Buhari’s Running Mate: Tinubu, South West APC Governors, party leaders in crucial meeting

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Bola-Tinubu-and-Muhammadu-BuhariChieftains of the All Progressives Congress [APC] from the Southwest geopolitical zone were on Sunday night locked in a strategy meeting over the choice of a vice presidential candidate for their party.

At the meeting held at an undisclosed location in Ikoyi, Lagos, were a former Lagos State Governor and a national leader of the party, Bola Tinubu, the immediate past National Chairman of the party, Bisi Akande, the immediate past Governor of Ekiti State and Chairman of the National Convention Committee of the party, Kayode Fayemi, and state governors of the party from the zone.

The governors include Babatunde Fashola [Lagos], Ibikunle Amosun [Ogun], Rauf Aregbesola [Osun] and Abiola Ajimobi [Oyo].

Also in attendance at the meeting, which started at 8:30 p.m. and was still ongoing at the time of this report, were national officers of the party from the South-west.

They are Segun Oni [Deputy National Chairman, South], Pius Akinyelure [Vice Chairman, South West], Tajudeen Olawutan Bello [National Financial Secretary], Lai Mohammed [National Publicity Secretary], and Muiz Banire [National Legal Adviser].

It was not clear Sunday night whether Adedotun Oluwasegun [Zonal Youth Leader, South West], Kemi Nelson [Zonal Woman Leader, South West], Razak Ayobamiseresile [Ex-Officio Member, South West] were at the meeting.

Those familiar with the matter say the APC has asked the South West caucus of the party to suggest the running mate to former military ruler, Muhammadu Buhari, who on Thursday emerged the presidential flagbearer of the party for the 2015 polls.

Mr. Buhari, from the North West, defeated four other contenders to emerge APC’s presidential candidate, set to challenge President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, in February.

Days after Mr. Buhari’s election, the party has yet to agree on a choice of running mate despite days of intense negotiations and talks between its top leaders.

Party officials told PREMIUM TIMES on Friday that except the APC decides to reverse its decision, the searchlight has been narrowed to states in the southwest alone.

The reason, they said, is the belief that only the South West delivered to Mr. Buhari approximately 100 per cent block votes during the presidential primary.

Officials believe that while the South East and South South regions supported Mr. Buhari by voting for him, significant portions of those votes were also shared with other candidates, including former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, Governors Rabiu Kwankwaso of Kano and Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.

There was speculation on Friday that the Governor of Rivers state, Rotimi Amaechi, had been chosen as Mr. Buhari’s running mate. However, one senior official of the party denied the plan.

“The South West gave General 100 per cent of their votes and so it is only fair that they get to produce the vice president,” the source, who declined to be named because the issue is not yet official, said.

The official also said a “victory” dinner was held at the resident of one of the national leaders of the party, Bola Tinubu, in Ikoyi after the election on Thursday and the matter was discussed briefly.

Another round of meeting was held Saturday, while the Sunday meeting was essentially to finalize decisions on the possible vice presidential candidates to be presented to the party leadership and Mr. Buhari at a meeting fixed for Abuja, Nigeria’s capital, on Monday.

Political parties participating in the 2015 elections have up to December 18 to submit names of their candidates to the Independent National Electoral Commission, INEC.

The choice of South West to produce the Vice Presidential candidates, party insiders say, is strategic because Mr. Buhari is expected to get substantial votes from the northern states and will need to get the votes from the South West to stand any chance of upstaging incumbent President Jonathan.

Among the major contenders to the vice presidential ticket from the South West are Yemi Osibanjo, a professor of Law, who was the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos state under former Governor Tinubu.

Mr. Fayemi, is also a strong contender for the slot.

The outcome of the Sunday’s meeting is unclear at this time.

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