Nigerians kick against delegates system, Muslim-Muslim, Christian-Christian tickets

By Tunde Joshua, Politics Editor

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Nigerians are up in arms against the delegates system of recruiting candidates for various electoral positions. They say the system is endangering the country’s democracy because it is corrupt and does not encourage merit to trump mediocrity.

They affirmed that it allows moneybags to hijack politics in general. They called for electoral reforms to overcome the challenge. Another worrisome issue is religious balance in the electoral candidate recruitment process. Most Nigerians want it upheld for national unity, justice and stability but others say it should be ignored. Their concerns arose over perceived moves in some quarters to ignore religious balance in picking presidential and governorship running mates.

For example, the die is cast as the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is set to name his running mate. The search for a credible vice presidential candidate started in earnest immediately after the June 8 election of the former governor of Lagos State as APC standard bearer.

Some of Tinubu’s staunch backers were contracted to comb the nooks and crannies of the north, the region where it was sure the candidate will come from, to get someone whose acceptability will cut across all religions. Two factors instantly emerged as determinant for the emergence of the vice presidential slot.

These are micro- zoning and religion. In a similar trend with the MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe’s South West / North East combination, the APC unarguably have settled for a North East vice presidential candidate. Considering sociocultural, tribal and religious factors, it is expected that Tinubu, being a Muslim from South West will pick a Christian running mate.

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However, different arguments have surfaced on the possibility of Tinubu picking a Muslim running mate. Proponents of this position remain adamant that a Muslim / Muslim ticket should not dim the chances of APC winning in 2023. They alluded to the fact that Nigerians did not reject the Abiola / Kingibe joint ticket in 1993 and so it should not be an issue in 2023.

Beyond the expectation of the proponents, this proposition was not only faulted but has generated serious concern in the polity. There have been dissenting voices for and against Muslim/ Muslim and Christian-Christian tickets.

One of Tinubu’s foot soldiers during processes leading to the party’s national convention, Kashim Shettima, was the first to castigate the option as not only “undemocratic but insensitive to the ethnic and religious diversity of the nation”.

The former governor of Borno State who incidentally is one of those being tipped as possible running mates to Tinubu warned the APC candidate to discard the idea of a Muslim vice president. The former SecretaryGeneral of Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Mr. Anthony Sani, warned not only Tinubu but APC against a Muslim-Muslim ticket stressing that it will deepen the nation’s religious divides.

At a media interaction in Jos, Plateau State, Sani pleaded that to promote justice and fairness, it is natural and logical for the APC to pick a norther christian vice-presidential candidate.

To him, a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the presidential election would negate the principle of federal character as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended. “I don’t think the choice of a running mate for the APC presidential candidate should be a problem because the constitution is clear about the principle of federal character that no group should dominate because such will not promote unity.

“So, for fairness and justice, since Sen. Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of APC is a Muslim from the southern part should pick a Christian from the northern part of the country as his running mate. “A Muslim-Muslim ticket will not augur well for the unity of the country because the Christians in the northern part may feel marginalised and it is also not good for our democracy”.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) sent warning signal to all the parties particularly the leading ones to avoid presenting candidates of same religion National Secretary of CAN, Barrister Joseph Bade Daramola at a press conference in Abuja said, “CAN urges that a balance of both religious practitioners be considered in the choice of running mates of the presidential candidates.

We do not subscribe to Christian/Christian ticket or Muslim/Muslim ticket. “Politicians can talk politics but we have stated our view long before now. Any party that tries same religion ticket will fail. This is not 1993. Even when we have joint Muslim/Christian ticket, the church still goes through hell. “Imagine how bad it will be if we have two Muslims in power? The extant Nigerian constitution promotes religious balance.

So, if any political party wants to try Muslim/Muslim ticket, it is at its own peril. CAN is only forewarning, but will make a categorical statement in the event our warning is not heeded.” He urged that Tinubu’s running mate should be a Christian from the North; Atiku’s running mate should be a Christian from the South while Obi should choose a Muslim from the North. Atiku has picked Rivers State Christian governor. He said, “anything contrary to the above means that the leadership of these political parties do not bother about the unity of Nigeria.

Those who are planning Muslim/Muslim ticket should also find out what was the outcome of MKO Abiola and Kingibe ticket in 1993. If they try Muslim/Muslim ticket this time around, the outcome will be worse because our fault lines are very visible.” However, others have advanced reason why Tinubu can go ahead with the Muslim / Muslim ticket. Femi Fani Kayode while addressing the issue on Channels TV, defended the APC flag bearer, Tinubu, if he settles for a Muslim as his running mate.

The former Aviation minister said the Muslim/Muslim ticket is an issue and it has to be defended to the populace if that is the choice. He said, “It’s an issue and we will have to explain and defend to the wider population of the Nigerian people if we choose to go that way. I am not saying I’m against it. If that’s what the candidate wants, we will stand by him and defend him.

