Muslim-Muslim Ticket: Audacity of Political Risk

Eddy Odivwri

One would ordinarily not mind the faith of our leaders, if we live in a normal society. After all, what is important is performance and service delivery. But our society is not normal. Not even the times are normal. We live in weird and perilous times. And this requires no argument to prove. How can we be normal when the comment of an innocent girl is considered blasphemy and she gets stoned to death and her corpse burnt to ashes, as was the case with Deborah Samuel? Few days later, the prelate of the Methodist Church, Samuel Kanu Uche and an accompanying Bishop were kidnapped on the highway in Abia State. Two days later, they paid N100 million before they could be released. Less than ten days after, St Mary’s Catholic Church in a quiet town of Owo, Ondo state was attacked by gunmen who detonated explosives inside the sanctuary and stationed themselves outside to shoot down those who would want to run for safety. How can we be said to be in a normal society? As if all that was not enough, another Bishop, this time an Anglican Bishop of Kwara Diocese, Oluwaseun Aderogba, along with his wife and driver got abducted on the Ogbomosho highway, two kilometers to their destination. The Bishop and his wife and driver were however released last Tuesday. A day after the Bishop was kidnapped, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in Jos east Local Government Area of Plateau State, Rev Fr James Kantoma was abducted from his home in the wee hours of last Monday.

Three days earlier, on Friday June 10, some three missionaries with Kogi State Child Evangelism Fellowship (CEF) in charge of minding some children in Kogi State were abducted.

Ten years ago, we cannot forget the Christmas day bombing of St Theresa’s Catholic Church in Madalla, Suleja, where several Christian worshippers were killed. That same year, in March 2012, a car detonated a bomb inside St Finbars’ Catholic Church, Jos…. The tales of woes are long. Very long. How can we be adjudged a normal people living in a normal society? No, we are not!

We cannot forget the bombing of hundreds of Christians and attacked in bestial manner, as we only groan and pray. We therefore believe that a Muslim-Muslim ticket is not only insensitive to the feelings of Christians, it will lionize  the Islamic terrorists who are already claiming that they own the whole of Nigeria and are threatening to take over the entire country, from Bauchi to Bayelsa. I have listened to the viral audio message, allegedly by one Usman Umar Sokoto, an Islamic philosopher, claiming that the Fulani are determined to take over Nigeria, being the original owners. We shall revisit this arrant rubbish some other day. The Christian Association of Nigeria has confirmed receiving letters of threat hinting at plans to shut down churches all over Nigeria. Where does all that leave Nigeria?

Even if all these attacks and killings perpetrated by Islamic fundamentalists did not take place, it would yet be necessary for a balancing of public offices in a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society like Nigeria. Yet, it is doubly imperative seeing that there is an evident tendency by the Islamic fundamentalists to ride roughshod over the rest of Nigeria, especially as they seem to be above the law. As the Islamic philosopher arrogantly mocked, how come none of these affronts by the Fulani marauders has ever been contained by the law enforcement agencies? How many of them have been prosecuted and jailed?  Is it any surprise that despite the repeated presidential directive that anybody bearing AK-47 rifle illegally should be shot, not a single case of such shooting has been recorded in the face of all the attacks.

However, the point must be made that the quest for religious balancing at the presidential level is to give a sense of representation.  It is not so much to say having a Christian as Vice President really stops the perpetration of these evil against Christendom. After all, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo, a senior and respected Pastor from the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG) has been in office for over seven years now, yet we have experienced and recorded unprecedented pummeling of Christians in Nigeria. That he is in office does not seem to have had any effect in tempering the spate and fierceness of the attacks on Christians.

In Nigeria, the office of the Vice President is as powerful as the President wants it to be. Before his death, President Umaru Musa Yar’Adua had practically reduced then Vice President Goodluck Jonathan to a duty of reading newspapers in the office, as no tasks, roles, or assignments were assigned to him by the operating cabal at the time. Even now, we have also seen how President Muhammadu Buhari has treated Yemi Osinbajo: creating the ministry of Humanitarian Affairs to strip Osinbajo of the roles he was assigned. Indeed, the President has the prerogative of even assigning regular tasks associated with the office of the Vice President, to serving ministers or even heads of parastatals to perform, while the Vice President is ignored and rendered redundant.

There is no denying the fact that the President is it! Little wonder former Anambra governor, Chukwuemeka Ezeife, once described the role of the deputy governor (or Vice President) as that of a “spare tyre”. It is remembered or called to relevance only when the main tyre is not there.

Yet, in the face of all these, it must be stated that the office of the Vice President is a constitutional office. It must be provided for and tasks and roles assigned to it.

So, the question is: if Osinbajo, a Christian leader is in office as Vice President and yet the fire of attacks on Christians is ferociously aglow, how much acidic fire will be unleashed on Christians if we now have a Muslim-Muslim ticket?

Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, who in a recent Television interview claimed that “there is no big deal” in a Muslim-Muslim ticket is being hypocritical. How can he say there is no big deal? He and his ilk must be told there is plenty of big deal. In a country that has over 100 million Christians, it cannot be said that their interest, sensibilities and voice cannot be listened to in the country? Somebody should ask El-Rufai and co whether they can also say there is no big deal if Nigeria settles for a Christian-Christian ticket?

Of course, many Nigerians know how deep gutted el Rufai is in matters of religion. We can see the “no big deal” effect of Muslim-Muslim ticket in his Kaduna State which has practically been reduced to a large killing field. His choice of a Muslim as his deputy in his second term has further worsened the security and safety situation in Kaduna State. If he is sincere, he will know it has not helped matters in Kaduna State, which has a fairly large population of Christians, especially in the Southern part of the state.

It is thus wild and extremely delusional to assume that at the presidency, Nigerians can settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

It is cheap and even silly to drive the argument that we should be concerned with performance and efficiency and not the faith of the people in office. Great! The same argument that supports that people from every part of Nigeria should be represented at the federal executive council, for instance, since great and performing officer is not an exclusive preserve of any particular region; the same argument holds sway in the issue of religion. There are competent and efficient persons in all the faiths in Nigeria. So, if the quest is for competence and result, it can be found from holders of various faiths. It is not only Muslims that can be credited with competence and efficiency. It is delusional to assume that the choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket can be forced down the throat of Nigerians. Gosh! It will not work, or at best it will be a pyrrhic victory, if it is rammed down the throat of Nigerians. The consequences will be dire. No discerning and insightful president will contemplate the arising upheaval.

Those who have argued in favour of Muslim-Muslim ticket are quick to cite the June 12 scenario. But they forget that the times are very different. This is 2022, not 1993. The state of the nation now is not what it was in 1993. The fault lines were not this defined and bold. It is completely a different ball game. Besides, MKO was a full-blown pan-Nigerian, having established tentacles across the length and breadth of Nigeria. His image was large. No politician today on the stage, approximates the status of MKO Abiola. To cite that one-off instant does not therefore address the fears and dangers inherent in a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

It is bad enough that the presidential candidates of both leading political parties (the APC and the PDP) are Muslims, but it will be doubly bad for one of them to settle for yet a Muslim running mate. It will be regarded as an affront to adherents of other faiths.

Yes, the constitution does not prescribe faith in ascendancy to power, yet, it does not say people of one faith should dominate the leadership structure of the country.

It is instructive to note that even the Military regimes of yore, as hard and strict as they appeared, respected the religious sensitivity of the country by ensuring a fair balancing between both major faiths. That was why Muslim Heads of State were always supported by Christian “deputies”, except the single case of the Buhari-Idiagbon regime.

Some other arguments for the Muslim-Muslim ticket seem to be hinged on political calculation. The propounders of this school of thought maintain that since the PDP is fielding Atiku Abubakar, a northern Muslim, then the APC should also field a Muslim (the banal reason the likes of Ahmad Lawan, Gov Muhammad Badaru and Senator Ahmed Yerima) were introduced into the presidential race, in the first place. So, now the argument is that Bola Tinubu, a southern Muslim would need a strong northern Muslim as running mate so as to battle Atiku’s Muslim influence in the north.

In other words, only a northern Muslim will be able to mass up votes and support for the Tinubu presidential bid.  As one party stalwart argued, “there is no point fielding a northern Christian who will not be able to bring anything to the table and thereby cause the candidate to lose the election”.

The chieftain declared that there is “zero risk” if Tinubu chooses a northern Muslim as his running mate. He argued, rather arrogantly, that even the entire south east states put together is not up to the land mass of Niger State. He dismissed the issue of demography stressing that the population in the north far outweighs that of the south. He is yet to realise the truism in the fact that religion is the opium of the people.

Already, the choice of a running mate, especially by the APC presidential standard- bearer, has raised the tension in the land. Many Christian groups and organisations like the Christian Association of Nigeria, Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria and other  faith-based groups have all warned against the fielding of Muslim-Muslim ticket.

As at the time of writing this column, there are strong indications that the Tinubu camp has settled for the controversial Muslim-Muslim ticket, a decision that may repel support from vast majority of southerners.

With the likes of Senator Orji Uzor Kalu already canvassing support for a Muslim-Muslim ticket, because “we cannot play two minorities”, it is obvious even the Igbo region would be divided.

Thankfully however, there are other options for Nigerians. The contest is not strictly between PDP and APC. There are fifteen other political parties contesting the presidency, including the Labour Party, fielding Mr Peter Obi, former Anambra State governor as its presidential standard-bearer. Obi, from social media tractions has provided a veritable alternative to the APC/PDP Islamic tangle. Many believe the issue of religion will see the APC cadging for votes in many parts of the country, for failing to show enough sensitivity to the issue of religion. We watch!

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