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Buhari, Oyegun to Now Decide on Running Mate

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Major-General Muhammadu Buhari Left, and National
Chairman of APC Chief John Oyegun

Presidency: Ex-head of state’s emergence is a fatal error
Wale Olaleye in Lagos and Chuks Okocha in Abuja   

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.

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