Plateau State Governor Simon Lanlong will lead All Progressives Congress (APC) Presidential Campaign Organisation for next year’s election, the ruling party said yesterday.

APC National Chairman Senator Abdullahi Adamu made the confirmation to State House reporters after presenting Lalong to President Muhammadu Buhari at the Villa in Abuja.

At the presentation were presidential standard-bearer Asiwaju Bola Tinubu and his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima.

The APC chairman also named the Minister of State for Labor and Productivity, Festus Keyamo (SAN) and Hannatu Musawa, lawyer, as the organisation interim spokesman and deputy respectively.

Other members of the body were not unveiled. But the party chair said the campaign organisation has been constituted.

According to him, the party and the President were on the same page over the choice of members of the campaign team.

He assured that many of the issues currently raising public concerns about the party, especially the same faith candidature, would be amicably and satisfactorily sorted out ahead of next year’s elections.

He said: “We’re on the same page with Mr. President regarding our organogram and the individuals that are going to play different roles within the organisational structure of the campaign outfits.

“The person who is going to be the Director-General of the APC Presidential Campaign Organisation is His Excellency, Governor Simon Lalong of Plateau State, he will lead campaign.

“We have an interim spokesperson of the campaign organization, in the person of Mr. Festus Keyamo. The deputy spokesperson is Hannatu Musawa.”

Speaking on the party’s same-faith, Adamu described it as a positive development in the history of Nigerian politics. He assured that the concern being raised about would be sorted out ahead of the 2023 election.

The APC chairman said that despite the concerns, many see a Muslim-Muslim ticket as a positive development for the country’s politics.

He said: “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 that we have people whose stock-in-trade is on 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, however, disclosed that the party recognised 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.”

Speaking on the composition of the party’s presidential campaign organisation, Adamu said the APC arrived at Lalong’s choice as the campaign team leader was purely on reasons of ability.

Shettima described on-going arguments on APC’s ticket as a distraction from the real issues facing the country, pointing out that he and standard bearer parade track records that Nigerians ought to be considered ahead of religion.

Shettima, who urged Nigerians to focus on issues and not the faith of the candidates, said: “Now, the opposition has seen a winning combination and they are petrified, deep down to the marrow of their bones.

“What Nigeria needs right now is a leadership that will drive the transformation process. Sadly, a section of the press is being used as conveyor belt for spreading lies and mischief, on blackmail, or concoctions or exaggerated facts.

“Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has a track record of excellence. If you keep on stopping to throw stones at every dog that barks at you, you will not reach your destination.

“We’re not trading insults and lies and mischief, we have established track records of excellence. Let our opponents show what they have done in their respective states.

“I brought forward Prof Babagana Zulum and I have 10 others lined up. 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; I’m appealing to you and beseeching you – members of the Fourth Estate of the Realm – to take the path of moderation and inclusivity and fairness.”

Lalong argued that his ability and not religion informed his choice as director-general of the party’s campaign team.

The Plateau governor said: “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.”

In Jos, it was rousing welcome for Lalong, who was received by a large crowd of APC supporters at the Yakubu Gowon Airport in Heipang.

On arrival, the governor thanked the people of Plateau for their support to his administration and the APC, which has continued to make him identified at the federal level and trusted with very critical assignments.

He promised that his team would rally Nigerians for the party’s victory.

On how he would combine his campaign for Plateau South Senatorial District seat with the new responsibility, Lalong said he has capable hands who will continue to work for the party anytime he is away.