Ever since the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced the name of the substantive running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, it is like salt was unleashed on a can of worms: the reaction has been wild and varied. Many believe that Tinubu had a deep rumination before settling for Shettima, but I am not sure he sufficiently foresaw the volume of umbrage the decision will provoke in the polity. From every direction and quarter, the decision for a Muslim-Muslim ticket has been roundly condemned, from within and outside the party. Perhaps, it shouldn’t quite matter. But given the times and climes we are in as a nation, it bespeaks of crass insensitivity and a direct slap in the face of Christians who make up nearly half of the Nigerian population, and this has oxygenated the anger in the land.
Some of the reactions have triggered a gale of resignations from the APC, especially from Rivers State.
Perhaps one of the sharpest critics of the Muslim-Muslim ticket is Mr Babachir Lawal, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, and a very close ally of Tinubu himself. In condemning the Muslim-Muslim ticket, Babachir Lawal in a tersely-worded three page statement described it as a “disastrous error”, noting that Tinubu, whom he said is a good man, has departed from his past where he had sound minds around him, lamenting that in the presidential race, Tinubu is now surrounded by “people inflicted with the modern Nigerian diseases—religious bigotry, sycophancy and morbid tribalism.” Describing those who misled Tinubu on the choice as “political jobbers and lapdogs”, Lawal maintained that settling for a “satanic” Muslim-Muslim ticket will only lead Tinubu to “calamity”.
From what Lawal insinuated, Tinubu had been nursing the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket for a long time now.
Another major critic of the decision is the 94-year-old Pa Ayo Adebanjo, the leader of the Afenifere, a major pan-Yoruba socio-cultural group. Pa Adebanjo and the Afenifere, had been in the frontline crusade for power to shift to the South East for the purpose of justice and equity to all parts of Nigeria. Pa Adebanjo, under the platform of the Afenifere, has condemned the resort to Muslim-Muslim ticket and declared support for the candidate of the Labour party, Mr Peter Obi.
Another elder who has slammed Tinubu is the leader of the Niger Delta, Chief Edwin Kiagbodo Clark who said he is sharply averse to a Muslim-Muslim ticket and would thus settle to support Peter Obi of the Labour Party, since the PDP had given the presidential ticket to Atiku Abubakar, a northerner, just after Buhari’s eight-year rule by 2023.
A chieftain of the APC in Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill, an ally of the former Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi, resigned from the APC on account of the choice of a Muslim as running mate. Princewill noted that he cannot, in good conscience, remain in the APC since Tinubu, in defending his choice, had said Shettima was chosen because of his competence and reliability. Princewill stressed that staying back in the party would mean that he agreed with Tinubu that there are no Northern Christians with electoral value.
Another chieftain, and ally of Tinubu himself, Daniel Bwala, a lawyer, had earlier announced his resignation from the party when Tinubu announced Shettima as his running mate. He is another northerner that has also found the decision offensive.
Indeed, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has also condemned the same-faith ticket and vowed to throw their support elsewhere as a united body. The Kano Chapter of the association headed by Rev Samuel Adeolu had lampooned the choice and vowed that Christians would rise against a ticket that completely undermines Christendom.
Even another chieftain of the party, Senator Elisha Ishaku Abba, representing Adamawa North senatorial district, announced resignation from the Tinubu campaign council as a result of the Muslim-Muslim ticket, stressing that his conscience will not allow him to campaign for the APC presidential candidate on account of the same-faith pairing, describing it as “irresponsible, insensitive and ignorant of the country’s political system”.
A Kaduna-based Pastor, David Ayuba Azzaman, in protest against the Muslim-Muslim ticket, has vowed to mobilise one million votes from Kaduna State for the LP candidate, Peter Obi.
Inside sources had informed this writer that even many APC governors were not happy with the choice of Shettima and had gone to Daura to protest it. It was gathered that it was President Buhari that doused the tension and convinced the governors to back the choice. Indeed, they thereafter spoke with one voice, to look as if truly, it was a “collective decision” as Gov Hope Uzodinma of Imo State had claimed.
Two governors from the North West had struggled to get named as the running mate to Tinubu.
Gov Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State as well as Gov Atiku Bagudu of Kebbi State had tried to position themselves for the VP slot. But Tinubu preferred to look to the North East which has lesser votes than North west, a strategy to split the North East votes between PDP’s Atiku Abubakar (who is from Adamawa State) and Kashim Shettima from Borno State. Shettima is a Kanuri, a minority tribe in the north, unlike Atiku who is a Hausa-Fulani.
The calculations behind the choice of Shettima are cold and worrisome. Those who have argued in favour of the duo say they are both liberal Muslims. That can hardly be true. If Tinubu is liberal because his wife is a pastor in Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), the same cannot be said of Shettima who is generally perceived as a religious bigot.
Many people have not forgotten how he tackled former President Goodluck Jonathan when the latter rolled out against the Boko Haram terrorists in Borno at the time.
Shettima, then as sitting Borno State governor, had cried out accusing Jonathan of “killing my people”.
It is instructive that it was under Shettima’s governorship years that the abduction of the over 200 Chibok schoolgirls happened in 2014. This was even after he had been advised by the Federal Ministry of Education to shut down schools at the time. He defied the advice, and today many of the Chibok girls are still in captivity, more than seven years after.
Those his “people” are the same people who have, today, literally thrown Nigerians under the bus by way of acute insecurity, having mutated into bandits, terrorists, kidnappers, cattle rustlers, armed robbers and bare-faced criminals. The evil fruit of that mindless defence is what has held Nigeria down for over a decade now having consumed thousands of people and billions of Naira.
