By Egufe Yafugborhi, Festus Ahon, Ndahi Marama, Bashir Bello, Olayinka Ajayi & Luminous Jannamike, PORT Harcourt

Members of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 19 northern states yesterday revolted against the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election.

Some members also resigned from the party over the issue.

The party’s presidential standard-bearer, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a Muslim, had on Sunday, announced former Borno State Governor, Senator Kashim Shettima, another Muslim, as his running mate, kicking up mixed reactions in the polity.

A chieftain of the APC in Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill; and former Abia State Military Administrator, AVM Frank Ajobena, retd, were among APC stalwarts, who resigned from the APC, yesterday, over the issue as the chairman of the  Borno State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, denied endorsing the ticket.

Why we can no longer campaign for Tinubu — Northern APC Christians

Christians of Northern extraction in the APC said they can no longer campaign for the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu because of his choice of a Muslim running mate.

They made this position known in a communiqué issued to journalists, on Tuesday, following an emergency meeting in Abuja where the issue of the religious colouration of the APC’s presidential ticket and its implication for the nation was on the front burner.

According to the communiqué jointly signed by Prof. Doknan Sheni (Chairman) and General Ishaya Bauka (Secretary), the group explained that Tinubu’s selection of a Muslim running mate had exasperated the Christians in the North, and portrayed the APC as a party that is insensitive to their yearnings.

It warned that if the selection of Senator  Kashim Shettima as the party’s vice presidential resident candidate is not reversed before July 15, there would be serious and grave consequences.

The communique reads: “The Christian politicians in the 19 Northern states within APC met in Abuja to deliberate on the issue of the party’s Muslim – Muslim president and vice president candidates and the implications for the nation.

“The meeting decided as follows: that as Christians within APC, we cannot in all fairness to our consciences and our faith go to our various constituencies to campaign for a Muslim – Muslim ticket.

“Nigeria is a multi-religious and constitutional democracy and NOT a theocracy. The current political atmosphere of the nation is different from what occurred in 1993 and therefore a Muslim Muslim ticket is unacceptable.

“The selection of a Moslem vice presidential candidate portrayed insensitivity to the Christians in the Nation

“The fear of the Christians in the North and the nation, in general, is that the APC will be viewed as an Islamic party and that the Muslim – Muslim ticket was not possible in 2015, why should it be possible in 2023?

“More so, that we are apprehensive that the person picked might have had a hand in the Chibok girls’ saga and other terror activities.

“Muslim-Muslim ticket would undermine the election chances of Christians candidates in APC in the various states in the North.

“The Christians in the North and the whole nation are highly aggravated, considering that the chairman of the party is a Muslim, deputy chairman (North) is a Muslim, the president of the Senate is a Muslim, the Speaker and Deputy Speaker of the House of Representatives are Muslims, and now both the presidential and vice-presidential candidates are Muslims.

“Apart from this violating the constitution section 14 subsection 3, if this was to be reversed that all these were Christians, can any Muslim in the North be able to sell the APC presidential tickets to any Muslim Ummah?

“If this selection of a Muslim Vice President candidate is not changed, there will be serious and grave consequences.

“At this moment of national peril, what should be paramount in Nigeria is unity and not infrastructure or economy. For without unity we cannot build.

“Any party or candidate that elevates the greed of a few above the needs of the many has no business running the affairs of Nigeria.”

It’s insensitive to bring APC to disrepute – Sheni

Speaking in an exclusive chat with Vanguard yesterday, Professor Sheni said: “We Christians in the North are regarded as if we don’t exist. Many think that most Northerners are Muslims as if there are no Christians here.

“We have a heavy population of Christians and quite a lot are in APC. So when the flagbearer of APC Bola Tinubu decided to pick a Muslim as his vice-presidential candidate, we reacted peacefully. The event yesterday was an emergency meeting, we met in Abuja and we decided to communicate to the general public to say that we are Christians in the North and we did not tell them to do a Muslim-Muslim ticket. As you can see, somebody has resigned from Delta and Rivers. We feel it is insensitive to bring our party to disrepute”.

Asked about the way forward, he stressed: “We have three days to go. And the way forward is for the APC presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu to act between now and Friday. If they cannot act, we will meet and take another decision.”

Borno CAN denies endorsing Muslim-Muslim ticket

Also, the Christian Community in Maiduguri is in a state of confusion following a statement allegedly credited to Bishop Mohammed Willians Naga, the Chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, Borno State Chapter, applauding the selection of Senator Kashim Shettima, as running mate by Tinubu.

Bishop Naga is the founder/Head of the Pentecostal Believers Covenant Church (PBCC) in Borno State.

However, Naga, yesterday, endorsing the Muslim-Muslim ticket saying the alleged statement was an interview he granted to some Journalists on April 3, 2017 while Senator Kashim Shettima was a Governor of the State.

He expressed shock that an acclaimed and unprofessional Journalist will mischievously lift such an interview, and portray it as if was granted on Monday 11th of July, 2022.

Consequently, upon this unwholesome development, Bishop Naga said, he has summoned a meeting for all the CAN representatives in the state as well as the National body which comes up tomorrow Tuesday 12th July 2022, after which, CAN will issue a statement or its position regarding the story.

“ I granted no interview to anybody on Monday 11th July 2022. It was mischievous propaganda, seeking cheap popularity on my character,” Bishop Naga said.

Inhuman to settle for Muslim-Muslim ticket — Ajobena

On his part, the first Military Administrator of Abia State, Air Vice Marshal Frank Ajobena, retd, a national Caucus member of the APC, Muslim-Muslim ticket is inhuman and unacceptable.

In a statement, he said: “The decision of the APC Presidential Candidate Chief Bola Ahmed Tinubu to run for President on a Muslim-Muslim ticket is the highest level of insensitivity to the feelings of persons of the Christian faith in Nigeria.

