I have read several articles and I have listened to lot of views on the choice of a candidate to be running mate to the All Progressives Congress, APC, presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. Many of those things that were said are realistic and appropriate, while some of them are just finding convenience in political correctness.

The argument has been whether or not Tinubu, a Muslim, should also nominate a Muslim as Vice Presidential Candidate. Those who oppose this intention are of the view that a certain faith would be “disenfranchised”, while those who are insisting on Muslim-Muslim ticket are squarely focused on victory for the APC and Asiwaju Tinubu. They don’t want to take chances.

Before we can do justice to this argument for or against, let us make one emphatic clarification which has been the basic tenet of what democracy is all about, and that would be the advantage of number. There is one thing that is very certain except where a candidate is hoping to rig an election, nobody will attempt to risk following minority opinion ahead of majority opinion. Infact, it will be undemocratic to even attempt to do so.

In my May 29th, 2022 article, as posted on my Facebook page (@shehufaa), immediately after the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as PDP flag bearer, even when the APC primaries had not been held, I had projected that Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Southern Muslim would emerge as APC presidential candidate. I also reiterated that Asiwaju was going to nominate a Muslim as his running mate and we are going to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket under the APC. This position will not only be effected, it will soon become a volume in our journal of political history.

First and foremost, let me say with a very deep sense of patriotism and loyalty to my country and party that it will be naive, if not mischievous, for anybody to try to blackmail Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC not to use a Northern Muslim candidate as the Vice President. Anybody who is opposing Asiwaju from nominating a Northern Muslim must have been one of those who vilely opposed his emergence as the flag bearer of the party in the first place.

The ranting against this historic impending decision is not necessarily a show of love or concern for Nigeria’s diverse, multi religious status as they have claimed, it is a struggle for political attention and manipulation. They only want Asiwaju to pick a wrong Vice Presidential candidate so that the North, where he seems to have larger support base to vote for him in the general election will be angry to do otherwise.

It is also important to remind ourselves that the APC is not the only political party contesting in the 2023 presidential election, there are several other political parties among which are the PDP, the Labour Party, the ADC etc. It is worthy of note to say that some of these parties even have devout Christians as their flag bearers. The rules of democracy allow anybody who is not satisfied with a certain party’s action, either in the nomination of its candidate or it’s running mate, to choose another party that satisfies their choice of candidate to vote that party. It is therefore suspicious to see those who spent millions of naira in advertorial to campaign against the APC and the candidature of Asiwaju covertly and overtly, to now also come out to aim to determine how that party and the candidate will choose their own running mate or even run their affairs. ko le work!

Let the truth be told, it will be a political suicide for Asiwaju who has done so much for himself, coming all the way through thick and thin with the turbulence of political volcanic eruption, escaping the flood of conspiracy against him to now play into the hands of religious bigots who only want him to shoot himself on the leg by nominating a non-muslim Vice President. It will not happen.

Asiwaju is not a bigot and he is also not a dullard. He is not going to choose a Christian as his Vice President, not because he hates the Christians or Christianity but because that will weaken his influence where he is popular and will jeopardize his chances of winning the general election.

In the past, many State Governors have experimented same-religion ticket option even in a multi religious state, yet nobody said anything against them and yet they won. Taking tough decision in political contest, also requires a bold step to know your onions and know how to slice them. Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti State ran on Christian-Christian ticket and he won, even though, Muslims constitutes about 49% of the total population. Heaven did not fall. Ondo has one of the largest Muslim community and yet, the governorship ticket was run on a Christian-Christian duo. Heaven did not fall. Plateau State has never had lesser Muslim population but the governorship position has never been occupied by a Muslim yet, nobody is talking about marginalization in that regard. This is an election where you put your best forward in order to win the election and not a referral for political appointment.

Bayelsa, River, Delta, Edo, Cross Rivers, Ebonyi, Anambra, States, etc, have never shared their ticket on Christian-Muslim basis, it has always been Christian-Christian even though they all have sizeable population of indigenous Muslims in their States. Yet, no one is raising the question of equality.

In a turn of event, Nasir El-Rufai, believing in his usual ‘merit above any sentiment’ stance, chose to fly a Muslim-Muslim ticket in his second term and despite all the furore, he won in a land slide victory.

