PRESIDENTIAL standard bearer of the ruling All Progressives Congress APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has again defended his choice of a fellow Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate, saying though he has heard and read the backlash generated by his decision, he was committed to the joint ticket because he believes in Shettima’s competence.
Tinubu’s explanation at the unveiling of Shettima, yesterday, came as the party leadership conceded that though the former Lagos governor had exclusive rights to the choice of his running mate, Shettima’s emergence was a product of wide consultations between Tinubu and other party stakeholders, including President Muhammadu Buhari.
This was as Shettima also subtly waded into the controversy, saying he was picked as Tinubu’s running mate after a diligent assessment of the threats ahead of the party.
He said if he was an unpopular option, “as the cast of partisan provocateurs has attempted to paint,” there would not have been the tons of goodwill messages, especially from Christians, from all over the country.
The APC vice presidential candidate hailed those he called “rational citizens” who viewed the Muslim-Muslim ticket as nothing but a pragmatic permutation to defeat the party’s opponents at the polls.
The event witnessed heavy security deployment as hordes of party supporters and a coalition of some pentecostal bishops stormed the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in apparent solidarity with the party.
In spite of the backlash generated by the Muslim-Muslim pairing of the APC, one of the clerics who described himself as a Bishop but failed to give the name of his church, said they were at the event to drum massive support for the Tinubu-Shettima ticket.
Shettima is the best — Tinubu
Unveiling Shettima, Tinubu noted that much has been said and written about his decision to select Senator Shettima he believes in the capacity of his running mate.
His words: “As a committed democrat and progressive, I have read and listened to all that has been written and said. It has been an emotional and moving period. I understand the strength of feeling that has been displayed by some within our party and I cherish and respect the views of all.
“Yet, I remain steadfast in my belief in the selection of Senator Shettima. I am unwavering in my belief that he is the very best person to run for office and to, hopefully, govern by my side.
“I believe in the project this party embarked on at the moment of its foundation. I believe our diversity is our strength and I believe that we must be victorious in order to achieve the greatness of which this country is capable.
“All my life, my decisions regarding the team around and supporting me, have always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness, and adherence to excellence.
“In politics, these principles are sacrosanct. Without them there can be neither victory nor good governance. I seek both. I applied them as Governor of Lagos. I apply them again now.
Bold, pragmatic approach, hard choice
“This chapter in our nation’s history demands a bold yet pragmatic approach. In selecting Senator Shettima I have committed myself to this path. I have made the hard choice because I believe it is the best choice.
“This is where politics must end and leadership must begin. True Leadership is not grounded in religion, populism or sentiment. To forge ahead as a nation toward development and prosperity, we must break free of old binds.
“Senator Kashim Shettima’s career in politics and beyond shows that he is eminently qualified not only to deliver that all important electoral victory, but, also, step into the shoes of the Vice President. As a man with the talent, maturity, strength of character, and patriotism he has my implicit confidence and faith.”
Tinubu chose to walk Abiola’s path — Adamu
On his part, National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu said in choosing Shettima as his running mate, Tinubu has chosen to walk along the path of late Chief M.K.O. Abiola.
“He (Abiola) chose a Kanuri, Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe from the North-East geo-political zone, as his running mate in the 1993 presidential election. We are beginning to suspect there must be some synergy between the Yoruba and the Kanuri. Maybe there is a mutual attraction between them that the rest of us do not know. Never mind, we will put the searchlight on them.
“The 1993 presidential ticket and the current one bridged one of our fault lines in the management of our diversities.
Nigerians overwhelmingly voted for that ticket because they trusted Abiola, a man who opened his arms to every tribe and religion in the country, to run an inclusive government in which no man or woman would be denied his or rights as a Nigerian citizen by the profession of his faith
“Asiwaju Tinubu is a man who has also thrown his arms around every tribe in the country. He has offered his shoulders for those in pain to lean on; he has used his wealth to bring succour to the needy. He can be trusted to run an inclusive government in which character, competence and vision matter to his administration.
Shettima fits the bill
“In our political tradition, the choice of a running mate is the exclusive right of the presidential candidate. He exercises that right with due consultations with stakeholders in the party. Jagaban, being an astute politician, could not have made the choice of a running mate without widely consulting the stakeholders in our party, including President Buhari.
Having made his choice, the party wholly and unconditionally accepts his choice. The party has a duty to work for their victory at the polls next year.
“At this time in our national development, and given the myriads of our national challenges, we should look for men and women of character, competence and demonstrable evidence of their performance in public or private offices. We believe these informed Jagaban’s decision to select Senator Shettima because he fits the bill,” Adamu stated.
Elections’re not magic shows — Shettima
In his acceptance speech, Shettima noted that elections are not magic shows, adding that the successes of the APC in the past two presidential elections were not by magic.
