The camps of the candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) counterpart, Atiku Abubakar have narrowed down on two persons for consideration as running mates, Daily Trust reports.
Credible sources said Tinubu’s camp has narrowed down on Senator Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Borno State and Atiku’s backers are concluding talks on Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa for the position of the vice president.
Barring any last minute-changes, Shettima and Okowa would be unveiled as the running mates of the two principal contenders for the 2023 presidency.
Daily Trust reports that since the conclusion of the primaries of the two political parties, attention has since been shifted to the selection of running mates of the two leading political parties in the country.
Analysts say the choice of the running mates will determine the victory or otherwise of the two candidates in the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has fixed June 17, as the deadline for the submission of candidates for the presidential positions.
Multiple sources told this paper that the former Lagos State governor has pencilled down the name of Shettima, who played a critical role in his campaign as his running mate.
“Asiwaju is comfortable with Senator Shettima, not only because of his contribution towards his emergence but he feels the former Borno governor is acceptable to all in the country because he has built bridges across all the divides in the country when he was governor and also when he went to the National Assembly as a senator,” he said.
Another source in the presidency said Shettima enjoys the full support of all the three APC governors in the North East geopolitical zone even as he has been supporting programmes and policies of President Muhammadu Buhari by attributing the success he recorded in Borno to the support of the president.
“Buhari is not averse to the candidature of Shettima,” he said.
“The former Borno governor has been one of the frontline supporters of the president. He brought serious votes in 2015 and 2019 for the success of the president not only in Borno but in other North-East states. Also, the three governors in the North East (Babagana Zulum of Borno, Mai Mala Buni of Yobe and Muhammed Inuwa Yahaya of Gombe) are all sympathetic to Shettima’s candidature.
“Specifically, Zulum has said he is not interested in becoming the running mate. When Tinubu visited Maiduguri last month, Zulum pleaded that Shettima be considered as the running mate,” he said.
According to him, if considered, Shettima will make the “Tinubu presidential ticket inclusive, demographically sensitive and politically correct.
“Shettima ensured the reign of religious harmony in Borno State and spent more than a billion naira to rebuild churches destroyed by the Boko Haram terrorists and singlehandedly sponsored more Christian pilgrims to Jerusalem than Christian Benue, Plateau and Taraba,” he said.
It was however gathered that three governors who are from the North West geopolitical zone, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi) and Mohammad Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa) are also eyeing the seat.
“But the fact is that the APC is looking at the direction of the North East to produce the running mate so as to deplete the chances of PDP candidate Atiku,” he said.
Pressure from CPC elements
Besides, Daily Trust also gathered from reliable sources that elements of the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) are planning to approach President Buhari to recommend Abubakar Malami, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice or the Aviation Minister, Hadi Sirika, for the position of the vice president.
“The CPC elements are planning to approach President Buhari to seek for his intercession to endorse either Abubakar Malami or Hadi Sirika as the running mate,” the source said.
“But there is the high probability that the president will repeat what he did ahead of the APC special convention; he will listen to all but he will most likely allow the candidate to have a say in who he wants to work with…They would collectively work in producing the right candidate who will bring votes and acceptability because the ultimate goal is for the APC to retain power,” he said.
It was learnt that Tinubu has an appointment with the president tomorrow and that the issue of running mate is among the issues to be discussed.
Kingibe nominates 3
A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) has forwarded three names to Tinubu, Daily Trust reliably gathered.
Kingibe, who was running mate to late MKO Abiola in the June 12, 1993, presidential election, has forwarded the names to the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu for onward transmission to Tinubu for consideration.
The list has the name of the Borno State governor, Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum; the Deputy Secretary-General of the United Nations, Amina J. Mohammed and a liaison officer to the National Assembly during Olusegun Obasanjo’s first tenure, Kashim Ibrahim-Imam, for consideration.
The trio, Daily Trust reports, are Muslims from the North East geopolitical zone. The nomination came amid agitation over the moves by the APC to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
A source close to the presidential candidate said they were shocked when the former SGF forwarded the names through Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu.
“It is true that three names have been forwarded by Ambassador Babagana Kingibe to Governor Atiku Bagudu for onward delivery to Asiwaju for consideration for the office of the vice president,” he said.
Another source said they were still trying to find out on what grounds Kingibe was nominating anyone.
“Even though he is reportedly part of the cabal, what is in the open is that they have a different candidate for the presidency who did not win…We are therefore appalled that he has nominated some people to Asiwaju considering that he is not holding any position. We suspect that he is not alone in the move,” the source said.
Atiku set to settle for Okowa
Similarly, Atiku, the candidate of the PDP is set to nominate Governor Okowa for the position of vice president.
Daily Trust reports that a committee constituted to assist Atiku in searching for a suitable running mate, chaired by General Aliyu Gusau, a former National Security Adviser (NSA), has submitted its report.
The Gusau-committee, according to our source, has recommended Okowa as well as two others – Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and Akwa Ibom State governor, Udom Emmanuel for consideration.
The source, however, said the former vice president is more comfortable with the Delta State governor given the role he played during the party’s presidential primary.
“Okowa mobilised resources for us during the primary. He is the preferred contender even though others are making case for Wike and Udom,” he said.
The report of another committee constituted to search for a suitable running mate is expected to be ready today.
The committee, comprising governors, members of the National Working Committee (NWC) and the Board of Trustees (BoT), was constituted to carry forward the assignment given to the Gusau’s committee.
Contacted, the spokesperson of the PDP, Debo Ologunagba, urged Nigerians to exercise more patience as the running mate will be unveiled this week.