Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society. The two major religions in the country are Islam and Christianity. Adherents of these two major religions take divergent positions on the questions of the secularity of the country.
The constitution protects religious freedom, “The government shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.”
As enshrined in the country’s constitution. Secularism means separation of religion from political, economic, social and cultural aspects of life, as religion is to be treated as a purely personal matter. It emphasized dissociation of the state from religion and full freedom to all religions and tolerance of all religions.
Section 38 sub-section 1 of the 1999 constitution states, “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance.” Non-Muslims have, however, argued that the imposition of Shari’a in some states in the country violates these rights. Despite this open opposition in the past, nothing was done about the imposition of Sharia in some states of the Federation.
A secular state does not have any official religion. It neither encourages nor discourages the practice of any religion. All citizens are free to propagate, profess or practice their own religion. No discrimination is made among citizens based on religion.
The three main objectives of a secular State are; Religious community does not dominate another. Some members do not dominate other members of the same religious community and The State does not enforce any particular religion nor does it take away the religious freedom of individuals.
With all these provisions in the country’s constitution, most religious watchers were surprised at the uproar that greeted the All Progressive Congress, APC, Presidential Flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Yoruba Muslim, unveiling another Northern Muslim, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, as his running mate in the forthcoming Presidential election in Nigeria, come next year, 2023.
Trumpet Religion Desk, after a study of the situation in the country, decided to carefully examine all the views expressed so far across board, to find out whether or not, there is justification for the fear over the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.
Human Rights Lawyers, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN, in a statement dated, Tuesday, July 12, 2022, described as dangerous, APC Muslim-Muslim ticket and asked Nigerians to vote the party out of office.
Adegboruwa outlined in a statement, ten grave implications of APC Muslim-Muslim ticket;
1 – Others don’t matter, saying it shows absence of consideration for the unity and plurality of the country.
2 – Desperation and over-ambition on the part of the APC ticket holder and the party, whose attitude to the game was, “We just want power at all cost and we don’t care what others think or do.”
3 -“We can win the election without you, especially by other means other than by open ballot.”
4 -“It is a cruel affirmation of the supposed superiority complex. That only one region determines electoral victory. That the presidential candidate of the APC is not acceptable to northern Muslims.”
5 -“It is an indication of a hidden agenda. The spirit of Hope 93 died with MKO Abiola and those who betrayed him and his mandate. May Boko Haram, terrorists and insurgents, their sponsors and sympathizers not win the 2023 general election”
6 -“That Nigeria is not a secular state but rather being ruled to satisfy certain religious tendencies.”
7 -“That the APC has absolute control of the electoral system and thus electoral victory may not be determined through free, fair and credible elections.”
8 -“That certain political tendencies and interests do not trust others to accommodate them if they are entrusted with power whereas they have been in power and accommodated by others.”
9 -“That the APC Presidential candidate has no mind of his own and he will be unable to defend the unity of Nigeria in crucial moments of decision making.”
10 -“That the APC is incompetent to manage a complex nation like Nigeria with diverse interests, different tongues and tribes and consisting of different faiths.”
The Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Reverend Mathew Hassan Kukah, was one of the very first prominent Christians in Nigeria, to react to the Muslim-Muslim APC Presidential Ticket in a press statement in this manner, “Tinubu is free to pick whoever he wanted just as a coach is free to select the players on his team.
“It is up to Nigerians to decide if they want a Muslim-Muslim President and Vice-President or not. This is what we call team selection and everybody will choose depending on what they think will give them a fair chance. So people will take responsibility for the choices they have made. For me, it is not something to lose sleep over.”
The Bishop stressed, “If people feel unhappy with the kind of choices that have been made that is why we are democrats, you can’t force it. We outsiders cannot force a choice on any candidate. It is now left for you to look at the choices that have been made. And there is no guarantee that all Christians will vote for Christians and all Muslims will vote for Muslim.”
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Speaking in the same vein, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Diocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, in a press statement entitled “Catholic Bishops Condemn APC, Tinubu’s Choice of ‘Muslim-Muslim’ Ticket: Nigeria Not Ripe to Have President, VP Of the Same Faith, he described the choice of APC Muslim-Muslim ticket as unfortunate.
