Muslim-Muslim ticket raises concerns over Nigeria’s unity

Reactions have continued to trail the decision of Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), to pick Kashim Shettima, another Muslim, as his running mate.

Some observers, who spoke with BusinessDay Monday, described the development as a threat to the fragile unity and peace of Nigeria.

Tinubu, a Muslim from South-West on Sunday, named Shettima, former governor of Borno State, as his vice presidential candidate for the 2023 general election.

Reacting to the development, Christian Okeke, a political science lecturer at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Awka, said it was most unfortunate.

Okeke said: “The Christian community feels so strangled, sidelined and wounded. The mood of the people is so low and this cannot help the country move real forward. It is, indeed, a sad day. The flippant point which proponents of Muslim-Muslim ticket in Nigeria have struggled to score is that competence should be placed above religious consideration in politics.

“Nevertheless, that argument is sweet only in the tongue of those whose daily target is to exploit every opportunity to their advantage. They cheer that argument when they have something to gain. Religion is a delicate issue in Nigeria and expectation is that it should be given due consideration in the scheme of things.”

Okeke said efforts were made by the forebears to address the issue of marginalisation in the country.

He said the efforts paved the way for the introduction of certain measures, including federal character principle, for the sake of achieving balance in terms of ethnic and religious consideration in public life.

“The ultimate goal was to midwife a united country. One consequently expects the present political class to respect that effort but this has become elusive as they selfishly pursue their self-preserving glorification. In fact, they have torn apart everything that should have helped to unify the country,” he said.

Mark Adebayo, spokesman for the Coalition of United Political Parties, said that Tinubu took the decision because of political expediency, which he thinks would work for him.

He said: “He wants to be pragmatic not considering the opinion of Nigerians. When Nigerian politicians are after power, they would do all they can to get it, not minding who is affected. Some people think that if he picks a Christian, he would lose. But history would determine if he took the right decision.

“The current President has mismanaged our diversity. He has demonstrated that he does not welcome other religion and ethnic groups in the country; that is why Nigerians find it difficult to trust this arrangement. But Tinubu knows the consequences of his decision.”

Daniel Bwala, who resigned his position as the APC national legal adviser after Tinubu announced his running mate, said it had shown the types of decisions Tinubu would be making in office if voted into office.

Bwala, who spoke on Channels Television’s Sunrise Daily programme on Monday, said the decision showed that the APC was insensitive to the plight and yearning of Nigerians.

“There is so much division, so much fear and the faultlines are widening. There is yearning for change. It is an insult to Nigerians. Is Tinubu saying that it is only the Muslims that vote in the North? Picking a Christian vice presidential candidate would have meant that they are sensitive to issues of unity, peace of this country,” he said.

Muazu Magaji, a former member of the APC Presidential Campaign Council, now a member of the PDP, described Tinubu’s choice as a dangerous development.

Read also: Tinubu-Shettima: Festus Keyamo defends APC’s VP choice

“APC must be in a serious problem right now. The party has caused more division than unity in Nigeria in the last seven years. Nigerians must punish the APC for its monumental failure since 2015,” Magaji said.

Solomon Gbenga, deputy national youth leader of the Young Progressives Party, said the ticket is not significant to the unity of the country and religious balancing.

Gbenga said if Tinubu and APC were truly concerned about the unity of the country, a competent northern Christian like Yakubu Dogara, former speaker of the House of Representatives; Boss Mustapha, Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), and Babachir Lawal, a former SGF, would have been picked as his running mate.

“Honestly speaking, Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is a disadvantage to himself and the democracy we practise in Nigeria. Now, we cannot be saying we want to unite the country and we are dividing it more by religion and ethnicity,” he said.

Festus Keyamo, minister of state for labour and employment, has backed Tinubu over his choice to run a Muslim-Muslim ticket.

He tweeted on Monday: “Govt doesn’t exist to assuage the egos of religious leaders, but to bring about development for everyone. Today, most religious leaders in Nigeria go to Dubai and the USA for shopping & holidays when the UAE is being governed by Muslims & the USA is being governed by Christians.

“There’s no country in the world where history tells us that its development was as a result of ‘balanced’ presidential ticket (in terms of religion) over the years; countries developed as a result of visionary leadership and not because they pandered to some religious sentiments.”

Tinubu had, in a statement issued shortly after unveiling his running mate after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State, said that the choice of Shettima was not based on religion or to please one community or the other.

“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.