While some of the issues that arose from the governorship and the presidential primary elections of the All Progressives Congress (APC) are yet to be fully resolved, the party is now facing a fresh crisis.
The latest apple of discord in the APC is caused by the choice of Kashim Shettima, former Borno State governor, as the running mate of the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu.
Against the warnings about same-faith presidential ticket by religious and other concerned groups, Tinubu, a Muslim from the South-West on Sunday named Shettima, another Muslim from the North-East as his vice presidential candidate for the 2023 polls.
The former Lagos state governor justified his choice of Shettima, saying it was not based on religion or to please one community or the other but to help him govern Nigeria effectively.
“I made this choice because I believe this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians, period, regardless of their religious affiliation or considerations of ethnicity or region,” he said.
But, his decision has received wild reactions as many observers within and outside the party described the development as a threat to the fragile unity and peace of Nigeria which are intrinsically linked to religion.
Some leaders and critical stakeholders in APC have not hidden their misgivings over the Muslim-Muslim ticket and have accordingly withdrawn their support for the Tinubu-Shettima president bid.
There are indications that rather than unite the party, the same-faith presidential ticket would further divide APC ahead of the 2023 general election.
Ishaku Abbo, the senator representing Adamawa North, had, few hours after the unveiling of Shettima, resigned his membership from the campaign group of Tinubu, describing the action of the APC presidential candidate as ‘irresponsible’.
He said: “We cannot work for such a man. I will oppose Christian-Christian ticket because I am interested in the stability of this country. A Christian-Christian ticket will be insensitive to Muslims of this country.
“The country is evenly divided among Muslims and Christians. So any government that is Muslim-Muslim will be illegitimate and will never gain the respect of Christians.”
Babachir Lawal, a former secretary to the government of the federation and Tinubu’s ally, described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as dead on arrival, saying it would affect the presidential candidate’s chances at the 2023 polls.
“I will love for Bola to be our next President. But I am afraid a Moslem-Moslem ticket will be ‘Dead on Arrival’. And the arrival date according to INEC’s election time table is 25th February, 2023. This ticket will drag down the whole APC members to the pit. We all should reject it,” he said.
Similarly, a coalition of Christians of Northern Extraction in APC has warned that the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the party would have serious and grave consequences.
The organisation, which comprised Christian politicians in the 19 northern states within the APC, said they would not go against their conscience and faith, and go to their various constituencies to campaign for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
In a communiqué signed by Doknan Sheni, its chairman, and Ishaya Bauka, secretary-general, the coalition described the development as unacceptable, saying Nigeria remained a multi-religious and constitutional democracy and not a theocracy, adding that the current political atmosphere of the nation was different from what occurred in 1993.
It added: “The selection of a Muslim 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 the Muslim-Muslim ticket was not possible in 2015, why should it be possible in 2023?”
To express their grievance with the Muslim-Muslim ticket, two APC chieftains, Tonye Princewill and Kenneth Okonkwo have resigned from the party.
Princewill, an ally of Rotimi Amaechi, former minister of transportation, who was first runner-up to Tinubu in the race for APC presidential ticket, described the choice of Shettima as a form of injustice to the Christians.
“It sets a very wrong precedent; it is totally insensitive and even if you win, will prove bad for good governance,” he said in his resignation letter.
On his part, Okonkwo, a Nollywood actor and member of the APC National Campaign Council, in a letter shared on his Instagram page, recalled he joined APC because of its “constitutional vow as true progressives and patriots to eliminate all forms of discrimination and social injustice in Nigeria”.
“Those ideals are now alien to the APC, with their unfortunate decision to paint our Muslim brothers in bad light, by insinuating that the Muslims in Nigeria will not accept or vote for a Northern Christian as Vice-President to pair with a Southern Muslim,” he said.
A chieftain of the APC who is also not happy about the development told BusinessDay under the condition of anonymity that the Muslim-Muslim ticket portends danger for the party.
The chieftain said: “Some of us don’t want to go to the press but we know the dangers of that ticket to our party and the presidential candidate. More defections are going to take place in the party before the general election. People will start doing that soon.
“But there are others that will not go anywhere and remain in the party and work against its success at the polls. Just watch out and see what is going to happen. In fact, both Christians and Muslims alike will protest against the ticket.”