Archbishop Kaigama maintained that Nigeria as a country was not ripe for a same faith Presidential ticket. He stressed, “When you decide that only one religion will produce the major actors, excluding others, who will become like strangers, it would not be fair and just. For the sake of religious sensitivity in a place like Nigeria, it is good that we have a balance so that we become like one big family.”
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) led by Professor Ishaq Akintola in its reaction said the group has satirical facts to support its claims that there has been an imbalance against Muslims in Nigeria, in the country’s political system. Saying that the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket amounts to nothing anyone should bother about.
The Islamic Human Rights advocacy group said it is unfortunate that the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has decided to heat up the polity with its comment on Tinubu’s choice of a running mate. Thus asking CAN to address the APC presidential candidates not their creeds.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has come again. As usual, Muslim candidates for the 2023 presidential election are targets. This time around, it is Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu and his running mate. Tinubu is under CAN’s hammer for picking a Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his vice presidential candidate and Rev. John Hayabl of Kaduna State Chapter of the organization is the axe man for CAN.
“We are not surprised by CAN’s verbal halitosis over Tinubu’s choice. The Christian umbrella body is just staying in character. It is always out to oppose any Muslim in power or any Muslim seeking office. That is because CAN will never be satisfied with a Muslim as President of Nigeria. It will not suit its agenda of Nigeria for Christ.
“CAN is simply hungry for power. We know CAN. The group has been canvassing for a Christian running mate not for the benefit of Nigerians but for parochial ends. The idea is to milk the Christian vice presidential candidate if his party wins in the end by claiming that the Christian umbrella body fought for him. It is for political influence, for contracts and for power. We advise CAN to form its own political party.
“Democracy is a game of numbers and every candidate should be allowed to make a free choice. It is not written in the constitution that a candidate must not pick a running mate from his own religious group. Every candidate’s choice is at his own peril. So what’s the big deal? What is CAN afraid of? Its own shadow, of course.
“Nigerians should not allow themselves to be deceived by CAN’s spiritual banditry. We should be looking at a candidate’s pedigree, his integrity and competence. By the same token, a presidential candidate should look for a running mate, who has electoral value as well as relevant experience. CAN’s insistence on Muslim-Christian ticket is motivated by articulated religiosity and tramadolised spirituality. Candidates should not be assessed by their religion.
“CAN talks about fairness and balancing at the national level but ignores the gross lopsidedness in the Christian-Christian regimes of the whole South. Is CAN unaware that all but one of the 17 states in Southern Nigeria have Christian governors? That is 94 per cent for Christians and just 6 per cent for Muslims.
“There are only three Muslim deputy governors in the whole Southern Nigeria (Lagos, Ogun and Oyo) as against fourteen Christian Deputy governors. That is 82 per cent for Christians and 18 percent for Muslims. Ekiti and Ondo states with substantive Muslim populations have Christian governors and Christian deputies. This is give and take. The world goes round by giving and sharing. But why does CAN want to share by force when it is not prepared to give?
“Nigeria has 36 states. Of these, Christian Governors are 20 while Muslim governors are just 16. That is 56 per cent for Christians and a paltry 44 per cent for Muslims. Yet, CAN is not satisfied and the organization will always cry marginalization when in actual fact, it is taking all the milk and honey in the land. We are waiting for CAN to deny this 20 to 16 computation. But CAN cannot. It dares not because the facts are there, and facts are sacred. Are the United States’ Senators listening? Is Kukah still there?
“There are 22 Christian Deputy Governors in Nigeria as against 14 Muslim Deputy Governors. Mathematicians should put that together and work out the percentage. This is 61 per cent for Christians and just 39 per cent for Muslims. So what is CAN talking about?
“Can charity not begin at home. That is why it is making so much noise about Muslim-Muslim ticket at the centre? CAN is not ready to share in the States but it wants to force sharing down our throats at the centre. Is that not a double standard? Must CAN take everything?
“CAN is simply hungry for power and it is always seeking ways to railroad everyone to have its own way. Bulldozing, blackmailing, harassment and intimidation are CAN’s stock in trade. But the same intimidating CAN is now the one accusing Tinubu of intimidating the Christian group and threatening to escalate the situation.”
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