Buhari and Oyegun mandated to deliver APC running mate tomorrow 17 Dec
Following his inability to decide on a running mate for Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, who emerged last week as the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), former Lagos State Governor and a national leader of the party Bola Tinubu was in the wee hours of this morning sidelined by the leadership of the APC from continuing with the task.
In his place, the National Chairman of APC Chief John Oyegun and Buhari were mandated to select a suitable running mate that would bolster APC’s chances of wresting the presidency from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
Shortly after the APC national convention, Tinubu had been mandated by Buhari to select his running mate, but upon taking up the mantle, Tinubu had eliminated other vice-presidential hopefuls such as Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola and his Rivers State counterpart Chibuike Amaechi.
Backed by the South-west governors, Tinubu got the party to zone the slot for running mate to the South-west on the grounds that the zone is the second largest voting bloc in the country after the North-west, arguing that this could secure the presidency for APC.
On this basis, he tabled his name as the number one prospective running mate, former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos Professor Yemi Osibajo as a fallback option and Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole to round up the list.
But his interest in the vice presidential post caused disconcertion among the leadership of the APC, especially among some of its non-South-west governors who felt that Tinubu was working only in his own interest.
There were also concerns that Tinubu was attempting to go against the grain of the National Working Committee (NWC) of the APC, which had several months ago, decided against a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the party.
Some of the governors opposed to the former Lagos State governor’s emergence, also zeroed in on two factors that could undermine a Buhari-Tinubu pairing, citing credibility and religious issues, that could be used effectively by the PDP to erode the massive bounce APC got after its national convention.
Owing to the impasse that ensued due to Tinubu’s ambition, the South-west caucus of the party, which met in Lagos till the early hours of yesterday was unable to decide on Buhari’s running mate.
Subsequently, an enlarged meeting of the APC was scheduled for Abuja last night where a decision was to be taken on who should be fielded alongside Buhari.
However, APC sources revealed that when Tinubu was invited to present his recommendation on a running mate, he could not present a coherent choice as Buhari’s deputy.
As a result, the meeting set up a seven-man committee that was chaired by Tony Momoh to go and decide on a vice-presidential candidate and revert to the enlarged meeting last night with its recommendation.
Other members of the committee included former interim National Chairman of APC Chief Bisi Akande, representing the South-west; Zamfara State Governor Abudulaziz Yari, representing the North-west; former Gombe State Governor Senator Danjuma Goje, representing the North-east; former PDP National Chairman Audu Ogbe, representing North-central; Sam Sam Jaja, representing the South-south; and Senator Chris Ngige to represent the South-east.
As its terms of reference, the committee, sources informed THISDAY, was mandated to select a candidate who must be a Christian from any part of the South; must be a governor or ex-governor; and must wield political clout capable of attracting votes for the party.
However, when the committee proceeded to meet, Akande, in an apparent attempt to push Tinubu’s candidacy as the running mate, reportedly informed the other members that as far as the South-west was concerned, the vice-presidential candidate must be a Muslim.
His position elicited strong opposition from other members of the committee who then decided to stop the meeting in order to brief other stakeholders of the party who were awaiting their recommendation.
“It was after the seven-man committee briefed the larger meeting on the position of the South-west zone that the leadership decided there and then to hand over the assignment of selecting a vice-presidential candidate to Chief Oyegun and General Buhari.
“This is what should have been done from the outset, then all this rancour over who should run with Buhari could have been avoided,” explained a party source.
Based on the decision taken by the leadership of the APC, he added that Tinubu, Fashola and Osibajo would probably no longer be in contention, while the chances of Amaechi, Oshiomhole and even Okorocha, have been bolstered considerably.
“Tinubu and Fashola are Muslims, which cancels them out, while Osibajo is not and was never a governor,” the source added.
Prior to last night’s meeting, Tinubu and Osibajo, sources intimated THISDAY, flew to Abuja on Monday for a meeting with Buhari.
However, the ex-head of state was said to have stoutly rejected Osibajo as his running mate.
Buhari was said to have argued that his experience with fielding a Christian pastor as his running mate had not improved his chances in the past.
He told his audience that Pastor Tunde Bakare, who he ran with in the 2011 election, had better name recognition than Osibajo but could not pull in the much needed votes in the south, so fielding Osibajo with even less electoral value would be suicidal.
With no resolution following the meeting with Buhari, the hope among the party’s leadership was that the meeting scheduled for Abuja last night would reach a decision on what has become a very thorny issue, in order for the party to meet the INEC deadline for the submission of names of its candidates on December 18.
The meeting notwithstanding, the interest shown by Tinubu for the vice-presidential slot had led to a division in the APC.
THISDAY learnt that some of the governors had started to re-evaluate Tinubu’s possible emergence as the vice-presidential candidate.
According to a source privy to some of the meetings by the governors, one of which held till about midnight yesterday in Lagos, “Tinubu has credibility and eligibility questions hanging over his head and the point is: can we run with that kind of risk?
“The answer is of course no, we cannot. He still has a messy past that he has not cleared and we (APC) can be knocked out with him on the ticket.”
The source hinted that apart from religion and credibility issues, “the decision by the National Working Committee (NWC) of the party not to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket still stands and it is a decision he was privy to and agreed to.
“To therefore turn around and suggest himself as a likely running mate is worrisome. It does not tell well of good leadership”.
Fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket at this material time, the source added, “Is insensitive and this much we also know and have had to analyse time and time again.
