• Shettima assures he won’t serve Islam, Hausa-Fulani-Kanuri interests as VP
• CAN disowns bishops who graced Shettima’s unveiling
• Protesting APC members storm party secretariat
• Abe toes Jibrin’s path, abandons APC, for greener pastures
• Amaechi denies plan to dump APC, knocks Abe
Amid thunderous applause by party faithful, the All Progressives Congress (APC), yesterday, unveiled Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate to its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. The event, however, did not go without controversy arising from the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket.
National Chairman of the party, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, who performed the unveiling, said the choice of Shettima was done with the full support of President Muhammadu Buhari and critical stakeholders of the party.
Adamu reminded Nigerians and critics of the Muslim-Muslim ticket that the duo of Tinubu and Shettima were walking the path of the late Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, acclaimed winner of the 1993 presidential poll, who settled for Babagana Kingibe as his running mate.
Adamu expressed optimism that the joint ticket of Tinubu and Shettima would deal the death knell to the religious and tribal fault lines among Nigerians.
Referring to his partnership with Tinubu as a Nigerian project, Shettima assured that a Tinubu-led presidency would not discriminate against Nigerians on the basis of their religion or tribal backgrounds.
He said: “We need to rest the issues of religion and ethnicity in the country. I don’t intend to be the vice president that would represent members of the Islamic faith. The Sultan of Sokoto will do that.
“My vice presidency is not going to protect the interests of the Hausa-Fulani and Kanuri. I strongly believe in the Nigerian project. I never supported Tinubu to be his running mate. I supported him based on my moral conviction.”
Tinubu insisted that the choice of Shettima as his running mate was a carefully thought out decision aimed at repositioning the country to achieve greatness.
“I remain steadfast in my belief in the selection of Shettima. I am unwavering in my belief that he is the best person to run for office and to, hopefully, govern by my side.
“All my life, my decisions regarding the team around and supporting me have always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness and adherence to excellence,” he said.
Among dignitaries at the event were the chairman of Nigeria Governors’ Forum (NGF), Kayode Fayemi; Governors Babagana Zulum (Borno), Inuwa Yahaya (Gombe), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Aminu Masari (Katsina), Babajide Sanwo-Olu (Lagos), Abdullahi Sule (Nasarawa), Dapo Abiodun (Ogun), Bello Matawalle (Zamfara) and David Onoja, who stood in for Yahaya Bello of Kogi State.
Southeast governors and members of the party, Hope Uzodimma (Imo), Dave Umahi (Ebonyi) and Ben Ayade (Cross River) were conspicuously absent. Also absent was the Senate President, Ahmad Lawan. The trio of Lawan, Umahi and Ayade had contested against Tinubu for the presidential ticket in June.
On hand at the unveiling were no fewer than 30 bishops and pastors from various Christian denominations dressed in their cassocks and regalia to register their solidarity for the Muslim-Muslim ticket despite the stiff resistance of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN).
MEANWHILE, CAN has said the bishops who attended the unveiling were hired artisans who hurriedly made and wore clerical garments just to prove unnecessary points.
CAN Vice President of 19 Northern states and Abuja and the chairman of the Kaduna State chapter, Rev. Joseph John Hayab, who stated this in an interview with journalists yesterday in Abuja, said “the people we saw at the unveiling of Shettima parading as bishops are people who did not have enough time to learn how to wear bishops’ garments.”
Hayab, who questioned the rationale behind the ‘drama’ argued that if Christians are not important to the party, why then the desperation?
He said: “Take a closer look at their pictures and you will see another Nollywood movie. CAN wonders why the desperation. First, a story was out claiming to have come from the Chairman of CAN, Borno State, only to be refuted.
“Secondly, there was another lie that Tinubu and his running mate were on their way to meet CAN President one night. A meeting that was not true and was on a night that the CAN President was in Alabama, United States, attending the Baptist World Alliance Conference of which he is the vice president.
“Another desperation story was that they met Papa Adeboye, which the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) later refuted. If Christians are not important why the desperation?
“The APC presidential candidate is free to hire mechanics and other artisans and sew clerical garments for them. An effort that will only add to their many robes when the political exercise is over but will not change the need for fairness and justice that CAN is calling for. The party should do what is right and stop the drama,” he said.
Also speaking, the Lead Bishop of Worldwide Anglican Church (WAC) in Nigeria, Bishop Seun Adeoye, described as disgraceful and pathetic the presence of some bishops at the unveiling.
The clergyman, in a statement made available to journalists in Osogbo, wondered what type of Christianity those bishops and pastors who attended the programme practiced.
