By Sam Eyoboka, Omezia Ajayi & Luminous Jannamike, LAGOS

The National Christian Elders Forum, NCEF, has condemned the All Progressives Congress, APC, and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, for fielding Muslim presidential candidates, 13 years into an insurgency in the country.

The group also faulted the current debate on the same-faith ticket, arguing that next year’s election was a process to define democracy and not over sharia rulership.

It described the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling APC for the 2023 presidential election as unconscionable.

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But in a swift reaction last night, Deputy National Publicity Secretary of APC, Mr. Yakubu Ajaka, regretted that following the sentiments that had trailed the emergence of the party’s candidates for next presidential election, Nigerians seemed to have unfortunately thrown away competence, capacity, and qualification.

This came on a day President of Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, His Eminence Most Rev. Daniel Okoh, said Nigerians would not use political party as a deciding factor in the choice of candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.

The NCEF, in a statement by the Secretary-General, Pastor Bosun Emmanuel, said the horse-trading by the political class is an uncomfortable indication that those who rule Nigeria have not learned any lesson from the errors of the past.

According to the group, the country cannot continue doing the same things repeatedly and expect different results.

Members of NCEF include Elder Solomon Asemota(SAN), Chairman; Lt.-General T.Y. Danjuma(retd); General Zamani Lekwot(retd); Dr Kate Okpareke; Hon. Justice Kalajine Anigbogu(retd).

Others are Elder Shyngle Wigwe; DIG P. L. Dabup; Sir John W. Bagu; Dr. Saleh Hussaini; Elder Michael Orobator, Hon. Justice James Ogebe, retd; Dr. Chukwuemeka Ezeife; and Dame Priscilla Kuye, among, others.

Late General Joshua Dongoyaro was a member of the forum in his lifetime.

The statement read: “Of more concern is the resurgence of Muslim-Muslim ticket proposed by the All Progressive Congress, APC.

“While it is true that Nigerians voted for MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe under a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 1993, the situation in the country is no longer the same.

“It is insensitive and unconscionable for APC to re-enact Muslim-Muslim ticket after 13 years of Islamist insurgency in Nigeria.

“The tongue-in-cheek argument that religion should not be brought into politics stands reason on its head.

“It is absurd that the architects and sponsors of politics of religion in Nigeria could suddenly become advocates of no religion in politics to further their agenda of turning Nigeria into an Islamic theocratic state.

Democracy vs Sharia

“NCEF has stated in many publications that the problem of Nigeria is the conflict between Democracy and Sharia ideology in the 1999 Constitution. Sharia in the constitution is the real politics of religion.

“The illegal and unwarranted incursion of Sharia into the 1999 Constitution is at the root of the Islamist insurgency and insecurity that has plagued Nigeria since 2009.

“The least the APC could do is to resolve the conflict of ideologies in Nigeria by enacting a new constitution having democracy as the sole national ideology and not attempt to worsen an already bad situation by giving political preference to a particular religion.

“If a Muslim-Muslim ticket should be permitted to stand, under whatever guise, it implies that after eight years of President Buhari, a Muslim from the North, there will be another eight years of a Muslim from the South after which the North will insist that power should rotate back for eight years of another Muslim President.

‘’By the time Nigeria completes the cycle of 24 years of Muslim presidents, the Islamization agenda would be complete.

“Both PDP and APC have demonstrated callous insensitivity to the problems caused by religious intolerance in Nigeria. By floating two Muslim presidential candidates, both PDP and APC have confirmed their commitment to politics of religion.

Democracy under threat

“Consequently, Nigerians are urged to realize that the issue playing out is a deliberate attempt to destroy democracy in Nigeria and supplant it with Sharia as the national ideology and source of legislation. This issue does not concern Christians only, but it concerns Nigerians who love liberty, justice, equality, and fairness.

‘’The rejection of the Muslim-Muslim ticket should not be seen as Christian objection but an objection by every Nigerian in favour of democracy which guarantees freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and freedom of worship.

“If Nigerians should open their eyes and permit the Muslim-Muslim ticket to stand, or the election of a Muslim presidential candidate in 2023, then Nigerians would have voted for a sectional national ideology to replace the liberty upon which Nigeria was established as a country.

“Nigerians are fiercely independent people and would suffer a lot if their liberty is curtailed under a discriminatory religious ideology.

