All Eyes On Tinubu, Kwankwaso As Obi Names Running Mate – Premium Times

Peter Obi on Friday presented Datti Baba-Ahmed as his running mate, but the searches continue for Rabiu Kwankwaso and Bola Tinubu.

The candidate of the Labour Party (LP), Peter Obi, on Friday presented Datti Baba-Ahmed as his running mate, after ending alliance talks with Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP).

But the searches continue for Mr Kwankwaso and Bola Tinubu of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), while the candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, continues to feel the aftershock of his own pick.

The four candidates are considered the main contenders in the February 25, 2023, presidential election scheduled to produce President Muhammadu Buhari’s successor.

Mr Obi had submitted the name of a former presidential aide, Doyin Okupe, to INEC for the position while he searched for a suitable candidate, which he found in the 53-year-old former member of the House of Representatives (2003-2007) and founder of Baze University, Abuja and Baba-Ahmed University, Kano State.

A descendant of an Arab cattle dealer who migrated to colonial Nigeria from Mauritania, Mr Baba-Ahmed briefly served as a senator between 2011 and 2012 under the defunct Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) until his election was nullified by the tribunal. He later defected to the PDP where he ran unsuccessfully for nomination as presidential and governorship candidate at different times.

Mr Baba-Ahmed does not possess the high political profile of Mr Kwankwaso, having won only one valid election in his career. He is a technocrat operating from the fringe in the three parties that he had belonged to, so he will have to show his mettle in mobilising support for his new party in the north, the main reason that Mr Obi must have sought out a candidate from that region. However, his intellectual, fringe-politician and educationist profile will excite Mr Obi’s youthful base, even though some of his past public statements indicate a northern Muslim conservatism side to his persona.

Messrs Kwankwaso and Obi had for a few weeks held talks about working together to form a formidable “third force” and present a credible alternative to the APC and PDP, the two parties that have, one after the other, held the levers of power at the federal level in the Fourth Republic and which now run 35 of the 36 states in the country.

Their talks attracted attention because of the boisterous support that the candidature of Mr Obi has gained, especially among segments of the Nigerian youth on social media, and the fast spread of the NNPP in parts of the North since Mr Kwankwaso joined the party and became its presidential flag bearer.
However, the disappointing outcome of the courtship vindicates our analysis of June 8 under this series, that the two candidates would have difficulty in deciding who between them to lead the ticket of their alliance, among other issues.

Now that Mr Obi has moved on, Mr Kwankwaso has to find his own substantive running mate before INEC closes the window for substitution of candidates on Friday. The former Kano State governor had last month submitted the name of Ladipo Johnson, a lawyer who once ran for governor of Lagos State, to the electoral commission for the position. But he is now looking for options further afield, east of the South-west.

As a northern Muslim, his choice appears simple enough to make – a southern Christian.

Apart from already producing a president (Olusegun Obasanjo 1999-2007) and the incumbent vice president (Yemi Osinbajo 2015 to date), the South-west is also the home and a stronghold of Mr Tinubu of the APC, factors which may rule out the zone for Mr Kwankwaso.

No go area?

The NNPP candidate also seems to have burnt his bridge to the South-east during his negotiations with Mr Obi. Speaking on the Sunday Politics programme of Channels Television last week, Mr Kwankwaso said while he would not mind becoming the vice president, since he has no job at the moment, he would not be a running mate to a south-easterner.

“Unfortunately, there are many issues in the South-east, and a northern voter is the worst-hit in this issue of maladministration in this country. But even under that circumstance, a northern voter also believes that he is better with one united Nigeria.

“Therefore, most of the things that are happening in the South, especially in the South-east; people are not comfortable with that and as long as you have somebody from there in any party, it will be very difficult for the northern voters to vote, and that’s the situation now.”

Those remarks earned him sharp admonitions from South-east politicians and the leading socio-political group in the area, Ohanaeze Ndigbo. But he seemed to double down when he said in an interview with Punch published on Saturday:

“One thing the South-east must learn, in addition to many other things, is that the South-east is good in terms of business; very hard-working, industrious but one area they must learn is politics. They are at the bottom line of national politics. If you look at the situation, they have lost out in the APC and the PDP. They have no presidential, no vice-presidential candidate. The only opportunity the South-east has to be president or vice president is with the NNPP.”

Even if he had not annoyed the zone with such a statement, picking a running mate from there is unlikely to earn Mr Kwankwaso any mileage after that failure of the alliance talks.

The South-east has been agitating for the rotation of the presidency to it, being the only southern zone yet to produce the president or vice president in this dispensation. It is disappointed in the PDP for jettisoning its zoning principle that might have advanced the cause of the Igbo presidency. It is also angry with the APC, which gave its ticket to the South, for not going the whole hog to microzone it.

Before the two major parties took their tickets elsewhere, the zone had at some point forbidden any of its prominent politicians from accepting a running mate offer. For those reasons, many in the zone find Mr Obi’s candidature even more compelling.

