By Muyiwa Adetiba
Let’s go scriptural for a while since the issue of today has religious undertones. I am sure we’ve all heard the story of the Good Samaritan before. But for those who might not really know the story, it is the story of a traveler – most likely a foolhardy one – who was travelling alone along a dangerous road infested with robbers.
In a contemporary Nigerian context, let us say a man is passing along the now dangerous Abuja- Kaduna route alone at night. He is attacked by bandits who steal everything he has and leaves him for dead.
Along passes an ‘Alfa’. He sees the man on the wayside, raises his beads to his mouth for a little prayer and crosses to the other side. Not long after, a Priest passes by. He also sees the half dead man. He gathers his robes around him, says a little prayer with the bible held close to his chest and crosses to the other side. Soon after, an atheist comes along.
At the risk of being attacked, he shows compassion and stops to help the fallen man. That atheist according to the scriptures, is the Good Samaritan. He is the one who has shown himself to be a good neighbour. The point is that your religion means nothing and your piety avails little if your heart is darkened and you are unwilling to lift a fallen man up irrespective of his tribe or religion. Nigeria is full of ‘pious men and women of God’ who wear religion on their sleeves and do nothing to help fallen neighbours.
All hell broke loose – literally – when Muslim Tinubu announced Muslim Shettima as his running mate. Many Christians who have a voice, including those whose moral voices should have long been dead, cried out in self-righteous indignation. Even some Muslims lent their voices in crying more than the bereaved. Those who would never have voted for him anyway now have a tailor made reason.
Yes, it is insensitive to push a Muslim/Muslim ticket in a country where Christians are almost as many as Muslims and for the records, I am not enamored by it. But it is just as insensitive, if not more so, to have a Fulani succeed a Fulani in a multi-ethnic country – the ‘other half’ is not talking about that. But the fear of ‘Islamization’ and the fear of a Fulani agenda, are nothing but conjectures for me at this point – something of a bother, but not enough to be fearful about.
It is possible that Buhari pushed the religious needle – even with a Christian Vice-President – further than his predecessors. It is possible that he pushed the Fulani agenda inadvertently or otherwise –even with a southern Vice-President – further than his predecessors.
So having a Christian or a Southern Vice President really won’t stop a President who is determined to push a religious or sectional agenda given the enormous power the current constitution gives him. What matters is the character and the antecedence of the President himself, not the spare tyre we call Vice President.
Whatever else we may say about Tinubu, he is not a religious extremist and an Islamization policy is not likely to be on his agenda. Look at his past. Religion was not an issue when he was Governor and in the areas where he held the reins of power, he had treated Christians and Muslims just about the same.
His close friends and associates belong to both religions. It’s been said, but it bears repeating, that any Muslim who allows his Christian wife to keep practicing her faith cannot be an extremist. Ditto any Christian who allows a Muslim wife to keep practicing her faith.
Besides, Islamic extremism is rare in the South-West. There might be a few Muslim extremists in the closet but it is unlikely Tinubu is one of them. What I think happened is that Tinubu followed the path of political expediency. Until the census figures are changed, there are more Muslims than Christians in Nigeria with Muslims being considered a minority in the South while Christians are considered a minority in the North.
So to have two minorities contest for the Presidential ticket might not be politically wise. I am not part of his kitchen cabinet, but the calculation could be that the Christian South-East would not vote for him anyway even without the Peter Obi factor. PDP’s choice of VP would also make it unlikely for the Christian South-South to vote for him.
Of the entire Christian South therefore, only the South-West could be his given previous voting patterns. The issue would be who could help him win a chunk of the largely Muslim North against a Muslim Northerner. The answer, according to his calculations would not be a Christian Northerner. It is a political risk. But then, politicians are gamblers.
The rest of us should worry less about the religion of the candidates and more about what each candidate is bringing to the table.
I do not read any of the three main presidential candidates to be a religious fanatic – in fact, I think the other two are more ‘devout’ than Tinubu. And all right thinking people should do everything possible to douse religious noises in government. They are unhealthy distractions. Nigeria has been badly managed by both Christians and Muslims. Nobody worries about the religion of the surgeon when he is rushed to the hospital.
Nigeria is now on the sick bed. We need the best of the three main candidates to step into the operating theatre. So we have to shine our eyes and choose without religious or tribal sentiments. When the campaign properly starts, we need to listen to economic policies and the ability to deliver them. We have to look at their past and let it judge the future. Especially on areas of inclusiveness and character. We must not rationalize based on tribe or religion. Otherwise, we could be rationalizing failure. Again.
We started with the scripture. We should end with the scripture. When told that His brother and sister were waiting for Him, Jesus described his brother, sister and mother as those who do the will of His father in heaven. Going forward, anybody who is prepared to do the will of Nigeria and Nigerians and not just indulge in his own interests, should be our ‘brethren’ irrespective of his tribe and religion. He is the one deserving of our vote