2023 elections:  What will Nigerians choose?

‘’The choice before Nigerians in 2023 is between democracy or Sharia, liberty or bondage, and equality or discrimination. The past seven years of the Buhari administration is a foretaste of what is to come, with increasing intensity.

‘’Already, Sharia ideology is demonstrating its aversion for western education and civilization with the closure of universities for many months. An educated populace is not a preference of sponsors of Sharia ideology. The Almajiris of northern Nigeria is credible evidence.

A Country of “DHIMMIS” (Second class citizens)

‘’NCEF is not unmindful of the activities of political jobbers, particularly in the Church, and wish to caution those who place money above moral values to take heed. There are 389 ethnic nationalities in Nigeria and 386 of these nationalities do not subscribe to any religious ideology as way of life.

‘’The ethnic nationalities should talk to each other and realize that if they mishandle the 2023 elections, they would have signed their descendants off as “dhimmis” (second class citizens) in their land of nativity and released their ancestral land for possession by those who manipulate religion for cultural and political domination.

‘’After the discriminatory and insensitive administration of President Buhari, Nigeria requires a breath of fresh air from intolerance and discrimination.

“Before coming into power, President Buhari was quoted affirming his pro-Sharia conviction and stated unequivocally that he was prepared to fight another civil war to ensure that Nigeria became Sharia compliant. The past seven years confirmed that he meant every word that he uttered.

‘’Under the circumstances, ethnic nationalities in Nigeria should gear up to resist the Muslim-Muslim ticket as well as replacement of President Buhari by another Muslim. Nigeria requires respite from 13 years of daily bloodshed by Islamist insurgents.

‘’A Muslim President should not replace President Buhari so that balance can be restored to the country. The liberty and security of Nigerians depend on it.

‘’It amounts to pure mischief to make the Muslim-Muslim ticket a Christian versus Muslim affair. It is deeper than that. We are dealing with democracy versus Sharia. The national ideology and identity of Nigeria is at stake.

‘’There is a deliberate attempt to distort the DNA of Nigeria and reformat the country into what it was not established to be. If the ethnic nationalities should permit this to stand, they would have consigned their descendants into perpetual bondage.

‘’Already, the Fulanis boast openly that they are born-to-rule, and that God has given them Nigeria as their inheritance. 2023 election is the decisive year.

Expansion of feudalism

‘’The Muslim-Muslim ticket is a deliberate ploy by the northern oligarchy to extend its feudalism beyond the North to the rest of the country. If it should work, all Nigerians will suffer the consequences.

‘’The Yoruba Muslims, the Ibo Muslims, the Ijaw Muslims, and every other citizen will become “dhimmis”. It is unfortunate that desperation for political power made some politicians to acquiesce to this conspiracy.

‘’It should be emphasized that Muslim-Muslim ticket should not be perceived as conflict between Christianity and Islam. This is a major distraction. The real target is the ethnic nationalities that own Nigeria.

‘’The ethnic nationalities consist of Christians, Muslims, traditionalists, and free thinkers. The Muslim-Muslim ticket is only in the interest of the northern oligarchy, even though efforts will be made to persuade Muslims nationwide to support it.

“From the way the northern oligarchy ran the North aground, Muslims from the other regions will not benefit anything in the long run.

Promote democracy

‘’It is in the best interest of all Nigerians to promote democracy as the sole national ideology. The founding fathers of Nigeria birthed this country on the principles of freedom of choice, freedom of expression, and freedom of worship.

“We must do everything possible to maintain liberty in the country. We should not place coming generations in bondage.’’

Nigerians have thrown away competence, capacity—APC

Reacting to the Christian elders’ position against Muslim-Muslim ticket last night,  Deputy National Publicity Secretary of the All Progressives Congress APC, Mr Yakubu Ajaka, said:  “As it is common with developing democracies such as ours, the selection of candidates for the parties always comes with various challenges, mostly bordering on sentiments, such as religion, ethnicity, and geo-political arrangements.

‘’The cry of marginalization has also become a common and popular feature among politicians and the electorate.

“These sentiments had been into play all our political life for quite a long time. Unfortunately, we seem to throw away competence, capacity, and qualification to these sentiments. This is partly responsible for our present predicament, with no benefit to even the agitators of such sentiments.