Many are scared that given the plague of insecurity that Nigerians have been experiencing even with a Muslim-Christian presidency, it will simply get worse with a Muslim-Muslim presidency, especially with a character suspected to have a symbiotic relationship with the deadly Boko Haram terror gang, as running mate, and that is why Nigerians are asking if the choice of Shettima will shatter the APC ticket. It is a huge risk.
It is foolhardy to compare the same-faith ticket of the days of MKO Abiola who also picked Babagana Kingibe, a fellow Muslim and Kanuri too, as his running mate to the Nigeria of today. The times are markedly different, even as that Muslim-Muslim ticket of MKO and Kingibe never really materialised as the election was annulled before the winners could be sworn in.
That Nigerians are so strongly divided under ethnic and religious lines today is beyond debate. The adherents of the two leading religions are mutually suspicious of each other. Matters were not helped by sitting President Muhammadu Buhari who has clearly failed in managing the ethno-religious issues in Nigeria. Under Buhari, who had a Christian Deputy, Yemi Osinbajo, a Pastor, the Christian community in Nigeria felt they were given the very short end of the stick in the Nigerian system, thus with a Muslim-Muslim ticket, Christians fear that they could just be completely subjugated if not annihilated. That is why many are strongly averse to the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.
A vocal female pastor in Abuja, Sarah Omakwu of the Family Worship Centre had tactically encouraged her church members to “waste their votes” by voting against any party that disrespects the Christian community in Nigeria.
No doubt, the issue of religion is as incendiary as it is sensitive.
But those who feel the issue is being over escalated argue that democracy is a contest of choices. The fact that there are other political parties that can appeal to various considerations, including religion, means that those who feel that the APC is religiously toxic, do have the option of voting other political parties on the ballot. Many such persons have pointed at the direction of the Labour Party (LP) which has emerged as the third force.
Nigerians More Eager to Let Buhari Go
So, how many days and weeks are left now as the countdown has begun?
Countdown? Countdown to what?
You mean you haven’t joined the countdown crew?
I still don’t understand. What are you counting down to?
It is the countdown to when President Mohammadu Buhari will step down as our President, and go back to Daura, his country home.
Or are you not aware that he has already begun the countdown as he expressed his eagerness to go, saying he has just ten months to go?
Oh, is that what you mean? Look, I am sure he knows that he is as tired of Nigeria, the same way Nigeria and Nigerians are tired of him. I am sure if it is possible, Nigerians would ask him to go back to his cows and goats tomorrow.
Why are you talking like that? Don’t you know that he who runs breathes too? Can’t you see him? He is old and really tired. He deserves some rest having dutifully served the nation with all his might and energy.
What do you mean “he is old and really tired”? Was he not the one who applied for the job? Did he not know it is wearisome? Was he not insisting on being a President, thus contesting four full times before winning? It means he was not an accidental leader. He knew what he was yearning for. He had been a Military Head of State. So, he knew what was required to lead a diverse and most populous black nation in the world. It is not and couldn’t have been for the faint-hearted.
Come on, be gracious. You are talking about an 80-year-old man. Didn’t you see his classmates when they visited him in Daura during the Sallah holidays? Didn’t you see them worn and weak, feeble and febrile? Don’t you know President Buhari is really a strong man to yet be presiding over Nigeria at such an age with all the complexities and difficulties of ruling the country? You think it is a joke? Ask Babatunde Fashola what suddenly whitened all his hair a few months after being a minister.
Leave Fashola out of this matter. I am saying Mr President asked for the job. He even threatened that “the dog and the baboon will be soaked in blood”, if he is rigged out of the contest again. So, why are you being sentimental about him being old and tired? He got what he asked for and so he should not complain. It is we Nigerians who should be complaining about whether he has impressed us or not. In fact, that is why many Nigerians would rather the time runs speedily so he can vacate the seat for a fresh and more energised hand.
What are you implying? Do you mean that Nigerians are fed up with Mr President?
You said so! Not me.
So, explain what you meant.
Unlike the President who spoke in parables when he talked about dogs and baboons and blood, I spoke in everyday language. In case you did not understand me well, I hereby state very clearly that Nigerians are far more eager to let Mr President go than the other way round. We are waiting with baited breath. It is as if May next year is eternity.
Are you so ensconced in the rock that you cannot hear the groaning of Nigerians on the streets? Do you not hear of the fight in homes because housewives can no longer cook meals because of the high cost of living, whereas one man can actually steal N80 billion? Can’t you see the rough wrinkles of angry faces on the streets? Can’t you see how much we have spent, as a people, to achieve huge megawatts of darkness? Can’t you see angry youths flocking into drugs and crime because their schools are shut almost forever? Can’t you see the angst and impatience at the filling stations? Why are you pretending as if you don’t know we can’t go to our villages anymore because of some persons now called bandits who are on the prowl? Or did you not hear that even Mr President’s very own advance team convoy was attacked by these strange Thanes of the society. If fire can burn the tortoise with the iron coat, imagine what it will do to a fowl with a feathery gown. Must we get to the Sri Lanka point before we have a new dawn?
God forbid! Sri Lanka cannot happen here. This is Nigeria. We are resilient and hard-headed.
Just calm down. Like Mr President, let us take it one day at a time, it will soon be dawn. A new Sheriff will come to town and we will know it.
Provided the new sheriff will not throw us all from the frying pan into the fire directly.
Jamais, as the French will say. Don’t you have good wishes for your beloved country? Again, calm down. Pray for a new dawn that will usher in sunshine of freedom, peace and plenty.