By Emmanuel Aziken
Two months after operatives of the All Progressives Congress, APC bussed-in a coterie of fake and unknown bishops for the unveiling of its vice-presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima, the party’s presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu last Thursday met with genuine and known bishops in Abuja.
That Shettima incident in July introduced the phraseology of unknown bishops to the already weighty shipment of negative terminologies that have come vide the APC these last few years.
Among the more dangerous phrases are unknown gunmen, killer Fulani herdsmen, budget padding, banditry, terrorists, oil theft among other incredulous dimensions to the polity.
Two or so weeks after the APC bishops made their appearance at the Shettima unveiling, Lagos socialite, Pretty Mike made a mockery of the party when he staged an appearance at a social event with a retinue of fake bishops preceding him! As they entered that particular event and in mockery of the APC bishops, a voice over burst out with someone asking “can I know you, can I know you?”
The recruitment of the fake and unknown bishops was seen by some as a slap on the Christian religion. Some questioned whether the APC could have done the same thing with Islamic clerics had the table turned the other way.
The recruitment of the fake and unknown bishops at the unveiling of Shettima was apparently to stage the claim that Christendom was appreciative of the Muslim-Muslim ticket offered by the APC.
It is doubtful if Asiwaju Bola Tinubu was part of that drama. Tinubu has to a large extent not given in to religious discrimination.
As some have said, someone who has not been able to convert his wife and all his children should not be perceived as a religious bigot.
However, that defence is punctured by the assertion that Tinubu is not running to rule his house, but Nigeria. It is in that light that many of the critics of the Muslim-Muslim ticket have projected their opposition.
It is remarkable that the opposition is being fueled by some like Yakubu Dogara and Babachir Lawal, men who had until recently been in the frontline in advocating the Tinubu candidacy.
Your correspondent is aware that within the APC that Tinubu was warned of the dangerous implication of his move.
Immediately after he chose Shettima, the APC candidate according to sources, was asked by some within the Northern Christian establishment to address the issue, but the camp of the APC candidate chose to ignore them.
It is that decision that may have well inspired the rabid animosity of Babchir Lawal and Dogara to pulling down the house that they helped to build.
Remarkably, the Tinubu Camp now appears to be feeling the heat of the Muslim-Muslim ticket with even Southern Christians in Tinubu territory in the Southwest appearing to be saying No.
The Tinubu Camp appears to have seen that the loss of support from Tinubu is flowing towards Peter Obi and it is no surprise that the Tinubu camp appears to be firing the Labour Party candidate from all angles.
With Christians forming an influential proportion of the votes in the North, it seems the stark reality of opposition from that community is now facing the APC candidate more and more.
However, dropping Shettima appears out of the question.
It was as such needful for the APC to made amends by meeting with the Christian establishment in the North. It appears as if the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN having openly stated its opposition was not approachable.
That may have well suggested the interaction with the bishops. Well this time, genuine and known bishops under the aegis Pentecostal Bishops Forum of Northern Nigeria.
The chairman of the group, Archbishop John Praise is not like the unknown bishops, one of whom was spotted at Idu Market, Abuja selling plumbing materials. He is the head of the Dominion Chapel International Churches.
At the end of their meeting on Thursday, Bishop John Praise said:
“We are not committed to endorsing anybody, but you should ask your conscience and from what you have heard and from the explanation, he (Tinubu) had given to us to make your own judgement of who will better rule and handle the country.”
Tinubu on his part restated the fact that his choice of Shettima was based on competence. According to him Senator Shettima’s virtues in government qualified him for the ticket.
“My intention is clear, not religiosity. My intention is to develop this country, to bring prosperity to our country and I have better qualification, better track records, better exposure, better vision than any of my mates,” Tinubu was quoted as saying last Thursday.
But against the background of the recent overflow of bigotry churned out by the outgoing administration in religious matters, many believe that Tinubu could have been more adept in bringing healing to the polity by projecting a balanced ticket that would heal the wounds of the last few years.
His initial decision to stonewall the behind the scene demand for consultations by Northern Christian leaders did not help him. That action was worsened by the fake and unknown bishops incident. His meeting with genuine and known bishops is just the beginning.