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Muslim-Muslim Ticket And Political Expediency

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Muslim-Muslim Ticket And Political Expediency

The Insight by Lateef Adewole

In the last few weeks, I have been bombarded with questions as to how the choice of a running mate to the APC flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, will affect his chances of winning the 2023 presidential election, given that he will be running on a Muslim-Muslim ticket. This has been made more pronounced with the way the umbrella body of christians, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has been going around vilifying that decision.

Their actions, attacks and vituperations against it have cascaded down to many churches and among christians. I have watched numerous videos where some pastors campaign against it on the pulpits. This also seemed to have driven them to encourage, persuade or force their church members to go and get their PVCs. It has now been made the “gate pass” before someone can worship in many churches since those without their PVCs are denied entrance. All geared towards mobilising against the Muslim-Muslim ticket.

As commendable as creating awareness for people to get registered and get their PVCs to vote is, coercing people to do it in that manner is unconstitutional and against the fundamental human right of individuals to freely choose and worship. The mindset is in continuation of the myth of Islamization of the country, which many christians have made sing-song for some years now. Sadly, many believers of such misconception and misinformation are themselves, either naive, ignorant or deliberately mischievous. They are too lazy to do thorough investigation of such claim.

This made me to ask myself; is Nigeria actually on Islamization or christianisation agenda? My findings were as shocking as they were incredible. Let me lay them bare. While the position of the president is very critical, the other level of government at the states actually control the lever of power. It is clear under the constitution that federal government does not have its own territory apart from the federal capital. So, a president is the president of the whole country, but cannot lay claim to any landed territory in states. All powers over lands are vested in the state governors to hold in trust for the people.

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And if democracy is about the people, it is then safe to say that the governors actually control the people. But how much attention is paid to this level of government? Everyone is fixated on the presidency. That is why it is generating such level of unhealthy acrimonious enthusiasm. Energies that could be dispense into positive engagements are deployed to engage in campaign of divisiveness and calumny. States control the subregions. The aggregate power of these governors can override any president when mustered together. Moreover, they are autonomous.

Firstly, a Muslim-Muslim ticket of APC came about because of political expediency. Every party wants to win elections. It is such desperation to rout the ruling party by PDP that made them allowed their ticket to go to Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, a northerner, to become Nigeria president, after eight years of another northerner, President Buhari, while the southern Nigeria should look on and play second fiddle. They must have concluded that he is the biggest fish that can pull the votes for them and stands any chance of winning.

Well, it must have been said that it was democratic. Yes ofcourse. And that the primary election was conducted and Atiku won. However, in anticipation of power shift to the south in 2023, at the party convention of PDP, only northerners contested for the position of the national chairman. Southerners conceded to them. After Senator Iyorchia Ayu won, story began to change. Many actually believed Alhaji Atiku Abubakar planted him there for his personal presidential ambition to facilitate him winning the primary.

This was how the south also conceded the presidential ticket to the north in 2019 and only northerners contested for the election that threw the same Alhaji Atiku Abubakar up in PDP primary. How then can the chairman be conceded to the north, only to turn around and threw the presidential primary open to pave way for Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, another notherner as the presidential candidate? That’s betrayal as far as I am concerned. Similar situation wanted to play out in APC but for the stubborn insistence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu in particular, and the northern progressive governors, eventually. This led to the emergence of Tinubu as the flag bearer of the ruling party APC.

Now that Atiku’s match, a politically strong person like him has been elected as the candidate of the ruling party APC, “a muslim, as an individual”, then came the need to get a similarly influential running mate from the north, who, even if not stronger than Atiku, he or she must be politically weighty enough to neutralise the influence of Atiku in the north as much as possible. Where will such person come from? Which religion? Given to sentiment, the natural choice will be to simply pick a christian from the north.

Fine. Which political heavyweight in the north fits these expectations and he or she is a christian? It is like the gender balancing demands that some gender advocates usually made. Which woman can pull votes at presidential level across the country? So, removing sentiments, the difficult choice for a Bola Tinubu is a strong muslim northerner. And that was what was done even in a placeholder status. When the actual running mate will be decided, nothing will change.

