When Fola Adeola was belatedly announced this week as the ACN running mate to presidential candidate Nuhu Ribadu, it completed the campaign roster of the four main candidates vying for president. Almost as important as the presidential candidate, the role of a running mate cannot be underestimated. As the country’s number two citizen, the deputy’s credentials must therefore be just as strong as the presidential candidates themselves.
The architect and the academic
The debate had raged, ever since one-time university lecturer Goodluck Jonathan was named acting president, over whether he would appoint a number two. That discussion became moot when he was eventually named as substantive president. His decision to pick Namadi Sambo can be described as a surprise at the time. Apart from the fact that there were more prominent contenders, Mr. Sambo’s three-year tenure as governor of Kaduna had not seen any great distinction. Expectations were high in 2007 when he was elected into his first major political role. He trumpeted an 11-point agenda which he promised would reposition Kaduna as a national force. Promises were made to revive the state’s health and educational sectors as well as improve water supply, infrastructure and roads. As of May 15, 2010, when his name was submitted to the National Assembly, no significant inroads had been made in any of these areas. Mr. Sambo did record significant success in cleaning up Kaduna’s image as a hotbed of ethnic clashes. He is widely credited as the brain behind Operation Yaki, an innovative task force which combined the strengths of local vigilante groups, the police and even the armed forces. The security force has been responsible for reducing crime in the state and preventing the spillover of clashes that have occurred in Plateau and Bauchi. Prior to his life in the public sector, Mr. Sambo was a businessman of some renown. He still owns three companies and developed a reputation as a very prominent architect in the 1980s. A quiet, unassuming character, he is not the most inspirational of speakers and will probably connect only with his constituents.
The banker and the policeman
The Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) were the last major party to name a presidential running mate. The delay bordered on the absurd after at least three names were on the verge of being announced before being pulled at the last minute. It was hardly heartening to supporters of the party that Sunny Ugochukwu, Ngozi Okonji-Iweala and Chris Ngige were all considered before former banker Fola Adeola was eventually named this week. The delay also exposed the underlying rift that lay between Nuhu Ribadu and Bola Tinubu. The setbacks notwithstanding, Fola Adeola will join the campaign trail from Monday and appears a popular choice amongst party support. With Nuhu Ribadu at the helm, the ACN are using the ‘progressive’ tag as a mantra and, on paper, Mr. Adeola certainly fits the bill. The chartered accountant was the founder and managing director of Guaranty Trust Bank until he retired in 2002. His professional life has been largely without scandal and GTB was one of the banks that avoided the banking crisis of 2009.
In spite of his impressive CV, Mr. Adeola comes with no real political experience. This is not for a lack of trying. As a PDP candidate, he contested in the 2007 elections for the Ogun Central Senatorial district but eventually lost out to Iyabo Obasanjo-Bello. In 2003, he was reportedly offered the position of finance minister in President Obasanjo’s regime. He refused for reasons that remained undisclosed. He has played a prominent role in the National Pensions Commission but has never been involved in frontline politics. What he may lack in political sense, he makes up for in strong rhetoric. Where Mr. Ribadu is more reticent, his running mate is a trained motivational speaker. His speeches, however, are usually aimed at high-level professionals and executives. It will be interesting to see if he can adapt his style when addressing grassroot voters. As a Muslim, he and Ribadu echo the Abiola/Kingibe ticket in 1992’s annulled elections. Supporters point to the overwhelming popularity of that particular duo. Critics, on the other hand, suggest that ethnic and religious tensions have heightened somewhat since then.
The pastor and the general
Many of Muhammed Buhari’s critics have expressed concerns about his inflexible style, expressing concern that this may extend to his religious views. The former general has been at great pains to deny suggestions that he has an underlying radical Islamist agenda. It is believed that this counted against him in the 2003 and 2007 elections. It was always likely, therefore, that he would pick a Christian southerner as a running mate, but he went a step further by naming a bonafide pastor in Tunde Bakare. It remains to be seen if the move is a masterstroke for the Congress for Progressive Change (CPC) but Mr. Bakare is an immensely popular personality. Although not a politician, the head of the Latter Rain Assembly, has never been shy about criticising the government. So vehement was his criticism that he was detained and questioned by state security officials in 2002 for speaking out against President Obasanjo’s administration. He famously called the former president ‘a false messiah.’ A fiery character, the Pentecostal pastor has achieved great success through his brand of ‘televangelism’ both domestically and internationally. He also started an advocacy group, Save Nigeria Group, which played a pivotal role in organizing protest rallies during the late President Yar’Adua’s protracted absence. The pastor created a stir last year after his group visited President Jonathan last year and reportedly declined a $50,000 gift. His lack of political clout is an obvious disadvantage but, like Mr. Adeola, he can speak directly to a crowd, thanks to his background as a lawyer and pastor. Mr. Buhari is occasionally labeled as being aloof but his running mate talks in a language that people can identify with.
Although an intriguing choice as running mate, he is similar in many ways to Mr. Buhari. The two men can be described as radicals who often hold extremist views. Neither has yet displayed a capacity to show great flexibility in their approach. As a firebrand character, Mr. Bakare’s presence in the campaign team will not counterbalance the public’s view of Mr. Buhari.
The governor and the governor
At 71, John Odigie Oyegun is the oldest of the men seeking to be vice-president. As the All Nigeria People’s party (ANPP) presidential candidate Ibrahim Shekarau’s running mate, Mr. Oyegun does however possess some political pedigree. In 1992, he was elected as the first civilian governor of the newly-formed Edo state but was removed when Sani Abacha seized power. A development planner by training, Mr. Oyegun had previously been in the employ of the federal civil service and had served as a permanent secretary across several ministries. ANPP’s strategy is clear. The plan is to use Mr. Oyegun to capture votes in the South-South where the party has no foothold. Although Mr. Oyegun is remembered favourably from his 20-month stint, he has little clout in the region. He is the party’s deputy chairman in the south but his appointment may lend little value to the chances of the ANPP. Mr. Oyegun is a highly knowledgeable and eloquent individual but his age might be a disadvantage. With the rigours of a political campaign to consider, this could prove a crucial factor for a party still struggling with its identity.