By Olu Fasan
THIS weekend, on December 25, Christians worldwide will celebrate Christmas to mark the birth of Jesus Christ. In every country with a predominant or substantial Christian population, the president or vice-president, the head of state or prime minister, will be a Christian.
However, in Nigeria, where Christians account for nearly half of the population, this year’s Christmas may be the last, for probably the next eight years, that Christianity would be represented politically at Nigeria’s seat of sovereign, the Presidency; that someone professing the Christian faith would be either president or vice-president!
Surely, if Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress, APC, wins next year’s election, Nigeria would have a Muslim president and a Muslim vice-president, Alhaji Kashim Shettima. Well, probably for eight years if they win a second term! In storytelling, the plot is what happens; the theme is what it means. A successful story must answer both questions: “what happens?” and “what does it mean?”
However, answering the question “what does Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket mean?” is beclouded by partisanship and deception. Hence, some mendaciously dismiss concerns about the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by saying that, a) the vice-president is “powerless”, and b) a Christian vice-president can’t protect Christians. So, what’s all the fuss about?
I tackled those specious arguments in a column titled “Muslim-Muslim ticket: Christianity would suffer at Nigeria’s seat of sovereignty” (Vanguard, September 1, 2022). My aim here is different: to urge Christians and Christian leaders to beware of Tinubu’s attempts to schmooze and beguile them with utter falsity about his Muslim-Muslim ticket. Karl Marx famously said: “Workers of the world, unite! You have nothing to lose but your chains!” My Christmas message is similar: Christians of Nigeria, unite! You have nothing to lose but the political affront on your faith, the denigration of your religion!
Truth is, Tinubu and his party, APC, have, for political expediency, set out to belittle the Christian faith. They have set out to deny Christianity equality of status with Islam in the Nigerian political firmament. Instead, they’re condemning Christianity to a second-class status, suggesting it lacks parity of political influence with Islam.
Provocatively, Tinubu continues to double down on his Muslim-Muslim ticket, insulting the collective intelligence of Christians. Recently, he told leaders of the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, in Abuja, that he picked Shettima as his running mate because he’s an “exceptionally gifted human being” with “superior intellectual capacity”. This suggests that Tinubu searched far and wide but found no Northern Christian in APC with those attributes. But he’s dissembling! Leaders of his party are more forthright with the truth.
In an interview with BBC Hausa in August, the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, put it this way: “In our understanding of the politics in Nigeria at the moment, the Muslim-Muslim ticket is the best decision for us because we want to win the election,” adding: “Everyone has his own strategy for winning elections.”
Dr. Kayode Fayemi, then Ekiti State governor, put it more bluntly. Speaking to the new executives of CAN, Ekiti State chapter, in July, he said: “The decision (Muslim-Muslim ticket) was not on grounds of competence because we have competent Christians all over Nigeria, but on grounds of strategic political moves”. He added: “We have to look at scenarios and calculate where the votes would come from; it’s a game of numbers!”
Of course, anyone with a modicum of intelligence knows that Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket wasn’t based on “competence” but pure electoral calculations. But that makes the decision unbearably disturbing because Tinubu puts his “lifelong ambition” above the national interest – internal cohesion and religious harmony. He assumes he can take Christians for granted, ride roughshod over their sensitivities, and still become president.
Really? Well, Tinubu’s calculation rests on two myths. One is that the South-West or the Yorubas put ethnicity above religion; so, despite the Muslim-Muslim ticket, Yoruba Christians would vote for him simply because he’s Yoruba. The other myth is that Northern Muslims put religion above ethnicity; so, they would vote for Tinubu, a Yoruba, provided his running mate is a Northern Muslim, not a Northern Christian. Thus, Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is predicated on two factors: ethnicity in the South-West; religion in the North!
But if both myths hold true, the long-term consequences for Christians are dire. First, no Northern Christian would ever become vice-president, let alone president. Why? Northern Muslims simply won’t vote for one. Second, Christians in the South, particularly in the South-West, would lose political potency as ethnicity would always trump their faith. In such circumstances, Christianity in Nigeria would face a perpetual political disadvantage because Christians either lack electoral value or won’t defend their faith in the political space.
Which brings us to Tinubu’s other galling defence of his Muslim-Muslim ticket: critics should remember his wife is a pastor. So what? Imagine a governor or a president who doesn’t have a woman in his cabinet or in any senior position but, when challenged, said: “I don’t hate women; after all, my mother, my wife and my daughters are women.” Is that the point? If Tinubu respects Christianity, why doesn’t he have a Christian as his running mate? Does having a pastor-wife vitiate the need for a balanced presidential ticket? Certainly not!
Some have argued that a Northerner shouldn’t succeed a Northerner. I agree. But with Tinubu, a Muslim would succeed a Muslim and have a Muslim vice-president. What’s more, a President Tinubu would entrench a long-running Muslim presidency in Nigeria. Assuming he does eight years, the next president in 2031 would be a Northern-Muslim. If that president does eight years, then counting from 2015 (Buhari’s first-term) to 2039, Nigeria would have a Muslim president for 24 years consecutively.
Tinubu says he won’t Islamise Nigeria. But what a more insidious way to Islamise Nigeria than having a Muslim president continuously for 24 years? So, what? Christians must vote massively, joined by patriotic non-Christians, to stop a Tinubu presidency. Leaving aside nagging questions about his past, he would destabilise Nigeria!
Comments expressed here do not reflect the opinions of Vanguard newspapers or any employee thereof.