The Strange Dream of a Muslim/Muslim Ticket, by Femi Fani-Kayode

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”The last notable Christian-Christian ticket was Awolowo-Umeadi in
1979 and the last notable Muslim-Muslim ticket was Abiola-Kingibe in
1993. You can figure out the rest. But let the optimists know that
reality always trounces wishful hope in political contests. Chief Femi
Fani-Kayode’s advice that we get real must be directed where it truly
belongs – to the leadership of the APC”- CHIEF KAYODE SAMUEL,
FACEBOOK, 29th MARCH, 2014.

I thank my brother Kayode Samuel for his contribution and I shall take
his advice and direct my counsel to the leadership of the APC and to
the Nigerian people in general. That is the purpose of this essay and
so important is the subject matter under consideration that I would
urge as many as possible to find the time to read it from the
beginning to the end.

Chief Akin Osuntokun, the Bashorun of Oke-Mesi, the former Special
Adviser to President Olusegun Obasanjo and the highly celebrated
columnist for Thisday Newspaper is one of my closest brothers and
friends even though we tend to disagree on virtually everything. He is
a very complex and interesting person who has a penchant for speaking
the bitter truth. He is blunt to a fault and brutally frank and he
manages to give as good as he gets in any argument.

I respect him immensely for a number of reasons, one of them being his
unquestionable loyalty to his friends regardless of their
circumstances, political views and party affiliation. Simply put, he
is capable of mainitaining a good relationship even with those that he
disagrees with politically. I say this because most of Akin’s friends
like Mallam Nuhu Ribadu, Alhaji Kashim Imam, Mallam Uba Sani, yours
truly and a host of others have left the PDP yet we still meet
virtually every other night as a group and slug out politics and
current issues.

Even though Akin is invariably the lone voice in a hostile sea at such
meetings, he always holds his own and stands his ground in a most
admirable and spirited manner even when things get rather heated up.
His loyalty to and support for President Goodluck Jonathan and his
administration is second to none and I have often wondered how
difficult things would have been for us if Akin and his likes were the
ones speaking for this government.

He is an intellectual par excellence and one of the most
under-utilized assets that the PDP has in their armoury. Yet I often
marvel about how well he stomachs the attacks and intellectual riposts
that he suffers from those of us that are no longer in his political
party but that have the rare privilege of still being in the inner
circle of his friends.

That is what makes Akin special. That, together with the fact that
more than any other person that I know, he can tell his friends the
bitter truth about themselves and point out their mistakes. You can
count on him for that. And the strangest and most uncanny thing is
that nine times out of ten he has been proved right.

Today I shall take a cue from my brother Akin and tell a few bitter
home truths to my own friends and political associates in the APC.
Whether this will break or enhance our friendship and association
remains to be seen. I hope that it does not have any negative
consequences for our relationship but if it does I have absolutely no
regrets. After all the greatest gift and virtue that a true friend and
brother can offer is truth and wise counsel. That is what real friends
are supposed to do even when that truth and counsel is unpleasant and
painful to hear.

The subject of my counsel is the suggestion by some that our party the
APC should consider fielding a muslim/muslim ticket in the 2015
Presidential election. Even though the party leadership itself has not
expressed such an intention and even though the matter still remains
in the realms of speculation, as someone recently pointed out, I can
confirm to you that quite a number of people within the party are
discussing it privately and are actually considering it.

*Fani-Kayode

*Fani-Kayode

As a matter of fact some are openly advocating and canvassing the
idea. Whether we like to admit it or not this is the subject of heated
discussions in many party circles today with some party leaders being
for it whilst others are against it.

Consequently the party would do well to issue a statement on the
matter and tell us whether they are in a position to rule out such a
course of action or not. If they refuse to do so the speculations will
simply continue and, like an insidious cancer, the matter will eat
away at the very soul of the party and eventually squander it’s
fortunes.

It is in order to avoid this and for that very reason that I deem it
fit, wise and appropriate to make my views on the matter known to the
world, regardless of what the consequences of doing so may be for me.
The outcome of this exercise and the reaction to my counsel will
determine whether I am indeed in the right political party or not.

Let me start by stating loudly and clearly that I have nothing against
muslims. As a matter of fact I am very proud of the fact that I have
both muslims and christians in my family. So strong is the muslim
influence in my extended family from my mother’s side that I, together
with all my siblings have at least one muslim name. Mine is Abdul
Latif, which I am told in Arabic means ”servant of the All Gentle”,
and I am very proud of it.

This is a name which my friend and brother Dr. Hakeem Baba Ahmed, in
an attempt to crack a joke about me and my ”one eighth” Fulani
bloodline, mischevously reduced to ”Boda Lati” in one of his
celebrated articles and I am still trying to find it in my heart to
forgive him for that.

I also have many friends from both the south west and the north who
are muslims and who can testify to the fact that I have nothing
against Islam. I am talking about people like my dear brother Senator
Musiliu Obanikoro, our current Minister of State for Defence, who I
not only grew up with in Lagos but who I also cut my political teeth
with in 1990 when we both joined the defunct NRC and people like
Governor Tanko Al Makura of Nassarawa state who formed and led the
youth wing of the defunct NNC with me in 1989.

The reason that I have gone to great lengths to point out my strong
links and family ties with the Islamic faith is simply to prove that I
have nothing against muslims and that the great faith of Islam is part
and parcel of my proud and noble heritage.

Yet despite my deep respect for and affinity with Islam and in spite
of my fondness for all those that have espoused that ancient and noble
Abrahamic and monotheic faith, I would be the first to say that it
would be most improper and politically inexpedient for anyone to
suggest the idea that any political party in Nigeria today should
present a muslim/muslim ticket in next years Presidential election.