But you cannot rule out the chances of the PDP there too. The South-east has been a fortress of the party in presidential elections and may continue in that tradition despite now having only two PDP governors in its five states. In spite of its anger in 1999 over the defeat of former Vice President Alex Ekwueme in the PDP presidential primary by the former military head of state who was at that point a newcomer to the party, all the states in the zone still elected PDP governors and voted for Mr Obasanjo himself. Many of its heavyweight politicians remain in the party, which is a reason you may expect Mr Abubakar to do fairly well in the South-east next year.

To add to Mr Kwankwaso’s likey disinterest in the zone, it has the fewest states and least number of registered voters. So, with the battle there expected to largely be between the PDP candidate and his former running mate (Mr Obi), and to some extent the APC, which also has two governors there, it does not make much sense for a newcomer to pitch his own vice presidential tent there.

South-south pull

This leaves the South-south as the obvious location for Mr Kwankwaso to pick from. To be sure, the PDP candidate has also invested here by picking Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa. Aside from that, this is also the PDP’s favourite hunting ground. The zone has also always overwhelmingly voted for the PDP. The main opposition party won the governorship elections in all six states of the zone at the outset of the Fourth Republic in 1999 and continues to rule all of them since then, except Edo, which it lost in 2006 and recovered in 2019. Although it was upset in the governorship election of Bayelsa in 2019, it regained the state at the Supreme Court. Cross River Governor Ben Ayade, who was elected on its ticket but defected last year to the APC, is the only non-PDP governor in the zone.

But there is trouble in this PDP paradise, arising from the choice of Mr Okowa as running mate. Rivers Governor Nyesom Wike, whom Mr Abubakar overlooked despite strong recommendations, is in a hide-and-seek game with the party and candidate. Mr Wike was the runner-up in the presidential primary and has supporters in many state chapters of the party.

It is not clear how far Mr Wike is prepared to go in his face-off with Mr Abubakar and the PDP leadership. But Mr Kwankwaso may have sniffed some opportunities in it when he was hosted to a meeting by the Rivers governor. This was while the NNPP and LP were still talking but details of the discussions have not been made public.

Although Mr Kwankwaso was a member of the PDP until his latest defection, it is not likely that Mr Wike will accept to join his ticket or throw in with him any other way for the presidential election. But even if Mr Wike only remains nonchalant to Mr Abubakar’s electoral cause, the NNPP candidate may feel encouraged to consider that as a factor in picking his running mate in Mr Wike’s state or sphere of influence.

Broad canvas

But the canvas here is broad. The South-south is geographically vast and sociologically diverse. According to an observer, a person travelling by road from Kano in the North West is likely to arrive in Benin earlier than another travelling from Uyo in the same South-south. And although the people are mostly Christians, there are scores of ethnic groups, which makes it difficult for any individual or group to cast a domineering influence over the zone. For example, Mr Okowa is not thought to be influential beyond his own state and Edo. These reasons will recommend this zone to Mr Kwankwaso in his search for a Christian southerner.

However, unlike the APC and PDP candidates who by virtue of the strength and history of their parties have governors scrambling to run with them, Mr Kwankwaso, who like Mr Obi is a relative outsider running on a smaller platform, has to set his own sights lower. With luck, he may find his own Mr Baba-Ahmed in this zone.

Tinubu’s peculiar case

Flying the flag of the ruling party that has 22 of the 36 state governors makes Mr Tinubu the man to beat in this election. But since the poll is a referendum on the eight-year stewardship of his party, the APC candidate also has perhaps the trickiest time awaiting him at the campaigns, which formally begin on September 28.

But Mr Tinubu’s immediate problem is to pick a running mate, an assignment over which he has dithered since his landslide victory in the party primary in the second week of June. To beat the deadline for the submission of the lists of candidates for the elections, Mr Tinubu named a little-known politician from Katsina State, Kabiru Masari, as his running mate. But like Mr Obi has done and Mr Kwankwaso is expected to do, the former Lagos State governor will substitute Mr Masari before Friday. Sources said he may do so on Tuesday.

Mr Tinubu returned from a holiday in France on Friday night, and all eyes are on him for the crucial announcement.

To be fair to him, it is not an easy decision to make as his options are tight and not as straightforward as those before his main rivals. Given Nigeria’s diversity, a major party’s presidential ticket is expected to at the same time be diverse and inclusive to accommodate the varied interests and complexity of the country.

Mr Abubakar of the PDP, a northern Muslim, had a wide field of the three southern zones to choose a southern Christian from. His fellow northern Muslim, Mr Kwankwaso of the NNPP is looking at the same field to do the same. Mr Obi of the LP, a southern Christian, has found a northern Muslim too. The three candidates belong to ethnic and religious majority groups in their regions and could pick from majority groups in other regions.

Mr Tinubu, however, as a Yoruba Muslim, is an ethnic majority but a religious minority in his wide southern region. If he is to pick from the majority group in the North, the choice will likely be of the Hausa-Fulani ethnic grouping and definitely a fellow Muslim by religion. While a northern Muslim of any other ethnic background will also be a religious majority but an ethnic minority, a Christian of any ethnic group is a religious minority in the region.

