VIEWPOINT: Viewing the Muslim-Muslim Ticket from all Angles, By Olanrewaju Osho
Ordinarily, the issue of a Muslim – Muslim ticket or a Christian – Christian ticket or an Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba Président succeeding another Igbo, Hausa or Yoruba President wouldn’t have been an issue in a country where the leaders and the citizens are matured, truthful, just, fair, patriotic and truly united. Sadly, Nigeria is not a country that is whole in such characteristics yet. I say this with all humility, sincerity and sense of responsibility. A sincere analysis done with an open mind and good heart will prove to any observer the veracity of this conclusion without any disputation.
The fact that the APC strategists are worried or afraid of the possibility of losing to PDP if Tinubu picks a Christian from the North to run with him as his Vice reveals to the discerning unambiguously that there is a deep-rooted problem in the North about how Northern Muslims view or relate with their Christian brothers and sisters. But because we are a people who love to hide the real problem instead of addressing it quickly and truthfully, we continue to live in denial and cover the problems with beautiful polemics and skewed analysis like Governor Nasir El- Rufai’s position on the issue while responding to Seun Okinbaloye’s question on Channels TV.
Why should we come to the conclusion that Northern Muslims would refuse to vote for Tinubu if he picks a Nigerian Christian from North as his running mate if there are no underlining facts, issues or sentiments regarding the state of affairs of religion in Northern Nigeria.
There are some questions that must be asked and answered in the light of this real or imaginary fear. What are the underlining factors that drive this kind of attitude? What must we do to uproot these underlining factors? If we want to become a truly great nation, we have to learn to make Nigeria our nation and learn to kill the current culture of blind commitment to religion at the cost of national unity, peace, progress and development. The fact remains that the North has more to sacrifice to make this happen.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu is a Muslim from the South West. With his victory at the APC primaries, he now has the opportunity to take a shot at Nigeria’s number one job. The fact that he is a Muslim gives no Christian in Nigeria sleepless night whether he is their candidate or not.
MKO was a Muslim from the South West, most Christians from Southern Nigeria voted overwhelmingly for him in the 1993 elections not minding that his running mate Babagana Kingibe was also a Muslim. It is extremely hard to find a Christian from the North that had ever represented a party as a candidate in a presidential election despite the fact that states like Benue, Borno, Plateau, Adamawa, Taraba, Kaduna, Gombe, Bauchi, Kogi and Kwara have either majority or huge Christian population. National politics most often is done in the North as if the 19 states of Northern Nigeria are 100% Muslim enclave.
During the military era, the pattern wasn’t very different from what it is currently. The Gowon régime was the only time a Christian from the North was privileged to lead Nigeria. That happened because Nigeria was polarized then by region and not religion. The most senior Officer after Aguiyi Ironsi then was Brigadier Ogundipe, a Yoruba man. The coup plotters picked Général Yakubu Gowon because the coup was a Northern Agenda and Gowon was the most senior officer from the North.
Look at the Vice President position too and you will see that there is no much difference. If you do a little analysis on that too, you will see that the argument that there is no popular or competent Christian Politician from the North that can make Muslims vote for Tinubu is not the true position.
Except for the 1979 elections when Chief Obafemi Awolowo picked Philip Imeadi from South East to prove to the Igbos that he didn’t hate them, every Christian Presidential candidate from Southern Nigeria had picked a Muslim from Northern Nigeria as running mate.
Olusegun Obasanjo, a Christian from the South picked Atiku Abubakar, a Muslim from the North in 1999 and 2003 elections. When Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South picked Namadi Sambo, a Muslim from the North as his running mate in 2011, it wasn’t because Namadi Sambo was the most popular and most competent from the North. It was because Jonathan knew he must respect the delicate balance of Nigeria’s religious landmines.
For one, I am saddened by the tense religious atmosphere of Nigeria. It should not be in the first place. But sadly, that is the reality. The fight for supremacy of religion in Nigeria by Nigerians is a secret war we hitherto refuse to acknowledge to our own peril. The refusal to acknowledge it is making injustice and lack of fairness to grow in the country. The growth of injustice buried in religious grounds is the bane of disunity that is daily burgeoning in our polity. Look at the FCT for example. Though the territory’s original indigenes are predominantly Christians, every Minister in Charge of FCT since 1999 has been a Muslim from the North. Asides from Nasir El-Rufai, most of them have demonstrated gross incompetence.
The FCT Civil service and the development of the city have all taken a fall for the incompetence. Some of the leaders always come with strong determination to use their position to advance their religion as if their religion is the National Religion.
Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not afraid of the Muslim – Muslim ticket because he knows how the South West is liberal about religion. He himself is married to a Christian woman. Is it the same in the North?
Here is the thing. If the case for a Muslim – Muslim ticket is that the most competent running mate ABAT finds in the North is a Muslim, every progressively minded Nigerians should support the choice. But if he has to chose a Muslim running mate because the Muslims in the North will not vote for him if he picks a Christian running mate, then we are refusing to accept that we have a cancer that needs our urgent and collective action to cure.
Let me conclude on the note of Justice. The 13 APC governors that prevailed on the President and the National Working Committee of APC to zone the ticket to the South West showed great commitment to justice and fairness considering how ABAT, Tunde Bakare and ACN played huge roles in birthing and growing APC. The Christians in Northern Nigeria deserves that spirit of Justice also. Most of them are mute as the debate goes on because they are afraid of backlash. They have competent and popular politicians in their ranks that can help build a better Nigeria.
Osho is a public affairs enthusiast and a member of My Great Nigeria Project.