ASIWAJU Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s announcement of Kashim Shettima as his running mate for the presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress, APC, has triggered a massive furore, as expected.
Many have wondered aloud whether a Muslim-Muslim ticket is what Nigeria needs as this point when the APC’s President Muhammadu Buhari’s seven-year rule has undermined Nigeria’s unity. The APC Federal Government has foisted great imbalance on the Nigerian federation.
We now have the President, presidential candidate and his running mate, Senate President, Speaker of the House of Representatives and Deputy Speaker as Muslims. Even the Chief Justice of Nigeria, CJN, is a Muslim. With the majority of top security, police and military appointees being Muslims, it shows that the ruling party has no sense of balance or regard for the Federal Character principle as enshrined in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution as amended.
It stipulates: “The composition of the Government of the Federation or any of its agencies and the conduct of its affairs shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect the federal character of Nigeria and the need to promote national unity, and also to command national loyalty, thereby ensuring that there shall be no predominance of persons from a few States or from a few ethnic or other sectional groups in that Government or in any of its agencies”.
This constitutional recognition of balancing is for the equitable and healthy management of our diversity and nation-building.
Tinubu said he put “competence” above all considerations in picking a fellow Muslim as running mate. He looks back at the MKO Abiola/Babagana Kingibe Muslim/Muslim ticket for the June 12, 1993 presidential election which defeated a balanced opposition ticket. So, he believes that Nigerians do not care about religion in electing their leaders.
The outrage from the Christian community, particularly as expressed by a top APC chief, Babachir Lawal, a prominent Muhammadu Buhari acolyte, seems to indicate the contrary.
It needs to be pointed out, however, that General Yakubu Gowon administered civil-wartime Nigeria with Chief Obafemi Awolowo, a fellow Christian, as a quasi-deputy without problems. Also, the late Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe picked a Northern Christian, Professor Ishaya Audu; while Chief Awolowo adopted a fellow Southerner, Chief Philip Umeadi, as running mates during the Second Republic elections. The heavens did not fall.
It is now left for Nigerians to decide if religion is important enough in today’s Nigeria to sway their choice. The APC and its presidential flagbearer have chosen a Muslim as running mate. The ball is now in the court of PVC holders. Nigerians should also consider the past records of the parties and their candidates and what they have to offer. Do we want a continuation or change?
We must eschew ethnic, religious and sectional sentiments, as well as propaganda and money politics in voting our next president.