The dust is yet to settle over controversies trailing the same faith ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) ahead of the 2023 general elections, as Ondo State governor, Oluwarotimi Akeredolu (SAN), has begged Christians to look beyond religion and focus on the competence of the presidential candidate.

APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, had selected former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate. His decision to run alongside a Muslim like himself was met with harsh criticisms from the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), led by Bishop Francis Wale Oke.

Speaking on Sunday evening at the 40th Holy Ghost Convention Dinner of Oke’s Sword of the Spirit Ministries held at the International Conference Centre, University of Ibadan, Akeredolu said like millions of Christians in the country, he is also worried about the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of his party.

“I discussed with Bishop Oke that presidency must come to the South. Take it or leave it, it is the minimum we can get. It must come to the South. The North cannot produce President for eight years and still want to retain it for another eight years. It is not going to work.

“That is why under the Southern Governors’ Forum, where, luckily, God made me the chairman, I kept hammering on that. It must come to the South. And when it also got to our party in APC, we fought that it must come to the South.

“Luckily, it did not only come to South, it came to the Southwest. Now, where do we stand? I understand our feelings because I’m one of you. I am a Christian. All of us here are worried. What will be our gain, and why is my party, the APC, throwing up a Muslim/Muslim ticket?” he said, according to a statement by the governor’s Chief Press Secretary, Richard Olatunde.

Akeredolu said the struggle for the President of Nigeria to come from the Southern part of the country in 2023 should not be in vain.

“It has been a real issue for all of us. Even members of the party, it has been an issue for us. We have debated it, fought it and we have done so many things about it. I have always said to people, my fight is for Southern President,” he said.

The governor pleaded with Christians to look beyond religion and focus on the competency of Tinubu and Shettima.

“Now it has come to the Southwest, will I now throw the baby away with the bathwater? Can I, in all honesty, do it? Should I, in all honesty, do it?

“We call it a matter of coincidence. It is a matter of conscience. All of us are here, why don’t we look at it from one angle? The buck stops on the table of the President. Do we have a capable hand who can manage the affairs if given the opportunity? Do you have a man who is bold enough to challenge incursion into our land? That is it.

“All of us here have lived together for years and we didn’t allow religion to bring fight among us. We have Muslims in our families and there is no fight. We have many leaders in Yoruba land who have both Muslims and Christians in their families and there is no fight.

“So, we want to appeal to our people that this is our time. I want to appeal to all our senior pastors and General Overseers to help talk to their followers. We, politicians, can only do little. This is our time, please don’t be angry.”

PRESIDENT of CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, has urged Nigerians, particularly Christians, not to sit on the fence come 2023 general elections, as was the case in past election cycles.

Speaking at the opening of the second plenary meeting of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) at Sacred Heart Pastoral Centre, Orlu, Imo State, yesterday, Okoh described the 2023 general elections as one valid opportunity that Nigerians have to turn around the fortunes of the country for good, hence, the need for active participation of all eligible Nigerians to ensure that credible people are elected into political offices to run the affairs of the country.

Okoh appealed to the participating Bishops and other senior Catholic Church officials to continue to support the election monitoring team set up by CAN to do a good job in the general elections.

“I also request that you continue to use your highly-revered positions to remind your parishioners and indeed all Christians in Nigeria of the danger of not actively participating in partisan politics, as this is where all the decisions that affect our lives, choice of worship and economy are decided.”

Okoh, according to the statement signed by his media adviser, Luminous Jannamike, also condoled with the Catholic Church faithful over the numerous kidnappings, gruesome murder of many Catholic Priests and Reverend Sisters and senseless killings of worshippers in the sanctuary by terrorists and bandits in recent times.

MEANWHILE, the APC Presidential Campaign Council (PCC) has debunked what it described as false and misleading posts on various social media handles of supporters of Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party (LP), that Tinubu, the ruling party’s presidential standard bearer, is withdrawing from the race on health grounds.

The Minister of State for Labour and Employment and APC-PCC spokesperson, Festus Keyamo, in a statement made available to the media, said the post is nothing but a figment of their imaginations.

