The unveiling of the vice-presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Senator Kashim Shettima, was on Wednesday greeted by anger as hundreds of demonstrators stormed the APC secretariat in Abuja to register their grievances over the decision.
The protest took place at about the same time the former Borno state governor was being presented to party leaders by the APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, at the Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja.
Defending his selection of Shettima, Tinubu said, “Senator Kashim Shettima’s career in politics and beyond shows that he is eminently qualified not only to deliver that all important electoral victory, but also step into the shoes of the Vice-President. As a man with the talent, maturity, strength, charater and patriotism, he has my implicit confidence and faith.”
Governors, aspirants and delegates of South East extraction were conspicuously missing at the event.
Protesters who came to the APC secretariat in six luxury buses were led by some party members under the aegis of APC Hausa-Fulani Youth Forum.
They chanted songs and wielded various banners with the inscriptions, ‘A cry for justice’, ‘Drop Shettima and ‘Give slots to our Christian brothers’, ‘Discrimination and mutual suspicion in our country’ and so on.
Speaking to one of our correspondents, the convener of the forum, Abdullahi Mohamadu declared that they would not stop protesting until the party do the right thing.
In a letter addressed to the National Chairman of the APC, Senator Abdullahi Adamu, and made available to The PUNCH, Mohammadu stated that they saw the selection of Shettima as an aberration that should be corrected immediately by the leadership of the party.
The petition read in part, ‘’As concerned stakeholders of the APC and those who constitute the voting strength of our party, we find it worrisome that such a decision could be taken without recourse to its implication on the electoral chances of the party and the attendant uproar such a decision could bring about in the country. Picking another Muslim from the north-eastern part of the country as running mate is politically and morally indefensible.’’
With its choice of the Muslim-Muslim ticket, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union says the ruling party has already lost 2.2m votes from the Southern part of Kaduna in the 2023 poll.
Spokesman for SOKAPU, Luka Binniyat, condemned the APC’s decision and predicted that the 2023 presidential contest would be between the presidential candidates of the Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar and Labour Party, Peter Obi.
He said, “The selection of Shettima is an assured, well packaged and comfortable defeat of the APC in the presidential election come 2023, from what I can predict for the Southern Kaduna voting population of about 2.2 million.’’
The Middle Belt Forum lambasted Tinubu for saying that picking Shettima as his vice-presidential candidate would guarantee him victory in 2023.
Speaking in an interview with The PUNCH in Jos on Wednesday, the MBF National President, Dr Bitrus Pogu, urged the APC presidential candidate to wait and see the results of the 2023 elections.
Speaking in the same vein, the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Congress, Dr Victor Oye, observed that the Muslim-Muslim ticket negated sections 14 and 15 of the Federal Character principle.
He added that the interests of Nigerians should have been placed above selfish interest.
Decrying the development in the APC, scores of Christian leaders in Ogun state have asked the Christian Association of Nigeria to announce its anointed candidate ahead of the 2023 presidential poll.
Addressing the participants in Abeokuta on Tuesday, the CAN Vice-Chairman, Solomon Kuponu appealed to the religious leaders in the state to be patient with the national leadership of CAN till they come up with their official stand on the matter .
Meanwhile, the CAN has dissociated itself from some clerics who attended the unveiling of the APC vice presidential candidate, saying they were “desperados who went there for themselves.”
The Vice President of CAN in19 Northern States and Abuja, Rev. Joseph Hayab, said though Tinubu was free to “hire mechanics and other artisans and sew clerical garments for them, that effort would only add to their many ropes but would not change the need for fairness and justice.’’
Hayab, who is also the CAN Chairman in Kaduna State stated this in reaction to reports that some pastors attended the unveiling of Shettima in Abuja.
He stated, “CAN wonders why the desperation. First, a story was out claiming to have come from the Chairman of CAN Borno state only to be refuted. Secondly, there was another lie that BAT (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) and his running mate were on their way to meet CAN President one night. A meeting that was not true and was on a night that the CAN President was in Alabama USA attending Baptist World Alliance Conference of which he is the Vice President.’’
Also, Adebayo Oladeji, Special Assistant (Media and Communication) to the President of CAN, Samson Ayokunle, challenged the APC to name the Christian leaders that attended Shettima’s unveiling.
He said, “Let them name the CAN officials at the programme and their offices. If they could use 2017 photos to claim that some Pastors visited Shettima and lied that Pastor E. A Adeboye has endorsed them, they could do anything. Our position on Muslim-Muslim ticket is irreversible. Anybody can claim anything but one thing is clear, CAN was not part of the unveiling programme of Shettima.”
A former Minister of Sports and Youth Development, Solomon Dalung, in an interview with The PUNCH, described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a manifestation of insensitivity.
Shettima meets Buhari
Meanwhile, the APC vice-presidential candidate on Wednesday met with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at the State House, Abuja.
One of our correspondents spotted the former Borno State Governor and his successor, Prof. Babagana Zulum being ushered in to see the President some minutes before 04:00pm.
In a statement after the meeting, Buhari said he would respond to a flowery speech from the vice-presidential candidate when he hands over to Tinubu.
According to a statement signed by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President spoke when he received Shettima at the Presidential Villa hours after he was unveiled by the leadership of the party.
The statement is titled ‘President Buhari to Kashim Shettima: I will respond to you when I am handing over to you and your boss.’
Reacting humorously to a speech by the candidate, the President said “I will respond to your speech when I am handing over to you and your boss. God willing, you are going to win.
But a legal practitioner and analyst, Kayode Ajulo said the unveiling of Shettima is a discourtesy to Christianity, noting that Tinubu’s decision showed that no Northern Christian is competent to be his running mate.
A political analyst, Grace David, said it was important to accept that Nigeria was a secular state, adding that agitations by aggrieved parties was heightened by a feeling of non-representation within the party.