By Odidi Omoaka
It is reasonable to conclude that whenever the All Progressives Congress (APC) holds up the mirror to look at itself, the image that comes up is that of a once-in-an-age progressive entity created to remedy our national defects. Hard evidence, however, declines to support this distorted image. By June 11, if the ruling party’s desire comes to fruition, the control of three arms of the country’s government will be in the hands of Muslims, the first time since the return to democratic rule in 1999. President Muhammadu Buhari is already the leader of the executive arm. The judiciary has Justice Tanko Mohammed in place as the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), following the chicanery that ousted Justice Walter Onnoghen, a Southern Christian, as CJN. The President of the Federal Court of Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, and Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Adamu Abdu-Kafarati, like the CJN, are both Muslims.
The Senate, should things pan out as the APC has them planned, will have Senator Ahmed Lawan as President, with a strong possibility that his deputy will be Kabiru Gaya, who has been everything but coy about his ambition. The House of Representatives, by APC’s design, is expected to produce Femi Gbajabiamila, a Muslim, as Speaker. The Gbajabiamila camp has already settled for Idris Wase, a Muslim from the North-Central zone, as Deputy Speaker. The design is similar to the one APC adopted in 2015, which had the same candidates for both positions. But it was outwitted by Senator Bukola Saraki and Hon. Aminu Dogara, who halted the plan for Muslim headship of the two chambers by restoring religious balance.
What this indicates, uncomplicatedly, is that the APC views Nigerian Christians, especially those in the South, as children of a lesser god, who deserve no more than political crumbs. Hints that the APC was designed as a special purpose vehicle to foist an Islamic domination agenda on Nigeria were there from when it emerged in 2013 as a fusion of disparate and desperate political interests.
It could not have been otherwise. The party’s totem, General Muhammadu Buhari (now President), is a die-hard Sharia advocate who, justifiably, also merits that tag of a sectional champion. Early in 2014, an Islamic cleric, Ambassador Yusuf Garba, likened the APC to Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood and accused it of harbouring plans to Islamise Nigeria. Garba, a member of a group named Religious Equity Promotion Council (REPC), arrived at his position just by looking at the APC Interim National Executive Committee, which was chock-full with Muslims.
Appointed as National Chairman was Chief Bisi Akande, Aminu Bello Masari as Deputy National Chairman, Tijani Musa Tumsah as National Secretary, Nasir el-Rufai as Deputy National Secretary and Lai Mohammed as National Publicity Secretary. The party also appointed Sadiya Umar Faruq as National Treasurer, Shaibu Musa as National Financial Secretary, Abubakar Lado as National Youth Leader, Muiz Banire as National Legal Adviser, Bala Jubrin as Deputy National Auditor and Sharia Ikeazor (a convert to Islam) as National Woman Leader.
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and other groups, particularly the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), also warned that hints of bias in favour of Islam carry the potential to uncouple the country, as they were bound to reboot sectarian tensions. Their voices were, however, drowned out by the powerful APC propaganda machine, abetted by undiscerning Nigerians and power-seeking desperadoes.
Further hints of the APC’s indifference to the country’s religious plurality manifested after Buhari had emerged as presidential candidate and was shopping for a Southern running mate. It emerged that the party was considering Tinubu to run on a Muslim-Muslim ticket with Buhari, news of which provoked widespread disapproval, including from former President Olusegun Obasanjo. The APC back-tracked, picking Yemi Osinbajo, a Pentecostal pastor, and momentarily selling itself as a thoughtful entity.
But old habits are notoriously tough to shake. Following its victory in the presidential election, the APC rebooted its agenda-with Buhari at the wheel. Among his first appointments, even while it took him six months to constitute a cabinet, were Lawal Daura, a retired officer recalled to head the Department of State Security (DSS); Hammid Ali, a retired Army officer as Comptroller-General of Customs; and Abba Kyari as Chief of Staff. The agenda proceeded with the appointment of Ibrahim K. Idris, an Assistant Inspector-General of Police, to replace Solomon Arase as Inspector-General of Police. That particular appointment induced, in one fell swoop, the retirement of 21 Deputy Inspectors-General of Police and Assistant Inspectors-General of Police, who were Idris’ seniors. It equally manifested in the President’s decision to replace Dr. Ibe Kachikwu as Group Managing Director of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) with Dr. Maikanti Baru, a Northern Muslim; and refusal to appoint, in substantive capacity, Mr. Matthew Seiyefa, as DSS Director-General, after serving in acting capacity when Daura was sacked by the Vice President. Instead, Buhari appointed Yusuf Magaji Bichi, a Muslim from Kano State. The same pattern could be seen in the replacement of Kemi Adeosun, a Yoruba Christian, who resigned as Minister of Finance. Her replacement turned out to be Mrs. Zainab Ahmed, who was said to have been the candidate of Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna State. As such, it was not much of surprise when el-Rufai, with breath taking insensitivity to the tinder-box religious situation in Kaduna State, settled for a Muslim running-mate, a decision he said had the approval of President Buhari with whom he consulted.
Bad as the situation is, there is a huge chance that it could get worse. Much worse, especially for Southern Christians. The conduct of the APC in the last four years does not inspire hope that the next four will drip with sensitivity to religious or sectional balance. By 2023, Nigerians will have another chance to elect a president. There is very little, if any, chance of Buhari’s successor being a Christian or Southerner. Rumoured to be keen on the job is el-Rufai, whose indifference to the plight of Christians in his state has seen communities explode with violence, one after the other, like firecrackers on a string. Tinubu, the Southerner, who is allegedly being pressured to run, is a Muslim. The APC, it is safe to assume, will not hand its presidential ticket to a Christian, Northern or Southern. It is not wired to be balanced in anything it does. The chances of a Christian emerging Nigeria’s president in the near future, I believe, are wafer-thin. The Northern political/religious establishment is ceaseless in saying politics is a numbers game. A recent study released by the US fact tank, Pew Research Centre, projects that Nigeria will be home to 9.5 per cent of the global Muslim population by 2060. As at 2015, it stood at 5.1 per cent. The projection is that local Muslim population would have grown from a little over 90million (50 per cent) in 2015 to 283.1million (60.5 per cent). Conversely, the Christian population (86.6million in 2015) is projected to climb to 174.2million in 2060. While the 2015 figure (48.1 per cent of local population) gave Nigeria 3.8 per cent of the global Christian population, the projected 2060 figure will have Nigerian Christians making up 37.2 per cent of local population and 5.7 per cent of global Christian population. Islam continues to spread globally. Figures show that 31 per cent of children born worldwide between 2010 and 2015 were Muslim and babies born to Muslims, whose faith allow polygamy, are expected to outnumber those born to Christians by 2035. In Northern Nigeria, non-Muslims have been known to convert or risk being frozen out of socio-political benefits. These conditions are to the advantage of religious supremacists such as the APC and reduce the possibility of a Christian Nigerian president.
Omoaka, a public affairs analyst, writes from Abuja and can be reached at email@example.com