By Clifford Ndujihe, Johnbosco Agbakwuru, Olayinka Ajayi, Ibrahim Hassan-Wuyo, Omeiza Ajayi & Luminous Jannamike,
LEADER of Christian members of the All Progressives Congress, APC, in the 19 states of the North, Professor Doknan Sheni, yesterday, shed more light on why they were against the Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima’s Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the party for the 2023 poll.
In an exclusive interview with Vanguard, Professor Sheni, who regretted that some Northern APC governors convinced Tinubu to go for same faith ticket, said the development could cost the party the presidency and other positions across the country.
Lamenting that APC had been discriminating against Christians in sharing of positions, he said if Tinubu wins the 2023 poll after President Muhammadu Buhari’s eight years, a Northern Muslim might succeed Tinubu, which means the country would have Muslim presidents for 24 unbroken years.
Prof Sheni spoke as Deputy National Chairman of the APC (North-West), Alhaji Salihu Mohammed Lukman, said the leadership of the party considered all factors before arriving at the decision, and assured that Tinubu will protect the interest of all Nigerians if elected.
This came on a day the Arewa Consultative Forum, ACF, refused to be drawn into the same-faith ticket controversy, which it dismissed as political parties’ internal affair.
A pro-democracy group, The Nigerian Agenda for Inclusion, TNAI, dared Tinubu to test the feelings of the Muslim community in Lagos State with a Christian-Christian governorship ticket.
Specifically, the ACF said same-faith ticket ought not generate controversies because apart from the MKO Abiola/Bashir Tofa June 12, 1993 Muslim-Muslim ticket, late Chief Obafemi Awolwo fielded a southern, Christian-Christian ticket and late Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe also had a Christian-Christian ticket.
Indeed, renowned Muslim scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, said the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a wise decision and is already provoking religious distrust in the country.
How APC discriminates against Christians — Sheni
Professor Sheni, whose group held an emergency meeting and issued a strong communiqué against the same-faith ticket, told Vanguard why they took the decision.
“We are concerned that if we do not speak out now, and then a political/religious crossfire occurs, we may end up like Lebanon. God forbid. We don’t want a religious war in Nigeria. We already fought a civil war, now people are suffering economic issues. Presently; people are suffering various types of issues in the country. Why do we choose to add religion on top of our politics?
“Unfortunately, Tinubu was convinced to pick a Muslim running mate. We are members of the APC. With the development, our party may lose the election. We are concerned as Christians in the North because if the Christians totally boycott APC, the implication is that our other aspirants or candidates at the Houses of Assembly, governorship, and National Assembly would all lose elections even in areas where they would have won convincingly because there are dominant Christian votes. If those Christians decide to migrate to other parties, our party will lose and we will become the opposition just because of religious politics.
Bad image before Christians
“Our party has a very bad image among the Christians. They look at us as an Islamic party. Look at the security structure, they are taken by Muslims. Look at our party, the current president is a Muslim, and the party chairman is a Muslim. Every officer of the party is a Muslim except one who is an assistant secretary, others are all Muslims. Does it mean Christians don’t exist in the North? That is discrimination.
On Tinubu’s promise to be fair to all, if elected, he said: “ Why can’t he be fair now? Why is he waiting to be fair later on? Do you know the implication of that? President Muhammadu Buhari is a Muslim, he ruled for eight years, after him, if Asiwaju emerges, he is a Muslim, he would rule for eight years. When power comes back to the North, it will be a Muslim ruling for another eight years. That means in the next 24 years, we would only have Muslim presidents of Nigeria.”
Selection of candidates is parties’ affair — ACF
As the controversy over same-faith ticket rages on, Secretary-General of the Arewa Consultative Forum, Murtala Aliyu has said that the ACF would not want to be drawn into the controversy because it’s entirely the parties’ business.
He told Vanguard: “We had discussions with the press and we’ve said our position as ACF. We don’t get involved in anything partisan. Parties can decide to put whoever they want if they so wish and they think that would give them advantage to win the election.”
“Now, if a party makes a major mistake that affects their electoral fortune, I think we would just consider that as their business.
“I don’t know why this controversy is raging because it’s something that has been happening. It has happened several times. Apart from the cited Abiola case, earlier to that Chief Obafemi Awolowo had at one time, taken Phillip Umeadi as his running mate. They were both Christians, both Southerners. It didn’t affect anything, didn’t cause any row.
“Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe also took Professor Ishaya Audu as his running mate. Audu was a Northern Christian, Zik was a Southern Christian. It didn’t cause any problem.”
“When Nuhu Ribadu was running under ACN, he took Fola Adeola as his running mate. Both of them are Muslims, one from the North, the other from the South and there had not been any problem.
“So, I think the issue of taking one faith or one region as a ticket has been going on, not just now.”
“I however, think a party should be sensitive to what would affect its electoral fortunes. If a party thinks their combination can give them victory, well, so be it.
“I think the controversy around this same faith or same region ticket is needless. We should move ahead. It’s a multi-party democracy. People have multiple choices. If you don’t like one party for its combination, you can move to another party.
“I think we don’t want to be drawn into this controversy of who becomes the running mate of any candidate. That’s entirely the party’s business. What we would do as ACF, we are going to confront every candidate that we think has a possibility of victory and engage them on what they have for the country, and how they intend to address the peculiar problems of the northern part of the country.”
100 APC groups, student unions kick, make case for Ibrahim Dauda
This came as a coalition of over 100 support groups of the ruling APC and other nonpartisan groups have kicked against the choice of Senator Shettima as running mate to the party’s standard bearer, Tinubu, saying he should be replaced with a youth, in person of Dr. Ibrahim Dauda.
