Governor Hope Uzodinma of Imo State has said the insecurity and oil theft in the country are more important topics than the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the presidential candidate of the All Progressive Congress (APC), Bola Tinubu.
Mr Uzodinma stated this on Friday shortly after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the State House, Abuja.
The governor appealed to the Nigerian media to assist in making Nigerians stop the debate on the controversial ticket, but instead shift their attention on how to support the fight against crude oil theft and rising insecurity in the country.
"First, the mood of the country today is not about who the candidates are. The mood of the country is that two years ago or three years ago, we were producing 2.1 million barrels of crude oil every day," he said.
"Look at the quantum of banditry going on in Nigeria today. To the extent that bandits are courageously even coming into the capital city. We should rise in unison and condemn these activities," Mr Uzodinma added.
The governor said that the activities of oil thieves have caused a significant drop in oil production in the country, saying Nigerians should be worried by the situation, not the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The presidential candidate of the APC, Mr Tinubu, a Southern Muslim, recently picked Kashim Shettima, a former governor of Borno State and northern Muslim, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election.
The ticket had elicited widespread debate across the country, with various groups such as the Christian Association of Nigeria saying the decision was insensitive to Nigeria's religious realities.
Some APC chieftains have also criticised the ticket.
Mr Tinubu, however, said he picked Mr Shettima because of his competence and not his religious belief.
Mr Uzodinma, a member of the APC, said those playing up debate on religion and ethnicity ahead of the 2023 general elections were working against the country.
He said those fueling the discussion on the ticket should allow Nigerians the chance of choosing their preferred candidate at the polls in 2023.
"We should make emphasis on things that will unite the country. And please do by the grace of God abandon those things that are capable of dismembering the country. Our national interest is important. Our national unity is important. Our ability to live together as brothers and sisters is also important," the APC governor said.
"Those are things that should occupy our minds now. But if you throw Nigeria into a situation where religious dichotomy, ethnic jingoism will be at the front burner, it means you are working against Nigeria," he stated.
Purpose of visit
The governor said he was at the State House to seek the president's approval for the conversion of Federal Medical Centre Owerri into Federal University of Technology Teaching Hospital.
"So, if it is upgraded to a teaching hospital, it would be available to the Federal University of Technology to use in maintaining and managing the medical school approved by National Universities Commission," he said.
The governor said his visit was also to appeal to Mr Buhari to convert Alvan Ikoku College of Education to Federal University of Education Owerri.
He said the Nigerian government began the process of taking over the college during the administration of former Nigeria's president, Umaru Yar'Adua, but the process was placed on hold because the college could not meet some requirements.
"Now that the school has met all the requirements expected of them, I have come to plead with Mr President to direct that the hold be lifted, so that Alvan Ikoku College of Education will become Federal University of Education Owerri," the governor noted.
"I am so excited that Mr President gave me assurances that these two requests will be approved."