By Bolaji Ogundele (The Nation)
President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday held a crucial meeting with the Progressives Governors’ Forum as the search for running mate to the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu begun.
The party leaders are said to be discussing the criteria for selecting a suitable person, including experience, educational credentials and geo-political balance.
It was gathered that they are also considered the possibility of fielding a running mate who has a deep knowledge of the economy.
The consultation on the choice of an acceptable candidate continues, a source said.
The parley was attended by the Chief of Staff to the President Prof. Ibrahim Gambari, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Boss Mustapha, PGF Chairman and governor of Kebbi State Senator Atiku Bagudu, Governors Babagana Zulum (Borno), Nasir El-Rufai (Kaduna), Mohammed Badaru Abubakar (Jigawa), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Simon Lalong (Plateau), Yahaya Bello (Kogi) and Hope Uzodimma (Imo).
Uzordimma, who was at the meeting, said the constitution is silent on the religion and tribe of the vice presidential candidate.
He told State House Correspondents the decision on the choice of running mate lies with Tinubu and not the governors.
He, however, said if the choice was left for him, he would consider religious denomination, ethnicity, followership, and geographical spread since the business of politics is to win election.
On the possibility of a Muslim/Muslim ticket, Uzodimma said the Nigerian Constitution does not dwell on religion as a factor.
He said: “There is nowhere in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria where religion is a factor or characteristic as to who becomes the president or who becomes the running mate.
“But we are looking for united Nigeria, where governance will be the issue, where a president would be adjudged by his capacity to deliver democratic dividends, develops Nigeria to look like other parts of the Western world where democracy is working.
“I don’t want us to reduce governance in Nigeria to certain things that will encourage divisiveness. Rather, we should be a united Nigeria, be our brother’s keepers, have a president of Nigeria that will be a president representing, every tribe, every religion, every denomination, and when we get there, we will cross the bridge.
“The decision also to choose a running mate does not reside with any of us — the governors. It is the presidential candidate that will look at the local characteristics and factors, political and apolitical, that will make him win his election and take the decision. So, it’s not a decision that we will sit here and take for the candidate,” he said.
Asked whether a single faith ticket was desirable, he responded: “I did not say it is not about single faith ticket. I said there are internal characteristics that the decision maker may consider in the process of taking his decision. The decision whether to choose Mr. A or Mr. B to be a running mate to a candidate is entirely that of the candidate.
“You started by saying the governors of the Southeast are complaining of not having the opportunity of being a running mate anymore. But that is not the sole ambition of the south easterners, talkless of the governors to be a running mate. And in the business of presidential primaries, there is no election for a vice presidential candidate. The business there is just to elect a candidate.
“In that ballot paper, there is no room for delegates to vote for who will be your running mate. So, that explains why it is not a decision for the public, for the people. It is a decision for the candidate. The first thing to do is to let the candidate, now a candidate has emerged.
“Now the candidate will factor into consideration some ideas and issues like how to create a spread. Spread is very important to be able to attract votes. So, the decision of who becomes your running mate, if I were the candidate, what will inform it is what I will do that will enable me to get the kind of votes I’m looking for because the ultimate goal is to win the election.
“So, maybe I’ll start from the denomination, ethnicity, or followership. In this business of democracy I think number is what is very important. And there are certain things as a nation, we should not bring to the public discuss.
“Those things that are capable of creating divisiveness against national unity should not be encouraged. It does not mean that I will not remember that I come from a place but I must also be cautious and careful how to use where I come from in taking national decisions. That is very important.
“The second question which is about running mate, Southeast is not meant for running mate. What we wanted as a zone was to be the president of Nigeria and I was convinced that it was proper for us to ask for it.
“But in this business, it is partisan democracy, the minority will have their view but the majority will have their way. In the wisdom of the delegates that elected presidential candidate, a candidate has emerged, our party (APC) will come together to work for our candidate and produce the next president. Simple,” he said.
Governor Uzodimma admonished that each section of the country requires the others to be able to produce the president, saying that the Southeast zone will work on what has so far prevented it reaching the goal.
He maintained: “When I appeared on Channels Television in the morning of the convention I told you that one of the conventions governing our polity in Nigeria is power shift. That power comes to the North and goes to the South. When power came to the South, in 1999, we ceded it to Southwest and all of us voted as Nigerians.
“The next time power came to the South, it went to Southsouth and all of us voted as Nigerians. We expected that now that power came back to the South, it will go to Southeast but this is not a decision that a geopolitical zone alone can do.
“No geopolitical zone can become a president without the participation of other political zones. So, when you don’t get the cooperation, you begin to find out why and you work towards getting the cooperation next time, because it has to be united country for you to become a president.
“We’re not talking about president of Southeast, president Southsouth or president of Southwest. We are talking of the president of Nigeria. For a Southerner to become a president, he needs to vote for North, for northerner to become the president he needs the vote from the South.
“In our constitution, you must have two third of the states you must have at least minimum of 25% votes registered in those states. Today, so we’ll look at the guidelines. We’ll look at the rules. Our country is a rule-driven country. And the grand norm is the constitution of the country.
“So, we’re working with it. All we’re saying is that for equity, for fairness for justice, that there are certain sentiments to be considered when we’re taking national decisions. But, we don’t think that is enough to disorganise our country. We must move forward,” he said.