacceptable to ACIPA, our networking partners, and indeed all Christians in the next dispensation.

“Any political party or candidate that neglects Arewa (northern) Christians shall do so at their peril.

“ACIPA shall be consulting widely in the days ahead for a definite decision on who to endorse as the president of Nigeria in the 2023 elections.

“In conclusion, ACIPA strongly advises Christian leaders never to compromise our democracy to those sympathetic to radical Islamist and religious bigots, yet they pretend to be lovers of humanity, peace, democracy, and unity while in truth they believe in the supremacy of their religious doctrine above others”.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has also repeatedly warned candidates against picking running mates of the same faith as themselves.

Another major setback for the muted Muslim-Muslim ticket came same Tuesday when President Muhammadu Buhari held consultations with governors of the ruling party at the presidential villa, Abuja and expressed opposition to the idea, according to information available to Business Hallmark.

Consequently, on Wednesday, weary of the approaching deadline, Tinubu submitted Masari’s name as placeholder, as confirmed in a statement by his media office on Friday.

“As stipulated by the electoral law and Independent National Electoral Commission guidelines and timetable, the standard bearer of the All Progressives Congress, Asíwájú Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has returned his duly completed nomination nomination forms to INEC. The forms were returned on Wednesday June 15, two days ahead of schedule,” the statement said.

“We wish to reiterate that Asíwájú Tinubu stands ready to contest the February 25, 2023 presidential election to deliver progressive good governance to our people.”

It remains to be seen how events will play out in the ruling party, with regard to the choice of Tinubu’s running mate.

In the meantime, while the likes of Nasir El-Rufai, governor of Kaduna State; Hakim Baba-Ahmed, spokesperson for Northern Elders Forum, among others, have argued that it doesn’t matter if APC settles for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, many in the Muslim north have also expressed strong reservations about it, given the prevailing religious tension in the country.

“As a Muslim who’s profoundly spiritual, I don’t support a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the presidency because it’s deeply unfair, divisive and un-Nigerian,” noted Bulama Bukarti, lawyer and public affairs analyst.

“Imagine how you’d feel if a Christian-Christian ticket was proposed. Islam teaches us to treat others how we want to be treated.”

Tinubu, going into the election, is expected to lock down his Southwest constituency, although many in the zone may also opt for either Obi or Atiku, but he is sure to win the zone by substantial margin, irrespective of whether he’s going for a Christian or Muslim running mate.

But a Muslim running mate could complicate matters for him in the rest of the south and the Christian parts of the North, even if it would sell in the Muslim north.

Obi, Kwankwaso merger prospect in jeopardy

Advertisement

The surge in the popularity of Peter Obi, former governor of Anambra State and presidential candidate of the Labour Party has come as surprise to many. He is gradually emerging from a would be fringe player discarded by the PDP to a real factor in the contest, crystallizing as a third force ahead of the polls.

“Peter Obi is now a strong contender, adding him to “others” when reporting instead of saying Atiku, Tinubu and Peter Obi is condescending. Are these platforms not seeing the engagement he is pulling? They should mention his name, he deserves it,” said Sally Suleiman, Founder of The Isolycia Foundation.

Mr. Obi now embodies two major aspirations: the desire of a vast number of the country’s youth population for a new political order; a departure from the usual, amid worsening economic and security challenges in the country, particularly under the present Muhammadu Buhari led APC government; and the push by the Igbo of the country’s southeast for power shift to the region.

“The media should try not to make it look like Atiku and Tinubu are the only ones in this race. Headlines like “Atiku, Tinubu others…” is an injustice to other contestants with potential like Peter Obi,” observed journalist, Nurudeen Akewushola, @NurudeenAkewus1

The quest for a Nigerian president of Igbo extraction had become a rallying cry for the Igbo street and many fair minded Nigerians, and had been canvassed by such groups as the Middle Belt Forum, the Afenifere, Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), and Ohanaeze Ndigbo.

The quest, however received a major setback with both the APC and PDP, the two major political parties, failing to produce a Southeast candidate. Obi, whose decision to withdraw from the PDP and pitch tent with Labour Party ahead of main opposition party’s presidential primary on May 28, had seemed like a bad gamble, is fast becoming a rallying point, and could indeed push far enough.

“Let’s be fair and just, the presidency should go to the southeast, and if the people of the south east really want to make a record and save Nigeria, they should all come together and vote Peter Obi for President,” noted Rev Yinka Yusuf, president, Love for all nations ministries and lead pastor Household of Love Churches worldwide.

“A vote for Peter Obi is a vote for conscience. I know for sure that if conscience is allowed to vote, even the presidential aspirants will all vote Peter Obi for president.”

