Kaduna State governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, yesterday gave an insider account of how former Lagos State governor, Bola Ahmed Tinubu emerged as the presidential flag bearer of the All Progressives Congress.
He also lashed back at those kicking against a Muslim running mate for Tinubu, describing them as irresponsible people.
Tinubu had polled 1,271 votes to defeat 13 other presidential aspirants at a keenly contested primary which was concluded on Wednesday.
Revealing some of the factors that led to Tinubu’s emergence as the party’s presidential candidate, El-Rufai said governors of the North West geopolitical zone met before the primary and decided to support the most sellable aspirant knowing the North East would follow.
El-Rufai who spoke on Channels TV last night said he repeatedly asked President Muhammadu Buhari to name his preferred candidate among the five that were presented to him by state governors but the president insisted on letting delegates decide.
“I went to the president for the last time before Kaduna delegates voted and I asked, ‘tell me who your anointed candidate is because you are still going to live in Kaduna after your tenure’. Then he said to me, ‘Let delegates vote their conscience; I have no anointed candidate”, the governor noted.
The Kaduna governor also explained why northern APC governors insisted on power shift to the southern part of the country.
The governors had on Monday ordered the presidential aspirants from the region to withdraw from the presidential race and allowed their Southern counterpart to proceed with the process.
El-Rufai said his colleagues took the decision based on the principle that power should return to the South after the Buhari administration.
He stated: “It was based on principle and after eight years of President Muhammadu Buhari. It is only fair for the APC to zone it to the South. There is no written agreement but there was an understanding during the formation of the APC. Some of us were therefore terrified when some unserious contenders wanted to contest.”
Confirming a plot by some northern stakeholders to retain power in the region following the emergence of Atiku Abubakar as the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) presidential candidate, El-Rufai noted that the plot failed because the governors resolved to adhere to the party’s motto of fairness.
He continued: “When we saw moves by some governors and the Senate president, we got worried because we had a principle based on the party’s motto of fairness. As a region, we must adhere to our words and we had to come out unanimously which the President supported.
“Right from the outset, Yahaya Bello made it clear he wanted to run but we didn’t take it seriously.
“The fact that the PDP picked a northerner should not change our stance on fairness. I was told to pick the form but declined in the spirit of fairness. How I wished the PDP zoned to the South also.
“We had to meet the president after reports about Lawan’s candidacy emanated. We told President Buhari that we will support anyone insofar they are from the South which he considered regarding a five-name list. He checked the names and he ratified them ahead of the primaries.”
On the protest against Muslim/Muslim ticket, the governor dismissed suggestions that he was in the race to become running mate to the former governor of Lagos State as mere speculations.
Instead, he said what Tinubu needed at the moment was the space to pick a vice presidential candidate.
Asked if it was appropriate for the APC to go into the election with a Muslim- Muslim ticket, he said irresponsible people were trying to inject religion into politics and governance.
He noted: “You are asking the wrong question because I don’t look at people from the lense of Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian. I don’t think the business of governance has to do with religion. I think we should look for the best person for the job.
“I am the wrong person to ask because in my state, I picked a very competent, qualified woman as my running mate in the 2019 election. Just because she happens to be a Muslim, people are calling it Muslim-Muslim ticket. And they said we were going to lose. We did it and we won overwhelmingly.”
El-Rufai said the fixation of Nigerians with religion instead of competence and capacity is sad and pathetic.
He stated: “The way the media and irresponsible people are trying to inject religion into politics and governance is sad and pathetic. It will not take Nigeria anywhere.
“Nigeria is at a crossroads. We face very serious dangers in security, economic meltdown and all people are concerned with as far as who will be president, vice president is religion. It is not religion that will solve our problems. It is the people who are competent and capable that will address Nigeria’s problem, unite this country and put it on a progressive path.”