Democracy is about choices and freedoms. In a pluralistic nation such as Nigeria, democracy is also about inclusivity, social justice and fairness. The latter consideration brought to bear the principle of rotation and zoning in this dispensation. The need for stability and unity has become a big issue in sustaining the ongoing democratic dispensation in a nation more sharply divided than ever before.
In order words, individual ambitions and legitimate aspirations ought to be carefully weighed side by side with these national sentiments. But the emergence of Bola Ahmed Tinubu as the Presidential flag-bearer of the All Progressives Congress, APC, and its aftermath have been dogged by controversies, which does not augur well for democracy. The desperation is also fuelling speculations that there is more than meets the eyes.
First, Tinubu told the party that the APC’s presidential ticket was his for the asking, declaring that it was his turn to be President of Nigeria after the incumbent Muhammadu Buhari as if there was no need for party primaries and the presidential election in 2023. He was able to bulldoze his way and thus became the APC presidential flag-bearer whether the party members wanted it or not. Will he also bulldoze his way to Aso Rock whether Nigerians want him or not?
The Tinubu controversies and desperation are only multiplying. Tinubu thrust himself against a major headwind by nominating a fellow Muslim, Kassim Shettima, as his running mate at a time when religion has become so emotionally charged in Nigeria. Despite the unprecedented public outcry, Tinubu stuck to his gun and unveiled Shettima, a man equally familiar with controversies, as the running mate, in another take it or leave it gesture. This time the whole country’s bluff was what Tinubu called, especially that of the Christian community.
The Muslim-Muslim ticket ought not to be a big deal. But the desperation to either shove the same-faith ticket down the throats of Nigerians or burnish it to become acceptable makes it a serious source of concern. The APC/Tinubu’s desperation reached the dizzying height when fake Bishops showed up at the unveiling of Shettima as running mate. Many may not see the grave consequence of renting some men who may not even be Christians to represent the Christian faith at the unveiling. In Islam, such fakers would be treated as blasphemers and possibly killed. But because Christianity is a ‘turn the other cheek’ religion, the affront has been downplayed.
For those who do not know, in Christianity as exemplified by Catholicism, the office of the Bishop is the apex of church leadership. Even the Pope is the Bishop of Rome. So, impersonating such a level of church leadership is but an assault and desecration of the church.
The argument of some of the APC members that anybody could have attended the unveiling in their enfeebled attempt to distance the party from the fiasco was countered by the tribute paid to the so-called 30 Bishops who attended by no less a person than the APC running mate himself. Shettima even knew the exact number of the so-called men of God (Bishops). It would take a witch doctor or a magician to know the exact number of the Bishops if the person was not privy to their invitation and attendance. In other words, the APC and its candidate and running mate were privy to the invitation of these shady cartoon characters who to date are yet to disclose their identities or talk to the press or the public. And the question is: why?
To begin with, whoever handled the invitation made a mess of it. The organiser was so brainless. Bishops in Nigeria do not belong to the same denominations and cannot appear at a function together. Bishops are always elegant and impeccable, not dishevelled as these strange figures, some of who had no knowledge of how to wear the gears properly. Perhaps, the most embarrassing was wearing the chasuble, the final vestment that the priest puts on to celebrate mass , to such a public function. Simple diligence could have saved the nation the harrowing embarrassment. But then, that could be seen also as how God wanted it, to expose the fraud being perpetrated in His name.
This despicable desperation is unnecessary and could be a pointer to something more sinister loading. Tinubu said competence (which he said Shettima epitomises without showing how) is more important to him than Christianity in Nigeria. Why then is he desperately trying to prove he has gotten Christian endorsement? By doing so, he is inadvertently showing that he seriously needs Christian votes and their approval. If he has come to this realisation, he should approach it courageously and sincerely, and not by subterfuge or in a clandestine manner. Tinubu and Shettima should be told that leadership without integrity cannot serve the common good and therefore an existential threat.
They should also be told that for political matters, Christians in Nigeria organise themselves as the Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, and CAN is made up of five blocs representing all the Christian denominations in Nigeria. For the records, the five blocs are: the Christian Council of Nigeria (CCN), Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN), Christian Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (CPFN) /Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria (PFN), Organization of African Instituted Churches (OAIC) and TEKAN/ECWA Fellowship. CAN also have Women and Youth Wings, a National Executive Council consisting of 110 members (which elects the President), and a General Assembly of 304 members (which ratifies the President’s election).
So, where did APC, Tinubu and Shettima find the charlatans they dressed as Christian Bishops? Those looking for Church leaders or Bishops of churches in Nigeria should know where to look and not in the motor parks. The so-called Bishops who emerged from the blues to represent Christians in Nigeria is therefore not a good development. It suggests that a person forging it is capable of doing the unimaginable to attain power.
Power is not supposed to be a do-or-die affair. Power is given by God through the people. Having discountenanced Christianity in Nigeria, Tinubu and Shettima ought to let them be. Faking and aping Christians and Christianity is unacceptable. And doing so has opened Pandora’s Box. Pandora’s Box never contains something good. It is a source of great and unexpected troubles, which release physical and emotional curses upon the people.
For Christians in Nigeria therefore, the fake Bishops only held up a red flag. It is nothing but a curse and a bad omen.
• Dr Law Mefor is a Senior Fellow of The Abuja School of Social and Political Thought; Tel.: +234- 905 642 4375 E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; follow me on twitter:@DrLawMefor.