The races for the vice-presidential slots of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, and the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, are taking definite shape.

In the APC, Vanguard gathered that the front runners, as of last night, are Governor Babagana Zulum of Borno State; his immediate predecessor, Senator Kashim Shettima; Governor Abubakar Badaru of Jigawa State; and Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.

“If APC governors were to decide, they will pick from the North-West; it will be Badaru, who stepped down for the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, at the presidential primaries.

“If they were to pick from the North-East, it will be Governor Zulum, who is expected to cede the slot to his mentor, Shettima,” an APC source told Vanguard.

The source added that if those opposed to the Muslim-Muslim ticket succeed, Simon Lalong would be in line for consideration.

This came as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN; Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN; an Arewa Coalition; and APC national stakeholders cautioned the APC against fielding a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

In the PDP, sources said that despite the strong claim being made by the South-East, the battle is panning out as a straight one between Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State, who came second at the primaries; and Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta State, who was a member of the committee that conducted the PDP primaries.

Both states have deep pockets and a huge voting population in the South-South zone.

Those pushing for the PDP presidential running mate to come from the South-East zone argued that the PDP would be toying with millions of Igbo votes across the country if it sustains its alleged maltreatment of the South-East by denying it the vice presidency slot.

Prominent South-Easterners in contention for the slot include former governor Of Enugu State, Senator Chimaroke Nnamani; former Senate President, also former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, and Senator Anyim Pius Anyim; and former Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives, Chief Emeka Ihedioha.

Also, the Labour Party, LP, Candidate, Mr Peter Obi; and his New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, counterpart, Senator Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso, are said to be working towards an accord, where both parties will present a joint ticket for the 2023 presidential poll.

APC shuttles between Lalong Shettima

Strong indications have emerged that the APC hierarchy is looking in the direction of the North-East for Asiwaju Tinubu’s running mate.

Vanguard gathered that preparatory to Tinubu announcing his running mate, this week, leaders and stakeholders of the party are looking at the senator representing Borno Central, Kashim Shettima.

Sources said that most APC governors and other stakeholders had agreed that the North-East should produce the vice-presidential candidate of the party.

According to one of the sources, the leaders want the North-East, especially Borno State to produce the vice-president in 2023 against the backdrop that the President of the Senate, Senator Ahmad Lawan from Yobe State, North-East, did not get the APC presidential ticket after losing to Tinubu.

A source told Vanguard that the party wants to settle for Shettima to split the votes from the North-East geopolitical zone. Former vice-president and the presidential candidate of the PDP, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, hails from Adamawa State in the North-East.

The source also disclosed that Tinubu may conclude consultations with the party’s stakeholders, including governors, today, and announce his running mate on or before Thursday.

According to a source, the party is also looking the way of Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State in the North-Central, who is a Christian in case the Muslim-Muslim ticket does not fly.

The opinion of the leaders is that the North-West produced late former President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua from Katsina and the incumbent president, Muhammadu Buhari also from Katsina and former Vice President Namadi Sambo from Kaduna State.

Muslim-Muslim ticket fuel more division — APC national stakeholders

A group of party men and women under the aegis of APC National Stakeholders has kicked against moves by a section of the APC to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket, saying it will fuel more division in the country.

This was as APC stakeholders from the North-East urged the party to cede the vice-presidential slot to the geopolitical zone to neutralize the threat posed by the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar.

On its part, professionals in the APC have described as acceptable, the processes leading to the emergence of Tinubu at the recently-concluded Special Convention and Presidential Primary of the party, saying it was time professionals were appointed into positions of governance.

The APC National Stakeholders said they are deeply concerned about the raging controversy which has heated the polity in the last few days.

In a communique read by Engr. Aliyu Audu at the end of its meeting, the stakeholders said: “While we are conscious of the fact that religion should not be a determining factor in our leadership selection process, the peculiar circumstance the nation finds herself calls for reflection in the decisions we take, so long as they bother on our national lives.

“Today, the country is deeply divided along our fault lines of ethnicity and religion and we cannot afford to jettison these sensibilities in critical decision-making. This is why we think that the APC must be guided by the sense of these sensibilities in the selection of the vice-presidential candidate of the party. To do otherwise would be to further fuel what divides us and give room for mischief makers to take advantage of our differences.

“Nigeria is in dire need of good governance and this can come from either a Muslim leader or a Christian leader but in the spirit of nationalism, justice and fairness which the northern governors demonstrated a few days ago, the leaders of the North on whose shoulder the emergence of the vice-presidential candidate rests must also demonstrate this spirit by ensuring that the candidate comes from the Christian faith.

“The Northern APC has in its fold capable individuals from the Christian faith with proven track records that can deliver just like anyone from the other faith. Their capability to deliver on the ideals of the party aside, they also can win elections for the party. Suffice to add that no individual wins elections for any political party, it is the collective of all and we are sure the APC can achieve this.

“The APC National Stakeholders, therefore, call on the APC to narrow her search of the Vice Presidential candidate of the party to a northern Christian whom we have in abundance. Doing this will ensure national inclusion, help to manage our differences and promote national unity,” the stakeholders stated.