“They were rewards for our foresighted and pragmatic decisions, to sacrifice our personal interests and sectional sentiments for the overriding prospects of our great party. We are again on the cusp of history, and left with no option, other than collaborating assiduously again, to pursue the collective interest of APC’s stakeholders, across ethnic, religious, and regional stations.
“My emergence as the running mate of the inimitable Jagaban Borgu, is based on the party’s very forthright assessment of the threats ahead; and I am most honoured by the consensus of the distinguished stakeholders of our party, to trust me, with representing the nation’s interests, under the leadership of the very sage, the youths all over our country, fondly refer to as ‘City Boy’, in honour of his cosmopolitan profile.
“I am not unaware of the difficult political arithmetic that produced this moment, especially the understanding of our great party’s stakeholders and supporters, across religions, regions, and ethnicities. Their resolve to settle for this ticket is a testament to the faith they have in us.
“This ticket is not an imposition; it is an outcome of democracy at its practical best, and based on the aggregation of the ideas and insights, of our great party stakeholders.
“If this were an unpopular option, as the cast of partisan provocateurs has attempted to paint, there wouldn’t have been the tons of goodwill messages, especially from distinguished Christians, from all over the country. This ticket is a Nigerian project, not a sectional agenda that the frightened camps have been struggling to sensationalize.
“I am sincerely proud of the rational citizens, who view this, as nothing but a pragmatic permutation, to defeat our opponents at the polls, and based on acknowledgment and implementation of the candid perspectives of our Christian brothers and sisters in the APC, who, like us, are bound by the passion for us to retain power, in order to deepen the delivery of unifying and transformative governance, to Nigerians.
“About 30 years ago, Nigerians from both sides of the Niger, came together to market the ideals of a ticket like ours. They overlooked the pedestrian attempts to politicize the religious affiliations of the presidential candidate and running mate, and yielded to the message of hope; and the manifesto of prosperity promised them. The MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe ticket, defied the stereotype of Nigerians, as hopelessly sectional, and incapable of prioritizing reason over sentiments. That ticket, even though it was opposed by the same agents that doubted its success, has remained the best moment of our various experiments with democracy, so far.
“This reincarnation of the 30-year-old hope that produced the late MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, came at a time the country is being pushed to the edge of anarchy, by conflict entrepreneurs, in gaudy suits and babanriga. But the overwhelming endorsement of Asiwaju Tinubu, at the APC presidential primaries, by aspirants from the very groups predicted to reject him; and his subsequent election by delegates from the same groups, is a clear message, that Nigerians are beyond the stereotypes of those desperate to tear the people apart.”
Tinubu’ll find no better companion than Shetima – Gov. Fayemi
On his part, Governor Fayemi of Ekiti State insisted that Asiwaju Tinubu would find no better assistant than Shetima. Saying: “For those who followed closely the trajectory of our party would remember the Lagos declaration or the Marina declaration of February 5, 2013. If you remember that declaration, you will remember that that was where the 11 governors of the emerging parties that came together to form APC met.
That was where we finalised to commit ourselves to a merger as governors of ANPP, CPC, ACN as well as APGA at that time. The person who read that communique of the Marina declaration was no other person than Senator Kashim Shetima. And he gave his commitment to rescue our country from the injurious situation that we were in at that time. I want to associate myself with everything Bagudu has said about Governor Kashim Shetima.
So Asiwaju will find not just a governing partner, a bridge builder, a consensus builder, a talent spotter and a voracious reader for those who don’t know him. All the gifts I have from him are books. Our country is going through a very difficult pain. Shetima is not going to be a yes man.
“He is going to offer honest, sincere and verifiable advice to the betterment of our country. He also bows to superior argument and logic. That is the leader that we want, that is the leader that we can trust, that is the leader that will deliver the promises that we make to Nigerians. We would have love this partnership to be between a former governor and a current governor be that as it may we will take both of them as current because they know what it is to be governor and a leader and in a federation where all hands need to be on desk, we shall be excited to support them”
Drama as pastors, bishops attend Shettima’s unveiling
Journalists assigned to cover the official presentation of Shettima, watched in amusement as pastors and bishops from different Christian denominations showed up at the venue.
Their presence seemed to cause a stir as onlookers and guests stared hard at them as they walked into the reception of the Musa Yar’Adua Centre dressed in their cassocks and habits, amid heavy security at the venue.
Earlier, the media had been awash with reports from religious bodies urging Christian leaders to boycott the unveiling to drive home the point of their grievances.
We’re not part of it, CAN disown bishops at Shettima’s unveiling
The Christian Association of Nigeria, yesterday, disowned the bishops and clerics who caused a stir with their presence at the unveiling of Senator Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate.
