The All Progressives Congress has pruned its search for Gen. Muhammadu Buhari’s (retd.) running mate to three incumbent governors and a former one.
SUNDAY PUNCH reliably gathered on Saturday that the leadership of the party has the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola (SAN); his Edo State counterpart, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole; and Governor Rotimi Amaechi of Rivers State, as well as former Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi, on its final list of four.
It was learnt that the APC governors had demanded that one of them should be picked as the running mate of Buhari, who emerged as the party’s presidential candidate on Thursday.
Our correspondents gathered that Oshiomhole and Amaechi made the list because some leaders of the APC feel that South-South should produce the vice-president in order to cut down the votes of President Goodluck Jonathan, who is also from the geo-political zone.
Other party leaders are pushing for the South-West because of the massive support the zone, gave to Buhari at the presidential primary. This group believes that the zone which has suffered so much marginalisation by the Jonathan-led Federal Government, should be rewarded for the sacrifices made towards building an alternative platform.
A top ranking member of the party, who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak to the media on the issue, confided in SUNDAY PUNCH that Buhari received block votes from South-West delegates during the party’s presidential primary.
The source said, “Buhari got almost 100 per cent of votes from the South-West; that is even more than what came from the North-West where he comes from because the delegates there were divided between Atiku Abubakar, Rabiu Kwankwaso and him.
“You must agree that the four aspirants we have on the list showed uncommon sportsmanship and they have different strengths. It is going to be a tough decision for us to make on Monday. With the Edo State governor, we can get South-South votes and the labour movement. With Amaechi, we can also get South-South votes. Fashola is immensely popular but he is a Muslim and that is where Fayemi, a Christian comes in.”
Another source, who is a governor said Buhari prefers a Christian as his deputy.
His preference for such a person, it was further gathered, was aimed at erasing the notion that Buhari is a “religious fanatic.”
The governor, who spoke with our correspondent on Saturday afternoon on condition of anonymity, also said the South-West really wants the position.
He said, “The zone came to the merger with about five governors, many senators and members of the House of Representatives. They deserve to be considered for a top position in the APC if we form the government at the centre.
“Again, the zone is the most marginalised in the current dispensation. So, they deserve to be pampered.”
He said it was true that Prof. Yemi Osibajo (SAN) was also considered from the South-West.
The governor said, “Osibajo is not only a strong member of the RCCG, he is a pastor there. He is also a right hand man of the General Overseer of the church, Pastor Enoch Adeboye, who is well respected across the country and in the Christian community.
“So, those who are favourably disposed to him argued at the meetings we had in Lagos on Friday that his pairing with the former head of state would be beneficial to the party.”
The governor added that while Fashola seems to be the toast of many for the position, his religious background is working against him.
“Yes, he is seen as the most qualified for the position in the country, but we don’t want to play into the hands of our enemies who may now use the religion aspect to campaign against us. The country is in an unusual situation,” he added.
He said Fayemi’s loss of the governorship election in Ekiti was a minus for him and those who are pushing his case.
“Some say his inability to win his reelection bid is not good for him, even though we all agree that he is a good material. Besides, he is the only Christian among the governors from his zone,” the source added.
The Director of Publicity of the Buhari 2015 Support Group Centre, Dr. Chidia Maduekwe, told SUNDAY PUNCH that he was certain that the party and its candidates would give Nigerians a credible alternative.
Also speaking on Buhari’s running mate, the Publicity Secretary of the APC in Ondo State, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin said, “The APC has proven to be a different party from all the parties the General had been involved in.
“It is a truly national party and that is why it is taking this long to come up with a name for his running mate.
“Consultations are still ongoing and I can assure you that the person that the party will present to Nigerians is one that Nigerians will identify with. I foresee a thorough shellacking of Jonathan. This will be the first time an incumbent will lose elections.”
Party reaches out to Obasanjo
One of our correspondents also gathered that the party was reaching out to various interest groups in the zone including former President Olusegun Obasanjo.
A member of the APC National Working Committee, who pleaded anonymity, said, “Some months ago, the leadership of the party met with the former president for his valuable advice. We are also reaching out to him on the issue of the vice-presidential candidate for his input.”
Obasanjo had a few months ago warned the APC against fielding presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the same faith.
It was gathered that among the names that had been suggested by Obasanjo was a former Governor of Osun State, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola, who is a Christian from Osun State.
It was, however, learnt that some interests in the party felt that the fact that Oyinlola is a retired general like Buhari, might make the joint ticket difficult to sell.
Amaechi’s aide backs govs’ demand
Speaking on reports that APC governors want one of them to emerge as Buhari’s running mate, an aide to Governor Amaechi and his Chief of Staff, Tony Okocha, said the governors’ demand was in order.
Okocha maintained that the APC governors had worked hard to lift the rating of the party and would not be going beyond their bounds should they request that one of them be nominated as Buhari’s running mate.
On the possible nomination of Amaechi, the governor’s aide explained that though his boss remained qualified to be a running mate to the APC presidential candidate, Amaechi’s efforts towards the growth of the party was not for him (Amaechi) to be rewarded.
“Amaechi is doing what he doing not for any reward, but for positive change. To Amaechi, becoming the running mate (to Buhari) is not a do-or-die affair. He (Amaechi) has very minute appetite for material things.”
When contacted on Saturday, the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Lai Mohammed said,
“The party has yet to meet to discuss the issue of a running mate.”[Punch]