As the controversy over the faith of the presidential pair in next year’s election rages, Imo State Governor, Senator Hope Uzodinma has emphasised that rather that religion, numbers play a significant role to win elections.
With just three days to the deadline for the submission of the list of presidential candidates and their running mates, intense pressure have mounted particularly on the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to choose a Christian running mate from the North of the country. Tinubu is a Muslim from the South, and the section of the North that has the voting strength is predominantly Muslim.
The candidate of the leading opposing Peoples Democratic Party, Alhaji Atiku Abubakar is believed to have an easier decision to make being a Muslim and the south having a majority Christian population.
Commenting on the prospect of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by the APC and the controversy it has generated, Uzodimma told State House reporters in Abuja that “spread is very important to be able to attract votes”.
He further said: “Spread is very important to be able to attract votes. If I were the candidate, what will inform it (the decision of who becomes your running mate) is what will I do that will enable me to get the kind of votes I’m looking for, because the ultimate goal is to win the election.
“So maybe I’ll start from the nomination, ethnicity, or followership. In this business of democracy I think number is what is very important. And there are certain things as a nation we should not bring to the public discourse; those things that are capable of creating divisiveness against national unity should not be encouraged.
“It does not mean that I will not remember that I come from a place but I must also be cautious and careful how to use where I come from in taking national decisions. That is very important”.
Uzodimma said Nigerians should not focus on the religious and geopolitical leanings of Tinubu’s running mate, but rather be interested in who can deliver.
He explained: “We are looking for a united Nigeria, where governance will be the issue, where a President would be adjudged by his capacity to deliver democratic dividends, develop Nigeria to look like other parts of the Western world where democracy is working.
“I don’t want us to reduce governance in Nigeria to certain things that will encourage divisiveness. Rather, we should be a united Nigeria, be our brother’s keepers, have a President of Nigeria that will be a President representing every tribe, every religion, every denomination. And when we get there, we will cross the bridge”.
The Governor also said it was the responsibility of Tinubu to pick his running mate.
Last week, Tinubu’s campaign organisation had said the Progressive Governors Forum, which is made up of Governors, is at liberty to pick a running mate for the presidential candidate.
But Uzodimma disagreed, saying: “The decision to choose a running mate does not reside with any of us the Governors. It is the presidential candidate that will look at the local characteristics and every factor — political and apolitical — that will make him win his election and take the decision. So it’s not a decision that we will sit here and take for the candidate.
“If he chooses a Governor so be it, we will support it. For now, we are no longer talking about who becomes running mate and who is not running mate. I have told you whose decision it is.
“The next thing as party leaders now and opinion leaders is for us to rise, mobilise the quality and get members of our party to commit to a successful election by 2023; so that our President that is leaving will also be handing over to our President of APC. That is our preoccupation now how to win the election”.