July 14, 2022

Ganduje, others battle Babachir over APC’s same-faith ticket


…Watch your utterances, Ganduje, APC stakeholders warn ex-SGF

…Same faith ticket amounts to injustice — Sheikh Maraya

…With so much distrust, disunity, Nigerians want an all-inclusive govt in 2023 – Sheikh Nuru Khalid

…Let no Imam, Pastor tell you who to vote for, says Keyamo

By Dayo Johnson, Regional Editor, South-West, Clifford Ndujihe, Omeiza Ajayi, Ibrahim Hassan & Luminous Jannamike, LAGOS

Kano State Governor, Dr. Abdullahi Ganduje and some All Progressives Congress, APC, stakeholders have faulted former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, SGF, Engr. Babachir Lawal, over his opposition to the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the party.

The party’s presidential standard bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim, last Sunday chose a fellow Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.

Reacting to the development on Tuesday, Babachir Lawal, among others, described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a disastrous error and satanic, adding that Shettima is Northern governors’ Greek gift’ to Tinubu.

Insisting that the ticket was dead on arrival, Babachir added that if Tinubu won, he would be a sectional leader on account of the Muslim-Muslim ticket.

Faulting Babachir Lawal yesterday, the Kano State governor also described as unjustifiable his claims that the Ganduje Foundation, a philanthropic body, was being used to allegedly force some Christian faithful to become Muslims.

Ganduje spoke as some Islamic clerics opposed the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket, which they described as unfair, unjust and insensitive.

Specifically, Sheikh Haliru Maraya, a renowned Muslim scholar in Kaduna State and former Adviser on Islamic and Hajj Affairs to late Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, said it is unfair to other religions for Muslims in APC to produce national chairman, deputy national chairman, presidential candidate, vice-presidential candidate, Senate President, and Speaker of the House of Representatives, among others.

But the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, kept mum on the issue, yesterday as Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State; and Minister of Labour and Employment, Mr. Festus Keyamo, among others, urged Nigerians to cast their ballots based on competence and not religion in 2023.

Watch your utterances, Ganduje, APC stakeholders warn Babachir

Ganduje, in a statement by Kano State Commissioner for Information, Mallam Muhammad Garba, described Babachir Lawal’s comment on forcing Christians to become Muslims as “totally false, considering that, while there is no compulsion in religion, Islam gave individuals the freedom to choose their own religion, and also provided non-Muslims with considerable economic, cultural and administrative rights.”

The governor, according to the statement, assured that the Muslim-Muslim ticket will not in any way result in the neglect of Christians in the country.

He appealed to the former SGF, Christian APC members and other Nigerians “to be mindful of their utterances, especially on religious matters and support the party for quality leadership that will deliver the country from her challenges.”

According to him, there was never a time any Christian or non-believer was forced to embrace Islam by his foundation because it negated the teachings of Islam, but are called to Islam at their wish, just as the missionaries go to villages in Kano to invite non-believers to embrace Christianity.

Ganduje said it was “unfortunate that at a time the country needs to be united for national development and religious tolerance, a man of Babachir’s calibre, who is highly respected, would spread falsehood without much consideration to his position in the All Progressives Congress and close relationship with the party’s flag-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.”

He said going by its activities, the foundation was not faith-based “but purely philanthropic in which case, non-Muslims also stand to benefit from the services it renders.”

You’re on your own, APC stakeholders tell ex-SGF Lawal

Also, a group of young party chieftains, under the aegis of All Progressives Congress, APC, National Stakeholders, has expressed support for the party’s standard bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, over his choice of a fellow Muslim, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate.

At a briefing in Abuja, yesterday, the stakeholders also reacted to Engr. Babachir Lawal who, on Tuesday, described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as satanic and a disastrous error.

“The former SGF, Engr.   Babachir Lawal has only expressed his own opinion just as we had sometime in the past made comments seeking that certain sentiments be considered. But in a democracy, we should be willing to listen to others and not wish that only our opinions be considered. What Lawal said was his personal opinion,” the group stated.

Convener of the group, Engr. Aliyu Audu, conceded that his team had advocated the selection of a running mate with a faith different from that of the presidential candidate so as to give a sense of inclusion to followers of both major religions.

He said: “We are aware that in order to build an effectively working society, we must prioritize capacity, competence, character over religion and ethnicity, especially as prioritising such sentiments in the past has not provided the desired goal of sense of inclusion which can only truly be achieved when all Nigerians experience good governance at all levels, regardless of their faith, ethnicity or social class.

“We understand that reaching this all important choice must have been a hard nut to crack, even for an exceptional leader like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.”

