To the chagrin of many, the ruling Party, the All Progressives Congress (APC) made a move that perplexed many, when its Presidential flag bearer, Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu, after initial prevarication selected Senator Kashim Shettima, former Governor of Borno State and a fellow Muslim, as his running mate. While some bemoan the insensitivity of the APC in featuring a Muslim-Muslim Presidential ticket, some others consider it political suicide, as they believe it will dampen the chances of the Party at the polls. Some APC stalwarts have registered their disapproval of this development, by resigning from the Party in protest. Dr Daniel Hassan Bwala, Inibehe Effiong and Ogedi Ogu, express their views on this rather controversial choice of APC
The Audacity of Hypocrisy and the Hypocrisy of Competence
Dr Daniel Bwala
Since my resignation from membership of APC, I have heard from, listened to and read about the rich resources of Nigerians, whose interventions have contributed to the debate on diversity, equity, shared prosperity and inclusiveness. Of all the interventions that at least I have come across, what I find curious is a certain narration that religion is not relevant in politics, that the poor man on the street does not care about religion, that he just wants food on his table; and the funniest of all is the notion that choice and selection of the Vice Presidential flag bearer of APC was made purely on the basis of competence, as against religious consideration. This is what I call, the audacity of hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of competence.
1. The Audacity of Hypocrisy
For avoidance of doubt, hypocrisy is defined as “ The practice of claiming to have higher standards, or more noble beliefs than is the case”. In other words, the practice of saying we should ignore religious injustice, disregard to diversity and simply focus on issue-based campaign; as if equity, diversity, justice are not issues that affect the electorates and form the bases for their choices and decisions. Everywhere in the world, wherever religion disfavours the minority, it has always been an issue that forms talking points in campaign and solicitations for votes. The hallmark of religious conversation is not only to buttress inclusiveness, but to ensure the protection of religious rights. Today, in both the United Kingdom and the United States, the concepts such as Islamaphobia and antisemitism are core issues that affect Muslims in largely Christian dominated countries and Jews in the society that harbours neo-nazism. Therefore, it has been a campaign issue.
When the various political parties began preparations for primary elections, there were several meetings by different sections, blocs and zones of the country debating around zoning formulae and the need to entrench diversity and opportunities, as in the selection of the various positions ranging from State, National Assembly, Governorship and Presidential elections by political parties to produce candidates for the general contest. Some of the fiercest advocates for zoning then, have now supernaturally turned into experts on competence and compellability. A good example was when politicians from the North were insisting on participating in the Presidential primaries, on account of competence and opportunity; some of the Southern politicians dismissed that and insisted on zoning for equity and fairness. The same politicians who insisted on zoning have suddenly turned 360 degrees, and are now saying that the demand for religious zoning is a non-issue and unnecessary distraction. For example, in APC, when the National Chairman once said the party is likely to field a Northerner if PDP produced a northern candidate, on the ground that its only a Northerner that can defeat a Northerner, the now-competence-advocates were then the-equity and fairness-advocates. Some even were subliminally suggesting that, fielding a Northern Presidential candidate might destabilise the peace and unity of the country. These equity and-fairness advocates, having eventually achieved their dream, albeit via the cooperation of the Northern Governors’ Forum, have now turned to say the request by Northern minority Christians for equity is a distraction, and should be ignored. Audacity of hypocrisy. The same can be likened to those who, against the Party’s decision, expressed and worked towards a more fair and equitable outcome, have now seen no reason why the same standards be applied to Northern minority christians. Hypocrisy of competence.
2. The Hypocrisy of Competence
The hypocrisy of competence, is the most asinine argument I have ever heard. Hiding behind competence to perpetuate an agenda, as if competence cannot be found in every tribe, ethnic and religious background. Brandishing competence with no criteria, or set standards for decision making. Oftentimes, the outcome shows the very opposite of competence. It has now become a common cliché, in our political processes and participation. When someone wants to perpetuate fraud and injustice, he hides under the guise of competence, as if the principle of federal character has been expunged from our Constitution.
