It appears the ball is in the court of presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, in respect of the decision to choose his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
But in making the choice, he has factor in the position of the governing party, which is to take into considerations all the indices that would promote fairness and unity of the country in his choice of a running mate.
This is more so when stakeholders of the party have blatantly rejected the idea of a Muslim/Muslim ticket, insisting that in the spirit of fairness, the party must pick a Christian from the North as Tinubu’s running mate.
Political parties in the country have less than 72 hours to submit names of the presidential candidate and their running mates to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).
Imo State governor, Hope Uzodimma, gave the hint of the decision of a running mate lying with Tinubu while briefing State House correspondents after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari over his planned state visit to commission some projects executed by his administration.
On insinuations that the APC was planning to fly a Muslim/Muslim ticket, he said there is no where in the constitution that says religion is a factor or characteristics of who becomes the president or who becomes the running mate.
He said, “But we are looking for a united Nigeria where governance will be the issue, where a president would be adjudged by his capacity to deliver democratic dividends, develop Nigeria to look like other parts of the Western world where democracy is working.
“I don’t want us to reduce governance in Nigeria to certain things that will encourage divisiveness. Rather, we should be a united Nigeria, be our brother’s keepers, have a president of Nigeria that will be a president representing every tribe, every religion and every denomination. And when we get there, we will cross the bridge.
“The decision also to choose a running mate does not reside with any of us the governors. It is the presidential candidate that will look at the local characteristics and every factors, political and apolitical, that would make him win his election and take the decision. So it’s not a decision that we will sit here and take for the candidate.”
On whether he would like to see a governor as a running mate to Tinubu, Uzodimma said, “Why not? Have you forgotten he (Tinubu) was a governor for eight years? If he chooses a governor so be it, we will support it. For now, we are no longer talking about who becomes running mate and who is not running mate. I have told you whose decision it is.
“The next thing as party leaders now and opinion leaders is for us to rise up, mobilize and get members of our party to commit to a successful election by 2023 so that our president who is leaving will also be handing over to our own president of APC. That is our preoccupation now; how to win the election.”
On how the South Easterners can put their house in order to be able to achieve what they want in future, especially as he said the constitution is not against the issue of single faith ticket, Uzodimma said, “I did not say it is not about single faith ticket.
“I said these are internal characteristics that the decision maker may consider in the process of taking his decision. The decision whether to choose Mr A or Mr B to be a running mate to a candidate is entirely that of the candidate.
“You started by saying the governors of the South East are complaining of not having the opportunity of being a running mate anymore. But that is not the sole ambition of the South East, talkless of the governors to be a running mate. And in the business of presidential primaries, there is no election for a vice presidential candidate. The business there is just to elect a candidate.
“In that ballot paper there is no room for delegates to vote for who will be your running mate. So that explains why it is not a decision for the people. It is a decision for the candidate. The first thing to do is to let the candidate (choose) now that a candidate has emerged.
He further explained that the candidate would have to consider some ideas and issues like how to create a spread. Spread is very important to be able to attract votes.
Uzodimma stated: “So, if I were the candidate, what would inform my decision is an action that would enable me to get the kind of votes I’m looking for because the ultimate goal is to win the election.
“So maybe I’ll start from the nomination, ethnicity or followership. In this business of democracy I think numbers are what is very important. And there are certain things as a nation we should not bring to public discussion, those things that are capable of creating divisiveness against national unity should not be encouraged. It does not mean that I will not remember that I come from a place but I must also be cautious and careful about how to use where I come from in taking national decisions. That is very important.
“When I appeared on Channels in the morning of the convention, I told you that one of the conventions governing our polity in Nigeria is power shift. That power comes to the North and goes to the south. When power came to the south, in 1999, we ceeded it to South West and all of us voted as Nigerians.
“The next time power came to the South, it went to South South and all of us voted as Nigerians. We expected that now that power came back to the South, it will go to the South East but this is not a decision that a geopolitical zone alone can make.
“No geopolitical zone can become a president without the participation of other political zones. So when you don’t get the cooperation, you begin to find out why and work towards getting the cooperation next time, because it has to be a united country for you to become a president.
“We’re not talking about the president of South East, president of the South South or president of South West, we are talking of the president of Nigeria. For a Southerner to become a president he needs to vote for the North; for a northerner to become the president he needs the vote from the South.
“In our constitution, in two-thirds of the states you must have at least minimum of 25 per cent votes registered in those states. So we’ll look at the guidelines. We’ll look at the rules. Our country is a rule-driven country and the grand norm is the constitution of the country. So we’re working with it.
“All we’re saying is that for equity, for fairness, for justice, there’s certain sentiments to be considered when we’re making national decisions but we don’t think that is enough to disorganize our country. We must move forward”.
Meanwhile, in the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has been picked as running mate to the party’s presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, for the 2023 election.
Wike emerged the preferred choice yesterday after a committee voted in his favour at the PDP national secretariat in Abuja.
The committee comprised members of various organs of the party, including governors, lawmakers, and Board of Trustees (BoT) members and former governors.
The committee led by PDP deputy national chairman (North), Umar Damagum, was charged with the responsibility of picking Atiku’s running mate.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) had fixed next Friday, June 17, 2022, as the deadline for political parties to submit the names of their Presidential candidates and running mates.
Wike had contested the position with his Delta and Akwa Ibom State counterparts, Ifeanyi Okowa and Udom Emmanuel, respectively.
However, a source at the meeting, who is a member of the committee disclosed that members of the committee and other party stakeholders settled for Wike after a vote was conducted.
The source added that majority of the committee members voted for Wike, even through Atiku still reserves the right to pick him or not.
It was gathered that the committee will meet with Wike tomorrow today in Abuja.
Another source told LEADERSHIP that a Northern governor had insisted on Wike being Atiku’s running mate because of the political sagacity he showed at the recent primary election of the party.
It was leant that the governor who has been in Abuja spareheaded the campaign for Wike in the face of opposition to the Rivers State governor by some top Northern members.
Atiku polled 371 votes, while Wike scored 237 votes, to come second at the PDP national convention held at MKO Abiola Stadium in Abuja.
Earlier in his interaction with members of the committee, PDP national chairman, Senator Iyorchia Ayu, charged the Damagum-led committee to come up with an acceptable running mate.
Ayu said Atiku urged the party leadership to help him in picking a suitable running mate.
He said, “The presidential candidate of our party would have been here but this morning he suddenly dashed somewhere. He apologised and if he comes early, he will join us but we will go ahead with the assignment he has given us.
“The candidate wrote to us as the administrative arm of the party on the choice of his running mate. Various organs of the party are well represented in his committee, National Working Committee (NWC), governors’ forum and National Assembly.
“I wish you a successful deliberation and I hope you come up with a conclusion between tomorrow and Friday”.
Ayu commended Atiku’s decision to carry everybody along unlike in 2019 when he didn’t consult widely in his choice of running mate.
Members of the committee who attended the meeting include former president of the Senate President, David Mark; House minority leader, Hon. Ndudi Elumelu; Benue State governor, Samuel Ortom; Sokoto State governor, Aminu Tambuwal; and Bauchi State governor, Bala Mohammed.
Others include former governor of Niger State, Babangida Aliyu; former governor of Jigawa State, Sule Lamido; former Cross Rivers State governor, Liyel Imoke; former governor of Ondo State, Olusegun Mimiko; Senator Philip Aduda; PDP national secretary, Sam Anyanwu, and national organising secretary, Hon Umar Bature.