NSCIA keeps mum

However, the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, under the leadership of the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar, refused to react to the decision of the ruling APC to fly a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket in the 2023 election. Some Islamic clerics, who spoke with Vanguard, expressed their reservations over the morality of such a decision, considering the country’s religious diversity.

When contacted yesterday, spokesman of the Nigeria Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Mr. Ibrahim Aselemi, told Vanguard that he had nothing to say about the matter because “I have not been mandated to speak.”

Muslim-Muslim ticket is injustice — Sheikh Maraya

Reacting to the development, Sheikh Haliru Maraya, a renowned Muslim scholar in Kaduna State and former Adviser on Islamic and Hajj Affairs to late Governor Patrick Yakowa of Kaduna State, yesterday said his position on the same faith ticket remained unchanged.

His words: “I still stand on what I said earlier on the issue of same-faith ticket. I still abhor Muslim-Muslim ticket or Christian-Christian ticket or Jew-Jew ticket because it is a gross violation of Section 14, sub-Section 3 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s Constitution of 1999 as amended, which talks of federal character, with a view to achieving national unity.

“As a Muslim, I will not like to be subjected to any form of injustice, hence I don’t like people who practice the same faith with me to subject others who are non-Muslims to any form of injustice.

“Having the national chairman of a political party   as a Muslim; deputy national chairman, a Muslim; the presidential candidate of that party also a Muslim; his running mate now, a Muslim;   the President of the country who happens to be from that political party, a Muslim; the Senate President who is also a member of that party currently, a Muslim; Speaker of the House of Representatives who is also of that party extraction, a Muslim, is an apparent gross injustice against those who are non-Muslims.

“Therefore, I still maintain my position and I said it because I thought it was going to be of help in terms of unifying the citizens of this country, because currently, what we need in Nigeria is unity. This is because we’ve been polarised along many lines, including religious line.”

Nigerians need all-inclusive govt — Sheikh Nuru Khalid

On his part, former Chief Imam of National Assembly Jum’mat Mosque, Apo Legislative Quarters, Abuja, Sheikh Nuru Khalid, urged the APC to do all it can to ensure it presented a presidential ticket that gives Nigerians hope of an all-inclusive government in 2023.

The Islamic cleric, who noted the distrust and disunity in the country, explained that the people were being sensitive to the issues of religion and ethnicity as they prepared to cast their votes in the forthcoming elections.

He, therefore, advised the party and its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to take decisions that would unite the nation as well as the people.

Sheikh Khalid said: “My message to them is that the expectations of the people are very high, so they must bear in mind that there are serious problems on the ground.   There is so much distrust, disunity and mutual suspicion across the different faiths and ethnic groupsin the country.

“Let our politicians demonstrate their love for this country by deliberately creating room for an all-inclusive government next year. We must collectively stand up for what is morally right and fair, and do all we can to end religious and ethnic considerations in the political choices and decisions we make.”

Adopting same faith ticket irresponsible, disregard for diversities — PFN

Also reacting yesterday, the Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, Kaduna State chapter, said the new trend of fielding party flag bearers with individuals from one faith is not consistent with Nigeria’s federal system and had the potency to polarise the nation at this crucial moment that all true citizens were searching for unity.

Apostle Emmanuel Egoh Bako, PFN Chairman, Kaduna State, said in a statement yesterday that the decision to adopt same faith ticket was irresponsible and a disregard for diversities.

He said: “I am compelled to address a very crucial matter that has much to do with our corporate existence. It is also a responsibility we owe our children.

“I have noticed with great dismay the consistent disregard for our heterogeneous nature in Nigeria by our political players. This is done in the face of increasing weakness of the bond of unity. It is not only against the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria but also against the plan of God.

“The new trend of fielding party flag bearers with individuals from one faith is not consistent with our federal system. It has the potency to polarise our beloved nation at this crucial moment that all true citizens are searching for unity. I see this as irresponsible decision and a disregard for our diversities. I wish to state that it is not acceptable.  It is obvious that the decision is taken to cover up for the failure of government and to also spite other religions.

“I call on all peace-loving citizens to reject this evil pattern that is gradually getting entrenched.  Let’s unite and build a society on the basis of respect for everyone’s humanity.

“Both Muslims and Christians are affected by the economic hardships brought by poor leadership and no one should be deceived by this. Therefore, I declare the Muslim-Muslim ticket barbaric and unacceptable. We shall not let it stand because it showcases our great nation in bad light.  I see 2023 as an opportunity to open up our nation to real political civilization.”

Vote for competence, not religion — Akeredolu

In his reaction, Governor Rotimi Akeredolu of Ondo State asked Nigerians to vote for competence in the 2023 election and not religion, adding that the faith of the Vice President doesn’t affect performance in any government.