When the flag bearer of APC stated that the rationale behind his choice of a running mate was competence, I laughed in Chinese, because even on the evidence of a choice of a Muslim candidate, Governor El Rufai is by far a more competent and experienced candidate than the chosen candidate. If you stretch the argument further, you then factor Northeastern Christians such as Boss Mustapha who is a serving Secretary to the Government of the Federation with full knowledge and rich experience of the working of the Government of the Federation; Hon Dogara, former Speaker of the House of Representatives, with rich contacts and association across the country and knowledge of parliamentary affairs, with regard to the Government of the Federation. All these people were dismissed with a wave of hand as incompetent, or less competent than the chosen one. The irony is that whilst the flag bearer diverts attention to competence, the real issue is religion, because, szzzzuddenly, those who support his choices could not hide the reality, and had to be all over the media advocating that a Muslim Northerner is required to secure the votes of the Northern Muslims. That’s the issue, religion, which competence-advocates were quick to dismiss. This brazen injustice will run deep in the spines of the Northern minority Christians, and again, scratch the wounds of trust.
The Northern minority Christians have been loyal and faithful, to the northernisation dream of shared prosperity. Since the times of Sardauna of Sokoto, the late Sir Ahmadu Bello who instituted the nothernisation philosophy of equity and shared prosperity, to date and in all strata of our national life, the minority Northern Christians have not only identified with the rest of the North in struggles, but have sacrificed a lot in the endeavour. Now, after more than 60 years, they cannot be trusted to be given their fair share of opportunity in governance. In other words, they are not Northerners because of their religious identity, and you tell me APC is not playing identity politics.
The outcry sought for a fair and equitable leadership that will address it; unfortunately, Asiwaju has demonstrated that an Asiwaju government would not only accept and endorse the injustice, but he will reinforce it under the guise of competence. In APC, clearly there seems to be no path to happiness for any Christian, let alone Christian politician. I am also surprisingly seeing my Christian brothers, who during the primaries who worked against Asiwaju for their preferred candidates, and knowing what is to come to them now that he is the flag bearer, have taken on the mantle to seek remission of sin and acceptance as the beloved, and are all over the media masturbating asinine arguments in the hope they will be integrated into his plans and government, if and when he wins. As for me I was already in a place of comfort in Asiwaju’s universe; I fought hard and at the risk of life for his emergence, and was personally promised a leading role in his campaign and government, when I made the decision to resign. Let me close by quoting the holy book Esther 4:14: “For if thou altogether holdest thy peace at this time, then shall there enlargement and deliverance arise to the Christian from another place…and who knoweth whether thou art come to the kingdom for such a time as this”
I rest my case.
Dr Daniel Bwala, Legal Practitioner and Barrister Lincoln’s Inn (NP), Abuja
‘Legality’ of the APC’s Muslim-Muslim Presidential Candidacies
The decision of the All Progressives Congress (APC) to nominate Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima as her Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates respectively, has thrown the country into palpable political and ethno-religious tension; given that both candidates are of the Islamic faith, which has altered the established political tradition and further jeopardised the delicate structural balance of Nigeria.
Constitutional Requirements for the Office of President and Vice President
As the controversy rages on, this op-ed attempts to dissect the legal perspective and the implications of the same faith candidacies adopted by the APC. As a preliminary point, it should be noted that faith or religious identity of a candidate, is not a prerequisite or a qualifying criterion for eligibility into elective offices. Thus, the issue is not whether Kashim Shettima is qualified to be the Vice President within the purview and contemplation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended).
The office of Vice-President is established by Section 141 of the Constitution which states that “there shall be for the Federation a Vice-President”, while Section 142 (1) of the Constitution prescribes the process of nomination and election of Vice President.
Regarding qualification and disqualification, Section 142 (2) read along with Section 131 of the Constitution states that the indices of qualification and disqualification applicable to the office of President shall apply to the office of the Vice-President. In other words, a person shall be qualified for election to the office of Vice-President if: (a) he is a citizen of Nigeria by birth; (b) he has attained the age of forty years; (c) he is a member of a political party and is sponsored by that political party; (d) he has been educated up to at least School Certificate level or its equivalent.
From the foregoing, there is no doubt that Senator Kashim Shettima has met the constitutional requirements to be nominated as the Vice Presidential candidate of the APC.
Principle of Federal Character
As earlier cautioned, the real issue is not about qualification; the real question or issue is whether the decision by Tinubu and the APC to select and nominate Shettima as their Vice Presidential candidate despite being of the same faith with the Presidential Candidates, is in conformity with the constitutional principle of federal character?
