By ETIM ETIM
I’m not the least surprised that Bola Tinubu’s choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate has generated so much uproar and outrage. I saw it coming, and in several articles in the last few months, I had warned that a Muslim-Muslim ticket would create problems for APC and harm its acceptability in many parts of the country. So far, CAN and PFN, two major Christian groups and HURIWA, a well-known human rights advocacy body, have spoken out against the choice. Emmanuel Bwala, a lawyer from Borno State and one of Tinubu’s close advisers, has resigned his membership of the party in protest. I suspect that the opposition parties would use this as a campaign issue. The debates in Social Media are already heated. In the weeks and months ahead, the full reverberations of the decision would be known.
Even if Tinubu ends up winning the election, it would be in spite of, not because of Shettima, and every action of his presidency would be seen in terms of this insensitive choice. I am convinced that if a a Christian were chosen, the outcome of the vote Would be the same. The greatest danger in the choice of Shettima is the deceitful argument that was created to justify it and the implications for our country. Long before the primary, the Tinubu camp had floated the point that Northern Christians are too irrelevant to be be on the ticket; and so Muslims in northern Nigeria would never vote for Tinubu if he picked a Christian. This insinuates that Christians are second-class citizens in Northern Nigeria who are not fit to be President or Vice President. The implication here is that the Christian population in Northern Nigeria are subject to insidious discrimination because of their faith. That’s a gross and grotesque violation of the Constitution.
Another implication is that if Tinubu wins, we should expect at least 16 unbroken years of a Muslim-led Presidency. Think of the wider imports of that to the fragility of our federation.
But that assumption that Christians aren’t capable of attracting votes in the North flies in the face of the 2011 experience when Dr. Goodluck Jonathan won massively in that part of the country, beating a Fulani Muslim, Nuhu Ribadu, fair and square.
There’s also the theoey that Northern Muslims don’t regard Tinubu (or Yoruba Muslims) as authentic believers, and so a Northern Muslim is needed to validate or authenticate the ticket. These are all specious and self-serving assertions invented by some politicians to push their interest. Islam does not segregate its adherents into authentic and non-authentic believers. Even in Saudi Arabia, Muslims from all over the world congregate and worship together in the same mosques and take part in the same activities during hajj. It is a tragedy that Tinubu could not see through these fallacies and so he fell cheaply them, because he is too desperate to be President, and would do anything for it.
But true leadership is transformational and sometimes very disruptive. It confronts cant, dismantle cliches and breaks down conventions in pursuit of noble goals.
Muslim-Muslim ticket might look expedient in the face of hardcore politics, but in the long run, it may lead to a permanent and psychological denigration of the Christian community, especially in the North and could render them as subservient citizens who can only vote but would never be voted for as either President or Vice President. It could also alienate the huge Christian population in the country from government and create a mistrust between them and the administration. In other words, this ticket has created a caste systemin in a certain part of the country in which some people are discriminated against based on their faith. It does not matter that there are many Christians up there. Adamawa has 45% Christian population; Taraba (65%); Benue (80%); Plateau (90%); Borno (25%) and Kwara, Kogi and Gombe (hovering around 30%).
In announcing his pick, Tinubu said ‘’I made the choice because “I believe this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians’’. In other words, Tinubu is saying that only in the Muslim population could he find such a man. It’s so demeaning and belittling of Christians. It is not only a baseless assumption, is also against the spirit and intendment of our Constitution.
In 2014, then candidate Buhari rejected Tinubu’s overtures to be made running mate because the retired general knew that it was not the proper thing to do in a pluralistic federation. But appropriateness doesn’t seem to mean much to Tinubu, and so he exclaims glibly in his statement that ‘’the spirit of 1993 is upon us again 2023’’, referring to the running mate choice MKO Abiola made 30 years ago. But Tinubu is not MKO and Nigeria of 2022 is different from that of 1993. Nigerians were eager to see off the military three decades ago, and they were ready to put up with a Muslim running mate to MKO in 1993. Chief Abiola himself was a well-respected businessman and a national figure due to his philanthropic activities across the country and the push for repatriation. Tinubu does not measure up to what MKO was. But even then, there were protestations against the Kingibe choice, and subsequent events later proved that indeed it was not a good choice, after all. Shettima is another Kanuri from the same Borno State as Kingibe. Tinubu is an ailing candidate. We shall see how things pan out this time…
Just a foot note before I roundoff. The biggest loser in all this is Gov. Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna State. About two years ago, he had launched scathing criticisms of Tinubu for his dictatorial conduct in Lagos. When Tinubu visited Kaduna in May to seek the support of the delegates, the governor was noncommittal. As the primary drew close, Tinubu, ever so cunning, made El Rufai a promised he couldn’t refuse: running mate in exchange for support of his delegates. The diminutive Fulani man fell for it. Now that he’s been outplayed, I understand the Tinubu camp would soon dangle another carrot before him: Chief of Staff to the President. Will he fall for it again?
Etim Etim is a politician and public relations consultant, lives in Abuja