Horse-trading, intrigues as parties pick VP candidates

By Tunde Joshua

All the registered political parties for next year’s general elections were expected to have submitted the names of their vice presidential candidates by 6.00 pm on Friday June 17, 2022 to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

There was serious horsetrading before the choices of the presidential running mates were decided in some parties. All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) in efforts the beat the June 17 deadline nominated Alhaji Kabir Ibrahim Masari (interim) and Governor of Delta State, Dr Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa as the running mates to their presidential candidates respectively.

Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, Presidential Candidate of the ruling APC may have submitted the name of Ibrahim Masari as his running mate but as a placeholder. He is a relative of Katsina State Governor and former Speaker, House of Representatives, Aminu Masari.

He hails from a village located in Kafur Local Government Area of Katsina State. He served as the National Welfare Secretary of the APC when Comrade Adams Oshiomhole was the chairman of the party. When the late President Umaru Musa Yar’dua was in office, Masari was affiliated with the PDP.

He left the party after Yar’Adua died. On the other hand, the Presidential Candidate of Nigeria’s main opposition PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar while announcing Okowa as his running on Thursday at the party Secretariat, WADATA House, Abuja said his Vice President must fulfil the qualities to be president and one that could complement him as a President.

He added that he must possess qualities to unite Nigeria, and must not be afraid to speak and give advice on governance in the country.

He also added that his running mate must understand what he described as the depth of rots in the Nigerian system, with understanding of critical needs of economic growth. Following the announcement, Okowa was screened by the committee already set up for that purpose. But the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF), on Friday, condemned Okowa for accepting his nomination as the running mate.

This was contained in a statement signed by leaders of four groups which include Chief Edwin Clark, for the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders’ Forum (SMBLF) and the Pan Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF); Chief Ayo Adebanjo, leader of Afenifere, Dr Dru Bitrus, the PresidentGeneral, Middle Belt Forum and Prof. George Obiozor, the President-General, Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide.

The elder statesmen described as unspeakable and quite disappointing that Okowa, who is currently Chairman of the South-South Governors’ Forum, and a native of Owa-Alero in Ika North-East Local Government Area (one of the Igbospeaking areas) of Delta State, would exhibit such barefaced unreliability to accept the position of vice president.

They recalled that 17 Southern governors of both the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) and the All Progressives Congress (APC), under the Chairmanship of the Governor of Ondo State, Rotimi Akeredolu, SAN, met in Asaba, Delta State on May 11, 2021, and took farreaching decisions, including that, based on the principles of fairness, equity and justice, the presidency should rotate to the South at the end of the statutory eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure.

They said Okowa was the host of that historic meeting, adding that the Southern governors later met again in Lagos, on July 5, where they reaffirmed their decision and again in Enugu, on September 16, to restate the call that the presidency should rotate to the South in 2023.

“It is, therefore, most unfortunate that the Governor of Delta State, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa who should know better, accepted his appointment as running mate to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

“We do not have anything personal against Ifeanyi Okowa but his action is treacherous and tantamount to a despicable pawning of the political future of the people of Southern Nigeria,” the statement said. The group said Governor Okowa has, by his action, betrayed the trust reposed on him by his colleagues; the southern governors, the entire good people of southern Nigeria and all well-meaning Nigerians.

It warned that he has made himself persona non grata, not only, with SMBLF but all citizens who treasure our oneness and yearn for a more united and peaceful Nigeria The group said it rejected Okowa, his vice president slot, describing the governor’s action as “a betrayal of the highest order.”

It added that this iis not a matter of loyalty to ones political party, but rather a greedy, parochial and unpatriotic action, committed against the general interest of his Delta State, Niger Delta and Southern Nigeria. It is, certainly, also not in the interest of the nation at large, it added. Some stakeholders such as a former National Chairman of PDP, Prince Uche Secondus, were said to have secretly rejoiced over Wike’s rejection.

Wike allegedly masterminded Secondus’s removal from office Secondus who had not publicly congratulated Atiku after his emergence took the opportunity of Okowa’s emergence to greet the duo He said that Atiku’s choice of Okowa says it all that he has a knack for picking good heads to be around him for the gargantuan task ahead. He added that with the picking of a running mate, the candidacy is complete and PDP was now set for the inevitable journey back to Aso Rock in 2023.

Picking of running mates for candidates (presidential or governorship) has been a delicate issue in Nigerian politics largely because of the interest it elicits because of the ethnic, tribal, regional and religious considerations. Ahead of the 2023 elections, these factors are being played up and stakeholders across political parties are not leaving any stone unturned in making cases for preferred running mates. Regional consideration dictates that running mates to presidential standard bearers must come from the opposite direction of the bi- polar regions of North and South of which the main candidate comes from.

The political turf has become murky and slippery immediately after the emergence of the presidential candidates, particularly of the two leading parties, APC) and PDP. Atiku had sleepless nights before arriving at the choice of Okowa. Atiku approached the party to assist him in the selection process.