I will preface my attempt to answer the above question, by drawing our attention to Section 10 of the Constitution which is construed by a jurisprudential school of thought as the provision that entrenches the secularity of the Nigerian state, by declaring emphatically that “the Government of the Federation and of State shall not adopt any religion as State religion.”
In essence, while there is general consensus that Christianity and Islam are the ‘dominant’ religions in Nigeria, the Constitution forbids any act or omission which seek, tend or purport to elevate either religions as State religion. In discussing Muslim-Muslim ticket, or Christian-Muslim ticket, we should bear in mind that these religions are not the official religions of the Nigerian State and cannot be elevated as such, having regard to the constitutional encumbrance in Section 10.
The federal character principle at the federal level is rooted in Section 14 (3) of the Constitution. For clarity, the provisions are reproduced verbatim infra:
“14(3) The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few State or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies.”
From the above provisions, the composition of the Government of the Federation, and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria, promote national unity, and also command national loyalty, and ensure that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government.
Some commentators have contended that religion has nothing to do with the federal character principle, and that in any event, elective offices are not subject to federal character. This argument is flawed and we shall illustrate this momentarily. Before exposing the flaws in this argument, there is a fundamental question that must be addressed and it goes thus: what is the federal character of Nigeria?
The word “character” can simply be defined as the attributes, traits, mannerisms, physical makeup, culture or personality of a person, society, nation or thing. The Constitution Drafting Committee (CDC) in its 1977 report, defined Federal Character as follows:
“The distinctive desire of the peoples of Nigeria to promote national unity, foster national loyalty and give every citizen of Nigeria a sense of belonging to the nation notwithstanding the diversities of ethnic, origin, culture, language or religion which may exist and which it is their desire to nourish, harness to the enrichment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
More concisely, Section 14 (3) of the Constitution reproduced supra, is unequivocal on the purport of the federal character principle. The intention of the farmers of the Constitution, is not in doubt. Federal character is intended to promote national unity, and also command national loyalty, and ensure that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government.
It is conceded that the federal character principle in Section 14 falls under the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy contained in Chapter II of the Constitution, which is non-justiciable. It is non-justiciable because, it cannot ordinarily be enforced in a court of law. This is because by virtue of Section 6 (6) (c) of the Constitution, the judicial powers of the courts shall not extern to any issue or question as to whether any act or omission by any authority or person, is in conformity with the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy set out in Chapter II of the Constitution. This position was reaffirmed by the Supreme Court in the case of ATTORNEY GENERAL OF ONDO STATE v ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION (2002) 9 NWLR (PT.772) 222.
However, there are instances where the principles enunciated and provided for in Chapter II will be justiciable. One of such instances, is where the Constitution itself makes a principle in Chapter II justiciable. Another instance, is where the National Assembly enacts a law to guarantee the justiciability of a given matter or item in Chapter II. See the case of AG Ondo State supra and Section 4(2) read along with item 60 (a) Part 1 of the Second Schedule to the Constitution on the exclusive legislative power of the National Assembly to enact a law for the enforcement and justiciability of Chapter II.
I have already posited in this piece, that Senator Shettima is constitutionally eligible to be nominated for election to the office of the Vice President. I also espoused that the gravamen of the argument, is not about his constitutional qualification.
Has APC Breached the Principle of Federal Character?
The question begging for answer therefore is, has the APC in any shape or form contravened the Constitutional principle of federal character by opting for Muslim-Muslim Presidential Candidacies, in defiance of federal character and the established political tradition practised since the birth of the Fourth Republic in 1999?
The answer to this poser is not a simplistic one. However, a community reading of the provisions of Sections 14, 15, 131 (c), 142 (2), 221, 222 (b) and 224 of the Constitution offers not only clarity, but a definitive answer on whether the Muslim-Muslim presidential candidacies adopted by the APC is inconsistent with the spirit and letters of the Nigerian Constitution, particularly as it relates to federal character. I shall now examine the said provisions in brevity.
Section 15 of Chapter II contains the Political Objectives of the country and subsection 2 thereof states that “…national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited.” Subsection 4 of Section 15 similarly states that “The State shall foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.”
