The unveiling of Kashim Shettima, vice presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) on Wednesday, continues to be mired in controversy following the appearance of “fake” bishops whom many say were conscripted to give the impression that the Christian community is in support of the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Since Shettima, a former governor of Borno State was chosen by Bola Tinubu, presidential candidate of the ruling party as his running mate, Christians have been up in arms, insisting that they would not accept a Muslim-muslim ticket.
Bola Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State is a Muslim from the South West geopolitical zone, while Shettima is a Muslim from the North East, in a country that has an even Muslim-Christian split, and where religious tension has been on the rise.
Notably, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which had before the primary elections of political parties, warned against same faith ticket, has firmly rejected the APC presidential ticket.
Perhaps to play down the anger, some individuals dressed like Catholic priests and pastors to the Shehu Musa Yar’adua Centre in Abuja, venue of the unveiling ceremony on Wednesday.
The presence of the “priests” triggered curiosity as many wondered who they were.
Upon investigations, some of the ‘priests’ were identified as members of the party, one of whom is Ugo Ugokwe who had contested for the position of APC deputy youth leader at the party’s recent convention.
Indeed, the ‘priests’ who vehemently refused to speak to reporters were later caught sharing what looked like money after the event, a development that got many talking.
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“The fake bishops misadventure at Tinubu’s unveiling of Shettima as his running mate is such a sophomoric and tragicomical self-own,” said Farooq Kperogi, US based professor of journalism.
“”It both needlessly aggrandized the lack of religious pluralism in the APC presidential ticket it was supposed to conceal and overshadowed the main event itself. What sort of gluttony for self-ridicule is that? I just watched a video that purports to be some of the fake bishops taking off their robes and sharing the money they were allegedly paid for their “service” and I couldn’t control the burst of deep, loud, hearty laughter that escaped from my mouth.
“Recall that the Buhari regime had used the same tactic of hiring fake Christian clergy to protest in support of the government. I’m not sure if the video I watched isn’t actually from that time because the fake clergy were also caught on camera taking off their robes and sharing money.”
Meanwhile, Joseph Odaudu, one of the supposed bishops at the event, has revealed that the party promised him N100,000 to act as a Christian leader.
Odaudu said he was at the car park behind Eagle Square on Wednesday when someone approached him with the offer, according to People’s Gazette.
“They came to meet us at the car park behind Eagle Square and they promised to give me N100,000. They bought food for us and took us to another place where they gave us clothes to dress like Christian leaders and reverend fathers,” Odaudu was quoted to have said.
“But after we finished, they only gave me N40,000 and another person said they got only N30,000. I don’t know why they changed our agreement, because they said they had N100,000 for us.”
The impostor, who identified himself as a Bola Tinubu supporter, said his act was only meant to show that Christians were also supporting Tinubu.
“No law was broken. We only tried to show Nigerians that Christians are solidly behind Asiwaju Tinubu,” he said.
Rev. Fr. Patrick Alumuku, the spokesman of the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria, Abuja, had earlier said the bishops who appeared in the photos circulating online were not the church’s representatives.
Alumuku said that Tinubu’s campaign team hired fake bishops to attend the event.
“We have seen the photos circulating online. They are not Catholic bishops. The Catholic Church did not send any representation to the event held today by Bola Tinubu and his running mate, Kashim Shettima,” he was quoted to have said.
“If you look at the manner in which the imposters dressed and conducted themselves, you will see they are not Catholic Church officials.”
Meanwhile, the Christian Association of Nigeria, has denied any association with the “clerics”
Rev. Joseph John Hayab, the Vice President of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) and its chairman in Kaduna State in an interview with journalists in Abuja mocked the said clerics for not having “enough time to learn “how to wear Bishop garments.”
He said, “The people we saw at the unveiling of Shettima paraded as Bishops are people who did not have enough time to learn how to wear Bishop garments. Take a closer look at their photo and you will see another Nollywood movie.
“CAN wonders why the desperation. First, a story was out claiming to have come from the Chairman of CAN Borno state only to be refuted. Secondly, there was another lie that BAT (Bola Ahmed Tinubu) and his running mate were on their way to meet CAN President one night. A meeting that was not true and was on a night that the CAN President was in Alabama USA attending the Baptist World Alliance Conference of which he is the Vice President.
“Another desperation story was that they met Papa Adeboye which the RCCG later refuted. If Christians are not important why the desperation?
“BAT is free to hire mechanics and other artisans and sew clerical garments for them. An effort that will only add to their many ropes when the political exercise is over but will not change the need for fairness and justice that CAN is calling for.
“CAN appreciates that we are in a democracy, no need to do funny and dubious things just to prove a point because it will in the end bounce back. BAT team should simply do what is right and stop the drama.”