*NNPC, Peter Obi’s aide react
The Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress, Murtala Ajaka, on Monday, called on Nigerians to ignore opposition parties’ sentiment of religion, saying the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as vice presidential candidate had unsettled their camps.
This was as the New Nigeria People’s Party warned that fielding Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate would be the final nail that would seal the ambition of the former Lagos State governor.
Tinubu had announced the former Governor of Borno State as his substantive running mate after he had a closed-door meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at his residence in Daura, on Sunday.
The announcement also coincided with the withdrawal of the APC placeholder, Ibrahim Masari, who earlier stepped down as the vice presidential nominee.
Masari, the surrogate running mate, stepped aside to pave way for the name of the substantive running mate to be submitted to the Independent National Electoral Commission five days to the deadline.
Tinubu, who revealed in his statement on Sunday that he had always been a decisive man, added that he shared same ideology with party leaders, including Shettima.
In a statement released Monday in Abuja, the APC deputy scribe assured Nigerians that the fear of the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket being nursed in some quarters only existed in the imagination of opposition.
Describing Shettima as a man of knowledge and courage, Ajaka disclosed that the opposition parties, especially the Peoples Democratic Party, had been thrown off-balance and still reeling from Tinubu’s choice of Shettima.
He said: “The sterling qualities of our vice presidential candidate, in person of Senator Kashim Shettima, has once again thrown the opposition parties off-balance. They (PDP and others) would have preferred our presidential candidate to settle for the less so as to make it easy for them to win election (God forbid), but the choice of the trusted and trustworthy Shettima must have disorganised their evil plans, we understand them in the APC.
“While we sympathise with the opposition parties, we appeal to Nigerians, who will eventually be the beneficiaries of good governance under Tinubu-Shettima presidency, to see beyond the sentiments of religion and tribe. Both Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima are not religious fundamentalists or ultra Muslims, their records in public offices are testimonies to rely on.
“As a two-term governor in Borno State, Shettima enjoyed the support of the Christian community throughout his tenure. In fact, the Borno chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) testified that ‘In the history of Borno State, there is no Governor that has been fair to the Christian Community as much as Governor Kashim Shettima.’
“For example, it was Governor Shettima, in the history of Borno, that has sponsored the highest number of Christian Pilgrims every year since 2011 till he left office. This and many other records of mutual respect for all faiths are there to verify in Borno State.”
Ajaka said the APC and its presidential candidate will not be distracted from the goal of winning the 2023 general election at all levels.
“If Borno State has the largest votes in the North-East where Kashim Shettima has been governor for 8 years and now a Senator and still politically relevant, if the APC has enjoyed massive support from this state and the entire North-East and the emergence of Shettima as our vice presidential candidate will deny the candidate of the PDP the smooth ride in the zone, I think the APC and our presidential candidate are politically correct because our main goal for now is to emerge victorious in the coming elections, not forgetting competence which Senator Kashim Shettima represents.”
Reacting to the allegation, National Publicity Secretary of the New Nigeria People’s Party, Major Agbo, said no serious candidate should be scared of Shettima.
According to him, the APC vice presidential candidate is a well known person that does not have any form of credibility.
“The choice of Shettima is not an issue to any serious minded politician in this country. These people are just looking for what to hang on to for survival. The APC knows that their situation is getting worse. The choice of Shettima has made the job easier for the rest of us, especially for my party, because of his antecedent. His antecedent calls for concerns.
“Remember that the Governor who handed over to him accused him in 2017 of being the main sponsor of Boko Haram. It was all over the media. His choice as running mate is the final nail on the coffin of the APC. We don’t see him as a threat or anything to worry about,” he said.
Efforts made to get the reaction of the spokespersons for the Peoples Democratic Party and Labour Party proved abortive.
However, Emeka Obasi, media aide to Labour Party presidential candidate, Peter Obi, told our correspondent that the ruling APC is just seeking attention.
Obasi also expressed concerns that the party was treading a dangerous path with the Muslim-Muslim ticket that it planned to shove into the throats of Nigerians.
He said, “Personally, I don’t have anything against anybody’s choice provided he is qualified to be at any level of leadership. I tried to toe the line of my principal. The issue we have at hand is a serious one. This seeming idea of not accommodating all Nigerians by the APC and Tinubu is evident through his choice of a running mate that is from the same faith with him. The Muslim-Muslim ticket is not considering the sensibilities of this country.
“The ruling party should have considered that this is a secular state and know that having two Muslim candidates can provoke people of other religions. I honestly don’t know how they intend to manage this.
“I hope they are not trying to make this election campaign be centred on religion. It is not something people should be happy about. We have a Constitution that talks about having federal character. We cannot be having number one and two citizens coming from same sect, zone or religion. I see (it) becoming a big discourse in days to come. I doubt if the APC will get away with it.”
Asked if Shettima’s choice would pose a threat to Obi’s ambition, Obasi said that he found the thought of it laughable.
“There is no individual or political platforms that we in the Labour Party consider as a threat. Borrowing from the words of my principal, go and verify. We are going for a battle and we respect every candidate and supporters. We are in it to win. Let the game begin,” he said.