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Atiku, Peter Obi, Tinubu: The Race to Pick Presidential Running Mates

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By Eric Elezuo

With less than one week for the 18 political parties and their presidential candidates to submit their complete list of aspirants and running mates, major parties in the presidential race, and their candidates are presently making sporadic efforts and consultations to choose a veritable running mate to complement their efforts when the campaigns kick off.

Prof Mahmood Yakubu of INEC had said on June 9, 2022, during a meeting with the resident electoral commissioners that:

“For the next one week from tomorrow June 10, all political parties are required to submit their lists of candidates for national elections (presidential/vice presidential, senatorial and house of representatives) latest by Friday June 17.

“For state elections (governorship/deputy governorship and state houses of assembly), the list of candidates shall be uploaded from 1st to July 15 as already provided in the timetable and schedule of activities for the 2023 general election already released by the commission.

“Confidential Access Codes to the portal have already been given to each political party to facilitate the uploading of its nominations.

“For emphasis, the commission wishes to remind political parties that only the names of candidates that emerged from democratic primaries as provided by Sec. 84 of the Electoral Act 2022 shall be submitted to the commission,” he said.

“All nominations must be uploaded to the portal on/or before the deadlines. The portal will automatically shut down at 6.00pm (1800hrs) on Friday June 17 2022 for national elections and 6.00pm (1800hrs) on Friday July 15 2022 for state elections.

“With this innovation, the commission has eliminated the physical interface between party officials and INEC staff for the purpose of submitting the list of candidates for the 2023 general election”, he said.

Among the parties, which has placed themselves on the front burner of electoral importance by virtue of their structures and relevance in the scheme of things are the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), whose flag is being flown by former governor of Lagos State, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu; the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) represented by Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and new comers to the realm of importance, Labour Party with Mr. Peter Obi as its flagbearer.

While the region from where Peter Obi of the Labour Party will choose his running mate, and the personalities involved, are still shrouded in mystery, the same cannot be said of Atiku and Tinubu, whose party are large enough, accommodating various degrees of people already, across the geo-political zones, and across ethnic and religious divides.

Considering the process that led to Peter Obi’s emergence, and the status of his party, it appears that the only relevant thing in the party at the moment is the presidential candidate, who incidentally hails from the southeast region, and his army of supporters, which throng around him since his defection from the PDP on May 24, 2023. There is every likelihood therefore that the running mate will be derived from either the north west or north east. But the question on every political observer’s lips is who is a political force in those regions that belong to Labour Party. The Boss investigations so far has revealed that the north is still porous of credible member of the Labour Party, especially with the political and economic clout to successfully be a running mate of a presidential candidate. The coming days, obviously before Friday, June 17, 2023, as the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), has ruled, will certainly provide a running.

But on Thursday, the APC and the PDP stepped up moves to choose running mates for their presidential candidates from a long list of candidates mostly from the Nigerian Governors Forum.

Both Atiku and Tinubu immediately embarked on a reconciliatory tour of aggrieved party members, especially those who lost at the elaborately organised primaries, with the hope of cementing differences, and work together for victory in 2023.

In the PDP, a committee comprising its governors, the National Working Committee and the Board of Trustees members as well as former governors was set with the mandate of picking its vice presidential candidate, according to confirmation by the PDP spokesman, Debo Ologunagba, obtained through The Punch report.

“Yes, we have set up a committee on the running mate; when it comes out with its decision, it would be announced. We don’t do things by speculations. There is a process, we don’t work without planning. We would follow due process, we consult, that’s what we are doing.

“When we are done with consultations, you would hear the outcome. Whether they met today (Thursday), whether they didn’t meet, that’s not relevant. When they have done their work, you would know the outcome.”

Subsequently, the Rivers State Governor, Nyesom Wike, his Delta and Akwa Ibom state counterparts, Ifeanyi Okowa and Udom Emmanuel, are said to be frontline interests, and had intensified lobby for the post. It is not forgotten that Atiku’s ally, and former Imo State governor, Hon Emeka Ihedioha, is said to be eyeing the VP slot as well.

