2015: North shops for VP candidate

Prominent Northern politicians have launched a search for a vice-presidential candidate to be the running mate of the region’s consensus candidate during the 2015 presidential election.

Dr. Junaid Mohammed

Sources privy to the plan told SUNDAY PUNCH on Friday that the yet-to-be chosen consensus candidate and his running mate would contest on the platform of the All Progressives Congress.

SUNDAY PUNCH’s investigations showed that power brokers from the North had already penciled in the Lagos State Governor, Mr. Babatunde Fashola; his Edo State counterpart, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole; and Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State.

A highly-placed source in the APC, which is expected to be the main challenger of the ruling Peoples Democratic Party in 2015, confirmed that the three governors were on the list of candidates but they had not been approached.

The source who pleaded anonymity because he was not authorised to speak on the matter, said the ideal vice-presidential candidate must be a “young progressive.”

“It is true we are looking for a suitable vice-presidential candidate from the South, particularly the South–West, because unless something dramatic happens, our flag bearer is coming from the North.

“The overwhelming thinking among members of the coalition is to have a young progressive, preferably one that has a track record of performance, for the post.

“As for the presidential candidate, everything being equal, we should know who the candidate is soon.

“For now, we have not yet agreed on who it should be but I can tell you Fashola is one of them, however, we cannot take a final decision on this until we are able to get leaders of his primary constituency to agree.”

The source also said, as part of its back-up plan, the governors of Edo and Imo States were also among those being considered outside of the South- West.

The Convener of the Concerned Northern Politicians, Academics, Professionals and Businessmen, Dr. Junaid Mohammed, on Friday evening, also confirmed that the North was seeking a vice-presidential candidate in the South.

He said, “In the event of the presidency returning to the North, the issue will be who will deliver the votes from the South for the prospective candidate from the North.

“As I see it, the only person I see who can do it is from the South-West even though the South-West has its own challenges. Challenge number one will be to bring out a candidate from the Christian North who will now peer up with a likely candidate who will be from the South-West. Fortunately or unfortunately, the South-West is not terribly obsessed with matters of religion.”

Speaking through one of his aides, Okorocha on Friday said the 2015 election was not on his mind.

“The issue of 2015 presidency is not on my agenda now,” he said.

Okorocha, who spoke to SUNDAY PUNCH, through his Special Assistant on Media, Mr. Ebere Uzoukwa, said he was committed to building a strong national party with the capacity to address the leadership problems facing the country.

Uzoukwa said, “He already has a burden of justifying the mandate freely given to him by Imo people, by ensuring that they enjoy the dividend of democracy under his administration.

“Gov. Okorocha has always maintained that politics remains a process of assuming power and hence that is done, it should be discarded for development to take place.

“Even the dirty politics being played by the bad losers and enemies of democracy in Imo State and Abuja will not deter him from delivering good governance to the people through his well-thought-out programmes.”

Fashola through his Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Mr. Lateef Ibirogba, also refused to confirm that the governor was being considered for vice-president in 2015.

“Governor Babatunde Fashola has a four-year mandate and he has done only two. He should be allowed to focus on that instead of us to start talking about the vice-presidential slot. He has a lot of things to do for the people who elected him. He must not be distracted so that he can deliver what he promised.’’

Also, the Chief Press Secretary to Oshiomhole, Peter Okhiria, said he was not aware of the development. ‘‘I do not know anything about that. I am not aware,” he said.

Similarly, the National Publicity Secretary of the Congress for Progressive Change, Mr. Rotimi Fashakin, was hesitant to confirm the North’s search for a vice-presidential candidate.

He said the APC would cross the “bridge” of candidacy when it got there.

“When we get to that bridge, we will cross it, just like we have crossed all other bridges that the ruling PDP has told us that we will not cross. We will cross the bridge of the presidential and vice-presidential candidate when we get there.

“Let us not be in a hurry to do this, so that we don’t play into the hands of our adversaries; those who are really disappointed that we have succeeded thus far in our merger arrangement,” Fashakin said.

The CPC is one of the parties that have merged to form the APC. Others are the Action Congress of Nigeria, All Nigeria Peoples Party and a faction of the All Progressive Grand Alliance.

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