Keyamo said Tinubu is strong, healthy and fit enough for the coming campaigns and the opposition will hear loud and clear from him soon.

He also chided Obi for circulating a video in which the LP presidential candidate accused an amorphous and non-existent ‘Tinubu group’ of spreading a Whatsapp message calling on the Yoruba not to vote for the former Anambra State governor.

Obi, on his part, has advocated a new normal whereby a party’s presidential candidate will sign performance agreement for accountability. Speaking yesterday at the LP’s national retreat, he disclosed his intention to sign the agreement with the Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC) to make sure that ideas generated at the ongoing retreat are followed to the letter.

“I am in this retreat to listen, let us put it in writing, when we succeed, you must be around to say this is what we have agreed on. Even if we don’t achieve 100 per cent, we must have made sacrifices.”

Obi said next year’s election is not based on ethnic and religious sentiments, stressing that the elections should be based on competence.

“Since there is no place where Christians or Muslims buy things cheaper, or Yoruba or Hausa have free light than others in the country, then the coming election should be about character and competence and not anybody’s turn,” he emphasised.

In their separate keynote addresses, NLC President, Comrade Ayuba Wabba and the President, Trade Union Congress (TUC), Comrade Festus Osifo, stressed that what the nation need is a leader with capacity, character and competence, who can build strong structures that can stand tough times.

“Leadership is about energy and intellectual capacity. Those saying Labour Party does not have structure will be surprised. Labour is ready to activate its structures in the 774 local government areas of the country,” he said, boasting that 12 million electorate are in the election for LP.

Legal luminary, Femi Falana (SAN) and guest speaker, said NLC, TUC and other affiliate groups, which have the largest structure, must mobilise Nigerians so that they can take over power.

HOWEVER, in the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Rivers State governor, Nyesom Wike, has kept leaders of the party guessing over his next move following a vote of confidence passed on the Iyorchia Ayu-led National Working Committee (NWC).

Wike and those sympathetic to his cause had demanded Ayu’s resignation as a precondition for peace, but it was gathered in Abuja, on Tuesday, that the Wike camp is yet to give a clear signal as to when it would be available to receive emissaries from the party leadership.

A source in the camp said: “As we speak, no date has been fixed for the meeting. A number of our people have travelled for one engagement or another outside the country. Besides, our demands are with the other side, while we are not opposed to any genuine effort towards peace, we are no longer available to be deceived.”

Ayu last week solicited the support of the new chairman of the PDP Board of Trustees (BoT), Senator Adolphus Wabara, and other party leaders to reach out to Wike for an amicable settlement of the dispute, which has its origin in the party’s presidential primary and the selection of Delta State governor, Ifeanyi Okowa, as the presidential running mate.

While appealing to Wabara for help, Ayu said: “As the new BoT Chairman with diplomatic experience, we implore you to use your diplomatic skills to reach out to all aggrieved members and I am telling you that it is with our full support including that of the presidential candidate.

AHEAD of commencement of campaigns by political parties, the acting Corps Marshal, Federal Road Safety Corps (FRSC), Dauda Ali Biu, has charged Commanding Officers nationwide to ensure that staff under their purview maintain political neutrality, as well as avoid any form of participation in political rallies and campaigns and also avoid piloting political convoys.

Biu said the directive becomes imperative as political activities preparatory to the 2023 general elections gather momentum across the country. This was contained in a statement, on Monday, in Abuja by the Corps Public Education Officer, Mr Bisi Kazeem.

The directive was given in reference to the FRSC (Establishment) Act which stipulates the status of the Corps as a public service agency that does not have any political affiliation but solely established to provide essential services to all citizens, irrespective of their political interests or representation.

The FRSC boss urged the commanding officers to be sensitive to the plight of road users and prepare to tackle any traceable traffic gridlock that could arise as a result of the aforementioned political activities by ensuring adequate deployment of personnel for ease of movement in form of traffic control and management.

He reassured the public of the corps’ readiness and commitment to making the roads safer at all times and admonished them to always abide by established road traffic regulations.

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