Also, a former presidential aspirant, Aare Dele Momodu, The Boss gathered, is also being brought before the party as a viable option to help Atiku clinch the presidency, as a result of his electoral value and popularity among the youths.

Speaking on the choice of running mates, some PDP stalwartts noted that only someone with track record of integrity, and has the capacity to impact the campaigns for good, will be chosen.

A chieftain of the party, Chief Bode George, said the running mate would be an individual that could assist the party to garner votes.

“Definitely, it (running mate) must come from the South; South-West, South-East and South-South. They will be looking for the best man that will be able to assist the party; who will have character, respect for the rule of law and be fair to Nigerians,” George said.

On his part, a PDP presidential aspirant, Sam Ohuabunwa, said the party would choose someone who could give the party leverage.

“PDP will choose whoever they want between the party leadership and candidate; they will choose whoever they think will give them best electoral leverage, that’s what I think.

“I don’t understand who they will pick; my consideration is whoever will give them electoral leverage to win the election because it has to do with what will make them win the election in 2023.

Again, a former National Publicity Secretary, Diran Odeyemi fingered Governor Wike, saying he would guarantee victory for Atiku in the 2023 presidential election if chosen as running mate as he has the capacity to rally support for the party in the South-East, South- West and the South-South where he hails from.

“I will be categorical with my comment. The best bet for the PDP is to pick Wike. Apart from the fact that he is capable and has shown intention, he is the only one that can assist the party. I am very sure he will get votes in the South-East, South-South and South-West. Their combinations would be good not only to get a victory for the party but to also bring development to the country,” Odeyemi remarked.

Meanwhile, like his counterpart in the PDP, the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, also began the search for his running mate with a meeting with northern governors, where he is expected to make a pick

Recall that Tinubu defeated aspirants including a former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi and the Vice-President, Prof Yemi Osinbajo to the second and third positions respectively.

However, as the race to pick a running mate hots up, Christian politicians have warned against running on a Muslim-Muslim ticket as candidates of the two major parties are Muslims. The fear was raised by a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, and directed particularly to the APC flag bearer.

Among the likely persons Tinubu would consider are the Kaduna State governor, Nasir el-Rufai and Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje. While these two have shown character in the emergence of Tinubu as the presidential candidate, they may however, not be considered as a result of their religion, which corresponds with the presidential candidate. The choice of any of the two governors, would veritably augur well for the party as they have a firm grip on their states, especially Ganduje, whose state unofficially accounts for the highest number of voters.

However, Ganduje has to contend with the rampaging Kwankwasiyya mandate, which is championed by a former governor of the state, Rabiu Kwankwaso, now in the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP)

But if the APC and Tinubu must look the Christian way for a running mate, the likes of Simon Lalong of Plateau State, who happens to be the only Christian governor under the APC in the north, the Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, who observers have credited as the ‘most visible functionary in the presidency’, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara.

Though seasoned technocrats, who can hold their own any day, observers however, do not reckon with any of the personalities as potential vote influencers. Lalong is seen as a strong ally of the former presidential aspirant, and that may work for or against him. While he may be chosen to compensate the Amaechi camp, he may also be dropped for not supporting Tinubu. Dogara, on his part, has remained aloof ever since he left the office of speaker, jumping again to the APC from the PDP.

An option that has remained unspoken is the choice of the First Lady, Mrs Aisha Buhari, who hails from Adamawa State. While her choice will sustain the Buhari hegemony in Aso Rock, it will also checkmate the spread of Atiku influence, who is also from Adamawa State.

But a source has hinted that the Muslim-Muslim agenda is the preference of the North as they do not see any potential Christian with the charisma to galvanise voters, and guarantee victory for the APC.

Some arguments deduced in favour of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is escapulated in this statement from a northern stakeholder:

“There’s no Christian who can match Kashim Shettima in the entire North. Dogara can’t win more than Tafawa Balewa Local Governnent Area in Bauchi State. The SGF, Mr Boss Mustapha, is neither Hausa nor Fulani and can’t win in multi-ethnic Adamawa State.

