The Planning and Strategy Committee of the Tinubu Campaign Organisation has alerted the All Progressives Congress to the possibility of about 192 National Assembly members defecting from the party to other parties following the outcome of the party primaries that made some members lose a return ticket.
The committee, chaired by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, made the recommendation in its ‘Report on the Actualisation of the Presidency of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the Coming 2023 General Election.’
The committee, which highlighted the factors the party should consider in settling for a running mate and the possible choices the party could choose from, asked the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.); the party’s presidential candidate, Tinubu; leaders of the National Assembly and other party leaders to intervene. It warned that the defection of the members might affect the party.
The committee’s report, a copy of which our correspondent sighted on Saturday, had 23 members, 22 of whom signed the document except a former Chairman of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, Nuhu Ribadu.
Other members of the committee included a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; serving senators Opeyemi Bamidele, Ishaku Abbo, Grace Bent and Basiru Ajibola; member of the House of Reps, Musa Sarkin-Adar, Komsol Longgap and Olawale Raji; former senators Adesoji Akanbi, Abu Ibrahim and Magnus Abe.
Others were the Director-General, Tinubu Support Group, Umar Mohammed; Deputy Governor of Nasarawa State, Silas Agara; former deputy governor of Lagos State (under Tinubu), Femi Pedro; Safaa Adam; Amina Indala; Kashim Imam; Akin Awodeyi-Akinseyiwa; Saadatu Garba; Abubakar Sanusi and M.T Usman.
The report of the committee, which was said to have been handed over to Tinubu for consideration and implementation, partly read, “Defecting to other parties is quite common during electioneering but it is more worrisome for this election as a lot of influential members feel aggrieved with the processes of the elections.
“There is a need to reach out to the principal officers of the National Assembly and the party leadership at the national, state, zonal and local government levels to mitigate and assuage the aggrieved persons.
“It is worrisome that 22 serving senators and 170 National Assembly members are set to defect from the APC. There is no doubt that this can weaken our strength and there is an urgent need for intervention from the President, our presidential candidate, governors, leaders of the National Assembly, the APC national, state, zonal and local working committees as well as influential party stakeholders.”
The report said the committee met several times in June and deliberated on the issues of running mate, bearing religion in mind; branding and packaging of the candidate; defections among party members and gender equality. It added that the members did a random sampling of opinions from religious and political stakeholders and the general public, and that it used the religious demographic ratio from the 19 northern states and the Federal Capital Territory.
On the issue of the running mate, the committee noted that Muslim-Muslim and Muslim-Christian tickets have respective merits and demerits, but warned that the zone and religion of the running mate were sensitive issues that require careful consideration.
The committee said a Muslim-Christian ticket would sustain the established religious balance in presidential tickets since 1999 and that it could bring about victory for the party as it would satisfy the aspirations of Christians in the North-Central and North-East. It however warned that Muslims in the North-West and North-East might vote for northern candidates in the NNPP and PDP, and could result in a substantial loss for the party.
On the Muslim-Muslim option, the committee said it would help to neutralise the voting strength of the PDP and NNPP and satisfy the Muslim community which has the numerical voting strength that could guarantee victory. But on the demerit of such a combination, the committee said the uncertainty of the possible outcome must not be ignored as it would sharply divide voters along religious lines.
The report added, “It will trigger a large-scale revolt from the Christian communities across Nigeria against our party, thereby resulting in substantial loss of votes that may affect the overall victory of the election. In our current nascent democracy, it has never been tried but when tried, the winner was not sworn in, even though it was adjudged as the most free and fair election.”
‘Don’t relegate Christians’
Meanwhile, the former SGF, who openly opposed Tinubu’s choice of a fellow Muslim as running mate, has described the insistence of the APC and Tinubu on a Muslim-Muslim ticket as his public affirmation that he only requires Muslim votes to be president. He said since the APC had submitted Kashim Shettima’s name to INEC, the Christian community, especially in the North, would oppose being relegated to second-class status.
Expressing his disappointment with Tinubu’s insistence in a post sent to one of our correspondents on WhatsApp on Friday night, Lawal said, “I did say it: those the gods want to destroy, they first make mad. Tinubu has thrown down the gauntlet. He has submitted Alhaji Kashim Shetima as his nominee. He has stood by his affirmation that he only requires Muslim votes to be president and for all he cares, Christians can all go to hell with their votes. This is his position and he has a right to it. I concede to him.
