By Yakubu Dati
After coasting home to victory with the coveted prize of the presidential ticket of the All Progressive Congress (APC), a major challenge for sailing to victory for the APC candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, remains the choice of running mate.
In a secular and multicultural country like Nigeria, it is given that broad considerations should be made to accommodate all interest groups in leadership for equity and fairness not only to be done but be seen to have been done.
It was this understanding that made the northern APC governors to push for a southern presidential candidate since by 2023, a northerner, President Muhammadu Buhari, would have done eight straight years in Aso Villa
Since Tinubu is a Muslim from the Southern part of the country, it is expected that for the APC to have a balanced ticket which it would take to the general elections to convince Nigerians to vote for it, that it is only right for the party to balance the presidential ticket with a Christian from the northern part of Nigeria.
By doing that, the party would have succeeded in sending the message across that it is not just for all Nigerians but that it is sensitive to the demand for equity by all sections of the country.
Taking this position would further boost the chances of the party at the general elections as Christians from both the southern and northern parts of Nigeria would not feel allienated from the APC because of the VP factor while Muslims from all parts of the country would also have a sense of belonging in the party because of faith of the presidential candidate.
This seems to be the party’s best bet to winning the 2023 elections as any other consideration would spell danger for the party at the polls as already a section of the country are already apprehensive about the possibility of the APC going into the election with Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Already, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has warned the leading political parties to bury the thought of Christian/Christian or Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket in 2023 stressing that it is a threat to the fragile peace and unity of Nigeria.
CAN, in a statement signed by its national secretary, Barrister Joseph Bade Daramola, advised that a balance of both religious practitioners be considered in the choice of running mates of the presidential candidates and said “any party that tries same religion ticket will fail. This is not 1993.The Presidential runningmate for the APC presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu should be a Christian from the North, Atiku’s runningmate should be a Christian from the South while Obi should choose his own among the Muslims from the North. Anything contrary to the above means that the leadership of these political parties do not bother about the unity of this entity called Nigeria.”
While CAN cannot decide for political parties how it should conduct its affairs, the view of the religious body resonates with a large percentage of the populace who demand sensitivity to such issues.
This is the spirit behind such government policies as federal character and equitable representation and distribution of resources.
The APC cannot at this time, afford to take the unnecessary risks that come with an unbalanced ticket given the complexity of Nigeria and the tightness of the current race for the presidency.
As it is, not only is the PDP candidate, Atiku Abubakar formidable but there are some third forces that may either spring surprises or vitiate the chances of the two major parties in their traditional strongholds.
Kwankwaso’s NNPP for instance is bound to reduce the votes of the APC in its traditional strong hold in the Northwest while Peter Obi of the Labour Party may do the same to the PDP in its South East forte.
So the two major parties need to tread carefully to maximise their advantages as this is not the time for risk taking.
Luckily for the APC it has people that can be paired with Bola Tinubu which can add value to the presidential ticket and the foremost so far is the governor of Plateau State, Simon Bako Lalong.
This is more so given the fact that before supporting a southern candidate for the party’s presidential ticket, there was a gentleman agreement that any that emerges would pick his running mate from among the governors who pushed this cause.
So far, Lalong remains the only Christian governor in the APC who was part of that meeting and should be so considered.
Not only that, the Plateau governor has delivered the state to the APC twice, the first time displacing PDP as the ruling party in the state and has gone ahead to consolidate on that by putting structures that has made the APC popular not just in the Plateau State but in North Central Nigeria.
It is these effulgence that his colleagues saw in Lalong that made them to elect him as chairman of the Northern States Governors Forum.
Lalong is also accepted by both Christians and Muslims in the country as he is known to have shown fairness to adherents of both faiths in his seven years as governor and brought peace in a state hitherto bedevilled by crises.
With him as running mate to Tinubu, Christians and Muslims in the North would be happy to vote for the APC, while Christians in the South would have no apprehensions over an unbalanced ticket. Furthermore, the Southerners and Muslims in the North would have every reason to be cheerful, adding value to the APC presidential ticket and enhancing its chances at the polls.