“It is sad and regrettable that our country has been recording divisive tendencies, with our unity as a nation sometimes threatened. There are ill-feelings over perceived cases of marginalization. In Nigeria, every section is crying of marginalization. It has been the case during Olusegun Obasanjo and Goodluck Jonathan’s administrations, and now.

“We, especially the youths, must start somewhere to change the narratives in the interest of national unity and speedy development of our dear country. We must start somewhere to make a change for a better tomorrow.

“Nigeria needs a patriotic leader who can give others outside his geo-political zone, tribe and religion equal opportunity for self-actualization and service to the nation. He should be a leader with a firm belief in the potentialities of the country.

‘’Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, the former governor of Lagos state, Nigeria’s economic and commercial center, a former high-ranking senator of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and national leader of the APC before his election as the presidential candidate of the party, is undoubtedly the man with these sterling qualities.’’

We won’t vote based on party lines  —CAN

Meanwhile, new CAN President, His Eminence Most Rev. Daniel Okoh, has said Nigerians would not use political party as a deciding factor in the choice of candidate to succeed President Muhammadu Buhari in 2023.

According to him, Nigerians have gone beyond casting their votes based on the political party fielding candidates.

The Archbishop, who stated this while delivering the sermon at the 2022 International Men’s Conference of Christ Holy Church International in Abuja yesterday, insisted that the electorate, particularly Christians, would vote for candidates in the next general elections using their current capacities and antecedents as criteria.

The sermon was entitled, ‘By Faith, Give Leadership’. He said:  “It is important that people of God at this time should have their eyes open. Before casting your votes, make sure you know the people you are giving your votes.

“In Nigeria, things are beginning to change. Gone are those days when people vote based on the political party fielding the candidate; when once you have the ticket of a particular party, you are covered.

“Today, people are looking at individuals, their credibility, character, experience, capacities and antecedents in relation to the positions they want to occupy.”

The CAN President decried the menace of vote-buying in the country’s electoral system, saying the people must begin to interrogate the plans and programmes of politicians before deciding who will get their mandate for the next four years.

Cautioned politicians against making false promises to amass the people’s vote, the CAN President said:  “Nigerians have come to a point where they feel that they need to sit down and negotiate with the presidential and governorship candidates.

“We must ask them: ‘What is our portion in your administration (if elected)?’ They should be able to convince you before you can cast their votes for them. Nobody should take away your future from you. Don’t let anyone give you money to buy your conscience and four years of joy.

‘’To the people who are in politics, when you are making promises, make sure you are telling the people what you can fulfil.

“There’s no need promising us you can give us heaven on earth when you know that given the realities on the ground you cannot be able to fulfill it.”

Okoh, who doubles as the General Superintendent of Christ Holy Church International, also raised the alarm over the use of youths for political thuggery, noting that the development portended danger for the nation’s democracy.

“Our youths should not allow themselves to be used as political thugs. The era of thuggery in our electoral system is over. They must positively participate in the political process.

I am saying with a sense of duty that our youths must not give in to electoral violence.

“We must expand the space to inject new ideas into the systems. The world is moving on, and Nigeria cannot afford to be left behind,’’ he said.

He described Nigeria as one of the best places to live in, because of the liberties the people enjoyed, compared to the citizens of other nations.

“Nigeria, for me, is one of the best places to live in. I love Nigeria, and we must put our collective freedom to good use,” he said.

The cleric noted that the problems facing Christians were not peculiar to Nigeria, but tasked the body of Christ to demonstrate leadership by providing hope to the rest of the country by faith in God.

He explained:  “The Church is under attack, but not only in Nigeria. Globally, the truth is under attack.  There’s no generation that had not had its own challenges. We are facing ours and must find a way to wriggle ourselves out of it.

“So many things polarise the people at this time, but as Christians, we need to always stand together, knowing that we serve the same Lord and share in the same heritage.

“It is our unity and oneness that gives us the force to contend with whatever that opposes our very existence. When we are together, as people of God, there’s nothing we cannot conquer. Together, we can give a sense of security to our nation.

“In this (election) season, Christians are going to provide leadership by faith, but with our two eyes opened.  There is a miracle waiting to happen in this country and it will surely become a reality.  We should not put our trust in man.”

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