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Wednesday, 17 December 2014

2015 POLITICS: Buhari Has Announced Professor Yemi Osibajo As Running Mate

Subject to any last minute changes, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Gen. Muhammadu Buhari may have ignored the high-wire politics that have dogged the choice of his running mate by settling for former Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice in Lagos State, Professor Yemi Osibajo, whose name will be announced today as the party’s vice-presidential candidate, THISDAY has learnt.

All political parties have till the end of today to submit the name of candidates vying for various political offices to the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

Osibajo emerged from an expanded list of Christian vice-presidential hopefuls from the South after a meeting of the leadership of the party last night in Abuja.

According to a party source, who was privy to the meeting, Osibajo was selected because he is a pastor of the Redeemed Church, whose Christian congregants Buhari and the APC are targeting in the 2015 presidential election.

Buhari and the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Odigie-Oyegun were yesterday handed the task of choosing a running mate for the party from the array of candidates jostling for the office following the inability of one of the party’s leaders, Bola Tinubu to pick a running mate from the South-west zone.

Speaking to expectant journalists, who had laid siege on the national secretariat of the party yesterday, Oyegun said the running mate to its presidential candidate will be unveiled today before the close of INEC's deadline.

Oyegun, who spoke after a long meeting of the National Working Committee (NWC), said the party’s leadership had after due consultations mandated Buhari to announce his running mate.

Responding to concerns over the delay in announcing the party’s vice presidential candidate, Oyegun said the delay was not intentional but that Buhari has been asked to make his choice of running mate public by tomorrow.

“It is not delaying. The candidate will speak with you people. I have a feeling that he will speak with you tomorrow. The party has consulted with the candidate and has reached an agreement and he will address you on it today,” he said.

He added that the party had consulted widely on the issue and agreed on a candidate whose name will be announced by the presidential candidate today.

Among party stalwarts who came to consult with Oyegun yesterday were the former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Nasir El-Rufai, House of Representatives Speaker Hon. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal and some federal lawmakers.

Following the inability of the leadership of the APC to agree on a running mate at a meeting, which started on Monday night, it asked each of the three zones in the South to present their choice of prospective running mates from amongst whom Buhari was expected to select one of them as his deputy.

Other criteria handed to Buhari for the selection of his running mate was that the candidate must be a Christian and either a serving governor or ex-governor with the political clout and popularity to attract votes for the ticket.

On this basis, a raft of vice presidential hopefuls were thrown up yesterday as possible deputies for Buhari.
However, a party chieftain insisted last night that the vice-presidential post was still zoned to the South-west and it was on this basis that it presented the highest number of candidates for Buhari to choose from, before he selected Osibajo from the pack.

He said by picking Osibajo as his running mate, Buhari was adhering to the arrangement, which zoned the vice-presidency to the South-west, in line with the pre-merger arrangement that led to formation of APC.

Under the arrangement, the North-west geopolitical zone and the South-west were recognised as the two largest voting blocs in the country and were therefore expected to produce the presidential and vice-presidential candidates of the APC, the source explained.

Before picking Osibajo, however, other prospective candidates who were considered yesterday were: Olagunsoye Oyinlola, Niyi Adebayo and Kayode Fayemi – all former governors from the South-west zone.

Also, Senator Olorunnimbe Mamora from Lagos was included on the list from the South-west, even though they he is not and had never been a governor, nor does he possess the political credentials of other contenders for the post.

From the South-south zone, Governors Chibuike Amaechi and Adams Oshiomhole were included, while Governor Rochas Okorocha, and Ogbonnaya Onu’s names featured from the South-east.

The zones were said to have forwarded the names to Buhari yesterday evening to pick from before the leadership of APC met last night to settle for Osibajo.

However, prior to last night’s meeting, Lagos State Governor Babatunde Raji Fashola was said to have willingly opted out of the race, citing fatigue.

Possibly uncomfortable with the criteria for the selection of a vice presidential candidate, Fashola, a party source informed THISDAY, sought to be put on the record at the Monday night meeting that he was dropping out of the race, stating that he was tired and needed a break from service.

This move by the Lagos State Governor, many believed, had effectively taken out from contention arguably the best candidate the South-west zone could have put forward as a running mate to Buhari.

Of all the vice-presidential hopefuls, Buhari was also believed to have shown a preference for Fashola, before deciding on Osibajo, the source volunteered.

“He simply said he was tired, arguing that after about five years as Chief of Staff to Tinubu and eight years as governor of the state, he was tired and needed a break for now. It was on this basis that he dropped out of the race and left the stage for the others,” a source said.

Meanwhile, Tinubu yesterday blamed the Jonathan-led administration of being behind the smear campaign aimed at scuttling his chances of emerging the vice-presidential candidate of APC.

A statement from Tinubu's media office yesterday also said some elements within APC have been incensed by the possibility of Tinubu being nominated as Buhari’s running mate, but failed to name the malcontents within his party.

“The unfolding smear campaign against former Lagos governor and leader of the APC Bola Tinubu, is no surprise. It had been in the works for years since the Jonathan-led government realised that Tinubu commanded a powerful political followership,” the media office said.

The statement said the successful merger and birth of the APC had posed the most potent threat to the PDP, which became jittery over Tinubu’s role as an architect of the merger.

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