Following his landslide victory on Thursday to emerge the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), former military Head of State Major-General Muhammadu Buhari, will be facing his biggest test in the next few hours, as he would have to pick a running mate from a roll call of prospective vice-presidential hopefuls.
Buhari, who by his win at the APC convention has set up for a rematch against President Goodluck Jonathan of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), got 3,430 votes to beat other contenders for the presidential ticket of the main opposition party.
Surprisingly, Kano State Governor, Rabiu Kwankwaso edged out former Vice-President Atiku Abubakar, who was favoured to give Buhari a serious run for his money, to second place by securing 974 of the votes.
Atiku came in third with 954 votes, Imo State Governor Rochas Okorocha scored 624 votes, while the Founder of Leadership Newspapers Sam Nda-Isaiah, got 10 votes only.
But with his victory behind him, Buhari, THISDAY learnt, has refocused his energy on picking a running mate, as whoever he selects could make or mar his bid for the presidency.
Towards this end, a party source informed THISDY that chieftains of the APC and Buhari met last night in Lagos to assess possible hopefuls and decide on a running mate for the former head of state.
Although the outcome of the meeting could not be ascertained, major contenders for the post include former Lagos State Governor and a national leader of the party Bola Tinubu, who has stubbornly refused to step down his ambition despite the strong opposition within APC to a Muslim-Muslim pairing.
Another major contender is the Rivers State Governor Chibuike Amaechi, a Christian from the South-south zone, who has been a major financing and logistic supporter for Buhari to square up against Atiku and other contenders for the APC ticket.
Amaechi, who has never hidden his desire for the vice-presidential slot, was also instrumental in the outward transformation of Buhari, from a light-blue agbada wearing, stodgy, elderly retired army general, to an urbane, bespoke suit-wearing, spritely man eager to keep up with the Joneses. How much of this metamorphosis is skin-deep will be evident in the weeks ahead.
For Amaechi’s efforts, Buhari’s key advisers are believed to be canvassing the vice-presidential slot for him and is seen as the frontrunner for the post, but it is uncertain if he has the support of Tinubu, who also wants the position for himself, and has recently made himself inaccessible to the Rivers State governor for daring to oppose a Muslim-Muslim pairing.
Also thrown into the mix is Lagos State Governor Babatunde Fashola, who on the basis of his track record in the saddle should be the frontrunner for the job. Buhari is said to like him very much as one he can leave the affairs of state in his hands, just has he did with Tunde Idiagbon, his then number two when Buhari was military head of state.
However, like Tinubu, Fashola is a Muslim which complicates the issues at this time of tensions between Christians and Muslims in Nigeria.
Another possible choice is Edo State Governor Adams Oshiomhole, who unlike Amaechi, has been more discreet in composure and utterances.
Oshiomhole, a Christian from the South-south geopolitical zone, a man of the people, and ideologically, a true progressive, has in recent days been mentioned as the most suitable choice for Buhari, if he is looking for a compromise. But will Buhari put at risk the vote of the South-west?
Then there are the dark horses in the persons of former Ekiti State Governor, Dr. Kayode Fayemi and former Lagos State Minister of Justice and Attorney-General of Lagos State Yemi Osibajo.
Although both men are Christians from the South-west, they are not household names and it is uncertain how much electoral value they would be adding to the Buhari ticket.
Earlier yesterday, the National Chairman of the APC, Chief John Oyegun, while speaking on the conduct of the primary in Lagos, said all the aspirants were winners considering that they all accepted to work together as a team towards actualising the party’s presidential goal.
He said APC had, by successfully holding the presidential primary, shown that it was ready to drive change in Nigeria.
In his acceptance speech, Buhari said the outcome of the presidential primary was a demonstration of democracy in action.
Buhari, who drew loud cheers from the delegates when he mounted the podium to deliver his speech, pledged to build a new Nigeria where insecurity, corruption and ethnicity will have no place.
“What has happened is not about winning or loosing, it is about freedom of association. I wish to thank my contenders for putting up a good fight. I extend my gratitude to you for accepting my nomination and I will meet you in due course to fashion out how we will win the election.
“It is with a deep sense of humility to be the standard-bearer of the APC. I stand before you and ask that you join me to bring the needed change for this country. It is either we advance as one or we fail together,” he said.