The Governor of Plateau State, and Director-General of the All Progressives Congress Presidential Campaign Organisation, Simon Lalong, on Wednesday, said he was yet to receive any directive from Pope Francis to reject his recent appointment to lead the campaign for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“As a Catholic, everything we do, we send the advice to the Pope. The Pope has not told me that what I’m doing is bad to accept the Director-General. As a Catholic, we take that direction,” Lalong said.
The Governor who was at the State House to thank President Muhammadu Buhari, for some landmark projects in his state, said the state would return the favour with votes for the APC flagbearer, Bola Tinubu, in the 2023 presidential election.
Lalong disclosed these to State House Correspondents shortly after his audience with Buhari at Aso Rock, Abuja.
Dateline Nigeria reports that no small controversy followed the announcement of former Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, as Tinubu’s running mate in July.
The APC’s appointment of Lalong, a Catholic, to lead the campaign for the Muslim-Muslim ticket has drawn harsh criticisms from various Christian-themed groups nationwide.
But speaking on Wednesday, the Governor argued that as a confirmed Catholic holding the highest papal award, Knight of Saint Gregory the Great, he had not received any directive from the Vatican to reject the appointment.
He noted that the Christian Association of Nigeria, Plateau State Chapter, was in full agreement with the development and welcomed him back to the state.
“I came back home and CAN welcomed me at the airport. The next day, I addressed stakeholders of Plateau State. And I told them why I am accepting. And then there was jubilation and all of them accepted.
“So if you see people talking about me rejecting it… I’ve accepted already. It’s not an option. I’m a Christian. I went through missionary schools. I respect my being a Christian. I have been given the highest award by the Pope. The Knight of St. Gregory the Great.
“And as a Catholic, everything we do, we send the advice to the Pope. The Pope has not told me that what I’m doing is bad to accept the Director-General. As a Catholic, we take that direction,” he said.
Describing his role as purely political and not religious, Lalong criticised some Christian leaders asking him to reject the appointment.
When asked about concerns over his campaign duties overshadowing Governance in Plateau, the Chairman, Northern Governors’ Forum, said Plateau State was in “capable hands.”
According to him, “We are using technology now. What is the distance from here (Abuja) to Plateau? It’s 20 minutes if you are going by air. Just as I’m leaving this place, I have a Plateau Executive Council meeting. I have capable hands that are taking care of the state. So, I have no fear. That was why I mentioned it, that I have no fear about my time.
“This is not the first assignment I’m doing. I’ve been handling assignments from the Federal Government, from the party while sitting as governor of Plateau State.”
The Governor noted that he was at the State House to thank Buhari for approving some key infrastructural projects and granting presidential pardon to a former governor of the state, Joshua Dariye and a former Taraba State Governor, Jolly Nyame, who were released on Tuesday, four months after the pardon.