By Dr. Raji Bello
In media advertisements, the larger print that describes or promotes a product or service is often accompanied by a smaller or fine print which is less noticeable and often placed as a footnote. It usually contains the real truth about what is offered in the advert although consumers rarely read them.
Bola Tinubu has unveiled his running mate in Daura where he gave the nation a partial reading of the larger print of his advertisement. He said that he has found a competent and loyal individual to help him deliver good governance and that the person’s Muslim faith was merely accidental. It sounds good on the surface but we all know that his selection goes against the established convention of demonstrating religious and regional inclusivity on our presidential tickets. And we are all aware of the passionate debate that preceded the selection. It is clear that the main points articulated or implied by those who have insisted on a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the APC now constitutes the dark and sinister fine print in Tinubu’s advertisement of his new running mate.
There are three main postulates in the fine print which have underpinned Tinubu’s selection and which should make uncomfortable reading for anyone who is concerned about Nigeria’s future. They are:
- A Muslim from southern Nigeria is not Muslim enough to represent the nation’s Muslims on a presidential ticket and he must be paired with a northern Muslim before he could appeal to northern Muslim voters.
- Muslims in northern Nigeria will not vote for a ticket that has a northern Christian on it making any such ticket automatically unviable.
- A “competent and loyal” running mate for Tinubu could not be found among northern Christians and he had to go against the convention to find one from the northern Muslim community.
An acceptance of Tinubu’s selection automatically implies the acceptance and internalisation of this fine print, and this is where the problem lies. It means that we, as a nation, are on the road towards formalising and even institutionalising common prejudices and bigotry at the highest levels of our polity. Kaduna state APC is already at an advanced stage of entrenching its ominous Muslim-Muslim formula for governorship contest contrary to established convention. Is this the country that any of us would like to bequeath to his children and grandchildren? Should hard calculations regarding the chances of victory take precedence over the future survival of this country? Isn’t Nigeria more important than any politician’s ambition or chances of winning? The antecendent of Abiola’s Muslim-Muslim ticket that is often cited as justification is not applicable because it had enjoyed implied consent of the Christian community at that time, something that is absent at this time. There is a big difference between exclusion with consent and without it.
All human beings (especially the Nigerian kind) crave inclusivity. Muslims in Plateau, Taraba and some Southwestern states have also cried out for inclusivity; so it is not something that only Christians seek. In Plateau state, with its significant Muslim minority, there is a long-running problem with inclusivity. Contentious issues that concern the “settler” Muslim population in Jos North has led to the exclusion of native Muslim populations in other local government areas as well. In Taraba state, the recent nomination of Christian governorship candidates by both major parties has spiked communal tensions with one radical Muslim preacher even calling for jihad. This came against the background of complains of marginalisation in state government appointments by the Muslim community in the state. But the case for more inclusivity in the two states will surely be undermined if the bigoted fine print of Tinubu’s advertisement is institutionalised at the centre.
We are already on the slippery slope towards eventual implosion and victories for the national and Kaduna APC tickets in 2023 will most likely move us to the high-speed section of that slope.
Raji Bello writes from Yola, Adamawa State.