By Babatunde Qodri
The heated arguments for and against Bola Tinubu and Kashim Shettima’s joint ticket started when the presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) paid a courtesy visit to President Muhammadu Buhari in his hometown, Daura, Katsina State. The party’s flag bearer hinged his decision on the expedient need to perpetuate the stay of the ruling party in power. But, laudable as it may seem to APC lovers, Nigerians outside the ruling camp have faulted the decision citing likely consequences.
However, this short piece was inspired by a passionate conversation between one of my mentors and me. He frustratingly shared his view on the joint ticket, stressing that it is at variance with the country’s mood, especially regarding religion. According to him, the ticket became inevitable for the ruling party bent on winning elections without minding the implications for the people. He added it’s unarguably a design for electoral victory and will be tested at the polls. I agree with him.
Nigeria is a religiously polarized entity managed by politicians who deploy religion as a tool for political advantage. In a glaringly fragile country like ours, one would expect that every political decision should be underscored by the religious sensibilities of the people, at least for peace. But instead of politicians to consider this, they go about politics that stands detrimental to the country. This is what the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket suggests.
This is not to pander to the sentiments of some religious bigots whose outcry is rooted in what they stand to benefit from the calculation. Instead, it’s instructive to note that every political calculation that disregards the need for balance must be challenged. Of course, nations of the world develop without recourse to some silly religious sentiments. However, we need to be reminded that Nigeria, giving its very foundations, has been tied to religion, a consideration that political players must pay attention to.
Some might want to remind me of the June 12 1993, presidential election. Others might also talk about the 1979 election involving Azikwe-Audu and Awolowo-Umeadi combinations. Even in Nigeria of those innocent years, this presidential election ended in favour of Shehu Shagari, who used Alex Ekweme as his running mate. Nigeria is dreadfully divided along religious lines, thanks to our putrid politics. What about those who have justified the Tinubu-Shettima ticket based on competence? I have this answer for them.
Nigeria is a generously blessed country. We have Muslim technocrats who can do well in politics, so there are intelligent Christian politicians. The late President Musa Yar’adua, during his brief time in the office, used Goodluck Jonathan while Jonathan partnered with Namadi Sambo. These running mates did all they could in the course of serving their principals. If not for a decision made in response to the threat posed by influential candidates such as Atiku Abubakar (PDP), Peter Obi (LP) and Rabiu Kwankwanso (NNDP), what else explains the hypocrisy of the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket? Whatever it means to you, this decision would negatively affect the country in the following ways.
There would be an ethnoreligious tension in the country. There is no denying that ethnicity is inevitably bound to religion here. Our politics is deeply situated in religion and ethnic affiliations. Hence, people vote for a party based on how much such attunes to their religious and ethnic sentiments. And any political decision that trivializes these fundamentals might be thrashed away, and the country journeyed into needless rancour.
Plus, the ticket will hamper the chances of the ruling party in 2023. Some have argued that it’s not a threat since most votes come from the North, a region that overwhelming installed Buhari’s regime. Those people need to be told that such a point is stale in the context of reality today. Is this nice for the country in the long run? 2023 isn’t far.
Finally, a Muslim-Muslim ticket in a country beset by systemic killings and other vices inspired by religious sentiments isn’t an excellent idea. If our politics continue to disregard the fundamental polarity of Nigeria in terms of region and religion, then I am afraid the result won’t be friendly at all. However, all this is a reflection of Nigeria’s political retrogression. We need a new order where people will be convinced by neither region nor religion as the basis to choose who should lead them. I hope we get there soonest.
Babatunde qodri wrote via firstname.lastname@example.org.