“We, substantive members of Coalition of All Progressives Congress Support Groups, here, speaking in one voice and unanimously reject in totality the recent announcement of former Shettima as the running mate to Tinubu.
“The Coalition, after its emergency meeting yesterday in Abuja, asked Shettima to be dropped largely on account of age, maintaining, “Nigerian youths will no longer play the role of only supporting the old politicians.”
The communiqué was signed by Igwe Ude-umanta of Coalition of APC Youth Groups, Solomon Adodo, President, National Youth Council of Nigeria; Mallam Suleiman Musa, Convener, Coalition of Northern Youth Leaders; Chief Jator Abido, President, Niger Delta Youth Council; Mohammed Yahaya, Director General, EL-DABI Support Groups and Hajia Zainab Sule, President, APC Women and Youth Grassroots Forum.
Others include Prince Miaphen, President, Middle Belt Youth Vanguard; Stephen Eriba, Executive Director, Congress of Young Progressives; Olamide Odumosu, President, APC Youth and Students Movement; Godwin Oluoha; Executive Director, Guardians of Democracy and Development; Sirajo Abdu Zalanga: Coordinator and Spokesperson, Northeast Youth Forum; Muhammed Yerima: Secretary General, Arewa Musojunanmu(Northern Connect); Danesi Prince, Convener, APC Youth Solidarity Network; Jagunmolu Willoughby, President General, Yoruba General Assembly; Chief Joseph Douglas, President, All Farmers Progressive Association, Mujaheed Shuaibu, National President, National Association of University Students; Asiegbu Chinonso, President, National Association of Polytechnic Students; Aminu Habibu, President, National Association of Colleges of Education Students; General Pius, Convener, Coalition of Niger Delta ex-Militants Generals; Mr. Verlumun Gajir, President, Civil Society and Youth Groups in Nigeria; and, Transformed Eucharia, President, Forum of Young Female Progressives.
The rest include Gbolahan Agbaje, President, NWTS Innovators; Churchill Igwe, President General, Congress of Igbo Progressive Youths, Joseph Abrukwe, President General, South South Youth Democratic Front; Sani Madaki, President, Northern Youth Congress of Nigeria, Auwalu Majiri, President, Almajiri Youth Support Initiative; Abdulkareem Onoja, Director General, Civil Society Advocacy Groups for Accountability and Probity; Jonathan Ochai, Co-Convener, Nigeria in Safe Hands Project.
Same faith ticket already provoking religious distrust — Gumi
While commenting on the issue, renowned Muslim scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi said: “The APC Muslim-Muslim ticket is borne out of political exigency not a religious consideration.
“Therefore, the electorate should choose from the wide range of candidates to vote for. As to the question of whether it’s a wise decision, I think it’s not because it’s already provoking a religious distrust.”
We considered all factors before settling for Shettima — APC NWC member
Reacting to the controversy surrounding the choice of Senator Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate, Lukman said the leadership of the party considered all the factors before arriving at the decision.
The party chieftain, however, assured that Tinubu will protect the interest of all.
“You see, my position, which I have always buttressed, is that politics is about contest and managing interests. ‘Certainly, the party leadership would have to consider all the factors before arriving at that. In the end, we have to convince Nigerians that Muslim-Muslim ticket or however you look at it does not mean discrimination against anybody.”
Change Lagos APC ticket to Christian-Christian to test insensitivity of your action; group dares Tinubu
Meanwhile, a pro-democracy group, The Nigerian Agenda for Inclusion, TNAI, has dared the presidential candidate of the APC, in the 2023 election, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to test the feelings of the Muslim community in Lagos state with a Christian-Christian ticket.
TNAI in a statement, yesterday, by its Co-Convener, Alexander Obisesan, described Lagos as a reflection of Nigeria’s religious diversity and a fine place for Tinubu to test the “alternative reality of his unthoughtful action with a Christian-Christian ticket.”
It continued: “The supporters of the APC presidential candidate are putting together all manners of disingenuous narratives when they could easily test the alternative reality of their agenda in Lagos.
“Alhaji Bola Tinubu is the god-father of APC in Lagos; he is in a pole position to field a Christian-Christian ticket to gauge the temperament of the Muslim community in the state as the first line of evaluation of his insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity.
“If former governor Tinubu could not broach the idea of a Christian-Christian ticket in his immediate domain in Lagos State, which is more secular and diverse, why is he contemplating such a divisive option for Nigeria?”
Muslim-Muslim ticket, a slap on Northern Christians —Bishop Marioghae
On his part, the Presiding Bishop of The Evangelical Ark Mission International, Rev. Tony Marioghae, described as ‘foolish’ and a slap on Christians of Northern extraction, the decision of the Tinubu to pick a Muslim running mate.
Marioghae, who stated this while briefing journalists in Abuja on Thursday, said the APC standard bearer should have paid attention to the sensitivities of the different faiths in the country before making his final decision.
According to him, although Tinubu’s argument of competence as the reason for choosing Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate was plausible, there are capable Christian political leaders from the Northern region who could have complemented him as well.
He cautioned that the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket would not promote trust between the people of the different faiths, stressing that there was so much disunity in the country already.
His words, “There’s a lot of distrust among people of the various faiths, especially Christians doubting the sincerity others. Under the prevailing circumstances, it is foolish to bring a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket though it may be politically right. It is foolish to pursue that course of action.”