The candidate substitution window has been closed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), thus fully preparing the ground for the 2023 presidential election. Although subtle campaigns have been raging, real campaigns will legally begin in earnest in September. Before Peter Obi seized Labor territory and its presidential ticket, turning it into a movement, many had focused their attention on a two-horse race – between Atiku Abubakar/PDP and Ahmed Bola Tinubu/APC. It is now a three-horse race.
One issue that arouses interest is the choice of running mate. Classically, in respecting national balances, which even Nigerian military dictatorships respected in the composition of their regimes, two factors have always figured. The balance of power in Nigeria necessarily involves two essential elements: religion and the north-south divide.
Atiku Abubakar showed he was ready for the job by quickly appointing his running mate – Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Ekwueme Okowa. His choice fully reflected and resonated with national sentiments, regarding religion and region. Ifeanyi Okowa represents southern Nigeria and the Christian religion on the ticket.
Peter Obi, who previously used his acting campaign chief executive, Doyin Okupe, to fill space to allow for more consolation, has since officially named Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed as his main running mate. He too respected the two key national feelings that anchor the perception of balance in the Nigerian federal government, whether military or civilian. Datti effectively represents the Muslim community as well as the Northern Nigeria Division on the ticket.
Although he respects the need to pursue the northern division, Tinubu said he could not afford to sacrifice jurisdiction for the sake of pursuing Nigerian Christians and appointed a fellow Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima, as running mate. Despite public outcry against his Muslim-Muslim ticket, Tinubu has stuck to his gun and if he is successful, he must have busted a myth that Christianity is of no consequence in Nigeria. The February presidential election will tell.
Since the three key candidates with a strong chance of winning the 2023 presidential election have set sail, it’s important to discuss what each running mate brings to the ticket.
Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa is a quiet achiever and seems tailor-made for the post of vice president. He quietly achieved so much for himself and relied on his actions to speak for him. Many may not know that Okowa was Chairman of LG, Secretary of the Delta State Government, a top Senator and now a very successful Governor who is in his second term.
As noted by Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate Alhaji Atiku Abubakar while introducing Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, a running mate must have qualities to be the president of the country. Atiku said he chose Okowa after extensive consultations because he understood the critical importance of education, economic growth and development to provide employment opportunities in the country and had the potential to succeed him at any time if elected president in 2023.
Atiku didn’t know who he was looking for and could shout eureka! when he narrowed his gaze to Okowa. He wants a running mate who understands the critical importance of economic growth and development to join the urgent drive to provide young Nigerians with jobs, hope and a path to wealth. Atiku specifically wants a vice president who would help him prepare young Nigerians to be able to compete in an increasingly competitive and globalized world.
Atiku and Okowa have a lot going for them. Atiku served as vice president to a very successful Nigerian president, Olusegun Obasanjo. During Obasanjo’s presidency, Atiku served as chairman of the national economic council when the country’s economy was the largest in Africa and Nigeria’s external debts were reduced to zero. Its strong point is therefore the economy and economic development. Also as a university owner, his interest in education and youth development is beyond doubt. He has the experience to also face the insecurity of the nation. Running with Ifeanyi Okowa who was also a ranked senator and a two-term executive governor who turned Delta into a smart state, his combination with Atiku is a big deal.
Peter Obi also chose a director like him, Senator Datti Baba-Ahmed, as his running mate. Datti also played a role in the current Democratic dispensation, having a stint in both the country’s House of Representatives and the Senate. Although he has no leadership experience, he has a deep understanding of politics as a top lawmaker. He is also a critical thinker like Obi and also has a deep interest in education. Datti’s pairing with Obi is also a good and useful combination, as Obi will bring executive experience to join his legislative experience, which the nation would urgently need should they win.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu has chosen Shettima, an ex-banker and former Governor of Borno State as his running mate. Tinubu would have set Lagos on a development trajectory, which he hopes to extrapolate to the whole country. But his running mate, Shettima, is difficult to place. Besides the issues surrounding his nomination to complete the Muslim-Muslim ticket, controversy has often run its course and it is said that he does not have much legacy to his name both as governor and as a senator. . Many see it as nominal and undistinguished in both positions.
Some of the controversies surrounding his name began as Governor of Borno State from 2011 to 2019. From 2007 to 2011 under Ali Modu Sheriff as Governor, Shettima served as Commissioner in five Ministries with one of the founders of Boko Haram who was also appointed commissioner. Shettima reportedly ignored a letter written to him by Nyesom Wike, then overseeing the Ministry of Education, on how to conduct the exams in Chibok, given the rise of Boko Haram terrorism. Dr Goodluck Jonathan, who was then President of Nigeria, said that this act of omission or commission on the part of Shettima precipitated the kidnapping of the Chibok girls.
There is also controversy over Kabiru Sokoto, the suicide bomber at St. Theresa Catholic Church in Madala in 2011, where more than 30 worshipers died. This terrorist was arrested at the Borno State Governor’s Lodge in Asokoro, Abuja on January 1, 2012, when the same Shettima was Governor. To date, Shettima has not yet explained how the terrorist found refuge in the lodge of the governor of Borno. (Kabiru Umar Abubakar Dikko mainly known by his nickname Kabiru Sokoto is a convicted terrorist and commander of the Islamic terrorist group Boko Haram).
Recently, Shettima publicly struck out Nigeria’s vice president from being considered a possible APC consensus candidate, saying Professor Yemi Osinbajo was better suited as an ice cream vendor for his sweet air. He also struck out Peter Obi, who turned Labor into a third force, saying Obi can only be president of the Igbo people.
To those hoping for restructuring under a new government, Shettima, at a book launch in Abuja at the Yar’Adua Centre, said, “To hell with restructuring.”
These are some of the things that can easily be attributed to APC’s running mate. What Shettima brings to the post should be articulated by those who understand it. Shettima has to be weighed side by side with Okowa and Datti, that is, the PDP and Labor running mates who even critics would admit are excellent choices capable of adding significant value to their tickets. Both posted what they would help their managers do for the country. Shettima must do the same.
The deep rot into which the Nigerian nation-state has fallen under the distraught APC government requires clinical intervention if the country is to be saved. The suffering of Nigerians is unprecedented and requires urgent rescue from safe hands. Nigerians cannot afford to play with 2023 and extend their suffering to 16 years.
Mefor is a senior researcher at the Abuja School of Social and Political Thought. He can be reached at 09056424375 or [email protected] He tweets @DrLawMefor