“We agreed that for Nigeria to move forward, we must play down religion as a factor but again, the issue of religion is neck-deep in the political fabric of our nation and given the prevailing security situation, we cannot afford to go down that road, except we just want to go and have fun at the presidential poll.”
The source, however, volunteered that in all of the meetings that have been held on the choice of a running mate, Tinubu has not been able to table his candidacy.
“Instead, he has been going round and round it in circles, because he knows it would not fly with the governors and other members of the party who share the same sentiment as far as the matter is concerned,” the source said.
THISDAY further learnt that the opposition of some of the governors also stemmed from the fact that they would rather see one of them emerging as Buhari’s running mate, given their commitment to the cause of the party.
The source contended that it was on this basis that the governors and other stakeholders kicked against the choice of Tinubu and Osibajo when their names were suggested, arguing that such a choice would kill the promising chances of the APC presidential ticket. Their preference is for a governor to be picked as the running mate.
“Even in the PDP, since 1999, governors have always been on the presidential ticket. At the time, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar had been elected governor before he was picked by (former President Olusegun) Obasanjo, who obviously knew what he wanted. In 2007, the late Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar’Adua and the incumbent president were also governors.
“And when Yar’Adua died and Jonathan stepped in, a governor in the person of Namadi Sambo was picked as his deputy. So why is our own leader thinking differently, let alone putting himself forward?
“It is a major problem but we are hoping reason will prevail at the end of the day,” he said.
Also, whilst the governors would not want to subscribe to conspiracy theories of an attempt to sell out or weaken Buhari’s chances by some persons, they have more than sufficient reason to view the prevailing situation as a problem that could undo APC’s chances at the presidential election.
“Of course, several theories have been flying around even before the presidential primary took place. For example, the idea of (Hon. Aminu) Tambuwal, many of our people thought, was part of the design to weaken the APC ticket in the first place because he was the weakest amongst the aspirants at the time.
“And finally, when Buhari emerged and it was clear that the chances of the APC were promising, we all knew that the choice of the running mate would be the clincher in the contest for the Villa.
“But with these needless and avoidable intrigues playing out, there is the need to begin to reflect and ponder all that has been playing out for some time.
“One thing is however certain, we will not sacrifice the future and chances of the APC on the ego or ambition of an individual. APC is a merger of many parties and the collective interest must and will prevail.
“Our worry again, is that developments like this could elicit a negative backlash against the party. But we will try our best to fight it through and with utmost discipline and unity,” he said.
Although a majority of the APC members were optimistic that the Abuja meeting last night would resolve the impasse, in the event that it failed, the THISDAY source reiterated that a dummy candidate might be submitted first to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) to meet the December 18 deadline, while the party uses the 30 days grace period for the substitution of candidates to arrive at a running mate that will be acceptable to all.
But in reaction to the backlash against Buhari for handing over the choice of his running mate to Tinubu, the former Lagos State governor, in a statement from his media office on Monday, said Buhari was in charge of his destiny and could not be described as anyone’s puppet.
The statement read: “General Buhari was selected by the APC national convention because of his qualities. He is a man of principle and commitment to the nation. His overriding concern is the wellbeing of Nigeria.
“A man of such principle and leadership presence cannot ever be a puppet. Those who claim he is a puppet do grave insult to an outstanding patriot and millions of Nigerians who support him.”
Tinubu said PDP would do better if they spent their time trying to fix their rickety ship after such dismal primaries than to cast stones at the APC’s more democratic and genuine process.
“They speak in this manner because they are afraid the APC will confront them with a ticket they cannot beat by fair means. We will do our own internal consultations and arrive at a ticket we believe is best suited to govern Nigeria.
“If they are so interested in who we pick, they are free to quit their bankrupt party and join the party that offers the best hope for this nation and its future,” he said.
Despite Tinubu’s statement, the presidency yesterday joined the PDP in its criticism of Buhari, describing his emergence as the standard bearer of the APC as a “fatal error”.
Senior Special Assistant to the President on Public Affairs, Dr. Doyin Okupe in an interview on Channels television, said the opposition party made a grave mistake at a time Nigerians were clamouring for development and a dissociation from anything or anyone that has anything to do with the country’s past.
“When Buhari emerged as the APC standard bearer, I knew that was a fatal error; it’s a fatal error because number one, Nigerians are looking for future development, you know, a disengagement from everything that has got to do with our past.
“You are looking at Major-General Buhari, Babangida, Abdulsalam, Obasanjo. These are very respectable elders and leaders who have done their best but they are a phase of our leadership that is passing off,” Okupe said.
Okupe, a member of the ruling PDP, said the opposition could not be talking about change with someone who would remind Nigerians of their gloomy history.
He said it was important to note that Nigerians needed to make a clear decision between having a transformation agenda that has worked and produced results and one which, he said, does not have vision.
“For APC to have now brought, you know, part of our past history that we are not so proud of and then they are talking about change. How can you make a change with somebody who was part of our problem?” he asked.
“We know that Nigerians are not stupid, you know, a clear decision will have to be taken between having an agenda – transformation agenda – that has worked, that has produced.
“And having listened to Buhari, who has spoken on about three occasions – at his declaration, at his inauguration, I mean, at his primary. And I have asked people and nobody can remember anything that Buhari has said.
“There is no vision. The only thing that has been told to us – not even by him but by other people – is that Buhari has integrity and he is honest and he is incorruptible, which are also not true,” he said.
“At the appropriate time, these issues will be taken up,” Okupe added.
- Culled from This Day