By virtue of Section 221 of the Constitution, only a political party can canvass for votes for a candidate. The combined effect of Sections 131(c) and 142(2) of the Constitution, makes it imperative for any person seeking the office of President and Vice President to belong to a political party and be sponsored by that political party. Section 222(b) provides that no association by whatever name called, shall function as a political party unless “the membership of the association is open to every citizen of Nigeria irrespective of his place of origin, circumstance of birth, sex, religion or ethnic grouping.”
Lastly, Section 224 of the Constitution provides that the Aims, Objectives and Programme of every political party must conform to the provisions of Chapter II of the Constitution. As earlier contended, Sections 14(3) and 15(2) and (4) of the Constitution, fall under Chapter II. I also stated earlier that while Chapter II is not ordinarily justiciable, it becomes justiciable where the Constitution itself (in another provision) creates an exception for justiciability.
In the instant case, the APC as a political party, has an obligation to conform to the Fundamental Objectives and Directive Principles of State Policy in Chapter II of the Constitution, including the federal character principle under Section 14 and the political principles in Section 15 which mandates that “…national integration shall be actively encouraged, whilst discrimination on the grounds of place of origin, sex, religion, status, ethnic or linguistic association or ties shall be prohibited”, and to also foster a feeling of belonging and of involvement among the various peoples of the Federation, to the end that loyalty to the nation shall override sectional loyalties.
The next question that all Nigerians of good conscience must answer with honesty is: has the Muslim-Muslim presidential candidacies of the APC breached the federal character principle? Put differently, has the APC, by nominating Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates from the same faith promoted national integration, national unity and national loyalty, or has it promoted disunity, sectional loyalty and disintegration?
From all that we have witnessed since Shettima’s nomination was made public, it should not be difficult to reach a conclusion that the APC has violated the federal character principle.
It amounts to intellectual duplicity, to argue that religion is not an integral part of the federal character of Nigeria. In 2015, the APC rejected Muslim-Muslim ticket because it violated the federal character principle. If the APC no longer believes in federal character, the starting point should be for the Party to propose a Constitutional amendment to expunge federal character from the Constitution. Quota system should also be abrogated. Until this is done, it is mischievous and dubious for the APC to blatantly ignore the duty imposed on it by the Constitution to conform to federal character, under the ridiculous pretext that it nominated Muslim-Muslim candidates based on “competence.”
Without federal character, Buhari would not be the President today. Bola Tinubu is the Presidential candidate of the APC, partly because of federal character. Zoning is a product of federal character. Those who seek to exclude religion from their interpretation of federal character, are doing so dishonestly. If there is nothing wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket, then there should be nothing wrong with Christian-Christian ticket, North-North ticket or East-East ticket. Politics and democracy have seen said to be about numbers. But, politics and democracy in a heterogeneous country like Nigeria, must be deliberately tailored to foster a sense of inclusion and national integration. That is why the federal character principle is enshrined in the Constitution. Representation is an indispensable ingredient of democracy.
Those who keep retorting that Nigerians who are not comfortable with the decision of the APC should focus on their preferred political parties, should reread the constitutional provisions enunciated above, including Section 224 which imposes a duty on all political parties to adhere to federal character. It smacks of arrogance and crass insensitivity, to dismiss the legitimate views of those who are justifiably disenchanted by the destructive and dangerous politics of identity and exclusion that the APC has now fully embraced.
There is a reason why the framers of the Constitution made it
mandatory for the membership of all political parties, to be open to people of all religions. It is to ensure that all religions are treated fairly, in the ‘distribution’ of leadership positions in the country. It is to ensure that a political party, does not operate in a sectarian manner. It is to prevent a political party from projecting itself as a Muslim Brotherhood, or as a Christian Brotherhood, or as a brotherhood for African traditional worshippers.
Since the APC has chosen a sectarian and divisive path, it is left for the Nigerian electorate to determine whether the path chosen by the APC is in the best interest of Nigeria, bearing in mind the multi-religious and multi-ethnic character of Nigeria, and vote accordingly in 2023.
