Loyalists of the All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, have said the party’s vice-presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, will not be dropped in spite of criticism over his appointment.
Various groups campaigning for the APC’s presidential candidate, in separate interviews with The PUNCH, faulted those, who berated the APC and its standard-bearer over the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Those who commented on the controversy over the ticket included the spokesman for the Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga; a former Minister of Communication and Director-General, Asiwaju Tinubu Support Group, Adebayo Shittu; Director of Publicity, Tinubu Support Organisation, Ekiti State, Abiodun Alonge, and the National Chairman of the Southwest Agenda for Tinubu 2023, Senator Dayo Adeyeye.
They insisted that there was no going back on the choice of Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate.
The APC has come under heavy criticism from groups and individuals such as the Christian Association of Nigeria, the Catholic Secretariat and a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and an ally of Tinubu, Babachir Lawal, as well as the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, since Sunday when its candidate unveiled Shettima as his running mate.
Lawal in a statement on Tuesday said Tinubu was misled by sycophants, noting that the Muslim-Muslim ticket is satanic. He also described Shettima as “a Greek gift.”
On its part, CAN stated that the situation in the country was not suitable for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Others who had spoken against the ticket included the Christian Association of Nigeria, Catholic Secretariat, Senior Apostolic Leader of the Realm of Glory International Churches, Pastor Sam Aiyedogbon; former presidential aspirant and a chieftain of the APC, Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, among others.
A number of party chieftains, including a former governorship candidate of the APC in Rivers State, Tonye Cole, also resigned from the party in protest against the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
On Tuesday, a hitherto unknown group, the Northern APC Christians, in a statement in Abuja asked Tinubu to reverse Shettima’s appointment before Friday’s deadline the Independent National Electoral Commission gave parties to replace running mates.
But Onanuga told The PUNCH that the presidential candidate would not replace Shettima.
Asked if Tinubu was contemplating changing Shettima before the deadline of INEC on Friday, he said, “That is not possible. There is nothing like that going on within Tinubu’s camp. We have seen this move before; all these campaigns to pitch us against fellow Nigerians.
“It happened in 1993 and the result was clear. There was pressure from several quarters for (MKO) Abiola to drop (Babagana) Kingibe because of his Muslim background. I pray people will come back to their senses to discover that what they should be looking at is not religion but the competence of the candidate to deliver and take the country to a greater height. They will soon realise that.”
“As I said earlier, there is no likelihood of our presidential candidate dropping Shettima. He has selected him and Shettima will remain. He is a cool candidate. Either of them can be a president,” he contended.
Commenting on the outrage by CAN and the APC Christian leaders in 19 Northern states, the campaign spokesman disclosed that Tinubu would appease them.
He stated, “I can assure you that Tinubu will appeal to Babachir (Lawal) and others. What we are seeing is natural. This is politics where you may not get all you want. But we know people will soon realise that the choice they have is not really a bad one.
“Don’t forget that we are just six months away before the 2023 elections. In politics, even 24 hours is not a long period. Anything can happen that can change the course of things. There are moves by the party to appease all of them to rally round the presidential candidate for the election.”
The APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, assured Christians that they had nothing to fear with the same faith ticket of the party.
According to him, the party’s Muslim-Muslim Presidential ticket was “the work and the will of God.”
Adamu made the declaration in Dàura on Wednesday when he led the party’s National Working Committee on a Sallah visit to the President, Major-General Muhammadu Buhari (retd).
He also told journalists that he and his team were in Daura to brief the President on what transpired in Osun State on Tuesday during the APC governorship mega rally campaign ahead of the Saturday governorship poll in the state.
Speaking in a similar vein, the DG of Asiwaju Tinubu Support Group, Adebayo Shittu, said, “I don’t get what the fuss is all about. After all, APC is not the only party in the country. With all humility and a sense of responsibility, we want to win an election and Tinubu did what needed to be done to achieve the aim.
“Those who are not impressed by the move can opt to vote for their choice of candidate; whether Peter Obi or Atiku. It is that simple. APC is a political party, not a property of anybody.”
On whether Tinubu would cave into the pressure from Nigerians and aggrieved party members, Shittu said dropping Shettima would create problems for the party.
“The truth is that if Shettima is dropped as a result of this pressure from within and outside the party, APC will be in trouble. What we need to factor in here is the time it took Tinubu, the Northern governors and the party to decide on his candidacy,” he stated.
The National Chairman of the Southwest Agenda for Tinubu 2023, Senator Dayo Adeyeye, also affirmed that the APC presidential candidate would not rescind his choice of Shettima to pacify those opposed to it.
Adeyeye disclosed this on Wednesday during a phone interview with The PUNCH, adding that Nigerians should place competence over religious sentiments.
He said, “I believe that people will soon realise that this is a good ticket for Nigeria and that we should place competence over religious sentiments and other issues of bigotry. People will soon realise that Shettima is a tolerant person; he accommodated both Christians and Muslims when he was governor of Borno State.
“Now, if Tinubu could not Islamise his wife, how will he Islamise Nigeria? He has no such intention and that would never happen under his watch. He was a tolerant man while he was a governor of Lagos State and there was no discrimination in his treatment of his cabinet members. All his policies favoured the two religions.
“The same could be said about Shettima who went to the extent of rebuilding Churches destroyed by Boko Haram. Tinubu is not going to review or change this ticket because we believe it is a winning ticket and those who are against it are merely afraid we will win.”
A pro-Tinubu group, under the auspices of the Tinubu Mandate Group, Ondo and Ekiti state chapters, said there was nothing wrong with the presidential candidate of the party, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, picking a Muslim as a running mate.
The Coordinator of the group, Pastor Olufemi Bakare, who spoke with one of our correspondents, said the APC presidential candidate would always be fair to all religions in the country.
Similarly, the Director-General of Bola Ahmed Tinubu Sanwo-Olu Project, Mr Emmanuel Amuwo, during a phone interview with The PUNCH, stated that Tinubu did not owe anybody an apology over his choice of Shettima as a running mate because his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, is a pastor.
The Director of Publicity, Tinubu Support Organisation, Ekiti State, Abiodun Alonge, said that the choice of Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate was well thought out, hence dropping him would not be of benefit to the party.
Alonge said, “Tinubu must have thought about everything within the political space before settling for Shettima. Shettima, being a Muslim, must have been considered by Tinubu as a factor before picking him.”