Opinion

Muslim-Muslim Ticket: Tinubu’s volte face

L ast week, Nigerians woke up to the news of the choice of a Muslim and former governor of Borno State Alhaji Kashim Shettima as the vice presidential candidate of All Progressives Congress (APC) in the 2023 general elections. Since the dramatic revelation of the choice by the APC presidential candidate, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the news has been generating diverse reactions. Many have criticized the choice of Shettima which conferred a Muslim-Muslim status on the APC presidential ticket in secular Nigeria for being insensitive to the feelings of Christians. Yet, others point at the alleged connection of Shettima with those alleged religious extremists who created the insurgency that has taken great tolls on the internal security of Nigeria and greatly challenged the sovereignty of the nation.

It is the considered opinion of many that the APC and Alhaji Tinubu should not have settled for a man like Senator Kashim Shettima whom a no mean personality like the former governor of Borno State, Senator Amodu Sheriff, has unequivocally accused of being the progenitor or sponsor of the group that metamorphosed into Boko Haram insurgents, especially at this time that the insurgency has gained traction and seems to be overwhelming the nation. Others are worried that Alhaji Bola Tinubu ignored the many credible and resourceful Christian politicians in all parts of Northern Nigeria to pick Shettima, a Muslim.

This, they interpreted as an insult on Christians. We have seen many who have commended the choice of Shettima as the All Progressives Congress vice presidential candidate on grounds that religious sentiments should be played down for the more important virtue of competence. One remarkable thing about the various reactions to the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket is that both of them are broad-based. We have both Christians and Muslims on all the sides.

Because the matter can best be decided by voting, the configuration of the APC presidential ticket has not divided and may not divide Nigerians along religious lines. Yet, it is bound to sway the voting pattern of many in the presidential election. However, in his response to the criticisms, the APC presidential candidate, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu has bragged that he rejected a Christian nominee and settled for Alhaji Senator Kashim Shettima because of the latter’s competence. The APC presidential hopeful equally chided Nigerians on the need to tone down religious sentiments, arguing that with his wife, Oluremi Tinubu, who is a Christian; Christians were protected and had nothing to fear! He went further to state that the spirit of 1993 has come upon Nigeria again in 2023.

Here, he was apparently referring to the political scenario witnessed three decades ago in Nigeria during the June 12, 1993 presidential election when the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP), fielded Alhaji Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe as presidential candidate and vice presidential candidate of the party respectively. The truth is that the Muslim-Muslim ticket of 1993 was not a product of the wilful choice of the defunct Social Democratic Party. Existing circumstances or factors compelled the defunct Social Democratic Party to opt for the Muslim-Muslim ticket option in 1993.

Chief among those factors was the fact that Nigerians were tired of military rule and needed to cooperate with the unwilling military junta to conclude the undulating transition to civil rule programme. This made Nigerians willing to tolerate any ticket configuration just to make the military return to the barracks. Another factor was that Nigerians were not as divided along ethno-religious lines in 1993 as they are in the present time. Given the current situation in the Nigerian nation, no reasonable man or political party will think of putting a Muslim-Muslim ticket before Nigerians. Listening to the explanations of the former governor of Lagos State and presidential candidate of APC, Alhaji Bola Ahmed Tinubu, it becomes obvious that the Jagaban, who has never hidden what he refers to as his lifelong ambition to be president of Nigeria as well as his belief that the time for him to rule Nigeria has come, is just being economical with the truth. His reason for choosing Alhaji Kashim Shettima was to enable him appease and garner votes from the Muslims and Fulanis in the North who were not hiding their preference for another northern presidential candidate over Bola Ahmed Tinubu, a southerner who was likely to pick a northern Christian as vice presidential candidate.

This was why the Jagaban, who had always insisted on Muslim – Christian tickets as condition for giving his support to presidential candidates in the 2011, 2015 and 2019 general elections, had to bend backwards to return to his puke! Given the impressive array of presidential candidates contesting the 2023 general elections, Nigerians need not lose sleep over Tinubu’s choice of running mate. Rather, Nigerians should prevent that aberration with their Permanent Voters’ Card!

 

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