OCHEREOME

By Ochereome Nnanna

THE chances are that, by the time you read this article, the major presidential candidates – Atiku Abubakar of the Peoples Democratic Party, PDP; Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, APC; and Peter Obi of the Labour Party, LP, would have announced their running mates.

Of the lot, Tinubu’s matter matters the most. From the distant past when he started developing interest in becoming the president of Nigeria, he has always postulated that a Muslim/Muslim ticket “can work; competence is all that matters”.

If “competence” is all that matters, why not just pick a fellow Yoruba; they also have their share of competent people. Why look for something in Sokoto when you can simply pick it from your Sokoto pocket? But hey, I perfectly understand his situation.

Tinubu as a seasoned political leader does not operate with logic or political niceties when looking for power. He goes for the expedient. Whatever produces results he will deploy it. Know this about Tinubu’s politics and know peace. Tinubu is not a Muslim fanatic. He is a typical Yoruba Muslim to whom Islam is a religion, unlike the Northern Muslim to whom Islam is life.

Tinubu is also not necessarily an ethnic chauvinist, though he has taken several cynical measures which portray him in that light. For instance, he has been accused of  sponsoring hoodlums to prevent the Igbo residents of Lagos from registering and voting, apart from being accused of attempts to foment inter-tribal conflicts between Igbo and Yoruba, particularly after the EndSARS riots of October 2020.

These notwithstanding, Tinubu is known to have given some of his Igbo acolytes jobs. He put one of them, Ben Akubueze, in charge of the Lagos purse. Not only that, he recommended the Anambra State-born Akubueze to Buhari who promptly appointed him Director of Budget. Here, you see a man who is ready to do anything to achieve power and maintain himself in power. But he rewards loyalty, unbothered by ethnic or religious considerations.

Religion does not interfere with a Yoruba Muslim’s political life. He is unlikely to let it stand in his way to a cherished objective. The same mentality applies to a typical Nigerian Christian. It is the aggressive religious fundamentalism of the Northern Muslim that has radicalised the Christians to be on their guard. The Buhari regime’s tribal and religious extremism have worsened primordial tensions.

Tinubu knew, from way back in 2012, that for him to become the president of Nigeria he must forge an alliance with the North-West. Apart from the zone’s majority status (seven states), it also has by far the largest voting population (including millions of child voters and illegal foreigners). The North-West is the locomotive engine that draws the rest of the North. Once it moves, the rest of the North (including the Christian and non-Muslim elements of the so-called Middle Belt) follows.

These realities motivated Tinubu to merge his Action Congress of Nigeria, ACN, with Muhammadu Buhari’s Congress for Progressive Change, CPC, in 2013 and supported him to win the party’s ticket and the presidency in 2015. Left to Tinubu, Buhari would have picked him as VP in 2015. He reluctantly yielded that position to Yemi Osinbajo due to pressure.

Tinubu knows the only way he can hope to win the 2023 presidential election is to go for a popular far-North Muslim as his VP. He must have someone who will pull the Northern Muslim grassroots to him. How many Northern Christians have electoral value? How many Northern Christians can get Northern Muslims to vote for a Southern presidential candidate because of him as the VP of that ticket?

Tinubu feels he can ride roughshod over the feelings of Christians because he knows that despite their potential clout if united, they are fractious and feeble-minded. He believes they can easily be “managed”. Don’t be surprised, the moment Tinubu announces his Muslim running mate, cassock-wearing church leaders will be among the first to rush to him for “courtesy” or “solidarity” visits.

If Christian leaders and general overseers could support a Buhari in spite of his unabashed Islamisation and Fulanisation agenda still sweeping through the land, you can imagine the stampede for a liberal Tinubu, even if he chooses the heavily burdened Umar Ganduje as VP.

If Tinubu picks a Northern Muslim VP, he may still win the 2023 presidential election despite the cries for “balance” and “equity” by Nigerians of goodwill. He will be capitalising on the perceived moral and psychological weaknesses of the Nigerian Christian community which have emboldened the Muslim leaders of the country to unconstitutionally wheedle Islamic values into our body politic and increasingly make Nigeria look to the outside world like an Islamic country.

A Muslim/Muslim presidential victory will be another frontier towards the eventual conversion of Nigeria to an Islamic republic. In Nigerian politics, every new precedent becomes the norm. Muslim/Muslim presidential pairings may take the centre stage, thus officially relegating Christians to political second class citizens.

Nigerians did not see anything wrong with General Yakubu Gowon being the Head of State while Chief Obafemi Awolowo was his quasi civilian deputy because the country was at war in 1967 to 1970. Indeed, Awolowo in 1979 named Chief Philip Umeadi (SAN) as his running mate. Also, Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe picked a Hausa Christian, Professor Ishaya Audu as his running mate.

Zik’s NPP had a Christian/Christian ticket, while Awolowo’s UPN had a Christian/Christian and Southern/Southern ticket in 1979!  But no one raised an eyebrow because there was still a country. It is instructive, however, that Alhaji Shehu Shagari, who balanced his ticket with Dr. Alex Ekwueme, an Igbo Southern Christian, won the elections of 1979 and 1983. So, if Tinubu, with all his already existing personal baggage, adds to it a Muslim/Muslim ticket at this juncture of our history, it is at his own risk. Good luck to his “life ambition”.

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