From Romanus Ugwu, Abuja
All Progressives Congress (APC) South East stakeholders conspicuously boycotted the unveiling of the party’s Vice presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, in Abuja yesterday.
Notable party chieftains of South East extraction like the two governors, former Ministers like Ogbonnaya Onu, Chukwuemeka Nwajiuba, Chris Ngige, and even former Senate President, Ken Nnamani among others.
Only few those in attendance include members of the national leadership like Deputy National Chairman (South), Emma Enukwu, National Welfare Secretary, FN Nwosu, former National Organizing Secretary, Emma Ibediro, Director-General Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu among others.
Surprisingly, most of the chieftains and leaders of the party from the South-south notably Rotimi Amaechi, Governor Ben Ayade, Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege among others were equally conspicuously missing at the event.
Meanwhile, combined security forces had hectic time, battling to control the crowd of political supporters, struggling to gain entrance into Yar’Adua Centre, Abuja, venue of the unveiling of the party’s vice presidential candidate.
As early as 9.00am, mammoth crowd, comprising mainly northern youths, had gathered at the venue of unveiling ceremony, brandishing posters with various inscriptions, drumming and dancing to the admiration of the dignitaries.
The security agents, though strategically positioned, had difficulty managing the crowd which include mostly northern youths that endlessly consumed all manners of drug and engaging in theft.
Intermittently, the shout of thief, thief would be loudly heard, accompanied with the pockets of the youths pursuing the suspected robbers to retrieve what he stole.
At the early hours, it was easier for carmel to go through the eye of a needle than for the genuine invitees, journalists, and important persons to gain access into the venue of the event.
The invitees were held for hours on end before allowing them to access the only entrance gate with their official vehicles, but at the concluding part of the event, it became difficult to cage the crowd that poured into the venue.
Similarly, a coalition of Nigerian Bishops, numbering over 50, stormed the unveiling of the APC vice presidential candidate, despite the antagonistic position of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), over Muslim-Muslim joint ticket.
Dressed in different shapes and sizes of skullcap and cassocks, they had occupied a vantage position inside the main hall of the Musa Yar’adu Centre, venue of the official unveiling, on arrival, but had to be relocated faraway in the gallery upstairs.
Despite being present, they were not given any spiritual role to play throughout the duration of the event including the traditional function of conducting the prayers other than the recognition from the Vice presidential candidate.
Reacting to their appearance at the event, one of them, who identified himself as Bishop Oguba O, the General Overseer of Winners Church International located in 22 states and FCT, said that church leaders should be concerned about praying for new leadership not busying themselves with the joint ticket of political parties.
“If CAN has taken a decision on Muslim-Muslim ticket, I am not aware of it. The body has not communicated to me in writing over the decision to oppose Muslim-Muslim joint ticket. I am surprised you are asking me about the decision of CAN. My ministry is duly registered in the Corporate Affairs Commission. I am not just running ministry.
“The truth of the matter about Muslim-Muslim ticket is that an issue I have tried to call the attention of all clergies to differentiate whether we are politicians or servants of God. As far are I am concerned the body of Christ is not a political party .
“So, if APC decides to adopt Muslim-Muslim ticket, I have no business with that. What concerns me is the economy of the country and I will continued to advice all the clergies in this country not to use their selfish interest to bring down the economy because the economy is greater than all religion in this country.
“The clergies should be concerned about the security of the country not the issue of same faith ticket by any political party. It is purely the decision of the political parties and if CAN must take a stand, they would have gotten our addresses with CAC and send circulars to us. What should concern us is to pray for the political parties,” he insisted
Meanwhile, while the dignitaries gathered at the venue of the unveiling, protesters, numbering hundreds, stormed the national secretariat of the ruling party, to demand that the APC rescind its decision on Muslim-Muslim joint presidential ticket.
The protesters were to converge at the venue of the unveiling, but got security report of a possible clash with supporters of the ticket, which made them to divert the protest to the party’s national secretariat to register their disapproval.
The demonstration, led by few party members under the auspices of APC Hausa-Fulani Youth Forum, had arrived the Secretariat in six luxury buses and few cars, holding different banners and chanting solidarity songs.
Some of the banners bear inscriptions like; ‘A cry for justice’, ‘Drop Shettima and give slot to our Christian brothers’, ‘Discrimination and mutual suspicion in our country’, ‘Muslim-Muslim ticket will deny APC victory’, among others.
Speaking to newsmen, Convener of Forum, Abdullahi Bilal Mohamadu, wqrned that they will not stop protesting until the party do the right.
Asked why they chose to protest on a day the party is unveiling him, Mohammadu said that it was a deliberate act to tender their grievances and ensure it reaches the appropriate authorities.
“We write to your good office in light of the prevailing circumstances arising from the decision of our Presidential candidate to select a Northern Muslim as his vice presidential candidate.
“While it must be stated that there is a right to make decisions, however, such decisions must not be made to the collective detriment of the sensibilities of the people that make up the country of Nigeria especially at a time of mutual suspicion amongst the Christians and Muslims in the northern part of the country.
“As concerned stakeholders of the APC and those who constitute the voting strength of our party , we find it worrisome that such a decision could be taken without recourse to its implication on the electoral chances of the party and the attendant uproar such a decision could bring about in the country.
“In our opinion, this is insensitive and a gross display of a lack of respect for our Christian brothers and sisters especially the Middle Belt minority who have given all their best to us as one northern Nigeria. Picking another Muslim from the north eastern part of the country as his running mate is politically and morally indefensible.
“In Northern Nigeria, there are credible candidates with rich credentials and with massive grassroots following that can complement the presidential ticket of the APC in the presidential elections. As such, the Hausa – Fulani Youths Forum sees the selection of Senator Shettima as an aberration that should be corrected with immediate effect by the relevant authorities within the party.
“The implication of non-action in this regard can only be imagined, so much so that the majority of the eligible voters in Northern Nigeria have elected to boycott the APC in protest of the disrespect and disregard to our Northern Christian brothers , whose population and relevance in the scheme of things in the region cannot be overemphasized.