The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Northern Christian Elders Forum (NOSCEF) yesterday expressed opposition to alleged moves by the presidential candidates of Nigeria’s two leading political party to present Muslim running mates for the 2023 presidential election, cautioning that Christians will reject any political party that fails to heed its warning.
Former vice president Atiku Abubakar, a Muslim holds the presidential flag of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while Bola Tinubu, also a Muslim picked that of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) last Wednesday. The two are now searching for running mates.
CAN and NOSCEF’s caveats are coming on the heels of a similar one by the former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, to the APC against a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket, saying Nigerians are still conscious of ethno-religious factors in politics.
But Governor Nasir El-rufai of Kaduna State stressed yesterday that competence should determine his party’s choice of presidential running mate instead of religion.
On the same day, Vice President Yemi Osinbajo declared his readiness to give total support to Tinubu, towards winning the presidential election in 2023.
CAN, in the statement signed by its National Secretary, Joseph Bade Daramola warned the two leading political parties to bury the thought of Christian/Christian or Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket in 2023.
“We want to unequivocally state that it is a threat to the fragile peace and unity of Nigeria,” said CAN.
It urged all political parties to ensure that the balance of both religious practitioners is considered in the choice of running mates for the presidential candidates.
“We do not subscribe to Christian/Christian ticket or Muslim/Muslim ticket. Politicians can talk politics but we have stated our view long before now. Any party that tries same religion ticket will fail.
“This is not 1993. Even when we have joint Muslim/Christian ticket, the church still goes through hell. Only God knows the number of Christians that have been killed in the last seven years with no one apprehended or prosecuted.
“Imagine how bad it will be if we have two Muslims in power? The extant Nigerian Constitution promotes religious balance. So, if any political party wants to try Muslim/Muslim ticket, it’s at its own peril. CAN is only forewarning, but will make a categorical statement in the event our warning is not heeded.
CAN said, “the Presidential running mate of APC presidential flag bearer, Asiwaju Ahmed Tinubu should be a Christian from the North, Atiku’s running mate should be a Christian from the South while Obi should choose his own among the Muslims from the North”.
“Anything contrary to the above means that the leadership of these political parties do not bother about the unity of this entity called Nigeria. Those who are planning Muslim/Muslim ticket should also find out what was the outcome of MKO Abiola and Kingibe ticket in 1993. If they try Muslim/Muslim ticket this time around, the outcome will be worse because our fault lines are very visible.
“There is no party that has no great, good and patriotic Christians who can preside over the affairs of this nation not to talk of being the Vice President as some mischievous people are trying to say. If merit and competence are used as yardsticks, we have many qualified Christians in all the 774 Local Government Areas of this country,” it said.
CAN said its leadership had tried in vain to get President Muhammadu Buhari to break the monopoly or dominance of the security architecture with people of same faith.
“We are all seeing the outcome now. It is obvious that the Nigeria of today is different from that of 1993. Our politicians should stop flouting the Constitution by respecting the North and South dichotomy and religious factor. To those arguing that people do not care about the religions of their leaders once they are competent and credible, we dare APC to pick its Presidential running mate from the South and PDP pick its own from the North and see what follows.
“When the late sage, Papa Obafemi Awolowo picked Chief Mrs Oyibo Odinamadu, a fellow Christian and Southerner, as his runningmate in 1979, we all know the consequences of his performance in the North. Our politicians should be doing what will unite us instead of what will further polarise the country,” it said.
The Northern Christian Elders Forum also sounded a note of warning that the country’s diversity should be taken into consideration by Tinubu and Atiku while choosing their running mates.
NOSCEF in its Democracy Day message to the nation, signed by its President, Ejoga Inalegwu, cautioned that Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian tickets would be insensitive.
“We therefore appeal to all patriotic presidential candidates to avoid manipulative but dangerous and insensitive tickets that will further polarize the nation along religious lines when Nigerians are looking forward, with great expectations for a new dawn, come 2023; a new era and government devoid of politics of exclusion, discrimination and injustice.
“As the parties therefore, make efforts to meet the deadline for the submission of their presidential and vice-presidential candidates, NOSCEF wants to again appeal to political parties to be sensitive to the mood of the nation, the religious diversity of our people and show patriotism by avoiding any action that will throw up our lines of divide, merely to win elections rather than steps that will unite our nation.
“We want to believe that anyone with the credentials to rule this nation from 2023, should be sensitive enough and not be a candidate that would take us back to our religious divides, through the instrument of Christian/Christian ticket or Muslim/Muslim ticket. We do not expect any patriot to, by so doing, again open the wounds for our past bitter religious divides.
