Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the APC’s presidential candidate, dashed the hopes of several Nigerians on Friday who had hoped he would change his mind about the divisive Muslim-Muslim ticket by appointing a northern Christian to be his running mate in place of Kashim Shettima, the former governor of Borno State.
Hours before the Independent National Electoral Commission’s deadline, a source in Tinubu’s camp claimed that the APC standard-bearer had rejected all requests to withdraw Shettima.
When he named Shettima, a northern Muslim, as his running partner, Tinubu, a southern Muslim, attracted the fury of the Christian Association of Nigeria, some party members, and political stakeholders.
He broke the news to journalists after his closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari, at his residence in Daura, Katsina State during the Sallah break.
The announcement provoked widespread criticisms, particularly from the Christian community with its feeling of marginalisation and age-long suspicion of an alleged plan to Islamise Nigeria.
However, the possibility that Tinubu might bow to pressure to change his running mate was erased on Friday when he went on to submit Shettima’s name to INEC.
The spokesman for Bola Tinubu Campaign Organisation, Bayo Onanuga, told Saturday PUNCH that it would have been unwise for his principal to drop Shettima because certain people were uncomfortable with the choice.
“That is not possible. We have seen this move before; all these campaigns to pit us against fellow Nigerians. It happened in 1993 and the result was clear. There was pressure from several quarters for (MKO) Abiola to drop (Babagana) Kingibe because of his Muslim background,” Onanuga said.
The campaign spokesman urged Nigerians to focus on competence instead of flying the kite of ethno-religious sentiments.
“What we should be looking at is not religion but competence of the candidate to deliver and take the country to a greater height. They will soon realise that. As I said earlier, there is no likelihood of our presidential candidate dropping Shettima. He has selected him and Shettima will remain. He is a cool candidate. Either of them can be a President,” Onanuga insisted.
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