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Storm in APC over Muslim-Muslim ticket

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Tinubu/Shettima Visit: Osun APC 'uncovers plans to disrupt rally' in Osogbo

Adebayo Obajemu

The ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) is at the moment walking a tight rope, and by the day the rope is getting tighter over the decision of its flag bearer in 2023 Presidential Election, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to settle for Muslim/ Muslim ticket. Even before unveiling of his running mate, the groundswell of opposition to an all Muslim ticket had rent the air when it was mere speculation.

Thus, immediately the speculation became real during Sallah when the announcement was finally made that Tinubu had settled for the former governor of Borno State, Ibrahim Shettima, opponents of the all Muslim ticket had gone for the kill.

Even, allies and friends of Tinubu such as Babachir Lawal, the former Secretary to the Federal Government, who many people thought would be tapped, had last week expressed doubt and disappointment over the all Muslim ticket; the tenor of Lawal’s reaction seemed to be verged on a kind of political harakiri for the APC.

In his reasoning, Lawal felt his beloved party must have committed an abominable sin especially by that decision given the fractious, religious -sensitive society as Nigeria, where religious balancing would naturally have been expected.

The unraveling of the party over Tinubu’s decision to ignore religious sensitivity in favour of pragmatism of election victory seems to be coming from within as Tonye Princewill, the governorship candidate of APC in Rivers State and strong ally of the former Transport Minister, Rotimi Amaechi, had last week resigned his party’s membership citing the moral burden of all Muslim ticket as reason.

Tonye, in his resignation letter addressed to the Chairman of APC, Ward 3 (Royal Ward) in Buguma city of Asari Toru Council, said that he, in all honesty, could not defend the decision of his party to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket against public outcry by well-meaning Nigerians.

“I can’t argue for equity in my state and defend inequity in my country,” Tonye said, adding that under such a situation that the country finds itself presently, he could not continue to remain in a party that is “totally insensitive”, adding that even if APC wins next year’s election, it “will prove bad for good governance.”

Princewill’s concerns came a day after another chieftain of the party, Daniel Bwala from Taraba, also resigned his membership for same reason. Bwala, in a post on his Twitter account last Monday, stated that he was dumping the ruling party on principles and convictions that he could not compromise on.

He further stated that at this point, “what Nigeria needs is for us to work towards uniting the country.”

The lawmaker representing Adamawa North Senatorial District, Elisha Ishaku Abbo, had also resigned his membership of the party and Tinubu’s Support group for same reason, describing Tinubu’s decision to pick a Muslim as his running mate as irresponsible.

“For Tinubu now to be given the ticket and turn around to do what he couldn’t achieve in 2015, despite opposition from Christian leaders is extremely irresponsible. Buhari fought a civil war and understands the consequences of a divided nation. When Tinubu wanted to be VP in 2015, Buhari said no because he understood the importance of unity”, he said.

Even, the entertainment community that was initially in bed with Tinubu’s presidential aspiration are not happy.

Last week Tuesday, popular Nollywood actor, Kenneth Okonkwo, also announced his resignation of his membership of APC, after condemning Tinubu’s decision and asking God to “deliver the country from the hands of power grabbers who elevate the quest for power above the pursuit of purpose.”

He stated that APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket would permanently destroy the political viability of Christians in the North if allowed to stand. He added that he resigned his membership in the interest of equity, justice, fairness and peaceful co-existence among Nigerians.

“These ideals are now alien to the APC, with their unfortunate decision to paint our Muslim brothers in lousy light by insinuating that the Muslims in Nigeria will not accept or vote for a Northern Christian as Vice-President to pair with a Southern Muslim. If Muslims could vote voluntarily for Southern Christian presidents, it is a fallacy to insinuate that they cannot accept Northern Christian Vice-President.”

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Following the gale of condemnation, the firebrand former new media spokesperson to ex-President Goodluck Jonathan, Reno Omokri stated that those who had tried to be Nigeria’s leader on a Muslim-Muslim ticket never achieved it.

