The All Progressives Congress has said it will not force anyone on President Muhammadu Buhari as his running mate if he wins the party’s presidential ticket.
Consequently, the ruling party said it would not compel the President, who recently told the APC leadership of his intention to seek a second term in office, to pick his incumbent deputy, Prof. Yemi Osinbajo (SAN), as his running mate.
But while informing the National Executive Committee of the APC of his interest to seek re-election in 2019 in Abuja on Monday, Buhari was silent on who would be his running mate in his bid to get a second term as President.
Buhari did not, however, indicate, at the meeting, that he would pick any other candidate apart from Osinbajo, whom he had previously described in glowing terms.
But the National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Mallam Bolaji Abdullahi, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH on the issue, believed it would be unfair to impose anyone on the party’s presidential candidate.
Abdullahi, a former sport and youth development minister, said doing so might cause friction between the two party representatives.
The spokesperson for the APC stated that rather, the winner of its presidential primary would be allowed to choose his running mate.
When asked if Buhari would retain Osinbajo as his running mate in 2019, Abdullahi said, “You know it is not the duty of the party to impose someone on the presidential candidate. In any case, if the President emerges as the party’s candidate, we won’t impose anyone on him. Remember he (Buhari) is not going to be the sole aspirant?
“But it is the duty and the responsibility of the candidate to pick whosoever he likes and he is ready to work with. It is not the duty of the party to pick or impose anyone on him. No, that is not democracy.
“So, if President Buhari emerges as our candidate, he is the one to pick and also announce his running mate.”
The camp of the National Leader of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, was said to have picked Osinbajo, a former justice commissioner under Tinubu in Lagos, in 2014 as Buhari’s running mate after the ex-head of state emerged the candidate of the then opposition party.
While Buhari came from the defunct Congress for Progressives Change, Tinubu’s group, which was said to be a major one because of the number of governors and legislators that were in office on the platform of the then Action Congress of Nigeria, was allowed to produce the emerging party’s running mate.
Though party sources said some members of the then New Peoples Democratic Party, comprising five governors, tried to truncate the emergence of Osinbajo, the sources added that Tinubu insisted on nominating Osinbajo.
A source, who was privy to Osinbajo’s emergence then, said, “The fact then was that one of the then current governors wanted the slot. But he was not very close to the former Lagos State governor.
“Then, a former governor from the South-South region also wanted it. He belonged to the NPDP then and he had the backing of his fellow governors as well.
“But we knew the importance of the South-West and the number of people coming behind Asiwaju was equally intimidating. At a point, the merger was threatened because of this.
“The former governor even wanted to take the slot. But because of his religion, many people felt it would be unfair to have a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“But at the end of the day, Asiwaju nominated Osinbajo, who is not only a Christian, but also a pastor in one of the largest growing churches in Nigeria.”
Another source, however, argued that events of 2014 and 2015 were different from the current power game in the ruling party.
The party official stated, “In 2015, Tinubu was treated like a semi-god by both the leaders of the party and President Buhari. What happened after winning the election?
“Did the President or the party defer to him anymore? Even the majority of those he brought to the party, especially from the South-West, were encouraged to work against his interest in the zone.”
Buhari will name running mate after emerging candidate –Presidency
Meanwhile, the Presidency, on Saturday, said Buhari would only name his running mate for the 2019 presidential election after he might have emerged the candidate of the APC.
The Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, said this in an interview with one of our correspondents.
He was responding to questions on whether or not Buhari would pick Osinbajo as his running mate and why he did not make his position on the matter known while declaring his interest at the party’s NEC meeting on Monday.
Shehu explained that only candidates in elections nominated running mates and Buhari had yet to become a candidate but still an aspirant.
He recalled that Buhari nominated Osinbajo as his running mate for the 2015 presidential election at the point when, as the then candidate of the APC, he wanted to file his nomination with the Independent National Electoral Commission.
The presidential spokesman added, “There is a way these things are done. When was the Vice President nominated for the ticket? If you recall, it was in December 2014 after President Buhari won the party primary. It was done at the point of filing nomination form.
“As a matter of fact, the nomination form was filed with Vice President Osinbajo’s name less than 24 hours to the closure.
“I am not an expert in this matter but my sense is that candidates nominate running mates. President Buhari is not officially a candidate yet. He has just signified his intention to seek party nomination.
“It is after winning the ticket that you will expect him to name his running mate for the contest. That’s the requirement, he can’t run alone.
“Though I have not been briefed on this, this is my assumption. My view is that it is not the norm that you name a running mate when you are not a candidate.”
Buhari had shortly before he travelled to the United Kingdom on Monday told NEC members that he would be seeking re-election based on Nigerians’ clamour that he should do so.