“It smacks of arrogance and a total disrespect of us the Christian members of the APC. It portrays us as people who can easily be bought over with money. In what capacity will I be serving on his campaign train? As a slave? A man must stand for something or he will fall for anything. I quit the APC.”

Candidates who can secure victory for APC, deliver Nigeria, our guiding principles—  Salihu Lukman

However, the National Vice-Chairman of the APC North West, Salihu Lukman on Tuesday said the party settled for a Muslim-Muslim ticket based on candidates who can secure victory for the party and deliver dividends of democracy in the country when it eventually clinches power.

Lukman, former Director General of the Progressives Governors Forum, made this known while fielding questions from journalists in Kano shortly after meeting with party leaders from across the North West zones on move to reconcile with aggrieved party members.

He said that there was nothing wrong with the Muslim-Muslim ticket as issues such as insecurity, and inflation among others stared the country in the face know no religion.

According to him, “It (Muslim-Muslim ticket) is largely about perception. As a party what is utmost in our mind are two things. One is the ability to win the election. Secondly, getting a team that can deliver when eventually we win the election. And I think that is the guiding principle.

“What you call our individual faith is between us and our God. It is not about how we relate to one another. Sometimes we bring these issues in a very wrong way. In the first place, all the problems whether insecurity or inflation knows no religion. So I don’t think it is as bad as overblown in the media. And I think our party is managing it very well. And I can guarantee you, those matters will not be a factor in terms of how people will vote,” he maintained. Lukman further said it is all out to strive to reconcile and ensure it restored hope in aggrieved party members to avert decamping.

“We are here to interact with party leaders to understand the challenges and what needs to be done to address those challenges. We have listened to them and we have had a very frank discussion with them. They have given recommendations which we are going to report back to and hopefully start working on them.

“My understanding is reconciliation is a permanent factor in politics. And politics like I said is about contest, disagreement and managing those disagreements. Those who are impatient and have left the party, we have very little to do about them. But overall, in terms of the commitment to go out there and look for people, if God touches their hearts to understand that politics is beyond what they want but it is about what should be done to the people. And so they decided to come back based on those understanding. They will be welcomed.

“The court case (8 cases) is not isolated to Kano. It’s everywhere. Our legal advisers are working out ways how to address this. It is also about our ability as a party to develop institutional capacity for reconciliation because some of the aggrieved people felt abandoned and lost hope. We would work to ensure that we restore their hope even when they lose what they want.

“What you call a crisis in the media is the real meat of politics. Politics lose its relevance when there is no disagreement. In fact, when a party does not have people who disagree, then it means the party cannot win the election. Once a party can win the election, contests within the party will be sharp. Any party that is aspiring to win the election and they don’t have the kind of disagreement we are having, I can guarantee you the election is already excluded them,” Salihu Lukman however noted.

Earlier, Secretary of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Kano state, Ibrahim Zakari Sarina said the party is currently facing eight court cases, filed by some aggrieved party members in the state while expressing concern that the court cases could affect its chances of winning the election.

The Secretary also warned the national body of APC against following in the footstep of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) by refusing to apologize and reconcile with the aggrieved members of the party.

I quit APC, can’t defend the indefensible, says Tonye Princewill

Another chieftain of the APC in Rivers State, Prince Tonye Princewill, has resigned from the party, this time for a reason other than the unending divisions that have set back the party in the state.

Princewill in his resignation letter to APC Chairman, Ward 3, Buguma City, Asari-Toru LGA, Rivers State, said that he was leaving, aggrieved by the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket preferred by the APC candidate, Bola Tinubu, who picked former governor of Bornu State, Kashim Shettima.

He said: “I can’t argue for equity in my state and defend inequity in my country. While I appreciate my leader, Rotimi Amaechi and all his efforts, I cannot defend the decision of my party, in fielding a Muslim- Muslim ticket, especially at a time like this, against all protestations from well-meaning Nigerians, across religious and political divides.

“It sets a very wrong precedent, it is totally insensitive and even if you win, will prove bad for good governance. Under these dire circumstances, I find no justification to still remain, in good conscience, a member of a political party that subordinates electoral victory, over the safety of lives and the peace of mind of its citizens.

“The men and women of our party here in Rivers are the most loyal and faithful supporters I have met. They know right and wrong. And they know me. I enjoyed working with them and I’m so sad to leave. But an APC party that totally disregards the basics of the same equity we preach, is alien to me.

“Buhari resisted the same temptation and chose a little-known Osinbajo and won. By doing this, Tinubu is saying that a Northern Christians have no electoral value. By staying means I agree. I remain grateful to our leader, but I cannot defend the indefensible. And to be totally honest, neither should you.”

Tinubu has the capacity to transform and reposition Nigeria  — Akingbade

Ahead of the elections, Otunba Yomi Akingbade has expressed optimism in the capacity of  the Presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu to transform and re-position Nigeria towards greatness.

Akingbade noted that Nigeria is a blessed Nation with an abundance of human and potential mineral resources which should be adequately harnessed for a better livelihood for Nigerians and the growth of the country.

In a statement, yesterday, Akingbade stressed that Nigeria being a crude oil-producing nation, all efforts should be made to urgently revive the four ailing refineries to refine products for domestic consumption and create employment for the Nigerian youths and graduates.

Akingbade assured that Tinubu as President of Nigeria in 2023, will assemble a competent team to proffer workable solutions to the many problems confronting the country, adding that with Tinubu at the helm of affairs the country will be great again.

He commended Tinubu for picking former Governor of Borno State, Kasim Shitima as Vice Presidential candidate, noting that the Tinubu-Shettima joint ticket was in the best interests of the country.

Vanguard News Nigeria

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