That considerably narrows the field for Mr Tinubu. Christian groups, especially the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), have always kicked against a same-faith ticket and have repeatedly demanded that Mr Tinubu pick a Christian as his running mate. Before the primaries, the association curiously advised the parties that, in deferring to the call for zoning of the presidency to the South, they must pick a southern Christian, ignoring the rights of the considerable Yoruba Muslim population to which Mr Tinubu belongs.

And to make him even more uncomfortable, northern Muslims and party members from the largely Muslim North West have also demanded that he pick from among them.

It is noteworthy that northern governors were pivotal in his nomination. They foiled a plot by the shadowy presidential villa cabal and APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, to force a northern candidate on the ruling party. The 14 APC governors stoutly stood their ground for a shift to the south, after which President Buhari finally publicly clarified on the eve of the convention that he was not prodding any of the aspirants.

Only one of the 14 governors is a Christian. Now, some of them are reported to be interested in the vice-presidential position. Kano Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, on Friday said Mr Tinubu has agreed to pick a Muslim.

The main concern of a candidate is to win the election. Whatever combination that offers the best prospects of victory will be of paramount interest to Mr Tinubu, but he has to brace himself for a backlash from whatever choice he makes, like his friend in the PDP is going through.

Buhari won’t recommend

The delay in naming the running mate, however, is not entirely down to the complexity of the situation before Mr Tinubu. Party sources said he asked President Buhari to nominate a candidate for his consideration, but the president had declined to do so, reiterating his position not to be involved in the choice of his successor. Interestingly, Mr Buhari had allowed Mr Tinubu’s group to nominate his running mate in 2015, a gesture the current candidate was apparently trying to reciprocate. But the president said no, thanks.

The president’s disinterest forced Mr Tinubu to expand the scope of his consultations on the issue, with the various groups offering advice favourable to themselves. As of the time of writing this report, sources said he has narrowed the choice to the North-east, a zone which also has not produced a president or vice president in this dispensation.

Top on the list of names mentioned in this connection are former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, who stood by Mr Tinubu’s side throughout the campaign for nomination; and his successor, Babagana Zulum, who ironically is an ally of Mr Shettima.

Yet, other zones in the North are mounting pressure too. The North-central, like the North-east and South-east, has never had anyone at the Aso Rock Villa as president or his deputy. Worse still for the zone, it has never produced a national chairman for the APC. Some members of the party from the zone are making a case for Plateau State governor, Simon Lalong, a Christian. But his minority ethnic and religious background is militating against his consideration, aside from the fact that he backed former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, to the hilt in the primary.


Kaduna governor Nasir el-Rufai is said to also rank high in Mr Tinubu’s consideration.

The North-west, which has produced two presidents and a vice president in the Fourth Republic, is also asking for consideration because of its demographic advantages. With seven states and the largest voter base in Nigeria, it is also the seat of the Sokoto Caliphate. Only one presidential ticket has ever been elected in Nigeria without a Hausa-Fulani from the North West on it. And the election won by that ticket, of Moshood Abiola and Babagana Kingibe in 1993, was annulled by the military dictator who organised it, Ibrahim Babangida. But that statistic does not mean much as only five persons have ever served as elected president in Nigeria.

Atiku feeling the aftershock

On Friday, Governor Wike again hugged the headlines when he played host to three APC governors in Port Harcourt. The development came days after the spokesperson of Mr Tinubu, Tunde Rahman, refuted reports that the Rivers governor had flown to France to meet the APC flag bearer. The three APC governors who visited Mr Wike – Babajide Sanwo-Olu of Lagos, Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo and Kayode Fayemi of Ekiti – are associates of Mr Tinubu, hence the speculation that they were in Port Harcourt on his behalf.

This newspaper reported that Mr Wike, during his vacation in Turkey last week with Abia Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, shunned an emissary of his own party’s presidential candidate. Mr Abubakar had deployed a former Minister of Police Affairs, Adamu Waziri, to the Eastern European country following weeks of unsuccessful efforts to speak with the governor.

Mr Wike has refused to congratulate Mr Okowa on the appointment as Mr Abubakar’s running mate and has refused to meet Mr Abubakar, in a feud that appears to have split the party down the middle. Some party leaders have demanded that Mr Abubakar drop Mr Okowa for Mr Wike, while others have called for the national chairman of the party, Iyorchia Ayu, to be sacrificed; to redress the imbalance in the party’s leadership caused by Mr Abubakar’s victory at the presidential primary.

Mr Wike continues to keep in suspense his party members and those salivating at the prospects of stealing him to their sides. While all these were going on, Mr Abubakar remained ensconced abroad, acting feebly by proxy. He had been in Dubai for weeks, until Saturday when he crossed to the UK. Whenever it is that he finally returns home, he will find his in tray overflowing.

All Eyes On Tinubu, Kwankwaso As Obi Names Running Mate – Premium Times – Politics – Nigeria (

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