The running mate brouhaha




Since the conduct of national conventions by political parties, the issue that has become the topic of discussion and caught the attention of Nigerians is how the presidential candidates would pick their running mates. In a bid to beat INEC’s June 17 deadline for the submission of running mates, the opposition PDP, after consultation and political calculations, picked Governor Ifeanyi Okowa of Delta state as Atiku Abubakar’s running mate.

However, his selection surprised many Nigerians who assumed that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers state, runner up at the primary, would have been compensated with vice presidential slot, supporters of Wike were disappointed as Atiku refused to nominate him. After PDP zoned its running mate to South-south, attention was shifted to the ruling APC to see how it would pick its candidate. In the meantime, the party has submitted the name of Ibrahim Kabiru Masari who was the party’s welfare secretary, when Adams Oshiomhole was the national chairman of the party.

It is also reported that Labour Party (LP), NNPP and other political parties have submitted their list. This is a good omen. As the 2023 general elections continue to elicit hoopla and excitement, so also the knotty issue of selection or nomination of running mates, particularly, the ruling APC. With the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as APC presidential candidate, the party is totally confused on who should be his running mate.

While Orji Uzo Kalu, former governor of Abia state, in a media interview, advised the party to pair Tinubu with a Muslim running mate, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in a statement by its secretary, warned of the danger for toeing such dangerous path. Inarguably, since the return of democracy, the positions of president and vice president are being shared among the adherents of two dominant faith in the country (Muslim/Christian). The country missed a golden opportunity on June 12, 1992, when Chief Moshood Abiola, a Yoruba Muslim who picked Babagana Kingibe, a Kanuri Muslim, won the election but was annulled by the military administration of Ibrahim Badamasi Babangida. The sad incident has continued to haunt the country. If June 12 election had not been annulled, the current heated debates about the proposed Muslim-Muslim ticket by APC would not have raised eye brows let alone generate tension.

Nigeria is a secular not religious state. The country is governed by the constitution. Ordinarily, the issue of religion should be an individual’s way of life and not the state. The manipulation of religion by our politicians to perpetuate themselves in power has done more harm than good to our fledgling democracy. In the over two decades of our civil rule, the country has been fragmented and polarised along our fault lines.

Even government’s policies and programmes are being viewed with ethnic and religious lenses. There is deep suspicion between the two religions. I blame our ruling elite who mix religion with politics. That is the reason the country cannot rule out hatred and mistrust among the diverse ethnic and religion composition. Every leader that emerges is judged by his faith or the number of appointees from his religion or region.

In developed democracies, candidates are assessed based on their qualities or manifesto not faith or places they hail from. This is not so in Nigeria. For equity and justice the political parties should balance their tickets, there are other plum positions like senate president, speaker, SGF and ministerial positions which can be brought to the negotiation table.
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