“Lalong is neither Hausa nor Fulani stock, so the majority Hausa Fulani may not accept him. Let’s look at the turn of events, something tells me it will be a Muslim/ Muslim ticket.”

All the political parties are bound by the June 17 deadline of submission of candidates and their running mates’ list as ordered by the INEC, and so every loose ends as regards who to be picked or dropped, would be sorted out.

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You’ve Nothing to Offer Nigerians, Only Insults, Akwa Ibom Gov Slams Tinubu

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Governor of Akwa Ibom State, Udom Emmanuel, on Monday, replied the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, saying that he (Tinubu) always resorts to abusing and insulting people during campaigns because he has nothing to bring to the table for Nigerians.

He also said that despite being insulted by the former Lagos State Governor, he would prefer to allow peace to reign by ignoring him and focusing on helping install good governance to rescue Nigerians from their present woes.

Emmanuel spoke on Monday evening at Government House, Uyo while inaugurating newly appointed Permanent Secretaries, Chairmen and Members of Boards and Commissions, as well as a Transition Committee to ensure the smooth transition of power to the next administration.

Recall that Tinubu had during his rally in Uyo Monday afternoon, reportedly said, “Akwa Ibom, that boy wey bring Atiku here, wey de call himself Governor, tell him enough is enough! He lives in my backyard in Lagos, If no be say we be one, I would have driven him home. You see that mansion he is living, I would just use lizards, pigeons and scorpions to put him inside.“

But reacting few hours later, the Akwa Ibom State Governor said, “for the country to remain in peace, one party must ‘play saint’ and that is why he would refrain from replying Tinubu.

Emmanuel who is the Chairman of the PDP presidential campaigns said, “I also go to other states, and if you watch our campaigns, my principal (Atiku Abubakar) has never spoken about any Governor, he has never spoken openly about Asiwaju before.”

He added that it was unfortunate that Tinubu, who was granted state-owned facilities such as the airport, security, stadium, and a good atmosphere to come in and sell his manifesto, ended up coming to insult the integrity of over 7.9 million Akwa Ibom people.

The Governor wondered if it is possible for any Akwa Ibomite to go to Lagos that Tinubu stays or the actual state that he hails from, to insult Tinubu in like manner and still be allowed to safely return home, “but here our people at the stadium including some state governors just laughed and applauded him.”

“What makes him think he will govern Nigeria? If I reply him now, people will call me and say, haba oga you are not like that. But I will reply him one day. There is nothing like ‘emilokan’ (it is my turn) here, Nigeria is in God’s hands.”

He maintained further that despite being the highest revenue contributor to the federation account, Akwa Ibom State has not gotten a single kilometre of road from the APC-led Federal Government for nearly 8 years adding that the poor response from the Federal Government also caused the delayed commencement of the seaport in the state.

Meanwhile, the governor thanked the newly appointed Permanent Secretaries for accepting the onerous task of service, and urged them to see themselves as ambassadors and work towards raising the bar of leadership which would encourage productivity and promote good working relationship with subordinates in the service.

“This is one thing I promised Akwa Ibom people that appointment of Permanent Secretaries shall be totally on merit and not by mercy, let those that can do the work be given the opportunity. Permanent Secretary is not a promotion, it is an appointment on merit.

Governor Emmanuel also reiterated his commitments towards enhancing efficiency within Civil Service, noting that during his administration civil servants have been promoted on yearly basis.

He assured that before he exits office more Permanent Secretaries would be appointed into the service to fill vacant positions left by the ones who retired.

Addressing Chairmen of Boards and Commissions, Governor Emmanuel who described them as pillars in government, acknowledged their commitment particularly, Chairman, Akwa Ibom State Environmental Protection & Waste Management Agency, Prince Akpan Ikim, for winning laurels for the state through his outstanding performance in keeping and making the state the cleanest in Nigeria for five consecutive years from 2018 through 2022, and tasked others to create an impact that will stand them out.

In the same vein, the Transition Committee members were handed the task of ensuring a seamless transition of government to an incoming administration, and also verify all projects executed by the present administration.