The apex Christian body explained that the bishops were not part of its fold at all levels, describing them as hirelings brought in to endorse a move that clearly contradicts its position on same-faith presidential ticket.
The CAN President, Rev. Samson Ayokunle, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard through his Special Assistant (Media and Communications), Pastor Adebayo Oladeji, said no true church leader would grace such a high political party event in order to create the false impression that there was division within the organisation’s ranks over Tinubu’s choice of a fellow Muslim as running mate.
He said: “Though, the bishops in question are not members of the Christian Association of Nigeria at all levels and so, they are not known to us, but the fact that they claim to be leaders of Christian churches necessitates that we clear the air and reiterate our stand against the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“Anyone can put on a cassock and claim to be a priest or a bishop. However, none of those men at the event is known to CAN as a church leader.
“Some desperate politicians are only seeking to deceive unsuspecting Nigerians and hoodwink them into accepting a Muslim-Muslim ticket by hiring fraudsters to brandish as Christian clerics to endorse their unpopular decision.
“Let them name the CAN officials at the programme and their offices. If they could use 2017 photos to claim that some pastors visited Shettima and lied that the CAN chairman in Borno endorsed him as vice presidential candidate using an old interview he granted five years ago, then we are not surprised.
“This one thing is clear: CAN was not part of the unveiling programme of Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate.”
They are hired crowd not bishops —PFN
Reacting to the development, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, said those who turned up at the event were a hired crowd of faceless individuals who were unknown in the body of Christ in Nigeria.
The National Secretary of PFN, Bishop Cosmas Ilechukwu, told Vanguard that no true Christian body would send that number of bishops to any political rally.
“Those fellows are a hired crowd of faceless individuals who are unknown in the body of Christ in Nigeria. They are neither members of CAN nor of the PFN. No true Christian body can send that number of bishops to any political rally. They are on their own,” he said.
My Muslim-Muslim ticket with Gbajabiamila didn’t harm House of Reps — Dep Speaker, Wase
Also, Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mr. Ahmed Idris Wase, said that the choice of Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket will not affect the country negatively.
Speaking to journalists after a congratulatory visit to Shettima at his Maitama residence in Abuja, on Tuesday, Wase said the choice of Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate was based on competence and his track record of excellence in both the private and public sectors
On the uproar same faith tickets are generating in the polity, Wase said Nigerians must learn to tolerate and trust one another irrespective of their religious beliefs, noting that both him and the Speaker of the House of representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila are Muslims, and it did not change anything in the House.”
He added in a statement by his media aide, Umar Puma that “the Tinubu/Shettima ticket is a good combination that will lead to success at the polls for the APC, noting that he and his other colleagues in the House of Representatives are ready to galvanize support for the Tinubu/Shetima ticket.”
Tinubu absent as Buhari meets Shettima, Zulum in Aso Rock
Meanwhile, Tinubu was absent as President Buhari met with Shettima, and the governor of Borno State, Babagana Zulum, at the Presidential Villa, Abuja, yesterday.
The duo arrived at the forecourt of President Buhari’s office at 3:40 pm.
It was the first time the ruling party’s presidential running mate would be visiting the seat of power since being selected by Tinubu.
Tinubu, who had earlier in the day publicly unveiled Shettima, was not present during the visit.
‘God willing, you’re going to win’’, Buhari assures Shettima.
God willing, you ‘re going to win, Buhari assures Shettima
At the parley, Buhari told Shettima that God’s willing the party would emerge victorious.
President Buhari, who expressed optimism that the APC presidential candidate would win next year’s election and take over from him said: “I will respond to your speech when I am handing over to you and your boss. God willing, you are going to win.”
Striking a chord of humour at the State House while responding to a flowery speech by Senator Shettima, the President, according to a statement by his Senior Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Mallam Garba Shehu said: “I wish you the best. Your consistency in the party is very respectful. You served your two terms as governor and finished well.
“You have kept touch with your base. At every important occasion or event, you are maintaining support for the one who succeeded you. This is commendable.”
In his remarks, Shettima thanked the President for his “empathy, support and positive role,” leading to his emergence as running mate to the APC Presidential Candidate.
He praised the President for having “a special place in your heart for Borno and North-East,” adding, “I can cite 20-30 instances of support you have rendered, for which you will be remembered.”
He mentioned the establishment of the North-East Development Commission, NEDC, and the Independent Power Plant for Maiduguri by the NNPC, “after many years of darkness,” saying that “words cannot describe our appreciation of your support. We will remain eternally grateful.”
Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Shettima said “President Buhari has given me his words that he will campaign vigorously for the party.”
He said the President assured that he would campaign vigorously for the 2023 ticket for the party to win.
Vanguard News Nigeria