The All Progressives Congress wants to wrestle power from the ruling Peoples Democratic Party by all means, but its plan to contest the presidential election on a Muslim-Muslim ticket may boomerang
| By Olu Ojewale | May 12, 2014 @ 01:00 GMT
THE most ambitious project of the All Progressives Congress, APC, for now, is to dethrone the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, the ruling party, at the 2015 presidential election. To achieve its goal, the party has been doing everything possible to discredit the ruling party and by making the President Goodluck Jonathan administration look inept. But the APC needs more than that to win the presidential race in next year’s general elections. It needs a credible and acceptable candidate that can defeat President Jonathan at the polls, should he want a second term in office. But getting that credible and acceptable person to challenge Jonathan or any candidate of the ruling party is one area that is likely to tear the party to shreds as presidential aspirants are juggling for space and support. But the major fear in the party is that it may sponsor a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.
For now, among prominent names being touted as front-runners in the race for the party’s presidential ticket are Muhammadu Buhari, a retired major-general and former military head of state; Atiku Abubakar, former vice president; Sam Nda-Isaiah, publisher of Leadership newspaper, Nuhu Ribadu, former chairman, Economic and Financial Crimes Commission, EFCC and Governor Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso of Kano State. Realnews has learnt that the APC wants to pick a candidate from the North to put the party in a better position with northerners and get their votes, while the running mate could come from the south, especially from the South-West. But the policy seems to be unpopular with some members of the party who prefer that the race be thrown open. However, that in itself is said to be causing problems for the party because most of the prominent members are Muslims.
Apart from those who want the party’s presidential ticket, there are also those who are clamouring to get the party’s vice-presidential ticket. Prominent among them are Bola Ahmed Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and a national leader of the party; Chibuike Amaechi, governor of Rivers State; Rochas Okorocha, governor of Imo State, and Babatunde Raji Fashola, governor of Lagos State. The calculation in the party, it was learnt, was to have Buhari-Tinubu ticket. But this has not gone down well with some people in and out of the party. Taking a swipe at his critics, Tinubu declared that nobody could stop him from contesting for the post of presidency in 2015 elections if he decides to run. Speaking on Wednesday, April 16, at the APC secretariat in Lagos, Tinubu said he had every right to be the president of Nigeria regardless of his religion and state of origin adding that the APC would field the best candidate in 2015 election, whether the person is a Christian or a Muslim. “We must choose the right person to lead the battle, and nobody, no one under the sun, under the United Nations Human Rights Charter, can stop Bola Tinubu’s ambition… The solution to the suffering of the masses is not about the prayer of a pastor or about the Islamic cleric. What we are talking about is not an election of a vicar or bishop, not of a Muslim Imam or cleric; it is about an individual with the character and the brain and the capacity to govern. If you are a Christian and you are good, you will win our support,” Tinubu said. He advised those opposing his political aspiration to find something else to do.
According to a poll conducted by the APC, the Buhari-Fashola ticket was preferred above that of Buhari and Okorocha; Buhari and Amaechi; Kwankwaso and Fashola; Kwankwaso and Amaechi.
Others that featured in the poll were Abubakar, Lamido Sanusi, suspended governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, CBN and Governor Adams Oshiomhole of Edo State. But none of them has, however, declared an interest in any of the elective offices.
The poll was conducted online and via SMS by ‘For The Future Nigeria,’ FTF, a political action committee affiliated with the APC. It was launched a few weeks ago. Thousands of Nigerians from the 36 states and Abuja as well as in the Diaspora voted in the exercise, according to the report by FTF on its website www.forthefuture.ng.
The analyses of the poll show that the duo of Muhammadu Buhari-Babatunde Fashola got 7.2 per cent; Buhari-Rotimi Amaechi ticket 6.53 per cent; Rabi’u Kwankwaso-Fashola ticket 6.17 per cent; Rabi’u Kwankwaso-Rotimi Amaechi ticket 6.09 per cent; and Muhammadu Buhari-Rochas Okorocha ticket 4.47 per cent.
On the choice of the preferred presidential candidate, the analyses show that Buhari got 32 per cent to beat Kwankwaso who secured 21.3 per cent; Fashola 15 per cent; Sanusi 6.4 per cent; and Abubakar five per cent. On the vice-presidential slot, Fashola polled 21.7 per cent to place first while Amaechi got 17.8 per cent. Okorocha 11.7 got per cent; Oby Ezekwesili, former education minister, had 10.8 per cent; and Oshiomhole 7.7 per cent.
But the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket has drawn flaks from a number of people in the APC, especially Femi Fani-Kayode, a former minister of aviation, who recently kicked against it. Fani-Kayode, a member of the PDP, who joined the opposition party last year, argued that if the APC fielded Buhari and Tinubu, as presidential and vice presidential candidates, it would not only offend the Christian community but could cause the APC to lose the election woefully. “Whether we like it or not, we must accept the fact that religion plays a major role in our politics today. Our party must have both a Christian and a Muslim on the ticket if we want to be taken seriously,” he said. There are fears in the party that the likes of Fani-Kayode may decide to leave the party on that account.
But the expected exodus from the party may not come to pass if a strategy committee headed by Fashola can have its way. In a two-page document titled “Memo to His Excellency, Bola Ahmed Tinubu: 2015, implications of a Muslim-Muslim Ticket and the Burden of APC Presidential candidate,” distributed to select party leaders at a meeting held in Lagos on Saturday, April 26, the committee advised the party to rather “consider working for the emergence of a Muslim presidential candidate of Northern extraction from among the present Northern governors.” The committee argued that a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket could negatively affect the party’s fortunes, especially in the South-West where it currently enjoys maximum support. A Muslim-Muslim ticket, the committee warned in its report, would make it easier for Jonathan and the PDP to secure the support of European countries and the United States.
The report dismissed a reference to the June 12, 1993 presidential election in which the defunct Social Democratic Party, SDP, fielded the late Moshood Abiola, a business mogul, from Ogun State and Babagana Kingibe from Borno State, both Muslims, noting that the situation now is different because the country is being more polarised religiously. The report, however, berated Fani-Kayode for unnecessarily sensationalising the Muslim-Muslim ticket even when the party had not taken a decision. In any case, the party was yet to formally accept the report.