The phrase about Tinubu being a muslim as an individual which I put in quote was deliberate. It is an open secret that half of the immediate family of his is a strongly devoted christian- his wife. She is said to be a pastor at RCCG. I saw a picture of her ordination few days ago. I can’t say of his children but definitely, many of them will be christians as well. This was buttressed by a post on social media credited to Tinubu yesterday where he said: “In our bedroom, my wife puts her Holy Bible beside my Holy Qur’an, and one thing I discover is that both Books stay with each other peacefully without quarrelling”.

So, an x-ray of the political power holders across the country would reveal that Nigeria is actually being chritianised more than being Islamized. Of all the 36 state governors, there are only 16 muslims while christians are 20. These have 13 muslims deputy governors while christians are 23. Across the north where muslims dominate, from 19 states, there are 15 muslim governors and 4 christians. Muslim deputies are 11 with 8 christians. Across the south where christians dominate, of the 17 states, there are 16 governors who are christians while only 1 is a muslim. There are 15 deputy governors who are christian while only 2 are muslim.

I have a friend who always praised the South-West as the most peaceful region, and that it should be a model to other regions for their religious harmony but I always told him that muslims’ continous tolerance made that possible. We have 5 governors who are christians and only 1 muslim in the 6 states of South-West. There are 3 deputy governors apiece. It will shock many that in this same Yorubaland where muslims and christians share equal proportion in population, Ondo and Ekiti states have never given any muslim a chance to be the governor of the states. The two states have also continously fielded christian-christian tickets for decades.

Muslims were not considered to be worthy of leadership in the two states. Even in Osun State, where muslim should have greater population, Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and Mrs. Olusola Obada of PDP, are both christians and they governed the state from 2003 to 2010. In all of these injustices, how many times did muslims cry foul? Who heard or bothered to listen to the complaints of muslims? It is tolerance and endurance by muslims, of such oppression, that have kept the South-West “peaceful” as it is often said. But CAN and many christians see no evil in all of these. They kept quiet about them. So, are these Christianisation or Islamization of Nigeria? Let everyone’s conscience be their judge.

Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is someone who will be called “extremely liberal” muslim, for his accommodation of christians both from the South-West and other parts of Nigeria, in his personal capacity and political journey. He has always been fair to all concerned. Muslims could not say he has really represented or specially favoured them, or even protected their interests, despite being one of them. Under his towering political leadership and influence, muslims still get oppressed and suffer discriminations across the South-West region in public organisations and institutions, unconstitutionally, example of which is the antagonism against female muslims to use their hijabs in public schools and offices. So, what does CAN and some of these christians really want?

Religion was never used to determine leadership before. In the old Western region with balanced muslim-christian population, Chief Awolowo and Akintola, both christians, were leaders of Action Group (AG) up to early 60’s. In 1979 presidential election, Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Philip Umeadi of UPN ran on a Christian-Christian ticket. The general belief was that they won but were rigged out. In 1993, Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe of SDP ran on a Muslim-Muslim ticket and won.

It is CAN that has continously accentuate such religious dichotomy. The noise became loud in 1986 when General Ibrahim Badamosi Babangida registered Nigeria as a member of Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC). This was despite many accommodation of many christian activities when Nigeria was under the leadership of muslims. It was said that during the government of Alhaji Abubakar Tafawa Balewa, a muslim, that churches in Nigeria became members of World Bible Churches in 1962 and International Bible Society in 1963.

Sundays are workfree day for christians in Nigeria. Not even in the Western world where Christianity came from that Sundays are made compulsorily work-free. Is there any day that is work-free for muslims to do their own weekly worship? None! This is despite that many muslims have been presidents and military heads of state in Nigeria, non of them made Friday work-free for muslims to worship. Muslims are only allowed for about one or two hours break on that day. It took serious efforts of many notable muslim student activists in the late 70s and early 80s to even get that slot. Yet, it is being blatantly abused and disregarded with impunity by many christians in positions of authority.

