By Law Mefor
Despite public outcry against his Muslim-Muslim ticket, Tinubu has stuck to his gun and if he succeeds, he must have destroyed one myth that Christianity is of any consequence in Nigeria. The February Presidential election shall tell.
The window for substitution of candidates has been slammed closed by the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC, thus fully setting the stage for the 2023 Presidential Election. Though subtle campaigns have been raging, real campaigns will start legally in earnest in September. Before Peter Obi seized Labour Party turf and its presidential ticket, turning it into a movement, many had narrowed their attention to a two-horse race – between Atiku Abubakar/PDP and Ahmed Bola Tinubu/APC. It is now a three-horse race.
One issue that has been generating interest is the choice of running mate. Conventionally, in compliance with the national balancing, which even Nigerian military dictatorships respected in composing their regimes, two factors have always featured. The power balancing in Nigeria necessarily addresses two essentials: religion and the North-South divide.
Atiku Abubakar showed preparedness for the job by quickly nominating his running mate – Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Ekwueme Okowa. His choice fully reflected and resonated with the national sentiments, regarding religion and region. Ifeanyi Okowa represents South Nigeria and the Christian religion on the ticket.
Peter Obi who earlier used his interim campaign director general, Doyin Okupe, to hold the space to allow for more consultations, has since officially nominated Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed as his substantive running mate. He too has respected the two key national sentiments that anchor the perception of balance in Nigeria’s federal government, be it military or civilian. Datti effectively represents the Muslim community as well as the Northern Nigeria divide on the ticket.
Though he respected the need to carry the Northern divide along, Tinubu said he couldn’t afford to sacrifice competence for the reason of carrying Nigerian Christians along and nominated a fellow Muslim Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate. Despite public outcry against his Muslim-Muslim ticket, Tinubu has stuck to his gun and if he succeeds, he must have destroyed one myth that Christianity is of any consequence in Nigeria. The February Presidential election shall tell.
Since the three key candidates with strong chances of winning the 2023 Presidential election have set sail, it is important to discuss what each running mate is bringing to the tickets.
Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa is a quiet achiever and appears tailor-made for the position of VP. He has achieved so much for himself noiselessly and has relied on his actions to speak for him. Many may not know that Okowa was LG chairman, Secretary to Government of Delta state, a ranking senator and now a highly performing governor who is in his second term.
As also noted by the presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar while presenting the Delta State Governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, said a running mate needs to have qualities to be the president of the country. Atiku said he picked Okowa after extensive consultations because he understands the critical importance of education, economic growth and development in providing job opportunities in the country and has the potential to succeed him at a moment’s notice if elected as president in 2023.
Atiku was clear of who he was searching for and could shout eureka! when he narrowed his gaze to Okowa. He wants a running mate who understands the critical importance of economic growth and development to join the urgent drive to provide young Nigerians with jobs, hope, and a pathway to wealth. Atiku specifically wants a VP that would help him prepare young Nigerians to be able to compete in the increasingly competitive and globalised world.
Atiku and Okowa have a lot going for them. Atiku has been a vice president to a very successful Nigerian President, Olusegun Obasanjo. During the Obasanjo presidency, Atiku was chairman of the National Economic Council when the nation’s economy ranked the biggest in Africa and the external debts of Nigeria were liquidated to zero. His forte is therefore economy and economic development. As a university proprietor also, his interest in education and youth development is not in doubt. He has the experience to also confront the nation’s insecurity. Running with Ifeanyi Okowa who was also a ranked senator and two-term executive governor who turned Delta into a smart state, his combination with Atiku is a big deal.
Peter Obi has also chosen an achiever like himself, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed as running mate. Datti has been a player also in the current democratic dispensation, having a stint in both the nation’s House of Representatives and the Senate. Though he has no executive experience, he deeply understands policy as a ranked lawmaker. He is also a critical thinker like Obi and has a deep-running interest in education as well. Datti pairing with Obi is also a good and purposeful combination since Obi will bring executive experience to join his legislative experience, which the nation would urgently need should they win.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu chose Shettima, an ex-banker and a former governor of Borno state as his running mate. Tinubu is said to have set Lagos along a development trajectory, which he hopes to extrapolate to the whole country. But his running mate, Shettima, is hard to place. Apart from issues surrounding his nomination to complete the Muslim-Muslim ticket, controversy has often dogged his path and is said not to have much legacy to his name both as governor and as a senator. Many see him as nominal and not distinguished in both positions.
Some of the controversies trailing his name started as governor of Borno state from 2011 to 2019. From 2007 to 2011 under Ali Modu Sheriff as governor, Shettima served as Commissioner in 5 Ministries with one of the founders of Boko Haram who was also appointed commissioner. Shettima was said to have ignored the letter written to him by Nyesom Wike, who was supervising the minister of education then, on how to conduct exams in Chibok, given the rising Boko Haram terrorism challenge. Dr Goodluck Jonathan who was President of Nigeria then said that this act of omission or commission on the side of Shettima precipitated the kidnap of the Chibok girls.
There is also controversy in connection with Kabiru Sokoto the bomber of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madala in 2011 where over 30 worshippers died. This terrorist was arrested in Borno state governor’s lodge in Asokoro, Abuja on 1st January 2012 when the same Shettima was governor. To date, Shettima is yet to explain how the terrorist found shelter in the Borno governor’s lodge. (Kabiru Umar Abubakar Dikko predominantly known by his sobriquet Kabiru Sokoto is a convicted terrorist and commander of the Islamic terrorist group, Boko Haram).
Recently, Shettima publicly wrote off the Vice President of Nigeria being tipped as a possible consensus candidate of the APC, saying Prof Yemi Osinbajo was better suited as an ice-cream seller for his gentle mien. He also wrote off Peter Obi who has turned the Labour party into a 3rd force, saying Obi can only be president of the Igbo people.
To those hoping for restructuring under a new government, Shettima, at a book launch in Abuja at the Yar’Adua Centre, said: “To hell with restructuring.”
These are some of the things one can easily attribute to the APC running mate. What Shettima is bringing to the ticket should be articulated by those who understand him. Shettima has to be weighed side by side with Okowa and Datti, i.e. PDP and Labour party running mates, whom even critics would admit are great picks capable of adding significant value to their tickets. The two have been flaunting what they would help their principals do for the country. Shettima has to do the same.
The deep rot that the Nigerian nation-state has fallen into under the ‘clueless’ APC government requires clinical intervention if the country will be rescued. The sufferings of Nigerians have been unprecedented and require urgent rescue from sure hands. Nigerians cannot afford to gamble with 2023 and extend their suffering to 16 years.
• Dr Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: email@example.com; follow me on twitter:@DrLawMefor.