He must have learnt a lesson not to go it all alone like he did in 2019. The national chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, said the PDP leadership worked on possible candidates from the South East and South South and zeroed in on five, all of them governors. Victor Ikpeazu of Abia, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi of Enugu, Nyesom Wike of Rivers, Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta and Emmanuel Udom of Akwa Ibom.

The eventual emergence of Okowa on Wednesday came as a huge surprise as less than 24 hours before Atiku’s declaration, it was almost certain that Wike was going to get the slot but the table was turned against him at a midnight meeting. The party chairman was fingered as the ‘hatchet man’ . Among the many albatrosses of Wike was the argument that the controversial governor might be too strong to tame for Atiku.

Also, a reference book on all of Wike’s utterances against the party were opened and used in nailing him. Impeccable source said part of the allegations leveled against Wike was his imprint in crises ravaging some state chapters of PDP. Edo, Ogun and Cross River were mentioned. He was accused of causing divisions deliberately to railroad himself into those states ahead of his presidential ambition.

Also, it was learnt that Atiku did not feel comfortable working with Wike who nearly scuttled his chances of clinching the presidential ticket. Wike was considered as a running mate who may not be marketable to the north where a campaign of discredit was waged against him as a Christian bigot who allegedly hates Islam. Atiku bought into all of these allegations and decided to go for a ‘cool headed’ Okowa.

Atiku admitted that his decision on Okowa was a difficult one. Okowa’s emergence no doubt created a little division in the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) as more of the members were said be favourably disposed to having Wike as running mate. On the other hand, Tinubu and his party have been battling with the choice of a credible and acceptable running mate.

It is obvious that Tinubu, a Yoruba from the Southwest, must look north for a running mate. There are dissenting voices among APC stakeholders on which zone in the north the vice presidential candidate should come from.

Advocates of the North West vee pee slot argued that APC needs the voting strength of the zone that comprises Kano, Katsina, Jigawa and Kaduna states to complement the expected bulk votes from Tinubu’s base in the South West to coast home to victory. For a vital reason that President Muhammadu Buhari is from the North West, it was largely submitted that Timubu should look North East.

This, it was argued, will be a replica of the combination of the winner of the June 12,1993 presidential election, the late Chief Moshood Abiola and his running mate, Ambassador Babagana Kingibe. Like the Abiola and Kingibe South West/North East combination, the APC may have settled for a North East vice presidential candidate later. But the major obstacle before the party is that of religious consideration.

Tinubu is expected to pick a northern christian running mate while some people do not see this as expedient. However, there are dissenting arguments on the possibility of Tinubu picking a Muslim running mate.

And so, the controversy rages. Proponents of the Muslim / Muslim ticket said this would not in any way affect the chances of APC winning in 2023.

They alluded to the fact that Nigerians did not reject the Abiola / Kingibe joint ticket in 1993, hence it should not be an issue in 2023. But the opponents say Nigeria has changed with deeper cleavages.

While consultation continues, the party submitted the name of the Katsina governor’s relative, Kabir Ibrahim Masari as a temporary running mate to Tinubu. But an APC social media influencer, Dr. Ugo Egbujo, reportedly criticised this interim decision, saying: “Asiwaju has submitted the name of one Masari as a dummy running mate. Thisis not good enough “For a man who has an eye for talent. For that man who is a political smooth operator. This is utter tardiness. Asiwaju had years to think about this.

He had 10 days to settle on a choice “He hasn’t managed to come up with a name. This is not decisiveness. The APC is the ruling party. It must lead the way. It can’t engage in this face-me-I-face-you tactic.

Jagaban can’t run like this. Mbanu Director-General of Peter Obi Campaign Organisation and a former presidential aide, Doyin Okupe, said he has been tapped as the VicePresidential candidate of the Labour Party. This disclosure was made by Okupe while speaking with Channels TV on Friday.

Read Also: Ebonyi Guber 2023: I will win, APC flagbearer boast

Okupe disclosed that his name has been submitted to INEC. “I’m vice presidential candidate of the Labour Party, fact!. “You know that this exercise close this evening 6pm and this is just past seven, the Labour Party will issue a statement, you yourself have been able to confirm that my name has been submitted to IMEC and so, that is the that is the reality of the situation as of today,” he said. Speaking further, Okupe clarified that while he has been chosen as the VicePresidential candidate, there are possibilities of a change as the party is still holding its widespread consultations across the country.

Okupe explained that the Labour Party is working on a merger with other political parties, adding that things might change as time goes on. He affirmed that the Labour Party is aiming to merge with the New Nigeria People’s Party (NNPP), alongside other parties to work together to unseat APC and PDP.

He added:“We’re talking to NNPP, we are taking to SDP, we are talking to every possible region’s political outfits outside APC and PDP. “The choosing of the vice presidential candidate is a process, it is an electoral process.

And it does not stop until the process and the schedule ends. INEC allows you to present your candidates and if you want to substitute, you make substitute, if necessary, but it is not necessary.

The present situation is that we are believe that this Labour party government that is coming, is essentially going to be about young Nigerians. Those of us who have been part and parcel of the fight must be prepared to pay the sacrifice, even personal sacrifice, and allow a situation whereby we can lift up our youths to the position of power and authority.”

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