I have said it privately in countless political meetings and I will
say it publiclly today. Please mark it- the biggest mistake that my
party, the APC, can make is to field a muslim/muslim ticket in the
2015 Presidential election. If we do that we will not only offend the
christian community but we will also lose the election woefully. This
is not 1993 and whether we like it or not we must accept the fact that
religion plays a major role in our politics today. This is not the
ideal but it is the reality that we have to accept and live with.

Our party must have both a christian and a muslim on the ticket if we
want to be taken seriously in the Presidential election. I implore
those that think otherwise to sit down and think this through
properly. We must not present a christian/christian ticket as this
would be insensitive to the feelings of muslims and we must not
present a muslim/muslim ticket as this would be insensitive to the
feelings of christians. I for one would NEVER support a ticket that
presents two members of the same faith no matter what the consequences
would be.

This country belongs to both muslims and christians- we are all one
and we must ensure that we do not hurt the feelings or the
sensitivities of one another either advertantly or inadevertantly. As
they say ”the road to hell is paved with good intentions”. Let us be
mindful of our actions, deeds and words, no matter how
well-intentioned they may be, and let us ensure that we do not confirm
the terrible stereotyping that those that are against us are trying to
label us with.

Unlike some who only joined the political fray a few years ago, I have
been in politics in this country for a total of 24 long years and
during that period of time I have learnt a thing or two. The first
lesson that I have learnt and which must be appreciated is the ability
to distinguish between an ideal and reality. It is laudable to pursue
an ideal and we must do all that we possibly can to enthrone it but it
is disasterous to ignore the realities on the ground no matter how
unsavoury or distasteful that reality may be.

The ideal, which we all desire and which we all seek to enthrone, is
to play the type of politics in our country which has no recourse to
religion and where a man or woman’s faith is entirely their own
affair. Yet the reality is that to ignore the religious sensitivities
and differences of the Nigerian electorate is a manifestation of, at
the very best, political naivety of the highest order and, at the very
worst, dangerous, self-depreciating and self-destructive ignorance.
Simply put, religion SHOULD NOT be a factor in our politics but in
reality it IS a factor.

To those who say that the APC will produce a Presidential and Vice
Presidential candidate that have ”integrity, capacity and
competence” and that the religious faith of those two candidates does
not matter, I have only the following to say. The ”integrity,
capacity, competence” and all those other laudable qualities are
virtues that can surely be found in adherents of both the Muslim and
the Christian faith.

They are not the exclusive preserve of the adherents of one faith
alone. You can find muslims that have these qualities and you can find
Christians that have them as well. It therefore makes perfect sense to
present one of such people from each of the two major faiths as a
Presidential and Vice Presidential candidate respectively.

This is especially so given the fact that Nigeria is a
multi-religious, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country which suffers
from severe religious tensions and periodic sectarian violence and
which has at least 80 million Christians and muslims on both sides of
the divide living side by side. We are already sitting on a keg of
gunpowder and to ignore one side of the religious divide and treat
them with contempt and disdain may be the trigger that causes that keg
to explode.

Presenting a muslim/muslim ticket for the 2015 Presidential election
ticket, no matter how cleverly rationalised, defended or justified in
the pursuit of an ideal or in the name of ”political correctness”,
will be a terrible insult to the 80 million Christians that are part
and parcel of this country and it would result in their voting, en
masse, for another party. My candid advice to those that are thinking
that way and that are moving in that direction is that they should
perish the thought and that they should do so very quickly.

As far as I am aware the APC is not an affiliate of Al Qaeda and
neither is it a Boko Haram party, a Janjaweed party or a Muslim
Brotherhood Party. I have had cause to say so and to defend the
intellectual integrity and what I consider to be the multi-religious
and secular ethos and composition of the party on numerous occasions.
And of course it is a pleasure, a duty and a privilege for me to do so
simply because that is what I honestly believe and because I happen to
be a secularist myself. Like millions of others from all over the
world I believe that religion ought to have no place in the running of
the affairs of any country.

However that does not mean that we ought to ignore the very delicate
religious balance that we have in Nigeria or that we should play havoc
with it. To do so would be disastrous for the fortunes of the party
and for the future of our nation. As a matter of fact we would be
opening the gates of hell and we would be courting catastrophy. Anyone
that doubts that should consider the ugly events that are unfolding in
the Central African Republic today or that took place in the Sudan
before the country broke into two. We must never allow such things to
happen in Nigeria by any act of commission or omission.

As far as I am aware the APC is a party for both muslims and
christians. It is a vehicle for change and not one that seeks to give
the impression that Christians don’t matter or that they are second
class citizens. If I am wrong then those that claim to know better or
that believe that they own the party should please tell me. If it is a
party where faith and religion has no place, as some would have us
believe, then they should please let us know. We have an image problem
which we need to deal with.

Permit me to share just one example of the factors that have sustained
that image problem. We have a leading member of the party from Borno
state that has been consistently accused of being the sole founder and
originator of Boko Haram.

In fairness to the individual concerned the allegations about his
personal involvement in these ugly events remain unproven yet all the
same they remain serious and grave and they cannot be ignored for much
longer. He must provide direct answers to these serious allegations so
that, if they are all false, we can make it our business and duty to
defend him. Until then, being in a political party that harbours and
attracts the sympathy and support of such a person puts some of us in
a very awkward position.

If such things do not make some people uncomfortable they certainly
make me very uncomfortable. This is especially so given the atrocities
that Boko Haram has perpetuated against both christians and muslims in
our country in the last three years. Whether we like it or not we must
go out of our way to try to let the world know that we are not a party
of muslim fundamentalists and closet Islamists and if we choose not to
bother to do so it simply means that we are arrogant and that we have
lost touch with reality.
(CONTINUES NEXT WEEK)

Fani-Kayode was a former minister of Avaition.

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