The Tinubu Campaign Organisation on Tuesday said the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, deserved commendation for settling for former Governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.

This was disclosed in a statement in Abuja by the TCO Director of Media and Communication, Bayo Onanuga.

Onanuga, who noted that he had keenly followed the heated debate that the choice of Shettima had generated in the country, restated that religion or ethnicity was far from the calculations of Tinubu in picking Shettima as his running mate.

The TCO spokesman’s clarification is coming on the eve of Shettima’s unveiling, which is slated for Shehu Musa Yar’Adua Centre in Abuja by 11.00 am on Wednesday.

Tinubu had told newsmen that Shettima was his anointed candidate after a closed-door meeting with the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), at his residence in Daura, Katsina State.

His decision was said to have infuriated North-West stakeholders, including the governors, who felt the party’s national leader should inform them before making the announcement.

The choice of a Muslim running mate also pitted the party’s national leader and the APC’s leadership against the Christian Association of Nigeria, including other religious bodies, aggrieved members and critics, which saw the move as a slap on the face of Nigerians.

A gale of defection followed up the criticisms by stalwarts of the APC, who kicked against the Muslim-Muslim ticket.

But the National Vice Chairman for North-West, Malam Salihu Lukman, believed that the issue was being blown out of proportion, especially by the opposition and critics of the party.

Lukman further expressed optimism  that Nigerians would soon be convinced that the Muslim-Muslim ticket was not a discriminatory attempt to relegate any religion, party or section of the country.

In his statement on Tuesday, Onanuga averred that if Tinubu intended to cash in on ethnicity, he would have picked a running mate from the North-West, which had the highest number of registered voters.

He said, “If he wanted to appeal to the base instincts of religion, he would have also gone for a candidate in the Christian-dominated parts of Nigeria. But there was no such consideration. Instead, he picked a tested politician and technocrat from the minority Kanuri ethnic group from the North-East.

“The factors at play were issues germane to confronting the multi-dimensional crises our nation faces today: insecurity, economic problems, such as the unemployment crisis facing our youths. Our candidate canvassed on his track record in Lagos to win the APC primary last June. As governor between 1999 and 2007, he transformed a decadent state into the fourth biggest economy in Africa. He believes his feat in Lagos can be replicated all over Nigeria.”

Onanuga added that Shettima was chosen to assist his principal in realising his vision and establish a track record of development in Borno State as governor for eight years, despite the Boko Haram crisis.

He said, “Surely, only the deep knows how to call onto the deep. Nigerians have a lot to gain in having the two tested leaders at the helm of affairs. Naturally, some Nigerians with closet motives have failed to see the opportunities and possibilities the twin candidates present to our country at this time of complex security, economic and political developments, preferring to fan the embers of religion and ethnic divisions among their unsuspecting and vulnerable compatriots.

“When Nigerians stand together, they have been known to achieve incredibly positive outcomes. That is the lesson from our history. To now succumb to the base ends of identity by further straining our already complex ethnic and religious cleavages is a great disservice to the country and to citizens who had no choice about their parentage, ethnicity, or religion at birth.

“Either as Christians, Muslims, or traditional worshipers, as Nigerians, what should be important to us today and tomorrow is our commonwealth as citizens of this great nation. The TCO would like to recall the statement by Asiwaju Tinubu, by way of a closing note, when he assured all Nigerians that he was not oblivious of the religious and ethnic sensitivities of the nation and that he picked Shettima in fulfilment of the overriding interest of the country.”

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