Given the unpardonable mismanagement of Nigeria’s diversity, and the grievous damage that President Buhari and the APC have inflicted on this country in the last seven years, one would have expected the APC to read and respect the mood of the nation and be circumspect, and not resort to desperate political gimmicks and divisiveness that will further polarise our country. Shamefully, the APC decided to remind us that allowing it to assume power in 2015, remains a tragic mistake of history.
Inibehe Effiong, Legal Practitioner and Human Rights Activist, Lagos
How to Lie to Ourselves!
In all our deliberations, we should not lose touch of the peculiarities of our God given country.
Elsewhere, Political Leaders resign willingly on grounds of incompetence or loss of confidence by the citizenry.
Does it Happen Here?
Here, it is a ‘crime’ to enquire into the health status of someone aspiring to lead your country.
Here, it is right to prevent someone seeking your vote, from facing the press and speaking to his candidacy.
Here, it is forbidden to enquire as to the source of wealth of someone aspiring to be your President.
Here, it is a crime to enquire as to the true identity, age and qualifications of Presidential candidates. In the countries you refer to as countries that do not mind ethnicity and religious lines, it is a given.
In those countries you may wish to cite, voting counts. Does it count here?
This is why it is always bad argument to use the USA and Europe, as examples in things like this. Nigeria has been polarised along ethnic and religious lines; yet, we think there is nothing wrong with having the two most important offices occupied by persons of same faith, in today’s Nigeria!
We should be worried about why the North cannot trust a fellow Northerner of the Christian faith. In other words, that the North would not vote-in the APC, if a Christian Northerner is taken as Vice President. But, it is forbidden for a Christian to feel bad about a Muslim-Muslim ticket. I mean, the Christians should feel comfortable with Muslim-Muslim ticket. But, it is right and legal for the North not to be comfortable with Muslim-Christian ticket. Even though the Christian is from the same North.
So, why are we all avoiding the truth…the North does not consider a South Muslim, Muslim enough. You still don’t get it? The North does not consider a Yoruba Muslim qualified enough to be the Muslim in a Muslim-Christian ticket. And, the Muslim Yoruba must therefore, admit same, act and show his non-qualification as seen and held by the North, by picking a fellow Muslim from the North to be so qualified.
I read somewhere, obviously from one of those platforms projecting and trying to justify the ticket, that there is nothing wrong with it, that after all, the power resides in the President and not in the Vice. Waoh!!! What a smart analogy.
So, then, why couldn’t a Northern Christian VP be allowed to deputise the Southern Muslim President, hence as reasoned, power will reside in the Muslim President and not in the Muslim Vice President ?
That a man who told us he jettisoned deputising on a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the interest of the country in 2015, could, in 2022, be the one championing and leading a Muslim-Muslim ticket should not be of concern to Nigerians? So, the unity of the country matters not, but his personal ambition on the table of which he has now offered to sacrifice the unity of the country he claimed he once believed in.
Nigeria, at all times must be construed to ensure justice, fairness and equity. Because, this is the only way we can, as a nation, manage a semblance of accountability.
But, let us continue to pretend that it means nothing, even though we understand that that is by a Party with the power of incumbency, a major political party, a Party with one of the clearest chances and possibility of influencing the election.
Let us continue to pretend that the youths will have access to the collation centres. Let us continue to pretend that every single vote will count. Let us continue to pretend that in Nigeria, when they say ‘structure’ and ‘capacity’, it does not actually mean ability to influence and rig elections.
This is just a test of the micro phone, soon we’ll see a North/North ticket and there’s nothing you’ll do about it, after all the essence is to win the election. Just same way we were told that, competency was what informed the appointment of heads of security agencies from one section of the country. Today, we have seen the competency and the true idea behind such appointment.
Lie to Yourself
You can lie to yourself, by pretending that the existence of a fact is in itself a lie! You can lie to yourself, by pretending that you do not know that Nigeria has been polarised along ethnic and religious lines. You can even lie to yourself, by pretending that the Nigeria of today is the same of 1993 or even 2015. You can lie to yourself, by pretending that competence can only be found in a particular ethnic group or religion.
You can even successfully lie to yourself by saying that Nigerians should not feel concerned over Muslim-Muslim ticket, after all, there are other parties to choose from, even though you know you would be more discomforted if he had taken a Northern Christian Vice Presidential candidate.
Ogedi Ogu, Resident Director, Advocacy For Justice & Accountability (AJA)