“We need to know who the men of God who attended this event are, their churches and where they are coming from and if indeed they are genuine ministers of the gospel. And if indeed they are real men of God as they claimed, then it is disgusting, disgraceful and pathetic for them to have disobeyed CAN. We know quite well that some are in the ministry because of the gods of their bellies.”
IN spite of Shettima’s unveiling, hundreds of demonstrators, yesterday, stormed the APC national secretariat to register their grievance over the position of the party on the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The protesters, under the aegis of APC Hausa-Fulani Youth Forum, maintained that the choice of Shettima remains unacceptable to them.
The protesters, who arrived the APC national secretariat in six luxury buses and few cars, brandished banners with inscriptions as ‘A cry for justice’, ‘Drop Shettima and give slot to our Christian brothers’, ‘There is discrimination and mutual suspicion in our country’ among others.
Convener of the Forum, Abdullahi Bilal Mohammadu, called on the party to reverse the decision on Muslim-Muslim ticket if it is interested in winning the 2023 election.
In a letter addressed to the National Chairman, Mohammadu demanded the reversal of the choice of Shettima.
“We say no to a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC. We call on President Buhari to kindly intervene to save the party from an electoral crisis. We urge Tinubu to emulate the example of President Buhari in the choice of his running mate in the 2015 and 2019 presidential elections.
“Our Christian brothers and sisters deserve a place in the scheme of things, and our party must not be seen as a religiously insensitive party. The time to act is now.”
PRESIDENT Buhari, on Wednesday, expressed strong optimism that the contestants on the ticket of the APC will emerge victorious in the 2023 election. He gave the assurance, in Abuja, when he jocularly responded to a speech by Shettima.
He said: “I will respond to your speech when I am handing over to you and your boss. God willing, you are going to win.”
President Buhari, who received the VP candidate shortly after he was unveiled by the party, said he was happy with the choice of Tinubu’s running mate.
“I wish you the best. Your consistency in the party is very respectful. You served your two terms as governor and finished well. You have kept touch with your base. At every important occasion, you are maintaining support for the one who succeeded you. This is commendable,” he said.
Shettima requested the President to appreciate his successor, Zulum, who was in his company, along with the Minister of State, Agriculture, Mustapha Baba Shehuri, for their support.
The VP candidate pledged to remain “loyal and devoted” to the President. It was the first time Shettima would visit the State House since he was selected by Tinubu.
HOWEVER, crisis continued to rock the ruling party beyond controversy over the Muslim-Muslim ticket. Like Abdulmumin Jibrin, Senator Magnus Abe, who represented Rivers Southeast Senatorial District, yesterday, waved goodbye to the APC.
Abe had been having a running battle with former Transportation Minister, Chibuike Amaechi, over the control of the party in Rivers State against the background of his (Abe’s) desire to govern the state.
Abe was peeved that after his two friends had occupied the office as governor of Rivers, Amaechi insisted on blocking him and persisted in fighting the former governor’s control of APC in the state, leading to the absence of gubernatorial candidates by the party in the 2019 election.
Amaechi, Wike and Abe were prominent members of the state government during the administration of Sir Peter Odili from 1999 to 2007.
Frustrated by the recent decision of Tinubu to align with Amaechi, Abe, yesterday, finally left APC as the first step to look for greener pastures in another party.
In a statement, Abe declared: “I have since left the APC in Rivers, I am still part of Asiwaju Tinubu’s family and have no issue with him whatsoever.
“Let me also use this moment to thank my teeming supporters, and some of those that defected from the APC, for standing by me in all these years. In the coming days, I shall tell Nigerians my next political decision.”
Prior to his defection to New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP), Jibrin was embroiled in political misunderstanding with Governor Abdullahi Ganduje over the APC ticket for Kiru/Bebeji federal constituency.
AMID the gale of defections from the APC in Rivers, the state chapter of the party, yesterday, insisted that Amaechi has no plan to leave the party. This declaration is against the backdrop of rumours making the rounds that Amaechi has dumped the APC.
The state APC spokesman, Senibo Chris Finebone, disclosed this at a press conference held in Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital.
He said: “Let me use this opportunity to raise the alarm that just yesterday, (Tuesday) evil people launched fake news concerning our leader, Rt. Hon. Chibuike Rotimi Amaechi, purporting that he has resigned from the APC.
“He remains a loyal member of the APC and he has reiterated this at every opportunity and that he would work to ensure the party resoundingly wins the 2023 elections.”