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Politics of Sunday, 12 June 2022

Source: punchng.com

Running mate: Atiku, PDP panel decide Tuesday, Tinubu may pick Muslim

Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar Bola Tinubu and Atiku Abubakar

Ahead of Friday’s deadline for political parties to submit the names of their presidential candidates and running mates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, most of the political parties are making hurried moves to beat the deadline.

The commission had said it would not extend the deadline for the submission of the names of the candidates and their running mates.In the Peoples Democratic Party, the committee set up by the party to advise it on the most suitable running mate for Atiku Abubakar will hold its final meeting on Tuesday, Sunday PUNCH reliably learnt on Saturday.

The panel, which comprised governors, National Working Committee members, former governors and Board of Trustees members, was given the mandate of recommending to the party the best candidate that would be acceptable to many Nigerians and help the party win the February 25, 2023 election. In the ruling All Progressives Congress, it was also learnt that the party and its candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, given the party’s difficulty in finding a Christian from the North, who would boost the party’s chances in the election.

A top source in the party told one of our correspondents on Saturday that even though consultation was still ongoing, the idea of picking either Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State or the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who are both northern Christians, was no longer topical due to their limited clout in the region.

The source noted that North-West and North-East had the bloc votes in the region and that if the party could not find a stronger Christian from the two sub-regions, it might settle for a Muslim.Meanwhile, on Tuesday’s meeting of the PDP panel, a reliable source, who is also a member of the panel, told one of our correspondents that the committee adjourned its previous meeting to enable members to broaden their consultation.“

The deadline for submission is June 17, so the meeting was adjourned till Tuesday, June 14, to give room for more consultation and unification efforts. They will take a final decision on Tuesday,” The source said.It was gathered from other sources in the party that Atiku, who is a BoT member, would also be part of the meeting, and that the party might take a final decision on the issue.“Our presidential candidate will be part of the meeting on Tuesday and the major organs of the party are represented as well, so the decision there is as good as final.

The announcement may be delayed to ratify the choice and of course we will watch what the other parties will come up with,” one of the sources stated.Okowa favoured, Wike, Udom make PDP final listThere are strong indications that the Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, is favoured to emerge as Atiku’s running mate as the candidate is said to be favourably disposed to the choice of Okowa, a medical doctor serving his second term as the governor of the oil-bearing state.

Other persons being considered and who are interested in the slot are governors Udom Emmanuel of Akwa Ibom State and Nyesom Wike of Rivers State. Wike was the first runner-up during the party’s presidential primary held on May 29, 2022.

A top source in the party, who is also close to the candidate, said, “Atiku will consult very well. He has met with the governors on the platform of the party; he has met with members of the national caucus, the PDP Governors’ Forum, members of the National Executive Committee, and even former presidents and heads of state.“

The leadership of the party asked him to bring three names that he thinks he could work with and he did, which are the names people have been mentioning everywhere; Wike, Okowa and Udom Emmanuel. But I think he prefers Okowa. He (Okowa) is believed to have the support of the majority of the governors, including those from the South-East and South-South, where he hails from.“The preference for him is also strategic.

Following the need to carry along the South-East people, Okowa is Igbo from the Igbo part of Delta State. He is calm, a medical doctor and does not insult or fight people, including his colleagues. Even during campaigns, he’s not the type to speak ill of fellow aspirants or candidates.“Therefore, it’s not likely that there will be any major opposition to his choice. Like I said, he is Igbo and he will create that needed balance between the South-South and the South-East. The Igbo will support him and people in the South-South will also support him.”

There are also insinuations that some PDP governors were against the choice of Wike as Atiku’s running mate.On why Wike, who was a major contender for the presidential ticket, was not considered, the source, who was privy to some of the meetings held over the issue, told Sunday PUNCH, “Some governors frustrated the move to make him the running mate. They feel he is too powerful. But in all honesty, you need someone like Wike to win the election.“

He can fight dirty and can pull the crowd. But some of the governors, who form a powerful and influential bloc in the party, feel otherwise and you cannot dismiss their views.”The source said a new twist to the search was the view of some stakeholders that the running mate should come from the South-West.He added, “As it is now, it is very likely for Tinubu to pick his running mate from North-West. We must not forget that the majority of the votes are from the North-West and South-West.

That is where the bloc votes are.“What some stakeholders are saying is that if he does, it will be dangerous for the PDP to totally ignore the South-West, because North-West, which has the highest votes, may give Tinubu that advantage.“Now, people are saying if a Christian from the South-West is Atiku’s running mate, it will affect Tinubu’s votes in the region, because running with a Muslim/Muslim ticket will spark outrage from Pentecostal Christians and that will affect his votes among even the northern Christians. It will also affect him in the South-South.

That is the argument. So, the PDP cannot also ignore the South-West.”To deepen his consultation, Atiku met with former PDP governors on Friday after he had met with former ministers. He wrote on his Facebook page that the responses from all the stakeholders that he had met reinforced his belief that the party would win if the unity was sustained.

Fresh information emerged on Saturday that the Tinubu camp had ruled out Lalong and Mustapha, who is from Adamawa State, and might settle for a core Muslim northerner, regardless of their advantage of being Christians.One of those involved in the consultation for Tinubu’s running mate pointed out that the party might settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Reliable sources close to Tinubu also indicated that the former Lagos State governor would rely on the input of the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), and members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum on who should be his running mate.The pressure to pick a Muslim as his running mate, it was learnt, was to assuage his many supporters in the North due to indications that there were no popular Christian politicians to sway votes in favour of the APC in the region.A source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the sensitive issue, affirmed that four men were in contest for the position.

The source said, “We have Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; a former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima; Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State; and Governor Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State.”It was learnt that the Governor of Borno State, Prof Babagana Zulum, made a case for Shettima when Tinubu visited the state during his consultation with delegates.

Shettima is a strong supporter of the APC candidate and he spoke out in Tinubu’s defence after his Abeokuta outburst.Another source noted, “However, the President and the members of the Progressives Governors’ Forum will play key roles in deciding the running mate.

You will be surprised to know that Zulum made a case for Shettima when Asiwaju visited Borno during the campaign. He said, ‘Jagaban, please I am going to ask for two favours from you. I want you to pay attention to my state and also consider my principal, Senator Shettima, as your running mate. He has good things to offer and you will enjoy him’.“

For now, the running mate may have to come from these four men.”It was gathered that Lalong’s name was dropped because he’s known to be very close to the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, who came second during the primary.The source said, “From fresh considerations, we cannot pick Lalong or Boss Mustapha.

Apart from his closeness to Amaechi, a factor we are not very comfortable with, Lalong is from the North-Central, which is not a core northern state. Plateau is also considered not to be strategic enough to win elections in northern Nigeria. Using him will be like alienating the entire northern Nigeria.“Concerning Boss Mustapha, well, he is not with us. Though he belonged to the defunct Action Congress of Nigeria like Tinubu, he does not identify with him.

He was not part of our campaign and has yet to visit the aspirant (as of Saturday afternoon) since he won the primary.“In his home state of Adamawa, it’s known that Mustapha cannot win an election there. So, why will you impose such a man on an aspirant that needs the huge votes from the northern region?”

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