Speaking at the swearing-in of two new commissioners in Akure, the governor,  who expressed confidence that Tinubu will rescue the nation, noted that the buck stops on the President’s table.

His words: “Muslim-Muslim ticket has nothing to do with performance. Let’s vote for someone that can do something. The buck stops on the table of the President. It is the President that you are voting for.

“He decides what happens. Whether it’s a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian, it should not matter to us in the South because we fought for this.

“I have no doubt that given the opportunity, from what he has done in Lagos, Asiwaju Tinubu will  turn things around for better.”

Let no Imam, Pastor tell you who to vote for —Keyamo

In his reaction, Minister of State, Labour & Employment, Festus Keyamo, asked Nigerians to steer clear of religious leaders asking them to consider religious sentiments when casting their votes in 2023.

“No one should deceive us, as ordinary Nigerians, be it a pastor or Imam, to vote or not to vote for anyone based on the religious colouration of the ticket.

“Let the debate begin as to the performance of Bola Tinubu as governor of Lagos State and not the issue of same faith ticket,” he said, adding that good governance is what Nigerians need as humanity will be the weapon to fight “off the elites selfishly trying to smuggle religion into politics,”  Keyamo detailed in a series of tweets yesterday.

He lauded the presidential and vice presidential flagbearers of the APC as successful governors of their states respectively, with foresight for choosing the right successors.

“So, the APC comes to the table with two highly successful state chief executives who did excellently well in their states during their tenures, picked excellent successors (Fashola and Zulum) and a former first lady and distinguished Senator. It is a case of buy one, get three free,” he said.

Keyamo tried to allay the fears of those calling the Muslim-Muslim ticket a disaster, insisting Tinubu is respectful of other religions.

“Nigerians and Christians in particular, should have nothing to fear in respect of a President and Commander-in-Chief (by God’s grace and the votes of Nigerians. Bola Tinubu allowed his only wife to be a practising Christian and a pastor under the same roof for about 40 years.”

No need to divide the country over religion, says Olawepo-Hashim

Similarly, former presidential aspirant and a chieftain of the APC, Mr. Gbenga Olawepo-Hashim, counselled opinion moulders not to allow religion to further divide the already divided country.

In a statement issued by his media office, Olawepo-Hashim explained that the political aspiration of anybody was not worth the disruption of the unity and peace of Nigeria.

According to him,   “while we all have the right to express ourselves,  we should avoid incendiary comments that can further pose huge challenge to our national integration objectives. Let us quietly make our decisions   and express such decisions with our votes.”

Olawepo-Hashim maintained that every party must work hard towards the general election to ensure they were in good reckoning with the electorate at the polls, adding that “those who have bought delegates must know they will have an uphill task buying estimated 40 million potential voters who may turn out at the next election.

“Buying up delegates at the party conventions is the cheapest thing to do, the general election is a different ball game, national Security is at stake, not just anything will pass.’’

Northern APC youths vow to ensure victory for Tinubu-Shettima 

Meanwhile, the leadership of the Concerned Northern APC Youths Forum has saluted the presidential candidate of the APC and party stakeholders on the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential flag bearer of the party, saying they won’t sleep until victory was assured in 2023.

Speaking to journalists, Chairman of the Forum, Mr. Suleiman Liba, said: “This choice is the best for the party and it is the winning formula for the 2023 general election.

“Shettima is a proven grassroots politician with several antecedents of excellence to his name.”

He said Nigerians, especially members of the opposition, should stop heating up the polity by saying a Muslim – Muslim ticket of the APC was not the way to go as, according to him, Nigerians will not vote on the sentiment of religion but on competence and track record, which he said both men had as governors of Lagos and Borno states respectively.

Muslim-Muslim ticket, affront on Nigerians’ sensibility — Onitiri

Political activist and critic, Chief Adesumbo Onitiri, also described the APC Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket as most unacceptable because it would create unprecedented chaos in Nigeria.

Onitiri in a statement in Lagos, said Nigeria was a secular state and that religion had come to play a central stage in the political structure, cautioning that APC shouldn’t plunge the country into religious turmoil when Christians were already being slaughtered, maimed and killed in the North for no just cause.

“Never again will Nigerians tolerate afflictions we are presently going through in this country under Buhari/Osinbajo maladministration, resulting in daily killings, maiming and kidnapping of Christians all over the country.

“We are already witnessing a failed state where ISWAP, Boko Haram, Fulani Herdsmen and terrorists   massacre innocent and defenceless Christians and other innocent citizens for free. None of them was arrested or prosecuted and our military turn the other way when these atrocities were being committed,” Onitiri alleged. Christians who vote for this ticket would be signing their death warrants, those of their children and unborn generations of Nigerians,” Onitiri warned.