Details have emerged on how the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, shunned overtures from North-West governors to pick one of them as his running mate, The Punch Newspaper is reporting.
Rather than bowing to the pressure from the governors, Tinubu on Sunday picked a former Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima.
It was gathered that the governors preferred the Kebbi State Governor, Atiku Bagudu and his Kaduna State counterpart, Nasir El-Rufai, but Tinubu initially offered the ticket to the Borno State Governor, Babagana Zulum.
It was learnt that one of the causes of the delay in selecting a running mate was the refusal of Zulum to accept Tinubu’s offer.
Top sources told The PUNCH that Tinubu had offered Zulum the ticket on a silver platter but he refused to take it.
An associate of Tinubu who wished to remain anonymous, said, “Based on wide consultations as well as a survey, Zulum was the most popular option. He was repeatedly offered the ticket but he turned it down for two main reasons. The first was that he was eager to complete his tenure as governor of Borno State and implement his reconstruction programme.
“Secondly, his loyalty to Shettima was also a factor. Zulum was Shettima’s commissioner when he handpicked him as his successor in 2019. They have maintained a cordial relationship which is rare between governors and their predecessors. Zulum finally stated that he would only accept the VP slot if Shettima asked him to take it.
“But it was difficult for Tinubu’s men to ask Shettima to plead with Zulum to take the job when it was obvious that Shettima also wanted the job. With INEC’s deadline fast approaching, Shettima became the sure option. In any case, Shettima’s loyalty to Tinubu has never been in doubt. So, it became easy to settle for him.”
Earlier last week, the six North-West governors who are members of the All Progressives Congress had met with a view to ensuring that Tinubu picks one of them as a running mate.
One of the governors, who was said to have been interested in the position was Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State who is one of the biggest advocates of the Muslim-Muslim ticket having successfully implemented it in his state.
However, El-Rufai’s frosty relationship with the Christian community was said to have discouraged Tinubu.
Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State could also not be considered despite his closeness to Tinubu because of the party crisis in his state that had contributed to the popularity of Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso and the New Nigeria Peoples Party.
It was learnt that associates of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who is also the Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, had reached out to Tinubu with a view to ensuring that he gets the ticket since he is the only northern Christian governor in the APC.
In a chat with The PUNCH on Sunday, federal lawmaker, Mr James Faleke, who is the founder of the Tinubu Support Group, said picking Shettima was a master stroke.
Faleke said the streets of Borno had been agog with celebrations since the former governor was announced as the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC.
“The thinking behind it is who will deliver? It is not about religion. The entire Borno is rejoicing over his choice as VP. He is very popular. Even Governor Zulum has thanked Tinubu,” he said.
The Plateau State Commissioner for Information, Dan Manjang, in an interview with The PUNCH, said Lalong had no ill feeling over his non-selection.
The commissioner said, “The selection of the running mate to the APC presidential candidate remains the prerogative of the presidential candidate himself. And he (Tinubu )would not have done that (selection of ex-Borno gov) without the knowledge of the party. Of course, the Governor (Simon Lalong) would have been happy if he was chosen as the running mate. But since that did not happen, he has no ill-feeling towards the party’s decision on the issue as he remains a loyal party man who will work for the success of the APC during the 2023 poll.”
Earlier on Sunday, Tinubu met with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), in Daura, the President’s hometown.
While calling for understanding in a statement released on Sunday by his media team, the national leader of the APC stated that he was focused on returning Nigeria to its past glory.
Tinubu added, “Today, I announce my selection with pride because I have made it not based on religion or to please one community or the other. I made this choice because I believe this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians, period, regardless of their religious affiliation or considerations of ethnicity or region.
“May I say this to all of you, especially to those who will be disappointed in my selection based on religious considerations. I will not and cannot ignore the religious concerns and ethnic sensitivities of our people. Taking them into due consideration is an important part of good and able governance
“But ethnicity and region cannot always and fully determine our path. To forge ahead as a nation toward development and prosperity, we must break free of old binds. We must recalibrate our political calculations to where competence and fairness matter more than reductive demographics.”