There are indications that the northern governors of the All Progressives Congress from the North-West and North-East are divided over the choice of a suitable running mate for the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
This is as the former Lagos State governor on Sunday revealed that he was still searching for his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
The development is coming in the wake of a controversy over Tinubu’s claims that he lost his academic certificates in his submission to the Independent National Electoral Commission.
A party chieftain, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told The PUNCH that the delay in settling for an acceptable candidate among the governors spurred the party to temporarily opt for a placeholder.
The APC had submitted the name of a party chieftain in Katsina State, Ibrahim Masari, to the Independent National Electoral Commission as its surrogate running mate.
Masari is a serving board member of the National Institute for Policy and Strategic Studies in Kuru, Plateau State.
The source told one of our correspondents that weeks after Masari’s name was submitted to INEC, the APC had yet to settle for a candidate.
He attributed the challenge to internal wrangling and agitation between governors from the North-East and North-West.
“I think it is down to two governors, Babagana Zulum of Borno and Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna, who have been seriously agitating for the vice-presidential slots. While the former wants his predecessor to be considered for the exalted, the latter has his eye on the seat,” he said.
The APC Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, however, kicked against the report, which he averred must be the figment of the imagination of people peddling the speculation.
“I can’t respond to speculation. All I can say is the media should allow the APC presidential candidate to make his decision. Once a decision is taken, we will announce it,” he fumed.
The Spokesman for the Bola Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga, also toed his line when he disclosed that his principal was still consulting with the party and the northern governors.
When asked about any probable northern candidates being touted as Tinubu’s running mate, Onanuga disclosed that he could not speak on it.
“I am telling you the truth. I don’t have any information on it at the moment,” he said.
A party member at the APC secretariat, however, told our correspondent that the friction between the North-East and North-West was unavoidable.
He also fingered some North-West governors who championed the move to concede the presidential ticket to the South as principal actors at the negotiation table.
“The North-West governors believe they won the ticket for Asiwaju. It was also evident at the primary where they influenced delegates from the North-West to direct most of their votes in the direction of Tinubu. With such massive support, they felt it is only fair for the running mate to come from their region.”
On why the North-East is also not willing to settle for other positions other than the vice-presidential slot, the APC stalwart disclosed that the region could also not be ruled out because of the massive votes they had churned out in the last two elections.
He noted, “We have seven states in the North-West. But the North-West controls the highest votes from the whole North. North-East, on the other hand, has six states with three being controlled by APC governors.
“They are Yobe, Gombe and Borno. In the North-East, the states risk being penetrated through Adamawa which is Atiku’s stronghold. Kwakwanso is also creating problems in North-West, especially Kano. He has started extending his tentacles into Kaduna too. It is like a virus.
“This time, we know Kano can’t fetch us the usual votes we have been getting in the past. It is kind of dicey despite the New Nigeria Peoples Party and Labour Party not being able to agree on an alliance yet.
“But at the end of the day, we will get it right. It is not a big deal. Politics is all about balancing the equation. It is all about coming to a roundtable, saying if this region takes the presidency, another takes the vice-president; what is in it for us? One thing is obvious though: Whatever the deadline is, the APC will meet up with it,” he said.
Lagos APC chair
Chairman of Lagos APC, Cornelius Ojelabi, urged Nigerians to cut Tinubu and his party some slack, saying the choice of a running mate would be decided at the appropriate time.
“They should allow the man to take his time before choosing a running mate. We don’t need to jump to any conclusion as of now. The issue of a running mate should be a personal matter to him. I think we should just give him some time,” he said.
The Director-General of Asiwaju Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, Adebayo Shittu, conceded that his principal might have no say in who would be his running mate.
This is even as he claimed that the APC presidential candidate had told no one the formula that would determine his running mate.
“But common-sense dictates that they will look at the zones that will produce the highest votes for him. Secondly, the success of Asiwaju at the presidential primary cannot be alienated from the role that the northern governors played by conceding the ticket to the South.
“He, therefore, has to reciprocate by allowing them to choose a candidate that will adequately represent them, particularly the cultural interest in that region,” he said.
Tinubu on VP
Speaking in Abuja on Sunday, Tinubu, who is the National Leader of the APC, said he was still studying how the House of Representatives Speaker, Gbajabiamila and the Deputy Speaker, Ahmed Wase, had been working harmoniously, in his search for a running mate.
He said this at the presentation of a book titled ‘Mr Speaker: The Legislative Life, Service and Resilience of Femi Gbajabiamila and the unveiling of a Legislative Mentorship Initiative to mark Gbajabiamila’s 60th birthday.
At the event were the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), represented by the Chief of Staff to the President, Prof Ibrahim Gambari; former Governor of Ogun State and Chairman on the Occasion, Chief Olusegun Osoba; Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the Nigeria Governors’ Forum, Kayode Fayemi; Governor of Kebbi State and Chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum, Atiku Badugu, among other prominent politicians and businessmen.
Tinubu said, “I could see his deputy (Wase) sitting down there too. You are a very good symbol of unity, dependability and honesty. Thank you. Thank you for both of you, you have not rocked the boat. I will need to learn from both of you (on) how you made the pair work because I’m still searching for my running mate.”
A political analyst, Shuaibu Doro, explained that the delay by Tinubu in picking a running mate was deliberate and strategic.
He noted, “It is deliberate, given the multiplicity of interests that have to be taken care of here and then; given that the country is a multicultural and heterogeneous and multi-religious society. So, these types of interests have to be taken care of.
