Abraham Lincoln, a wartime president of the United States had defined Democracy as government of the people by the people and for the people. If Lincoln’s perspective of politics is anything to go by, it means any democratic process or processes that downplays the popular will of the people is a pseudo autocracy. This explains why democracy has remained the best practice in the United States of America and some other developed countries.
Conversly, democracy is not worth so called if the will of the electorates, stakeholders or channel of participation is stifled. In keeping with this democratic tenets, President Muhammadu Buhari left the choice of presidential candidate for the All Progressives Congress (APC) to delegates to decide. He provided a level playing field for all aspirants to test their might.
Despite the fact that his decision to remain neutral infuriated certain interests who preferred he wielded the big stick, Buhari chose to take sides with democracy because he is so sure that by so doing, posterity will judge him right. Buhari decided to be different unlike in the past when the opposition was in power. The arbitrary handling of issues of successor by past administrations portrayed narrow conception of democracy and questionable democratic credentials.
However, since July 10, 2022 when the presidential flag bearer of the APC, Nola Ahmed Tinubu announced former Borno State governor and a serving Senator, Kashim Shettima, as his running mate for the February 25, 2023, presidential election, tongues have been wagging, especially from the religious perspective.
The choice of Senator Shettima, pessimists say, validates Muslim-Muslim ticket and is injurious to social harmony because of the plural or multi-ethnic configuration of Nigeria. Those against this development have very valid point, especially if viewed from the angle of enhancing national unity. Nevertheless, it is important to note that politics by its nature is a game of interests and number. The ultimate strength of any political party is acquiring political power. No matter how laudable is the manifesto of any political party, it amounts to futility if it has not captured power because that is the only way manifesto can be translated to real time deliverables.
In doing that, candidates have to deploy their political mathmatical skills to gain advantage over their opponents. This is exactly what the APC presidential candidate, Tinubu, has done. Contrary to the ongoing twisting, turning and standing of facts on its head, the intention is never to undermine Christians in Nigeria, or Northern Nigeria. The furore that has trailed Tinubu’s pick is the handiwork of mischief makers who are afraid of APC’s towering chances under Buhari and are out to make political capital out of Tinubu’s choice of Shettima.
It is rational to think that Tinubu, who has been married to Oluremi Tinubu, a senior pastor with the Redeemed Christian Church of God, for more than 40 years would disdain Christians and Christianity. It is abysmally incomprehensible to think that a man who has sponsored many on Christian pilgrimages would resent Christians and Christianity. Or is it Kashim Shettima who, as governor of Borno State, rebuilt 56 Churches destroyed by Boko Haram? The foregoing is an excerpt from a 2019 interview by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Borno State chapter.
Some presidential candidates of other political parties claim they are staunch Catholic Christians; yet up till today they haven’t paid a visit to the St. Francis Catholic Church that was attacked in Owo about one month ago. Tinubu who is a Muslim visited the Church within 24 hours after the attack and donated over N70 million to the Church and the affected families. Let me categorically state here that it doesn’t matter if the president of Nigeria is a Christian, Muslim or Traditionalist. All that matters is the type of a leader we have and his approach towards humanity.
In reality, good governance has no religion the same way bad governance affects everyone, irrespective of religious affiliation. What Nigeria needs is not discourse around religion but good governance. If Ahmed Tinubu, pairing with Shettima, will give us good leadership, so be it. Can a Tinubu-led governmemt close down Churches? Very unthinkable, especially when it’s predecessor, the Buhari administration, didn’t do so. Would a Tinubu-led governmemt persecute Christians? Very absurd to think so. If it be so, that means he would have to start from his wife who is a pastor.
What’s more? Tinubu has taken his time to explain that the choice of Senator Shettima as the vice presidential candidate was not based on religion or to please one community and displease the other. Tinubu said he believed Shettima would help him bring the best governance to all Nigerians, regardless of their religious affiliation or considerations of ethnicity or region. I think his position is clear enough for us to move away from the Muslim-Muslim ticket debate to other important state matters.
A closer examination of Tinubu’s anticedents in public life shows that his decisions regarding building a team to work with has always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness, and adherence to excellence. The results he has achieved so far indicates that these principles helped him to assemble one of the most capable governing cabinets any state or this nation had ever seen when he was governor of Lagos State between 1999 and 2007.
On the implication of Tinubu’s emergence as an added advantage to the APC, let it be known that Tinubu’s political career is built on blind indifference to the views of others. He appreciate the perspectives of leading members of the party, political allies and key national figures who see Nigeria’s future as President Buhari does.
Instead of camping around the running mate argument, our attention now should be focused on the Tinubu whose political history and personal life is wieved around staunch belief in unity in diversity like President Buhari.
The greatness of any nation lies in embracing its diversity and making it work to enhance the dynamism and justice of our political system. If it is so, Tinubu is the man for job. Nigeria has entered a chapter of its history that demands a bold yet pragmatic approach, a path already chartered by the progressive ethos of the Buhari administration. Hence, the combination of Tinubu and Shettima would collaborate effectively to ensure that the re-envisioning of Nigeria is realised.
After leaving Daura, Katsina State, on Tuesday for Bauchi, I met with most of my Christian brothers and we all had fruitful discussions on this issue of Muslim-Muslim ticket. In a bid to take stand, we pondered between the laws of the land and religion to know which one is superior in governance. Virtually all of them agreed that the laws of the land takes precedence.
I have been receiving calls from friends, mostly Rev Fathers and Pastors, over the raging issues of Muslim-Muslim ticket, but in couple’s of weeks I will come up with a piece on mutual respect for one another despite our religious difference.
One thing Nigerians fail to understand is that it is only the party’s presidential flag bearer that has the right to choose whosoever he deems fit as his running mate and Tinubu has made his choice in the person of Senator Shettima. Muslim-Muslim ticket is not an issue here and shouldn’t be because what Nigerians need is a leader with a large heart who can deliver the dividends of democracy to the people.
These are two individuals who have good track records of good leadership right from their respective states as former governors and have volunteered themselves to steer the leadership boat of this country. What they should expect from us is not criticisms but encouragement to enable them deliver good leadership when they must have taken over come 2023.
As for President Buhari’s statesmanship in providing a level playing field that berthed the new tranquility in APC, posterity has reserved a favourable place for him. May the Almighty God bless our great country.
– Ibrahim is director, Communications and Strategic Planning, of the Presidential Support Committee (PSC)