This is democracy. When it comes to the strategy to win an election, it will require intelligent analysis of your SWOT to understand your chances of winning an election, where and how. Nobody wants to water desert where grass cannot grow. Nobody wants to make an effort where there will not be positive result. Nobody wants to contest an election just to lose. Since 2003 that President Buhari has been contesting elections, he has been nominating Southern Christian as his running mate. Infact, two of them were from the South East, yet, he has never won in those Christian dominated States.

Somebody once said that “even if a Pope is chosen either as a candidate or as a running mate in the APC presidential election, some of our southern brothers and sisters will still not vote for them as long as the candidate is coming from APC”. The problem with this mindset is that they have erroneously tagged the APC as an Islamic party and there is nothing anyone can do enough to convince them otherwise even though they know such assumption is wrong.

At this juncture, I cant end this piece without making a slight suggestion on a possible Vice Presidential candidate of our great party. I can tell you many people would have been thinking the same without any further zigzag argument against it. These three names hereunder come to mind.

(1) Alhaji Kashim Shettima (2) Mallam Nasir El-rufai (3) Engr. Babagana Zulum

Contrary to the views of many that politics is not meant for good people and that good things do not happen in politics, a personality like Kashim Shettima has proven one fact that this 21st century politics is controlled and dominated by intelligent, smart, kind, honest, credible, trustworthy, patriotic, selfless and democratic people who just want the best for the people and the country. It is my opinion that many people with fantastic deliverable human resources are yet to be discovered simply because they chose to operate within their locality instead of coming to national stage. Yusuf Zailani, the Speaker of Kaduna State House of Assembly is one of those rare assets same as SHETTIMA was before we got to know him as the Governor of Borno State. If anything, Asiwaju campaign has proven one fact that this country is abound with abundant progressive human resources.

Former governor Shettima is the new discovery of “unknown” sagacity. This dogged enigma would stand his ground to defend the truth even when the majority were against his position. He remained steadfast and insistent on the course of integrity. Ofcourse, Governor SHETTIMA was a popular governor in Borno State, he has become more popular as a result of his eloquence and steadfastness on the path of the truth. He might not have been a delegate in this last primary election, we can conveniently say that he was a significant part of the success of Asiwaju’s emergence. The interview he granted when he appeared on Channels TV program will remain a documented evidence of the truth he spoke that turned the tide even when others were hiding behind one finger. Therefore, If we have Shettima as our Vice President, with all the good that he did in Borno State as a Governor and his loyalty to his conscience, President Tinubu would have a dependable ally in him. I can almost swear he wouldn’t betray his Boss.

I got to know Nasir El-rufai when he became the Director-General of Bureau of Public Service Reforms. I was in the Federal Inland Revenue Service as a staff under the leadership of Mrs. Ifueko Omogui who was also carrying out aggressive reforms in that Agency. You cannot but cross path even if it’s on sharing reformative ideas. As many may testify, El-rufai is a dogged, fearless, ruthless, frank and bold administrator. He wants and likes to achieve new feats. He wants to do the impossible. He likes to break barriers, he likes to dare the skeptics, he likes to risk everything to achieve everything. When you need an administrator to move away from “window dressing” management and be brutal against lawlessness, an administrator who is ready to “offend” anybody as long as he is doing the right thing so lawful, an administrator who doesn’t put sentiment ahead of merit, an administrator that values competences regardless of your age, tribe, economic status, for as long as you can deliver, El-Rufai will be the soldier to fight your war.

Let us be clear about something, “this country is at war” – the war against insecurity, war against economic downturn and war against social indecency. At this level of our social decadence, we will need the rein to gore the ox where and when necessary. To be honest, as a country, with our present situation, we cannot afford to continue to pretend all is well when nothing is well. Mr. President Tinubu will require the support, the loyalty, the sincerity and the doggedness of a “foot Soldier” like El-Rufai for us to be able to have a Nigeria of our dream. Let me further hint that El-Rufai doesn’t always have time for nonsense and stupidity. He might not at first be your friend, he doesn’t necessarily mean to be your foe neither. He might even later become your closest ally when he is convinced that you both share the same value. We all saw how his relationship with President Buhari was before the days of CPC and how it is presently.