“Announcing the name of a running mate at this moment could be costly for Tinubu, especially with the calls from different quarters that a Muslim-Muslim or Christain-Christian ticket is a no-no. It is also to avoid certain strategic errors.”
Also commenting, Tonye Isokariari, hinted that the APC candidate was making consultations to ensure he takes the right decision.
“I think he is trying to make more consultations; consultations are key and Nigeria is a very complex country. Lots of consultation is important so that the right decision is taken at the end of the day.”
Meanwhile, critics on Sunday criticised Tinubu over his disclosure that the academic certificates he received from his primary and secondary schools were missing.
Those who commented on Tinubu’s statement on Sunday included Lauretta Onochie, Personal Assistant on Social Media to the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.) and some supporters’ groups.
The former Lagos State governor with two degrees from two American universities disclosed in an affidavit submitted to INEC that his primary and secondary school certificates were stolen by “unknown soldiers” during the military junta in 1994.
The PUNCH had reported that in the said affidavit released on Friday, as part of his eligibility filings for the 2023 presidential elections, Tinubu did not tick the columns for his primary and secondary education.
As the critics flayed Tinubu, there were indications on Sunday that the northern governors of the APC from the North-West and North-East were divided over the choice for Tinubu.
On her Facebook account, Onochie recounted how Buhari was also accused of being an illiterate who was cloned by an individual from Sudan, dismissing those spreading the report as “clowns.”
She wrote, “I am not sure why they cannot manufacture a different line of lies. In 2014, a Retired Army General of repute, Muhammadu Buhari, did not go to school. He’s less than a year from finishing his second term as the President of our great nation.
“In 2022, Senator Tinubu, a governor for two terms and a Senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, did not go to school. In 2016, President Buhari was said to be cloned, and he was later replaced with some folk from Sudan. Fast forward to 2024, President Tinubu will be cloned or replaced by some folk from Togo. The same clowns. The same lies.
“If it’s not their preferred party, if it’s not their religion; if it’s not their tribe, then, it’s not good. Fake news must be created to destroy the person. Nigerians know better now. They know the merchants of fake news; those who create multiple accounts on social media to disseminate fake news. They labour in vain.
“Instead of marketing their candidates, they prefer churning out fake and half-baked stories. It only shows their preferred candidates have nothing of value that can appeal to Nigerians. Campaigns will start soon. Dem go hear am.”
Another tweep named Shehu Sadiq, wrote, “The Tinubu certificate saga should quickly be a subject of litigation before they rig election for him and tell us he’s under immunity. Opposition parties and civil society groups should take this up ASAP. A semi-illiterate must not rule Nigeria again.”
Popular social commentator and columnist, Femi Aribisala, on his Twitter handle, alleged that Tinubu committed perjury because he did not attend Government College, Ibadan as he claimed in his affidavit.
“I wrote in 2014 that Tinubu’s affidavit that he attended Government College Ibadan (GCI) between 1965 and 1968 is false. I was in GCI from 1962-1968, and Tinubu was not there. Tinubu now tells INEC he did not go to primary or secondary school. This means he committed perjury,” he tweeted.
Another Twitter user, Okpala Izuchukwu Zuma, tweeted, “INEC Nigeria should be careful with this Tinubu certificate scandal. It has huge implications if justice is not done. ”
Similarly, a tweep named Captain, wrote, “I pray that someone from the late Gani Fawehinmi chambers will have enough balls to tell Nigerians all that transpired during the certificate forgery case against Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the role Yemi Osinbajo played in the entire saga. Young Nigerians need to know their history.”
The National Publicity Secretary of All Nigeria Peoples Party, Agbo Major, said, “This whole certificate drama is still within the realm of speculation. These certificates, if they are there are to be submitted to the INEC as support documents accompanying his EC9.
“Declaring documents which physical copies are not accompanying them is perjury. This is the same as submitting documents that are not real. It is a punishable offence under the constitution as well as the Electoral Act to lie on oath.
“It is, therefore, the job of INEC to clear the air on this drama but the obvious advantage is that Nigerians are now showing more interest and interrogating the process.”
The Peter Obi Support Network, in a reaction by its Deputy Director of Communications, Adegbite Adekunle, made available to us by Obi’s Media Consultant, Daniel Elombah, said, “Nigerians deserve a President whose records are not subject to credible controversies. It is obvious from the records and testimonies in the public domain that the APC presidential candidate’s background is shrouded in mystery, and Nigerians cannot afford to elect someone whom they do not know and cannot attest for.
“We can say without equivocation that the APC, as it stands, does not have a qualified presidential candidate, given the particulars published by the Independent National Electoral Commission.
“The constitution is clear on the academic qualifications expected of anyone presenting himself to contest the office of the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and Bola Ahmed Tinubu, apparently, does not possess these qualifications.”
Reacting, the National Coordinator of South-West Agenda for 2023, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, said, “I will not call it a certificate saga. Tinubu has been a senator and a two-term governor of Lagos State. If you have no primary and secondary certificates, you can’t hold these positions. So, there is no certificate scandal, just the imagination of those who wish to abuse themselves.”
A group, Tinubu Network Organisation, in a thread on its Twitter account, @TNOnigeria, noted that the late activist and human rights lawyer, Gani Fawenhinmi, had dragged the APC standard-bearer to court over the issue in 1999.
According to the TNO, Fawenhinmi had dragged the case up to the Supreme Court, which ruled that Tinubu could not be prosecuted by the police for alleged certificate forgery; that only the Lagos State House of Assembly could investigate him.