UNLESS there’s a miracle and a third force succeeds next year, Nigeria faces two disastrous choices. One is another president from the North succeeding President Muhammadu Buhari. The other is a Muslim-Muslim presidency, with a Muslim president and a Muslim vice-president. Nigeria would either have a President Atiku Abubakar, a Northerner, or a President Bola Tinubu, a Muslim, with a Vice President Kashim Shettima, also a Muslim. Either outcome would severely undermine the unity and stability of Nigeria, a multi-ethnic and multi-religious country.
Truth be told, the best outcome for Nigeria is neither success for Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, nor success for Atiku, the candidate of the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party, PDP. Rather, the best outcome is victory for Peter Obi, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, and his respected technocratic running mate, Datti Baba-Ahmed, founder and pro-chancellor of Baze University, Abuja.
There are two reasons. First, an Obi/Baba-Ahmed victory would ensure the presidency doesn’t just go to the South, as it should, but to the more-deserving South-East. Second, although an Obi/Baba-Ahmed presidency won’t be flawless and won’t radically transform Nigeria – that can’t happen unless Nigeria is properly restructured – it would nevertheless be a breath of fresh air. More importantly, it would help prevent the absolute disaster and national/international shame that a Tinubu presidency or, to a lesser extent, an Atiku presidency would inflict on Nigeria. Make no mistake, Tinubu and Atiku, are too tainted – Tinubu, far more tainted – to be Nigeria’s president, hence integrity must be critical in next year’s presidential race.
So, I repeat: a victorious third force is the best outcome in 2023. This is not wishful thinking in truly democratic and enlightened societies as we saw with the emergence of Emmanuel Macron as president of France in 2017. But Nigeria is not a truly democratic and enlightened society. Its politics is driven by a cult of personality, unexplained wealth and primordial sentiments. Thus, unless there’s a miracle, unless Nigerians show game-changing sophistication at the poll, there won’t be an Obi/Baba-Ahmed victory. Rather, one of two disasters– a Tinubu presidency or an Atiku presidency – would befall Nigeria!
Here, then, is the question: If, failing a victorious third force, Nigeria faces a choice between another Northern president and a Muslim-Muslim presidency, which is worse? Well, unequivocally: a Muslim-Muslim presidency, and here’s why. Let’s start with another Northern president. In May, I wrote a piece titled, “2023 presidency: Nigeria faces deeper turbulence without power shift” (Vanguard, May 12, 2022). I argued that if another Northerner succeeded President Buhari in 2023, that would leave Nigeria deeply unstable. That was also the position of the Southern Governors’ Forum and the Southern and Middle Belt Leaders Forum, which called for power rotation to the South.
But if power returned to the South, where in the South must it go? Of course, the South-East, the only geo-political zone in the South that has not produced president since 1999 when Nigeria returned to civil rule. If fairness demanded that the presidency should go to the South, then the same fairness demanded that it should go to the South-East. Sadly, the fairness argument had no traction with the two main parties, which blatantly ignored the rightness of the South-East’s case. Thus, the APCgave its presidential ticket to Tinubu, the moneybag from the South-West, while in the PDP, Atiku emerged as the presidential candidate, throwing up the possibility of another president from the North.
But why is another Northern president a lesser evil? Well, it’s about the South-East: What’s their shortest route to the presidency, assuming Obi didn’t win next year? The answer is a Northern president. Atiku once said, if elected, he would do one term, but even if he does two, power would return to the South in 2031 and the South-East would have another crack at the presidency within eight years. By contrast, if Tinubu becomes president and does two terms, power will first return to the North in 2031 before returning to the South in 2039.
So, with a President Tinubu, the Igbo would wait another 16 years for the presidency, making it 40 years since 1999. But with a President Atiku, they would wait eight years. Surely, anything that shortens the Igbo’s route to the presidency must be better than anything that lengthens it; hence another Northern president is a lesser evil. What about a Muslim-Muslim presidency? First, I strongly condemn the utter claptrap that nothing is wrong with a Muslim-Muslim ticket because it’s competence that matters. By that warped logic, there must be nothing wrong with a Northern-Northern or a Southern-Southern ticket or even an all-male cabinet because only men can be competent ministers. Those mouthing such baloney are self-serving sophists, who Plato condemned for “prizing rhetorical success over philosophical truth.”
Tinubu justified his choice of a Muslim-Muslim ticket on the same ground of competence as if there are no competent Northern Christians. Of course, the decision was not about competence but electoral calculations. Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State recently told Muslim clerics: “We have advised him (Tinubu) to pick a Muslim deputy and he has agreed.” Alhaji Tanko Yakasai said Tinubu can’t win with a Northern Christian. So, this is all about electoral fortunes, not the national interest!
If Tinubu wins next year, he will set a dangerous course in religious disharmony. First, Nigeria would be utterly unstable under a Muslim-Muslim presidency, it would be a tinderbox waiting to explode. Second, assuming Tinubu wins and does two terms, he would be succeeded by a Northern-Muslim president. That means that from 2015 to 2039, Nigeria would be under a Muslim presidency for 24 consecutive years. Really? Is that sustainable? A Tinubu presidency would be catastrophic for ethnic and religious harmony. A President Tinubu would lengthen Igbo’s route to the presidency by 16 years and entrench Muslim hegemony over Nigeria by 24 continuous years. Nigeria must avert that disaster!