Obi’s support base is rapidly expanding, helped by his media appearances and testimonies of his record of good governance in Anambra, but even more importantly, his down to earth attitude. As governor, he shunned the flamboyance of office and related directly to the people, including prefects of practically all the schools in Anambra who had direct access to him.

Hope had also risen last week, that a potential merger between his camp and that of Kwankwaso, which may see a joint ticket between them could effectively tip the power scale.

This was further heightened On Friday when Kwankwaso confirmed to BBC Hausa that there is indeed talks happening between his camp and Obi’s camp, raising hopes among their supporters that a merger could be in the offing.

“It is true we are in talks with Peter Obi and a committee is working to look into how to form a merger between us,” Kwankwaso had said. “Friends and family are being up and doing talking about the merger arrangement.”

Kwankwaso added, “The merger is important because as you can see both the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) did not pick their running mates from the South-east.”

Doyin Okupe, the director general of the Obi Campaign Organization had also confirmed the merger talks on Friday.

Speaking on Channels TV, he said the party is working towards creating the “largest political coalition” in the country to defeat the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

“Our idea and reasoning is to bring together in this country, for the first time, the largest political coalition possible because we are facing two political giants — APC and PDP. We are serious about upstaging them and we will.

Advertisement

“But to do that, we cannot do it alone. We need to be able to put together this coalition, and this so-called third force is now alive and it is important for us to ensure that all the stakeholders are carried along from the beginning to the end.

“There is no secret here. We are talking to so many groups, youth groups, and political formations. We are talking to PRP, NNPP, and SDP. We are talking to every possible major political outfit outside APC and PDP. We are not hiding anything.”

The former Kano governor’s NNPP has a large following in the north of the country, particularly the Northwest, but it remains unclear how the merger would play out, especially given that the Kano politician has in the past expressed determination to run for president.

Indeed, at the weekend, Kwankwaso’s party, NNPP, dashed the hopes of several Obi supporters by noting that the former Kano governor has no intention of running as vice presidential candidate with Obi.

Regardless, their supporters are upbeat, and are confident that a merger between the two can happen, and if it does, will be enough to win power in 2023.

“A combination of KWANKWASO and PETER OBI will make a better and great Nigeria,” Kwankwasiyya Frontline, @Kk_frontline, a supporter of the former Kano governor tweeted on Friday.

Obi is genuinely popular across the south and is certain to cause an upset in the Southeast, South South and parts of the North Central, while also getting a few numbers in the Southwest, if he keeps up with the momentum and the electoral process is transparent.

Kwankwaso on the other hand, is vastly popular in Kano, with substantial support in Jigawa, Kebbi, among other Northwest states. A joint ticket between the two men, many opine, has huge potential.

“If Obi’s political momentum holds steady until February next year and the election is free and fair, I predict that he will cause a runoff.” noted Farooq Kperogi, U.S based professor of journalism.

“Obi is inspiring a powerful, social media-enabled, youth-led political tidal wave that will radically change the contours of the 2023 election.”

Okowa as Atiku’s running mate:

On Thursday, Atiku announced Okowa, governor of Delta as his running mate, putting to rests speculations about Nyesom Wike, governor of Delta and Emmanuel Udom, Akwa Ibom governor, both of whom were among the contenders for the slot.

Perhaps uppermost in the former vice president’s mind is to have a running mate and potentially a vice president that isn’t powerful enough to threaten his position. A Wike running mate, may have added more to the ticket, but the Rivers governor has overtime proved to be uncontrollable.

Okowa is not a powerhouse, and has a fragmented PDP in his home state of Delta. His decision to back Sheriff Oborevwori, speaker of the state House of Assembly as his successor, against David Edevbie, candidate of James Ibori, has created a sort of bad blood between him and the former governor.

This is even as the APC is making significant inroads in the state with Ovie Omo-Agege, deputy Senate president, and a strong Urhobo politician in his right, as its governorship candidate. Okowa is unlikely to inspire a whole lot of undecided voters in the South South and Southeast, but at the same time, he is unlikely to put off decided voters.

His being from the South South will be acceptable to PDP supporters in the zone, while his being from the Igbo speaking part of Delta, will make his choice saleable in the Southeast.

Advertisement

“There is no better choice in the circumstances than Senator Okowa,” said Ike Ekweremadu, former deputy senate president.

“He has distinguished himself as a performing governor and as a parliamentarian. He has made friends across the country, so he is going to bring a lot of value to the Atiku ticket.”

Ekweremadu also argued that Peter Obi will not be a problem for Okowa in the southeast.

“Peter is very qualified, but the question is, can he win the presidential election? The answer is no. So, we cannot afford to throw away our votes. We have to consult with our people. We will vote PDP because that’s where the future lies for us. And in any case, Okowa is one of us. There is no difference between Okowa and Peter in terms of protecting the interest of the south.”

 

News continues after this Advertisement
News continues after this Advertisement