The newly appointed Permanent Secretaries are; Mfon Inuaesiet Edemekong Esq., Dr. Stephen Effiong, Atim Chelly Okoko, Iquo Okon Abia Esq., Uwem Sunday Andrew-Essien, Isaiah Robson Ntekim and Emaeyak Nyong Akpan as Auditor-General for Local Government.

The Transition Committee has Mrs. Ekereobong Umoh -Chairman, Uko Udom SAN, Prof Augustine Umoh, Dr. Ini Adiakpan, Mrs. Nsemeke Daniel, Dr. Nathaniel Adiakpan, Mr Elijah Udoiyak, Mrs. Esther Inyang, Pastor Uwem Andrew-Essien, Mr. Isaiah Ntekim, Mr. Effiong Ekpenyong and Mrs. Bella Akpanya as members.

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PDP Condemns Attack on Buhari in Kano, Blames Tinubu, Ganduje

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The Peoples Democratic Party Presidential Campaign Council, has blamed the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, and the governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attacks on the convoy of President Muhammadu Buhari, during a visit to the state on Monday.

The spokesperson of the campaign council, Dino Melaye, who shared one of the videos from the reported attack, wrote, “The fight between Tinubu and Buhari is entering a new dimension. The attack in Kano was properly coordinated and funded allegedly by Asiwaju.

“The meeting to push Buhari to submission or face sponsored attack in the north was said to be hatched in Bourdillon. Me, I am busy with Atiku.”

A political activist, Deji Adeyanju, who shared another video of the reported attack, said, “They are showing Buhari and APC Shege in Kano and many northern states.”

Similarly, the PDP in a statement signed by its National Publicity Secretary, Debo Ologunagba, on Monday also blamed Tinubu and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, for the attack.

According to the party, the attack was designed to undermine the Presidency, cause confusion, trigger violence in the country, disrupt the conduct of the 2023 general elections “and derail our democracy having realised that he cannot win in a peaceful, free and fair electoral process.”

The statement read in part, “The PDP invites Nigerians to note how Governor Abdullahi Ganduje attempted to abridge President Buhari’s movement and even tried to stop him from visiting Kano State.

“More disquieting is the fact that the APC Presidential Campaign sought to humiliate and harm President Buhari while performing his official duties in Kano.

“It should be noted that the APC presidential candidate has been displaying open aversion and making inciting statements against President Buhari since Mr President’s declaration, in line with democratic best practice all over the world that Nigerians should freely vote for any candidate and party of their choice in the 2023 general elections.

“The apparent frustration of Asiwaju Tinubu to resort to encourage or condone violence is fueled by his entitlement mentality, that it is his turn to be President, despite his numerous ineligibility and disability baggage.”

Ologunagba reminded Nigerians about Tinubu’s infamous statement in London where he declared to his supporters that “political power is not going to be served in a restaurant, it is not served a la carte.”

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Organ Harvesting: Ekweremadu Battles for Freedom, Appears in Court Tuesday

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A former Deputy President of the Senate, Ike Ekweremadu, will on Tuesday appear again in court in the United Kingdom where he has been accused of human trafficking.

The lawmaker was in June 2022 arrested at Heathrow Airport in London after Staines Police Station received a report from a young man claiming to have been trafficked into the UK.

The young man, who made the report shortly after arriving in the UK from Nigeria, also alleged that he was made to undergo some medical tests, none of which he consented to.

Ekweremadu was immediately arraigned before a Magistrate’s Court for bringing a child into the UK to harvest his organs.

While the lawmaker had been in custody since June 23, his wife, Beatrice, who was arrested with him, was granted bail by a criminal court in London shortly after their arrest.

Monday (today) makes it 221 days since Ekweremadu was placed in the custody of UK authorities.

The case against the lawmaker which had been slated for May was later scheduled for January 31.

The 60-year-old, who denied the allegations against him, will again appear before High Court Judge, Mr Justice Johnson.

His daughter, Sonia, had on November 7, 2022, appeared in court to defend the accusation of trafficking a homeless man into the UK to harvest his organs for herself.

According to Daily Mail, the 25-year-old, who is battling a kidney-related illness, pleaded not guilty to the charge level against her when she appeared again in court on January 13.

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