From Juliana Taiwo-Obalonye, Abuja
The All Progressives Congress APC has appointed Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State to lead it’s presidential campaign for next year’s election.
National Chairman of the party, Abdullahi Adamu revealed this to State House Correspondents on Thursday, after he led the presidential candidate of the APC Bola Tinubu alongside the vice presidential candidate of the party, Senator Kashim Shettima to the see President Muhammadu Buhari.
Adamu also announced that Minister of State for Labour and Employment, Festus Keyamo has been appointed as interim spokesperson for the APC presidential campaign council.
Responding to a question on how the party arrived at the choice of Lalong as the campaign DG, Adamu said it was simply based on Lalong’s ability to deliver.
According to him, “We are here to see Mr. President to brief him and to get his approvals of plans that we are having regarding our campaign outfit.
“And once we have his approval, we intend to make major disclosure. We’re on the same page with the Presidential and the individuals who will play various roles in the campaign.
“The DG of the campaign is seated by my right here. Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State.
“We have a spokesperson in the person of Festus Kenyamo. The deputy spokesperson is Hannatu Musawa. This is what we came to discuss with the President.”
Speaking more the choice of Lalong, Adamu said: “He has the ability to do it. The party leadership has seen that he his capable of running the affairs of the campaign outfit,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the APC Chairman has described the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket as a “positive development” for the country’s politics.
He also declared that the dust raised by the same faith ticket will be settled before next year’s election.
Tinubu had in early July announced choice of Shettima as his running mate and this has attracted harsh criticisms nationwide.
Responding to questions on the issue, Adamu said despite the concerns raised, there are those who see a same-faith ticket as a positive development for the country’s politics.
“Yes, we have been hearing concerns being expressed. In the APC, we believe very strongly, that no matter what description, no matter what faith you will associate with any one of our candidates, we are first and foremost Nigerians.
“There is no doubt in the fact that we have people who stock trade on some of these religious issues. Just like you have people expressing fears, or concerns about a Muslim-Muslim ticket, there are Christians that welcome it as a positive development, in Nigerian politics. They are Nigerians,” he said.
He added that the party recognizes the concerns and will “put them to rest” before the election which is seven months away.
“We are extremely sensitive to some of these sensitivities of fellow Nigerians or fellow members of our party. But the fact of the matter is, one issue does not determine a candidate or determine victory.
“The party has taken a very careful deep look at the Nigerian situation and the political space. And we believe very strongly that notwithstanding the expression that we’re hearing, we will be working on amicable solutions to the sentiment and we’re very sure by the grace of God we’ll put them to rest before the elections,” he said.
On his part, the Vice-Presidential Candidate, Shettima, claimed that the same-faith arguments are machinations of a petrified opposition.
Citing the Ribadu-Bafarawa presidential ticket of the Action Congress of Nigerian in the 2011 general elections, Shettima urged Nigerians to focus on issues and not the faith of the candidates.
According to him, “In 2011, the presidential candidate and the vice-presidential candidate of the ACN. Both of them were Muslims. Nobody raised an eyebrow. Now, the opposition have seen a winning combination and they are petrified, deep down to the marrow of their bones.
“We will not trade in insults, lies and mischief. We have established a track record of excellence. Let our opponents show what they have done in their respective states. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s discuss issues.
“How to propel this nation to greatness is much more important than playing on the sentiments of Nigerians. Poverty knows no religion or ethnicity. Insecurity knows no religion or ethnicity.”
Lalong on his part argued that the party chose him because of his ability and not as a “Christian candidate.”
According to him, “I’m not a Christian candidate. I was not nominated as a Christian candidate. The party said I’ve been nominated because of my ability. I’ve been a very loyal member of the party. I joined APC because I believe in APC.
“Second, I’m not only the Governor of Plateau, I’m chairman of the Northern Governors’ Forum. So I am able to carry out leadership in any capacity. I only want to express to you that I am surprised that I’m being announced now. I am sure we’ll not disappoint you.”