Omokri stated this on his verified Twitter handle @renoomokri on Tuesday. He tweeted: “Nobody should be too worried about the Tinubu Muslim-Muslim ticket. Everyone who has tried it in Nigeria has either lost or was never sworn in. Everybody. No exception. Yesterday and today are pregnant with what will happen to Tinubu. Nigeria has left that bus-stop!”
“Nigeria is too divided for a same religion ticket. It is just like a same sex marriage. As a nation, we are not ready for both same sex marriages and same religion political marriages. Nigeria needs peace. Nigeria needs balance!”

More frightening is the publicly expressed decision of APC Christian political leaders in the 19 Northern states who have vowed to withdraw their support for the party during the general elections if the Muslim-Muslim ticket is not dropped.

In a press release shortly after their meeting last week and made available to journalists in Kaduna and signed by three of the leaders, Prof. Doknan Sheni, Dr. Ishaya Bauka and Prof. Saudi Ibrahim, they said “the meeting noted with concern the resignation of some high profile Christians from the APC across the country as a consequence, with more to follow unless concerted efforts are made to redeem our party from hate mongers and those who seek to exploit religion to perpetuate their self-interests as opposed to national interest.

“After extensive deliberations, the meeting came to the conclusion that as Christians within the APC, we cannot in all fairness to our consciences and faith go to our various constituencies to campaign for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

“Nigeria is a multi-religious and a constitutional democracy, not a theocracy with religion as a major national fault line, which cannot be whimsically manipulated without dire political consequences on our peaceful co-existence as a people.

“If the APC said a Muslim-Muslim ticket would be injurious to the health of our nation in 2015, what has therefore radically changed to make it good for the health of our nation in 2023?
“That the rejection of a Muslim – Muslim ticket by Christians would undermine the electoral fortunes of the APC and its candidates across all constituencies where Christians enjoy numerical advantage. By so doing APC has recklessly thrown its Christian candidates under the bus.”

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) had earlier said the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket would amount to “a declaration of war,” and has vowed to “mobilise politically against any political party that sows the seed of religious conflict by presenting to Nigeria a presidential ticket that is Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian.”

In its own reading of it, the Catholic Church in Nigeria said, “a Muslim-Muslim ticket would be most insensitive and a tacit endorsement of the negative voices of many non state actors who have been threatening this nation’s unity and peaceful co-existence without an arrest (sic).”

For the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), a “Muslim-Muslim ticket means over 54 percent of the population will be marginalized and shut out;” threatening, “If the party (APC) doesn’t listen to us, then they will meet us at the polls.”

In the southern part of the country, Christian religious leaders have been imploring their congregations to register to vote in next year’s election, raising the improbable specter of a mass defection to either Abubakar’s PDP or Peter Obi’s Labour Party.

But the General Overseer of Living Freedom Church, Prophet Oludele Samson Akinpelu, who has been noted for his acidic criticism of poor governance under current dispensation in his church sermon said “I will still support Tinubu in spite of all Muslim ticket, insisting that though the decision to field all Muslim ticket is bad, I believe Tinubu will do better. I have even set up a committee in my church that will coordinate support for him.”

Political correctness or not, the sensitivity of religion in political action has always been there, affirming Karl Marx’s assertion that religion is the opium of the masses. In a Pew Research recently, it was learnt that in about 80 countries, including the United States, religion plays a seminal role in politics.

Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist told Business Hallmark that “religion has always been central to political choices globally, a good example is the upturning of Roe vs Wade by the United States Supreme Court.

“In countries like Lebanon, you must be a Maronete Christian to be prime minister, and in Syria, an Alawite Muslim.”

According to Pew Research, in
about 30 countries, it is only person of a particular faith that can become president or prime minister. However, supporters of Tinubu believe that most Christians will still vote overwhelmingly for him because of the fact that what matters is good governance and not the faith of the leader.

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But many believe picking a Christian running mate would be as good as throwing away whatever chance he has of becoming president since, it is contended, he would stand less chance of wooing the northern Muslim population, let alone splitting the northern vote with Abubakar.

In short, having a Christian running mate, even one from the north, would be such a disadvantage that his own (southern) Muslim identity would not be enough to overcome.
On the contrary, so goes the analysis, picking a northern Muslim running mate would put Tinubu in a stronger position, given the penchant of the northern electorate to put religious identity above other considerations.

 

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