By Ali Tijjani Hassan
One would be amazed while looking at the similarities between the words “Religion and Region.” One will be even more amazed by how these twin factors play an unimaginable role in Nigerian politics.
Nigeria is divided into six geopolitical zones; North-central, Northwest, Northeast, Southeast, Southwest and South-South. In a nutshell, South and North. In terms of Religious diversity, we have only two major religions: Christianity and Islam. Subsequently, Christianity and Islam dominate South and North, respectively.
As the main opposition party, the People’s Democratic Party, PDP, elected Alhaji Atiku Abubakar as its flag-bearer in the forthcoming polls of 2023. On the other hand, the ruling party, the All Progressive Congress, has yet to choose their flag-bearer capable of winning the election against Atiku.
The APC has zoned their presidential quota to the South-West and Vice President to the Northeast. Their front-line aspirants (Tinubu, Osinbajo) are already from the Southwest. Alhaji Ahmad Bola Tinubu was a former governor of Lagos state. Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is currently on the echelon of his second-cum-two terms as Vice President of Nigeria.
Religion is another factor we have seen since the birth of Democracy in Nigeria in 1999. How religion plays a role in who would be President or Vice President, the candle of Muslim-Christian or Christian-Muslim tickets is still flaming. We witnessed Obasanjo/Atiku, Yar Adu’a/Jonathan, Jonathan/Namadi, and Buhari/Osinbajo.
The nightmare to the APC is how to relate their zoned system with the emergence of their candidates. Both Tinubu and Osinbajo are competent, but Tinubu, like his counterpart of PDP, is a gigantic gorilla that wouldn’t allow any candidate to win over them.
If Tinubu emerges as a flag-bearer, he has no option but to pick the former speaker of the house of representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, since he is the only influential Christian of the party from the Northeast. Sequel of this, both North and South wouldn’t produce a candidate that is not condign to their religious interest.
Professor Yemi Osinbajo
Prof. Yemi Osinbajo is an influential Christian Southerner that was once seen as ready to serve in the eyes of Nigerians. Still, the disregard of the present Buhari-led administration tarnishes his striking image with red.
If Osinbajo gets the ticket, he must pick his running-mate from Northeast. Then Osinbajo’s running-mate must be an influential Muslim and northerner with integrity, accountability and competency. The qualities mentioned above would win the hearts of Northerners to revive the fallen hope that they put into the APC earlier.
It has been in the tradition of Northern politics since 2003, when president Muhammad Buhari stepped his foot into the presidential race arena. There is a constant twelve million votes that were captives in his favour. Therefore, whosoever would be Osinbajo’s running-mate must have the passkeys to open or conquer the twelve million vote bank.
Who will be Osinbajo’s running-mate?
Here in the Northeast, we have only two politically influential actors capable of running with Osinbajo and likely to conquer: The first is Prof. Babagana Umara Zulum, the governor of Borno State.
Prof. Zulum was a legend of fortune. Although he became the governor of Borno when the state was in the sorrow of insurgency, his braveness, doggedness, and justice with fairness made him the messiah of the Borno people then. That fortunate promotion paved Zulum’s way to be loved by many Nigerians.
The second influential Muslim northeasterner that could win the hearts of northerners and retain or succeed the Buhari’s twelve million votes is the minister of communication and digital economy, Prof. Isa Ali Ibrahim Pantami. Due to his Islamic religious sacerdotalism, the Sunnis sect fanatic would vote for him. Mainly, northern Muslims are Sunni. Therefore, a Pastor/Sheikh ticket is also possible.
Ipso-facto, we should say that the upcoming 2023 will be a “religion and region” war.
Ali Tijjani Hassan writes from Potiskum, Yobe state.