Those who have been following events must have realized how El-Rufai contributed “magically” to the turn around of the love of Asiwaju in the minds of his fellow Governors. He became the soldier to fight Asiwaju’s war and a “Lawyer” to campaign for his legality, while also admonishing those who might be trying to blackmail Jagaban with religious sentiments. A Vice President like Nasir El-Rufai will birth a new Nigeria especially for the youths who are ready to grow Nigeria as true Nigerians. His developmental strides in Kaduna State will be a target for two to three generations of administrators to beat in that State.

Borno State was almost not going to have an election in previous years as a result of the carnage of Boko Haram killings. It was a State overwhelmed with ceassless violence, making the State almost ungovernable. It would take special geniuses and patriots like Shettima and Zulum to rule and achieve so much in such a hitherto anomic State. Engineer Zulum, mounting the leadership of the State as the Governor in 2019, has defied all anxiety of restlessness, bringing the State back to its state of peace as we knew it. He has been a Chief Security Officer with pragmatic, strategic and result oriented security management tactics to restore the peace of the State. He is building heaven in the coven. He has turned hell into paradise for the people of Borno State.

The level of infrastructural development in Borno State, with incredible small budget allocation will make you wonder how he is doing those projects. Zulum is reconstructing Borno with massive infrastructural development, yet, with so little in budgetary spending. He has dared to risk his own life to enforce military operations just to make sure peace is returned back to Borno State. While some northern political blocs were trying to frustrate Asiwaju’s aspiration, aggressively making moves to co-opt some other governors to contest agaings Asiwaju and Zulum was approached to contest the presidential election under the APC, but principled Zulum would be the first sitting governor in the Nigeria history to reject such overture and insist that “Asiwaju is a true leader and there would be no sensible justification for anybody to attempt to betray him”. He further stated that he was still enjoying his service to his people and would like to continue only as the Governor of the State. If you are not in politics, you may not understand the weight of such action. Zulum is a hero in the emergence of Asiwaju. Therefore, except if Zulum still insists in continuing to serve as Governor of Borno State, he will also make a good Vice President. Where you may consider the moral obligation of doing that having his boss, Shettima, in consideration, we can always balance the likely awkwardness on the scale of divine providence admonition.

There are many heroes of this struggle without whom we might not have achieved this feat. Many of the them Governors, Ministers, serving and former, Senators and Honourables, serving and former and so many unsung heroes. Governors Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano, Badaru of Jigawa, Bagudu of Kebbi, Bello of Niger etc. are the cements that built this house. The peculiarity of the emergence of Asiwaju and the circumstances surrounding the political distribution within the Northern athmosphere will definitely not allow all of them to be considered for the VP slot, however, they are all ably qualified.

Lastly, every APC member who has been a staunch loyalist, supporter, campaigner and advocate for Asiwaju, who is either a Muslim or a Christian, a pagan or even an atheist does not necessarily care about the religion of Asiwaju let alone the religion of his Vice Presidential candidate. We care more about what Asiwaju can do for Nigeria to make the country the greatest. Our focus now is how to win this general election. We will take no chances and we will not gamble on any potential choice that will advance the course of our anticipated victory. Therefore, based on the prevailing circumstance and based on the demographic distribution of the electorates across the country, going by the number of registered voters in the country from North to South and based on the socio-religious status of these voters and based on the fact that Asiwaju’s main challenger, Atiku Abubakar of PDP is a Muslim and a core Fulani man from the North, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC will not have any choice than to choose a Muslim core Northerner as Tinubu’s running mate. As a political party, focusing on winning this presidential election, we have every reason to consider the voting strengths of each region and our chances to victory in making all political decisions in this campaign. As it is, we will need the numbers in the North to fill the gap of “omission” that may come from the “void votes” in South East especially. Anything to the contrary will somersault our Asiwaju’s presidential mandate, God forbid.

If the goal must determine the go, at this critical time, we can only win the 2023 presidential election if we field in Muslim-Muslim ticket. And these facts are without sentiment.

– Shehu Bashir Esq.