I know for a fact how many christians in positions of authority frustrate muslims and hinder them from observing this break on Fridays, whether in schools or offices. I can recall how christian teachers / lecturers often placed their classes, lectures, tests and even examinations within this period, just to prevent the muslims from going for their worships. I experienced these personally numerous times in my academic journey in South-West. Nobody even talks about such in South-East and South-South. Only in the north can muslims have such luxury. This is still prevalent today. Isn’t that oppression? Yet, muslims in the south, especially South-West, endure this. And the region is “peaceful”.

Alhaji Shehu Shagari, a muslim, welcomed Pope John Paul 2, a christian, with open arms into Nigeria while he was the president of Nigeria. Same as General Sani Abacha, another muslim, who allowed the renowned christain televangelist, Reinhard Bonnke, a free reign in the country. Abacha also welcomed Pope John Paul 2 and a Papal Square was even established along Kubwa road, in the FCT, in his honour! How many of such has been done for global Islamic clerics? So, who is tolerating who? Who is oppressing who? Has Nigeria being going through Islamization or Christianisation? Let everyone’s mind be the judge.

One issue I avoid analysing is this kind of religious issue because, in the process of researching and writing about it, many unpleasant actions are exposed, which are like wounds to many people. This is the main reason muslims in the South-West are often quiet, tolerate and endure all manners of harassment, intimidation and oppressions, just for peace to reign, but, will CAN and many divisive pastors and christians let the sleeping dogs lie?

By the way, being a muslim from Yorubaland, about half of my extended family are christians. My elder and younger sisters married christian husbands. My elder brother married a christian wife. We have lived together in peace ever since. Similarly, many of my best friends from childhood till date are christians. Many colleagues, co-workers, business partners and associates and many others, are christians, and they are wonderful people. So, I am not saying that all christians or Christianity is bad. It is just some. There are similarly bad elements among the muslims too.

While I acknowledge the concerns of many christians about the Muslim-Muslim ticket, making it look like a religious battle is unhealthy for the polity and the country. Utterances by many pastors in their churches, as seen in many video clips on social media can only drive more wedges in the unity of the country. I have criticised similar sermons by muslims clerics too. Let me make it clear that I have not generalised this. There are still many christians who have no problem with the ticket, like many other citizens. What matters to them is good governance. “Who religion of the president don epp?”

What has Buhari, being a muslim, benefitted the majority muslims, particularly in the north? Are they not the biggest victims of this failing country? The banditry and boko haram terrorism, kidnappings, killings, maimings and rapings that have become preponderance across the northern Nigeria in particular, affect more muslims than christians. When mosques were bombed, worshipers were attacked while observing their daily prayers inside mosques, Islamic schools were attacked and students kidnapped, were these part of Islamization agenda?

In actual fact, what concern many citizens is good governance. They want to see their country rescued and restored to normalcy. They want better economy, employments, security, functional infrastructures like roads, rails, power, housing, education, health, etc. Just like they never ask for the religion of the doctor when they fall sick, or that of mechanic technician when their cars breakdown, they care less about the religion of who leads the country, as long as that person is capable, competent, has required qualifications and experience, and can get the job done. Shikena!

It is time we, the ordinary people, should “ya ara wa ni brain” (be sensible), and not allow leaders, whether political, traditional or religious, to divide us. All these political leaders are friends. It is all about their interests. No one should make enemies of their friends and or families who have different political leanings or supporting different parties or candidates. These political leaders wine, dine and play together. They intermarry among themselves and among their children. No one should die in their fights.

In all, I want to admonish that everyone should calm down. As we proceed towards 2023 elections, everyone is free to make their choice of who to support. This should not be made to cause division, fights or degenerate to unnecessary crisis. Parties, candidates and their supporters should make their discussions, debates and campaigns to be issue-based. There are too many ills plaguing our country to be concerned about beyond the distractions engendered by these religious shenanigans and inanitities. We must keep our eyes on the ball. We cannot continue like this. Enough is enough!

May God continue to protect us and guide us aright.

God Bless Nigeria.

You can follow me on:
Twitter: @lateef_adewole
Facebook: Lateef Adewole
Email: lateefadewole23@gmail.com
Whatsapp: +2348179512401

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