By Comrade Sabo Muhammad
Nigerians with unbiased minds could understand why the Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress, APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has not settled for his Vice Presidential Candidate weeks after his emergence. Nigerians waited patiently for the choice of Asiwaju’s running mate and the wait was over on Sunday when Tinubu visited President Muhammadu Buhari in his hometown of Daura and after their engagement, announced the choice of His Excellency, Senator Kashim Shettima, former Governor of Borno State and currently, Senator Representing Borno North at the Senate.
However, contrary to the expectation of most detractors, who are of the belief that the little longer it took Asiwaju to make critical consultations in arriving at his choice of a running mate will be snowballed into a crisis as was the case with the main opposition party, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP. But alas! the choice of Kashim Shettima didn’t generate the much-anticipated discontent among party members and supporters alike as envisaged by the exploiters of religion and ethnic cleavages in furtherance of their arguments and cause. It is very obvious thus far, that in the aftermath of the announcement of Shettima, organs and blocs within the party are satisfied with the choice of Asiwaju of Shettima that loyalty, competence, political prowess, exposure and intellectual depth were at the heart of this decision.
Yet, even after making it expressly clear in his statement to herald the choice of his running mate, Kashim Shetteima, Asiwaju Tinubu has maintained that there is the need for the Nigerian citizens at this stage of our development not to allow religion and ethnicity to always determine our path; but to trust those that have demonstrated from their antecedents the capacity to deliver in the task of governance of which the joint ticket represents. There is no doubt Nigerians will appreciate the choice of Kashim Shettima based on those earlier highlighted qualities in the fullness of time. However, those that always spin the discussion around leadership to issues of parochial considerations and sentiments are at play again since Asiwaju’s announcement.
Even though several reasons have been variously advanced for this development, it will also be right at this juncture to also put forward convincing arguments and facts to buttress the joint ticket of Asiwaju and Shettima now that the attention will be focused on how to sell these political brands to Nigerians; the majority of whom are convinced in the leadership prowess of the duo of the APC Presidential and Vice Presidential Candidates respectively. Nigerians will know more about the scorecard of these gentlemen once the election campaign commences formally.
Firstly, it will be right to subject every decision, especially of our Presidential Candidates under the legal compass. Legally speaking, the choice of Shettima is the sole right of the candidate and now that he has exercised such right, it is even in tandem with the provisions of the constitution specifically Sections 14 and 16. For those spinning the conversation that federal character needs to be applied in this circumstance are exhibiting sheer monumental blunder. This is because the application of the Federal Character principle does not apply in any way in the choice of either a Presidential Candidate or his running mate but rather in appointment and promotion in government agencies at the federal or state level as the case may be. For the avoidance of doubt, therefore, the verbatim provision of Section 14 (3) reads “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there is no predominance of persons from a few state or a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that government or in any of its agencies.”
Secondly, in terms of inclusion which is one of the ingredients of any democratic order, the choice of Kashim Shettima as the running mate will no doubt give minority tribes in the north a sense of belonging and inclusion in politics and governance. This is because each time the spinners of ethnicity are at the game; they refer to the entire inhabitants of the northern region as Hausa/Fulani not mindful of the fact there are other minority ethnic groups in the north with are even older in traditional history than the Hausa/Fulani. Notably among these minority tribes are the Kanuris under the Kanem Bornu Empire which has lasted for over 1000 years found predominantly in Borno and Yobe and parts of Bauchi, Jigawa and Nassarawa states.
Thirdly, it is mischievous for southern leaders and governors under any political party to question the choice of Shettima. This is because the decision of the Southern leaders and their governors twilight to the elective primaries was for the presidential ticket, particularly of the major parties, APC and PDP to be handed over to aspirants of southern extraction. The APC heed the call in the spirit of equity, fairness and justice; thanks to the decision of the Progressives Governors’ Forum in reaffirming that call; and interestingly, a substantial part of the governors are from the north. The PDP on another hand handed its ticket to a northerner for obvious political reasons. What is important now is for southern leaders and governors irrespective of political inclinations to see this joint ticket as theirs and to deploy every support instrument that will lead to its eventual actualization.
Fourthly, Faith Based Organizations, FBOs that are spinning the issue of religion and having sleepless nights over the choice of Shettima should know that they are also stakeholders in the electoral process and as such, their major role is to educate their membership on how to make an informed choice in the array of candidates thus far fielded, so that the most competent amongst them emerge in the end. FBOs should note that if their continuous hatred for a party and its candidate becloud their judgement and sense of reasoning and continue in this devil–may–care campaign spree and the ticket eventually sails, it means they have succeeded in isolating themselves and their membership in the critical task of nation building of which they have a huge stake in.
Fifthly, what is important in politics is for political parties and their candidates to win elections; and for a party to win, it must develop a strategy that will guarantee the delivery of such victory. In arriving at the choice of Shettima, I want strongly believe that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was guided by the conviction that there is the need for wider consultation within the party and beyond, and he tasked his Policy and Strategy team headed by Babachir David Lawal to make recommendations for him in to guide his decision in that regard. Deducing from the calibre of the personalities in that committee, mostly people with a political vision, I do not need to belabour the point that the salability of candidates was one of their major considerations and Kashim Shettima represent such a salable political brand. Those Nigerians being moved by ethnic and religious sentiments will understand when the campaign commences proper that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu was sensible in his choice of Shettima as the duo are capable of courting even those that share such parochial disillusionment to their side and the bigger picture of the country if one sees and study especially in the post-election era will suffice for such to happen.
One political reality that Nigerians must understand including the erstwhile members of the party that resigned their membership on the account of the choice of Shettima is that among the names that were presented to Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to guide his selection, none of them could come closer to Kashim Shettima in terms of name recognition, leadership prowess, and good governance delivery antecedents. Any sensible party man that means well for the APC will agree with this choice.
It suffices to say at this juncture that barring any unforeseen circumstances, deducing from a statistical and scientific point of view based on previous elections and voter behaviour patterns, the coast is very clear for the APC with Tinubu/Shettima joint ticket on the ballot. Although this statement may infuriate especially the spinners of religion and ethnicity, it is the truth. Politics is not always based on idealistic tenets, for the 2023 general election, the reality side of politics is what has daunted and shaped political parties’ decisions, especially the majors – APC, and PDP.
However, for the APC to have smooth sailing in the 2023 general election, it is incumbent on the party leadership to set up a Policy and Strategy Committee to be headed by experts and top-notch and consummate politicians to adequately articulate the manifesto of the party vis – a – viz the achievements recorded especially by the APC led government at the Federal Centre in different sectors to serve as a campaign template for the party. This will enable Nigerians to understand what the APC government’s campaign thrust was and how it has succeeded in meeting those targets.
As the APC and the Presidential Candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu unveils the political astute Kashim Shettima as the party’s Vice Presidential Candidate on Wednesday, it is our sincere wish that propagators of ethnic and religious sentiments will appreciate the value Kashim Shettima will add to the joint ticket because ultimately, the political contest is won based on numerical strength and not sentiments and that is what the Tinubu/Shettima joint ticket represents.
…To be continued.
Comrade Sabo Muhammad, a Founding Member and Chieftain of the APC writes this piece from Bauchi