Why A Muslim-Muslim Ticket is a Bad Idea
By: Deji Yesufu
That Bola Ahmed Tinubu is the leading individual to become President of Nigeria in 2023 is a fact that cannot be easily disputed. Tinubu is the presidential flagbearer of the All Progressive Congress (APC) in the coming elections and it is not a secret that in our clime the matter of incumbency acts as a great advantage for those who are seeking political power. They have the resources of state at their disposal; they have political structures littering the whole national space; and they have an army of hungry and jobless people at their disposal. So it was not surprising that the person that will become Tinubu’s vice became a hotly contested matter in the political space in the country in the last few weeks. This afternoon, that debate was put to rest when Tinubu elected Senator Kashim Shettima, a former Governor of Borno State, a sitting Senator in the country and a Muslim, as his running mate for the forthcoming elections. Tinubu is perfectly within his right to choose whoever he wishes as his deputy in government. What he fails to realize, however, is that the matter of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is an issue in today’s Nigeria since he himself is a professing Muslim.
Those who brought about the tradition of presenting two individuals representing the two dominant religions in Nigeria did so in recognition of the reality that the country is divided almost equally between Christians and Muslims. We speak mostly of a Muslim north and a Christian south in Nigeria, even though we are quite aware that there are thriving Christian populations in the north and a large Muslim population in Southern Nigeria. Yet, the religious divide is almost an accepted reality and when it comes to politics, politicians want to show the electorate that they have the sensitive matter of the religious divide covered. In 2015, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had to step down from being Muhamadu Buhari’s running mate because it became apparent to the APC that religion was quite a sensitive matter in Nigeria and that if the APC will remove the People Democratic Party (PDP) from power, they will have to show some regard to the Christian population. Thankfully they did this, and the result was the removing of an incumbent from office – something that has never happened in our nation’s political history. It is therefore difficult for me to comprehend why the same Tinubu will dispose of all counsel and still go for a Muslim as his running mate today.
An argument that has been proffered in Tinubu’s defense is that the 1993 elections saw M.K.O Abiola, a Muslim, team up with a Babagana Kingibe, another Muslim, to produce the freest, fairest and most popular election that this country has ever witnessed. What these people who proffer this argument fail to realize is that 1993 is a good thirty years ago. Times have changed: the social realities that we are faced with today are totally different from what was happening in 1993. In 1993 we had no Boko Haram. In 1993 we had a military government that had been in power for close to a decade and with whom people were quite eager to see leave power. In 1993 the debate over a Muslim-Muslim ticket was brought forward but it was quite easily dispelled by the raging realities on ground in those days. Today, such arguments cannot be easily put aside.
Another reason why the Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a workable plan for Nigeria is because of the raging insecurity that the Boko Haram insurgency has brought upon our country. Just a few days ago, a variant of Boko Haram, the ISWAP, swooped down on Kuje, a community in Abuja, the nation’s Federal Capital City, and effected a prison break that saw more than 60 insurgents, who had been incarcerated by the state, released into the general populace. As Nigerians come to grip with rising insecurity in the land, we also have allegations of collaborations between government officials and the insurgents. No one has been able to explain how the military checkpoints, situated at major points en-route Kuje, were suddenly replaced with new personals who barely knew their way around the area – all of these happening less than twenty-four hours before the attack. Former President Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian, spoke of having Boko Haram sympathizers in his government. It is clear to observers that there are elements within government that have sympathy for the ideas of these lunatics. When Nigerians now take the government of their nation and put it in the hands of a Muslim president and a Muslim vice, we are clearly then putting ourselves at the mercies of more individuals who might have sympathies for these insurgents. This is obviously not a time to disregard cries from the Christian Association of Nigeria that has been telling the APC that a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a bad idea at a time like this. Ignoring calls from Christian organizations and imposing such a one sided religious perspective on the country’s elections will certainly ostracize Christian voters. Tinubu is touted as a master political strategist. Unfortunately, in this one situation he has failed to read the handwriting on the wall and I will not be surprised if this singular action of his prove the deathknell on his ambition to be President of Nigeria.
As the nation approaches the 2023 general elections, the two other leading political figures and parties in contest for the office of the presidency of Nigeria are Atiku Abubakar’s People Democratic Party and the Peter Obi’s Labor Party. Atiku has gone to the South-south of Nigeria and picked a Christian Ifeanyi Okowa, sitting governor of Delta State, as his running mate. While Peter Obi just picked Yusuff Datti Baba-Ahmed, a Muslim, from Northern Nigeria, as his running mate. These two parties understand the nature of the religious divide in Nigeria and have keyed into it while selecting those who will become their deputies in office. While Atiku may have done well in choosing a Christian as his deputy, he also has a lot of baggage that he is contesting with as he seeks to be President of Nigeria. So that in my estimation the greatest threat to Tinubu emerging as Nigeria’s President is not Atiku Abubakar but actually Peter Obi. And it is this Obi phenomenon that has made the decision Tinubu look like a very bad one. I will conclude this essay by explaining why.
Whether Tinubu envisages this or not, there is a teaming Christian population in Nigeria that have become tired of the way and manner government is run in Nigeria. The eight-year rule of Muhammadu Buhari appears to be one that treats issues of Islamic insurgencies with kid gloves. Besides that, there has also been the raging phenomenon of Fulani herdsmen in the country that has resulted in the death of hundreds of people. Only recently, insurgents attacked a Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, leaving scores of innocent worshippers dead. The fact is that the ongoing insecurity in the land, coupled with the ruling party’s disregard for the country’s Christian population, has given the Peter Obi phenomenon greater admiration with the Christian voting populace. Churches that were hitherto apolitical, have begun to use their pulpits to campaign for a Christian president and Peter Obi is the only one among the three leading political figure that fit the bill. Tinubu’s action in choosing a Muslim as his running mate has totally ostracize a large voting bloc from the Christian populace.
As I have mentioned already, Bola Ahmed Tinubu is perfectly within his right to choose whoever will be his running mate but it should be noted that in spite of this master political tactician’s wisdom when it comes to elections, he clearly does not know it all. There is a biblical statement that usually follows incidents that don’t appear normal: when Samson went to the Philistines and sought a wife among those who were considered the enemies of Israel, people did not understand why he did it. But the Bible records that such an event was from the Lord because he sought an occasion of confrontation with the Philistines so that he could destroy them (Judges 14:4). In the same vein, Tinubu’s choosing a Muslim vice at a time like this may just as well be an occasion from God. It is not difficult for God to put an error of judgement in a leading political figure, no matter how minute, that will go a long way in determining who will lead this country. As Christians, we pray daily that God will put to shame the enemies of Nigeria and help destroy them. May God answer our prayers and do what is right for our beloved country, Nigeria.