N’East wants VP slot

On its part, the North-East APC Youth Stakeholders Forum, through its Chairman, Haruna Sardauna, said the zone has continually given bloc votes to the APC and supported candidates from other regions right from inception.

The forum said, “looking at the current pathetic situation that the region is faced with due to insurgency and other social unrest, zoning the position of the Vice President to the North-East will neutralise the PDP presidential candidate and mobilise massive support from the region and other zones to ensure victory for Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

Also, Chairman, Board of Trustees of the APC Professionals Forum, Dr Nkem Okeke, immediate past deputy governor of Anambra State, said the forum endorsed the democratic and transparent processes that produced Asiwaju Tinubu as APC’s presidential candidate and is willing to mobilise all professionals in the party to ensure that the winning streak that began in 2015 continues next year.

He said: “The Forum pledges our 100 per cent support and commitment to massively mobilize for our candidate in the run-up to the 2023 Presidential election. We urge our flag bearer to prioritize the roles and inclusion of professionals in his campaign strategy.”

Pick Lalong, Muslim-Muslim ticket create a crisis, Arewa Coalition tells APC

Also, the Coalition of Arewa Forum For Good Governance, CAFGG, warned that any attempt by the APC to consider a Muslim-Muslim ticket will create a crisis across the country.

According to the group, ahead of the forthcoming 2023 presidential elections, the current tension stirred up by the rumours of a possible Muslim-Muslim ticket is uncalled for and should be jettisoned in the interest of equity, justice and fairness.

“To douse the tension, we are calling on the winner of the APC primaries and flag-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to pick the only Northern Christian governor in the party, Mr Simon Bako Lalong as his running mate,” the group said in a press statement by its Co-ordinator, Malam Garba Yunusa.

It said: “Nigerians are not unaware that Tinubu is a Muslim from the South-West geo-political zone. Thus we feel it would be rational for a northern Christian, especially from the marginalized North-Central geo-political zone to be a running mate, who can also take care of the interest of the minorities. We strongly believe that once a Christian is picked, the warning and threats by the Christian Association of Nigeria would have been taken care of too.”

Clamour for Muslim-Muslim ticket, a plot to destabilise Nigeria — CAN

THE youth wing of the Christian Association of Nigeria, yesterday, kicked against the clamour by some APC leaders to fly a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, describing it as a plot to destabilise the country ahead of the forthcoming general elections.

Chairman of the youth wing, Ambassador Belusochukwu Enwere, who spoke at a briefing in Abuja, described the plot as a “targeted assault of Christians by the enemies of the nation.”

Enwere added that the proposed same-religion presidential ticket was a violation of the principle of power balancing on an ethnoreligious basis which has been respected since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999.

He said: “Political parties who fail to observe that Nigerians are still conscious of ethnoreligious factors in politics would be roundly rejected. The call for a Muslim-Muslim ticket by a certain individual is callous and deceptive, and a move towards a sinister agenda. We perceive it as a ploy to destabilise the nation and a slap on the faces of the millions of  Christians in Nigeria.

“Any political party that fields a Muslim/Muslim ticket or Christian/Christian ticket should know that Nigerians will roundly reject them at the polls. Are you telling Nigerians that there is no competent Northern Christian that can be in a position of trust? Does it imply that northern Christians are not regarded as full-fledged northerners?

“If we claim that we are together and the North is united as some people try to make us believe, then the politicians should have no reason to reject a northerner because he or she is a Christian. There is no other time better than now for the northern brothers to prove to us that we are one.

“In the spirit of ethnoreligious balancing of power and to foster integration and national unity among all tribes and religions, we reject the proposal for a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket in Nigeria.”

PFN’ll mobilize against Muslim-Muslim ticket

Also speaking on the development, a PFN source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Christian body will mobilise against any party that fields a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

“PFN is yet to make an official statement on it. Long before now, the PFN has been saying that any party that flies a Muslim-Muslim ticket will not enjoy its support. Looking at records, PFN believes there has always been this balancing in the country, with either a Christian-Muslim or Muslim-Christian ticket.

“PFN believes that a Christian ought to be the next president but even at that, any political party that flies a Muslim-Muslim ticket will not have the support of PFN. PFN parades over 65 million members and it has vowed to mobilize its members accordingly,” the source said.

Peter Obi’s LP, Kwankwaso’s NNPP working towards merger — NCF spokesman

Meanwhile, the Spokesperson of the National Consultative Forum, Dr Yinusa Tanko, yesterday, disclosed that there is an ongoing plan to merge the interests of the Labour Party’s presidential candidate, Peter Obi and that of his counterpart in the New Nigeria Peoples Party, NNPP, Rabiu Kwankwaso.

Tanko, who spoke in an interview on Arise TV, opined that the arrangement will help strengthen the national spread of both candidates and position them to defeat the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Asked to confirm if there were plans to bring together Peter Obi of the Labour Party and Rabiu Kwankwaso of the NNPP, Tanko noted that both parties are working seriously towards a merger.

According to Tanko, merging the two parties was an idea they have already seen on the ground, and they felt that the Obi, who is very much grounded in the southern part of the country needs to work together with other people who are very grounded in the Northern part of Nigeria to win the 2023 presidential election.