“We have picked up the gauntlet. The God of justice and equity through the Nigerian voter will decide the victor between the Nigerian Christians, Alhaji Tinubu and his party, the APC. This is our country and we will not let Alhaji Ahmed Bola Tinubu relegate us, our children and our religion to second-class status in our own country.
“This is an existential crisis. Our right to justice and peaceful co-existence with all practitioners of other religions is under threat. A northern Nigerian Christian child deserves to be bequeathed a future in which he can aspire to be president or vice president of Nigeria.”
He said the Bible and the Nigerian constitution support and guarantee their position. “Come on Alhaji Tinubu! Come on APC!!” he concluded.
The National Chairman, South West Agenda for Asiwaju 2023, Senator Adedayo Adeyeye, has however warned Lawal against attacking Tinubu over his choice of Shettima.
Adeyeye said it would have been political suicide if Tinubu picked a Christian from the North as his running mate.
In an interview with select journalists in Abuja on Saturday, he said, “Let us establish one point, particularly in the North-East and the North-West, they (Muslims) constitute about 90 per cent of the population. Correct me if I’m wrong. I am not talking of the entire North because the Middle Belt is another issue. But you know we can’t pick a candidate from the North-Central because the National Chairman (of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu) is already from there.
“So, if you are now left with two regions, which are the North-East and the North-West, the population of Muslims is almost 90 per cent, to the extent that they believe that politics is part of their religion, it will be suicidal for any politician to disregard that sentiment and feeling and then use sentiment to go and pick a Christian from that area. You are asking that the majority of the population should not vote for you.
“So, if you want to win the votes of those two critical geopolitical zones, you need to have somebody on that ticket from that region either as number one or number two. You need to have a Muslim from those two places if you want to win their votes.”
Speaking to the ex-SGF’s position, Adeyeye said Lawal should “behave like an elder statesman” and be looking for a solution to issues not stoking the fire.
He added, “Being a long-standing friend of Asiwaju, he should not be the one who is throwing him under the bus every time. You drop your friend under the bus; that is not how to be a good friend. Your own is to find a way. If fire is burning, you should see how you can quench it, not to stoke it. That is my message to him.”
Elders oppose APC
Some elders under the aegis of Coalition of North East Elders for Peace and Development have vowed to work against the APC for fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election.
A statement by the National Coordinator of the group, Zana Goni on Saturday, partly read, “Without mincing words, we describe the party’s decision in fielding Muslim-Muslim ticket in the 2023 presidential election as the highest level of madness, insensitivity and an evil agenda against our dear country which we have laboured for years to build.
“This decision, which threatens the unity of the country, does not have our blessings and must be resisted by all Nigerians of good conscience. Anything contrary will threaten the fragile unity and peace of Nigeria.
“To make the matter worse, they picked Kashim Shettima, a man whose alleged link with terrorism is still a subject of debate in public domain. Indications across the country are not in favour of the party that has put Nigeria in its present bad situation. Contrary to APC’s expectation, it would lose the presidential poll before 12 noon.”
Outrage unnecessary – Shittu
The Director-General, Asiwaju Tinubu Presidential Campaign Organisation, Mr Adebayo Shittu, said the outrage generated by the Muslim-Muslim ticket was unnecessary. He called on people to focus on the competence of the candidates.
He said in an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, “I get really disappointed about the dramatisation of the whole thing. A lot of the people involved in the outcry are not even registered members of our party. It will not be the first time we will be having people of the same faith on a ticket.”
He explained that in Ondo, Ekiti and Edo states, where there are a sizeable number of Muslims, the governors and their deputies are Christians, adding that people didn’t complain when late Chief Obafemi Awolowo picked a fellow Christian, Philip Umeadi, as his running mate for the 1979 presidential election.
“Now because the Tinubu-Shettima ticket is a masterstroke, which will certainly lead to the triumph of the APC, people have started an outcry,” he added, “I don’t think the outcry is necessary. If you look at the constitution, it recognises diversity in terms of region and tribe, not of religion. So, there is nothing wrong with what the candidate did. We have done what would make us win the election.
“What is important here is performance. Can these candidates deliver if they win? I think people should look at the issue more dispassionately.”