Ahead of tomorrow’s deadline of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) for submission of candidates for the presidential positions by political parties, Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum (NGF) and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong, has said that he believes in politics of inclusion.
He added that jettisoning a known tradition would not augur well for the polity and that it amounted to exclusion.
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Lalong stated this when he featured on Trust TV’s 30-minute interview programme, anchored by Malam Mannir Dan-Ali.
The Plateau governor’s statement came at a time all eyes were on President Muhammadu Buhari and the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to unveil the running mate of the party.
There have been mixed reactions over the purported moves by the party to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the February 25, 2023, presidential election.
Daily Trust reports that there has been horse-trading in both the APC and the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) over the choice of running mates for the flag bearers.
Contenders and their backers are making last minutes push to make the list.
While three governors have been recommended to the candidate of the PDP, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, many people including five governors are being mentioned as likely running mates for Tinubu.
In the PDP, a committee chaired by a former National Security Adviser, General Aliyu Gusau had recommended the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa; Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike and Akwa Ibom State Governor, Udom Emmanuel for consideration.
On Tuesday, there were reports that Wike won a mock poll conducted by an advisory council constituted by the National Working Committee of the PDP.
For the APC, the names of former Governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima; his successor, Babagana Zulum, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje (Kano), Atiku Bagudu (Kebbi), Abubakar Badaru (Jigawa) and Lalong (Plateau) are being mentioned.
The names of SGF, Boss Mustapha and former speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, are also being mentioned.
‘My Position on VP slot’
Lalong in his interview with Trust TV said he is not aspiring to be the running mate of Tinubu because of religion.
“I am not aspiring to be vice president because of my faith; I am aspiring because I am qualified,” he said, stressing the need for all to be carried along in all spheres.
Speaking on the role northern governors played in reducing tension at the height of campaigns before the APC’s special convention, Lalong said, “When we picked them (five presidential aspirants), we didn’t talk about religion but then in politics, there is always a tradition.
“When people believe in that kind of tradition, the moment you deny them that tradition, it means that you are already excluding them from politics.”
Daily Trust recalled that the APC had earlier nominated Tinubu, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, Governor Kayode Fayemi (Ekiti), former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State even though the arrangement collapsed before the convention, paving way for all aspirants to slug it out.
On how he managed politics of inclusion in his state, Lalong said, “I realised that some of the crises that were happening in Plateau were because of exclusion. People believed that they were excluded.
“In politics, you talk about the majority having their way while the minority should be given the opportunity to have a say. Once you have that, you have complete peace in your place,” he said while responding to a question on the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Lalong added that “We are talking about a peaceful federation. Already we are in crisis. Managing the crisis is not only winning the election but also how to govern the country.
“When you start thinking about that, you must look at every interest and give them that sense of belonging.”
On what the northern governors were doing on the selection of a running mate, he said the president has not given them the mandate to select the running mate.
“I am sitting down like any other person and hoping because this is politics. I have heard my name here and there and other names.
“The flag bearer is at the discretion of choosing and I am sure he is going to do that in conjunction with Mr President. Though we expect that there will be cooperation in selecting a running mate, Mr President has not directed us to look for a running mate,” he said.
Asiwaju can’t win without a Muslim running mate – Kalu
Still on the running mate debacle, the Chief Whip of the Senate, Orji Uzor Kalu said it would be difficult for the APC to win the 2023 election if it fail to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
He also said picking a Christian as a running mate to the party’s presidential candidate would not make him the best president.
Briefing newsmen at the National Assembly Wednesday in Abuja, Kalu said there was nothing wrong with a single-faith ticket, and that the party could also go for a Christian-Christian ticket, depending on the scenario.
He said it was not possible for a southern minority Muslim and a northern minority Christian to win a presidential election in Nigeria.
“Do you want me to speak the truth? If I were Bola Ahmed Tinubu whose wife is a senior pastor at a Pentecostal Church, I will go for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“The most important thing is for the party to win. We should stop the issue of whether you put a Christian there or not.
“After all, if we win, the wife is already a pastor. This is my own opinion, and you cannot deny me my opinion.
“I know the Church I go to. There is nothing wrong in a Muslim-Muslim ticket, just as there is nothing wrong in a Christian-Christian ticket.
“Tinubu is a minority Muslim from the South, and if you pick a Christian from the North, it will be a minority Christian, and you cannot play two minorities; it is difficult,” he said.
He said that his submissions were not those of the APC, “but those of Orji Kalu.”
“I sit with Tinubu’s wife in the Senate and the wife is a pastor and I have known Tinubu for long and he is a man who can do the work.
“Tinubu is not a man who preaches Islam or Christianity. He is a man who goes with everybody and can do the work, I know that most Christians will be hurt by what I am saying, but picking a Muslim or a Christian will not make him the best president,’’ Kalu said.
Muslim group replies CAN
The Nigeria Muslim for Equity and Good Governance (NIMEG) has advised the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) to stop fanning the ember of religious crisis over the choice of the running mate of Tinubu.
The group called on the entire world leaders to call CAN to order following its warning against a single faith ticket.
Chairman of the group, Alhaji Shehu Muhammad Maishanu, and spokesman, Mallam Abu Abdullah, in a statement described the position of CAN as dangerous.
It said, “Nigeria is the only country we call our own. We must not let it fall. Enough is enough. We Muslims in Nigeria have tolerated the excesses of our Christian compatriots more than enough and we believe the whole world is watching all the attacks on Islam and Muslims in our country.
“Going by the recent release from the Christian Association of Nigeria, ostensibly threatening the life of our brother, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, that if he eventually chooses a Muslim as a running mate, hell will let loose, it is obvious that all previous attacks on this innocent man are all about his faith.”
The group insisted there was nothing wrong with a Muslim-Muslim ticket, saying, “Politics is a game of numbers not a game of faith.”
Similarly, a group of Tinubu supporters said the ability to deliver good governance and manage the office of the vice president, particularly the economy, should guide the choice of Tinubu’s running mate rather than ethnic or religious consideration.
The group under the aegis of the Disciples of Jagaban said, “We all know that management of the economy is domiciled in the office of the vice president, who heads the National Economic Council,” adding that a competent person should be picked.
We’ll unveil Atiku’s running mate soon – PDP
The PDP Wednesday said the vice presidential candidate of the party for the 2023 elections will be unveiled in the next few hours.
National Publicity Secretary of the party, Debo Ologunagba, told Daily Trust that Nigerians should be patient as the party is going through a democratic process that will culminate in a running mate that will be acceptable to all Nigerians.
The spokesman, however, refused to mention how many of the vice presidential candidates will be screened by the Chief Tom Ikimi committee put together by the party to screen the candidates on Thursday.
He said, “I don’t have the number of those that will be screened tomorrow (today); I don’t have that number right now. The NWC met today, NWC is part of the process of consultation going on within the party and you should await the outcome of the process. We have up to Friday but in the next couple of hours the process will be completed.”
By Abdullateef Salau, Baba Martins (Abuja) & Abdullateef Aliyu (Lagos)