ORDINARILY, after 61 years of independence, Nigeria should have developed to the point where any citizen, irrespective of his or her ethnic, religious, sectional or ideological background, should be free to vie for the office of President or Vice President of Nigeria.
If these primordial factors no longer mattered but merit and integrity, we would have easily accommodated Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian presidential pairings without stressing our fragile democracy.
Unfortunately, rather than manage our diversity to foster unity and its abundant benefits, Nigerians still firmly project their primeval root identities in all matters of national consideration, especially politics.
A typical Nigerian still affirms that he/she is first a member of his/her ethnic group before being a Nigerian. Much as some will look down on identity politics, the truth is that we all are still deeply trapped in it.
Until we take our democracy to the level where these autochthonous attributions are no longer any of our business, we must avoid provocative presidential pairings such as Christian/Christian and Muslim/Muslim tickets. Such tickets must not be allowed to fly for several reasons.
Mixed presidential pairings are credible ways of respecting our diversity. Giving people of various backgrounds a sense of belonging brings out their loyalty to give of their best to Nigeria. Nigerians find the very idea of single-faith tickets very annoying. Those whose faith is kept out feel overlooked, disregarded and affronted.
Those who, for instance, feel that another Muslim/Muslim ticket after the 1993 MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe fluke will work for them at this juncture of our history should perish the thought.
The Abiola/Kingibe Muslim/Muslim ticket was embraced by majority of Nigerian voters across board because of the success of General Ibrahim Babangida’s transition programme, Professor Jerry Gana’s Mass Mobilisation for Self-Reliance, Social Justice and Economic Recovery, MAMSER, and Prof. Humphrey Nwosu’s National Electoral Commission, NEC, which devised a foolproof electoral system.
The atmosphere today is dramatically different.
The propagation of policies to grab lands for a particular ethnic group have forced Nigerians back to their roots. We must resume from square one to manage our identity politics by accommodating our diversity and restoring faith in the common belonging of all Nigerians.
Besides, a single-faith presidential ticket will be a violation of the Federal Character principle enshrined in Section 14(3) of the Nigerian Constitution 1999 (as Amended). Anyone contemplating otherwise is callous and insensitive; an enemy of our peaceful coexistence.
To this effect, we call on all Muslim presidential candidates to look for non-Muslim running mates. Also, all Christian presidential candidates should also look for non-Christian running mates.
We must give all Nigerians a fair share of our commonwealth. When our democracy matures, we can “upgrade”.