“We need, as a nation, a united front to forge a new Nigeria, that will bring people together across religious divides because we do not lack quality across the religious and regional divides,” it insisted.
The frontline group said that politicians should make deliberate efforts at avoiding playing the religious cards through such tickets and not turn around to accuse those who condemn their unpatriotic action as the culprits.
A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has warned the APC against allowing a Muslim as running mate to its presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, who is also a Muslim.
Lawal, who spoke on a television programme on Thursday pointed out that Nigerians are still conscious of ethno-religious factors in politics.
According to him, Tinubu would have been running mate to the President Muhammadu Buhari, when the latter became the candidate of the APC in 2014 but for the discouragement of a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
There are concerns that Tinubu, a Muslim, might be forced to pick a Muslim running mate from the North for political prpose.
When asked if it was time for northern Christians allegedly marginalised to be placated with the nomination of one of them as Tinubu’s running mate, Lawal said, “I will answer this question in a roundabout way. A political party is in the business of winning elections and to win elections you need to get the votes to beat your opponents. The way I see it is that in choosing your vice-president; that must be paramount in your mind. You can have the best ticket but if you don’t win elections, it is a waste of time.
“So, whatever candidate we are going to choose, we will bear in mind that that vice-president will contribute to winning that election. How does he (or she) continue? It is either he (or she) is popular and can bring in the votes or he (or she) can bring the money that will help our logistics in getting out the votes, so we can win the elections.
“But then, there is also the requirement that you want to run a united country; you want to run a country where you don’t he friction in the society – peaceful, settled and everybody goes about their business.
“To that extent, you must factor in Nigeria’s peculiarities in politics. That is why, for example, in recognition of these peculiarities, the northern governors and the majority of us in the North felt that the presidency ought to shift to the South.
“It is not a requirement in the Constitution that it has to shift. There is no zoning. But it is so we can have a country that is united; that everybody can go about their business in a peaceful environment.
“It could have been possible for a northern (presidential) candidate to emerge. But then, you would know that running the country in that manner would have the southern part of Nigeria (to be) hostile to that government. So, we allowed it to shift.
“Now, extending that consideration to the Muslim-Muslim ticket, I have lived among the Christians and I know that among the Christians, the question of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a no-go area. It is dead on arrival. Buhari himself, even at that time, had to drop this present presidential candidate (Tinubu) because of the tension of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. And we have not seen anything in the country that has changed significantly to allow that to happen.
“On the contrary, it has worsened. The religious divide has increased. Tribal divisions have increased. Regional divisions have increased. So, it would be a good thing if APC would settle for a Muslim-Christian ticket because we know (that the) PDP, that is what they would do.”
El-rufai, who was asked to react to the clamour for Christians as running mates of the leading presidential candidates for 2023, declared that competence should be vital in the selection, not religion.
The Kaduna governor, who spoke on a television programme declared: “You are asking the wrong person because I don’t look at people from the lens of Muslim Muslim or Christian Christian. Most of my friends are Christians.
It was Tunde Bakare, a Pentecostal pastor that invited me to CPC, not President Buhari. I don’t think the business of governance has to do with religion, I think we should look for the best person for the job, let’s look for competence, capacity. I am the wrong person to ask because in my state I looked and chose my deputy as a Christian woman. This fixation of Nigerians with religion is worrying.”
Osinbajo yesterday declared his readiness to give total support Tinubu, towards winning the presidential election in 2023.
He also emphasized that he remains committed to the dream of a new Nigeria.
The Vice President, who spoke in Abuja at the campaign office of The Progressive Project (TPP), a coalition of support groups that backed him for the presidential race, pledged his personal support for the APC presidential candidate for the 2023 elections.
The Vice President, who came a distant third in the party’s presidential primary on Wednesday, recalled the personal letter he wrote to Tinubu Thursday congratulating him on his victory at the party primary.
According to him, “in that letter, I said to him that the dream of this country, the dream of a new country remains alive and well. And I want you to know in your hearts that we are democrats when we participate in a contest and the results are announced.
“No matter what those results may be, we abide by them because there is only one process for democrats, whether that process is good or bad, there is only one, and we have gone through that process.
“And in that process, a winner has been adjudged, but that does not kill the dream of the great future. We will support our party; we will support the flagbearer of our party because we know that the other side is not even worth considering. So, we will support the flagbearer of our party, we will do everything we can.”
The Vice President described the clamour for a new Nigeria as a movement.
He said: “This movement is a movement within a party also, we are not doing something that has not been heard of before. What is new is that we have a firm belief that a new Nigeria is possible and it is possible through us who are here.”
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