“However, we need to defend it. We can’t just say religion has no place in the politics of today. It certainly does, especially where 50 Christians were slaughtered in a Church in Owo the other day. In Southern Kaduna the other day, a number of 34 Christians were slaughtered.”

Referring to Tinubu over his choice of running mate, he said, “Let’s just hope he reasons it out carefully and chooses the right candidate to run with him” Backing the choice but warning APC not to ride on religious, ethnic sentiments , the former Director General, Progressives’ Governors’ Forum, (PGF) of the APC, Salihu Lukman noted that for the unity of the country, same religious sentiments will not be acceptable in the 2023 Presidential election in the country.

Lukman said debates to sentimental considerations of ethnicity and religion must be discarded pointing that there will be no ethnicity sentiments or religion as a mark in choosing running mate for its Presidential flag-bearer, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, which he said had stalled development and divided the people. Lukman in a statement titled “Issues for APC 2023 Presidential Campaign” warned against these primordial considerations as the standard-bearer of the ruling party, picking its running mate ahead of 17th June deadline by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

He said: “If Nigeria is to move forward, 2023 Presidential campaigns must not reduce important debates of sentimental considerations, ethnicity and religion. If the truth is to be told, both Islam and Christianity, as well as all our ethnic factors have been used in equal measure to hold Nigeria at a standstill. “Addressing challenges facing the country requires political leaders not allowed to ride on cheap sentiments of religion and ethnicity to opportunistically win elections.

“If Nigeria politics is to overcome adversities of these so-called religious and ethnic leaders, religious and ethnic backgrounds of leaders must be subordinated to experiential attributes of persons being considered for leadership.” He argued that whatever is the final choice of Asiwaju and APC leaders concerning who emerges as the running mate, the 2023 Presidential election will be keenly contested, irrespective of religious and ethnic identity of both Asiwaju Tinubu and whoever the running mate may be admonishing that APC leaders should acknowledge the fact that the 2023 elections present another golden opportunity for the APC to reinvent itself.

Lukman said “against strong sentiments and dominant ethnic and religious politics, which weigh heavily against Asiwaju, both within the APC, but perhaps more promoted by a very sectarian and conservative strategy of winning cheap votes of Nigerians by the Peoples Democratic Party, (aPDP) and their sympathisers, which led to the emergence of Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as the PDP Presidential candidate for the 2023 elections, Asiwaju Tinubu emerged as the Presidential candidate of the APC.

“It must be about pushing Nigerians to take all the hard decisions based on respect, equity and fair representation. This is what the Presidential candidature of Asiwaju Tinubu should represent. APC should win the 2023 presidential election based on a convincing promise for national unity.” As the June 17 deadline for submission of names of candidates and running mates by parties closes in, reliable sources had it that Tinubu has settled for a Muslim candidate from the North East.

Tinubu had the option of picking among eminently qualified Christian nominees from the south east such as the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Mr. Boss Mustapha, his predecessor in office, Mr. Babachir Lawal and , former Speaker, House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara but he may have settled for Senator Kashim Shettima, a Muslim.

This was said to be a hard decision for Tinubu and the party. There was a strong argument that none of the three christians under consideration could give APC expected votes from the zone. Supporters of the option made Tinubu to see reasons why he cannot do otherwise. He is also believed not to see anything wrong with it. A source said “obviously there is no way the northern Muslims will accept a Christian candidate.

Therefore, the party has to go to the polls with a Muslim running mate. It was believed that out of the three northern zones, APC will get maximum support from the North East considering the fact that the North West will be a scrambling ground for PDP, APC and the Kwankwaso led NNPP. Contrary argument warned the party that religious sentiment may cost the APC chunk votes from the southern part of the country.

There has been awareness by Christians particularly leadership of CAN that they should vote a party with sympathy for their candidate. The southern part of the country is thickly populated by christians. Should christians in both South East and South South heed the call, then Tinubu’s chances may be affected although not significantly in his Yoruba ethnic nationality. However, he would need votes of christians to make a considerable impact in his South West base.

Those upholding the Muslim/ Muslim ticket argued that in 1979, Obafemi Awolowo (SAN) picked Philip Umeadi (SAN) as running mate under UPN. “That was not just a Christian-Christian ticket, it was a south-south ticket. It was even a lawyer-lawyer ticket and SAN-SAN ticket. It took a court ruling to deny them their win,” one said.

“In 2022 people are all over the place making inflammatory comments as if Nigeria is about to die. “Anyway, those who won’t vote for Tinubu won’t, even if he picks Paul also known as Saul. “They will use anything no matter how childish to complain. “And I think the cacophony about Muslim/Muslim or whatever ticket is gross and childish. “Parties are in contest to win elections. They are not out to count the number of heaven and paradise bound members”.

Others are asking whether the north that rejected Awolowo would accept a Christian-Christian ticket today. One said: I am a Christian but I don’t support a Christian-Christian ticket for equity, peace, unity and stability.”

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