After all the suspense, drama and intrigues that characterised the presidential primaries, all the political parties are now faced with the onerous task of shopping for running mates for their presidential candidates. While it was relatively easy for some parties, it is turning out to be a hard nut to crack for the two dominant parties in the land, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) and the frontline opposition party, the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The PDP has set up a selection panel to assist its presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, to navigate around the problem of picking an acceptable running mate. The panel has former and serving governors, members of the party’s Natīonal Working Committee (NWC) and members of the Board of Trustees (BoT).
The selection panel has zeroed the search down to Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa and Akwa Ibom helmsman, Udom Emmanuel, all of the South South region and former Imo State governor, Emeka Ihedioha as well as former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Anyim Pius Anyim, both of the South East. All five of them are eminently qualified to be the running mate.
If the selection panel settles for one of the governors from the South South, it might not go down well with the South Easterners, who themselves wanted the presidential candidate to have come from their region. In the event of that happening, it is not impossible for them to switch allegiance and vote for their kinsman, Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
Fairness, equity and justice dictate that the running mate slot should be narrowed down to the South East as it remains the only region in the South that has never produced the president of the country since the enthronement of democratic rule in 1999. Giving it to the South Easterners will assuage their bruised ego after missing out, it will also give them a sense of belonging and promote inclusiveness.
On the other hand, giving it to the South South, particularly Wike, will stand the party in a better stead. The South South is politically strong and united. Besides, five of the six states of the region are PDP-controlled so can guarantee block vote for the party as against the South East that has only two PDP states.
There is a little snag here, though. In the heat of anger, following what he described as betrayal by his fellow governors, Wike said he would never accept to be Vice to anybody. With this development, would Wike swallow his words and accept the post of running mate, if offered? Atiku and the leadership of the party has a delicate task deciding where the running mate should come from.
The selection of a running mate is looking even trickier with the APC. Its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu is from the South so his running mate is expected to come from the North. The question is,
would the APC faithful, especially governors from the north, vote for Tinubu? It is doubtful. The North does not care about party affiliations when it comes to getting power, or retaining it. APC members of northern extraction would be more comfortable voting for an Atiku rather than a Tinubu. It has happened before. In 2015, PDP governors, elites and supporters from the North abandoned Dr Goodluck Jonathan, the PDP presidential candidate and voted massively for Muhammadu Buhari, the APC candidate.
Another factor that will play a crucial role in determining the outcome of the 2023 presidential election is religion. Tinubu is a Southern Moslem so he is expected to pick a Northern Christian as running mate to balance the power equation. The problem here is that if Tinubu picks a northern Christian, the predominantly moslem North will not accept that and doing so will affect the electoral fortunes of the APC because the mainly Moslem Northern electorate will never vote for a Christian.
On the other hand, if Tinubu and the APC pick a Northern Moslem, it will not go down well with the Christian population across the country. Tempting as it is to pick a Northern Moslem as running mate, any attempt to do so will spell political doom for the party and it will further polarise the country along religious lines. It will also hurt the country’s fragile unity.
There are also stories of a female running mate. Good as such an option might be, is the Nigerian populace ready for that? Nigeria has had a number of female deputy governors before but will Nigerians accept a female vice president? It remains to be seen.
As the APC and PDP continue their search for their presidential running mates, the closing date for submission of names of presidential candidates along with their running mates is Friday, June 17, 2022. If the two dominant political parties do not get the task of selecting their running mates right, the choice they make will surely affect their electoral fortunes in the 2023 presidential election.