Dire implications of Tinubu’s same-faith presidential ticket

Bola Tinubu and Shettima
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Nigeria, a heterogeneous country, is a nation of nations. She is a very populous nation-state with over 200 million people. And more than 250 ethnic groups make up the geographical expression and ‘Lugardian’ contraption christened Nigeria by Miss Flora Shaw, Lord Lugard’s mistress. Millions of Nigerians, who are deeply religious, are practitioners of such religions as Islam, Christianity, and African Traditional Religion. We have Bhudists, animists, and Christian and Islamic mystics in Nigeria, too; however, they are minority religious groups.

It should be noted that Nigerians are deeply and intensely religious people. Their religiosity and religious superstition manifest in diverse ways. For example, many people, who are afflicted with diseases, link their afflictions or health maladies to spiritual manipulations by their enemies, and seek cures in religious places instead of going to hospitals for therapies. And some middle-aged women who are unmarried believe that their enemies cast spell on them, which has resulted in their long spinsterhood. Religious superstition, no doubt, reigns supreme in our country.

And in the past, in the northern part of Nigeria, those who spoke ill of Prophet Mohammed paid dearly for their verbal faux pas. Some months ago, Deborah Samuel, a female student of a College of Education in northern Nigeria, was killed and set ablaze for allegedly committing blasphemy.

Again, in 2002, a fatwa was placed on a Thisday journalist, Isioma Daniel, for her comment on the 2002 Miss World Beauty Contest and Prophet Mohammed. Her article outraged the conservative northern Muslims and led to violent protests in the North. Consequently, the 2002 Miss World Beauty Contest slated to take place in Nigeria was cancelled.

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Not only are Nigerians religious bigots, they are also inveterate ethnic jingoists and chauvinists. But it was Chief Obafemi Awolowo who first championed ethnic nationalism in Nigeria. Not unexpectedly, other Nigerian freedom fighters, including Nnamdi Azikiwe, toed the same line.  As a consequence, Nigeria’s ethnic and religious fissures deepened and became our Achilles’ heel and hindrance to our collective efforts to make Nigeria an organic whole and united nation-state.

But it is during every periodic general election that the matter of religion as well as ethnicity mostly rears its ugly head, and threatens our continued existence as one united and indivisible country. A majority of Nigerians will cast their votes for a presidential candidate whose religious and ethnic groups are the same as theirs, rather than vote for a presidential candidate who possesses leadership qualities, moral probity, and patriotism. So do you still wonder why Nigeria is trapped in political quagmire, economic stagnation, and technological backwardness?

Another general election will take place next year (2023). But is it possible for us to experience a paradigm shift regarding the voting patterns of different demographic groups in Nigeria?  The three major political parties for the 2023 presidential election, namely the Peoples Democratic Party, All Progressives Congress, and Labour Party have all got their presidential candidates and running mates.

But the APC’s Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket is causing furore in Nigeria, now. The political party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, is a Yoruba Muslim while his running mate, Kashim Shettima, is a northern Muslim. A Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket is not unprecedented in Nigeria’s political annals. In the past, the Abiola-Kingibe presidential ticket on the platform of the then Social Democratic Party won the  June 12, 1993 presidential election which was adjudged the freest and fairest presidential election in our political annals.

But at this period in our national life, when our dear country is bifurcated along ethnic and religious lines, the APC presidential ticket pairing smacks of gross insensitivity to millions of Nigerians who have religious preferences other than Islam. A majority of Christians feel alienated by the APC presidential ticket pairing. And they have bought into the theory that Tinubu will islamise Nigeria if he wins the 2023 presidential election.

Again, the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket does not augur well for Nigeria’s unity, political stability, and national development. But do our political leaders care about our interests, the development of Nigeria, and the continued existence of all ethnic groups in Nigeria as one country? The answer to this rhetorical question is no. Tinubu feels that having a northern Muslim as his running mate will make him garner enough votes that will guarantee him victory in the 2023 presidential election. But are his political, prognostication, permutations, and calculations correct?

However, with the passage of time, and with Mr. Peter Obi’s soaring popularity, Nigeria’s political calculus, dynamics, and equation have changed.  Today, millions of Nigerians, who want an upturning of the ugly status quo ante, have queued up behind Mr Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party. They perceive him as the political Messiah, who will right the wrongs in our political polity, take Nigeria out of the economic woods, and entrench peace and unity in Nigeria.

More so, Obi, whose popularity with people is phenomenal, chose a northern Muslim, Ahmed Datti, as his running mate. Add it to the fact that the New Nigeria People’s Party and PDP presidential candidates are northern Muslims, and you will see why the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket will be an albatross on Bola Tinubu. The northern votes will be split among the APC, PDP, NNPP, and Labour Party with Atiku of PDP and Kwakwanso of NNPP getting huge votes, owing to their clout in the north and political dexterity.

So, is Bola Tinubu’s choice of a running mate not a misconceived idea, a political miscalculation, a political albatross on his presidential candidature, and an Achilles heel in his quest to become Nigeria’s President?

Again, it should be noted that given the fragile peace that exists in Nigeria, a heterogeneous country, the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket cannot engender peaceful and harmonious existence among the diverse peoples of Nigeria. If Bola Tinubu wins the 2023 presidential election, Christians will continue to view his doings with suspicion. And he will spend a great deal of time trying to convince and reassure us that he has no plan to ‘islamise’ Nigeria.

Lastly, it should be restated here, again, that Tinubu’s selection of Shettima as his presidential running mate is not the political master stroke that will tilt the balance in his favour in the 2023 presidential election.

The bottom line is that politicians should harness our ethnic and religious diversities to make Nigeria an economically prosperous, technologically advanced, politically stable, and united country.

  • Okoye, a poet, writes from Anambra

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