On Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim Ticket and Available Options By Olaide Azeez

Since the Presidential candidate of the ruling party in Nigeria, the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, announced his choice of Vice-Presidential candidate about two weeks ago, there have been heated mano a mano struggles among various groups in the country. The social media — the double-edged sword technological innovation – has been in a frenzy, with different materials containing half-truth or outright falsehood in circulation. In any election season in Nigeria, different groups suddenly become active, if not overactive, in giving opinions and mobilising their members or those on whom they have direct influence about how to cast their vote during elections. So, it is not surprising that the pairing of a Muslim Presidential candidate from the country’s Southwest region with a Muslim Vice-Presidential candidate from the Northeast geopolitical zone – essentially forming a Muslim-Muslim ticket – has been generating intense debates. And in Nigeria, opinions are not usually shaped by superiority of available facts or in the overall best interests of the country but by factors that safeguard other interests.


Currently, there is a wide body of opinion that either supports or opposes Tinubu’s choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket. To many Muslims in the country, there is no big deal about this. After all, they argue, there are several states in Nigeria with a large Muslim population that are being governed on Christian-Christian ticket and Muslims have never complained about this! Data has been rolled out to support this view. But a few other Muslims, including some Islamic clerics, have also voiced their opinions against Muslim-Muslim ticket, citing the current political climate in the country as the reason such ticket is inappropriate at this time. Expectedly, most Christians — led by high-ranking officials of ever-combative Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) — have strongly opposed the choice of Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 Presidential election. Yet there are many Christians as well, some pastors inclusive, who have seen nothing wrong in the APC candidate’s choice of his Vice-Presidential candidate. To this group of Christians, the larger picture of good leadership is more important than the professed faiths of the occupiers of Aso Rock, the seat of power of Federal Government of Nigeria.


Truth be told, any opinion given by most Nigerians on issues in the country are usually determined by one or more of the following:


· The ethnic group they belong to


· The religion they claim to profess


· The political party they belong to or support


· What is in it for the person giving the opinion (however veiled this might be)


These varying reasons for expressing opinions (and sometimes the determination to influence others on following personal opinions) in the country is what makes the country extremely difficult not only to govern but also to live in. I can still vividly remember, while researching a project in 1999, coming across a statement made by a South African man (who then just arrived in Nigeria) in one of the issues of The Guardian newspaper of the time. According to him, “Nigerians are very brilliant people. Whenever you talk about issues not involving Nigeria, you would see Nigerians coming up with good and practicable ideas. And you would be impressed by their understanding of many areas of human endeavours. But once you digress to Nigerian issues, then you immediately observe each person giving opinions along regional or religious lines.” That was 1999 Nigeria, when there was still modicum of mutual understanding among the citizenry. Since then, our behaviour as a people has put us in a precarious situation such that when the history of this country is eventually written, the generations unborn would hardly forgive us for not bequeathing to them a country that is worthy of being proud of, despite our ability to do so.


To my mind, the recent furore over the choice of the Vice-Presidential candidate of the APC, the Muslim-Muslim ticket, is largely unnecessary, even if many people think it is insensitivity to the plurality of our society. The reason being that there are other available options which anyone with different political inclinations could explore to actualise their preferences in the coming presidential election. People have even been provided the opportunity to show their grievances to those who think they are emperors who always win election they contest for, no matter their decisions or wrong permutations. It is needless to further polarise the country along religious line or any other fault lines which have been exploited by various people to their own advantage and which are the bases of the problems raging everywhere in our dear country. *Moreover, if this country has to change, someone, some people, somewhere, at the appointed time for the liberation of this country, will have to take some decision or make some mistake that will ignite this change!*


On the surface, the Muslim-Muslim ticket may not be good for the mood in the country, considering the experience of everyone under the present administration. But this mood was created by none other than some Nigerians who have benefited immensely from this mood! About thirty years ago, Nigerians overwhelmingly voted a President and his vice without any consideration for the faith they claimed to practise, and most people were happy with their own choice as the ticket won the election with a landslide victory. It is the same country but with different atmosphere. But what caused the stratospheric change in the climate? Religious hypocrisy, mainly! And this is what this piece intends to bring to the fore. Many people have argued that the situation in 1993 is different from the one we will experience in 2023. This is true. But how did we arrive at the present situation, where every decision is interpreted along religious line and not what good may likely come out of it? We cannot solve our problems if we continue to refuse to X-ray these problems dispassionately and examine what brought them into existence. We cannot continue to shy away from telling ourselves the truth, nothing but the truth, even if many would still pick an offence in the truth. Continuing to play the ostrich will not help us as a nation. Of all the fault lines exploited by some Nigerians for selfish or primordial reasons, religion has been the most potent of them all!


After the annulment of June 12, 1993, election — an election that has been considered the freest and fairest in the history of electoral engineering in the country — Nigerians formed different opposition groups to take a stand against military’s continuation in the nation’s politics. Then, there was no issue of religion affiliation as people resolved to confront the military head-on. Many of our compatriots were murdered in cold blood by the military in their bid to fight for democracy which has since become our nemesis as a nation. Even with the military’s attempt at exploiting the ethnic fault line to prevent people uniting against it, there was modicum of unity among Nigerians without regards to religion they professed until the military was forced to hand over the rein of power in 1999. Then, Nigerians became more religious! And the nation became more divided!! The oil boom of the Obasanjo era and the freedom associated with democracy ensured that some Nigerians devised some other means to exert their influence on the populace and get their own share of the ‘dividend of democracy’!


First was the issue of Sharia started by the then governor of Zamfara State, Ahmed Sani Yerima, and later joined by many other Northern Nigerian state governors. But for the maturity and extensive knowledge of the behaviours of Nigerians by the then president of Nigeria, Olusegun Obasanjo, the whole country would have been set on fire by the activities of the Sharia governors! Unfortunately, it was only the masses that Sharia was applied to while various state officials went on looting-spree of their various states! Saudi Arabia and other Gulf states became the tourist destinations of Sharia governors, their officials, and their families! Thus, the wealth of our Sharia states was used in developing the economy of the Gulf countries to the envy of the world! The fire that Obasanjo’s sagacity had helped to quench at the time, due to what he later referred to as ‘political Sharia’, has since been re-ignited under various less capable leaders after him. The same Sharia state of Zamfara is now the headquarters of banditry in Nigeria of today. And the whole of Northwest Nigeria, which comprises the leading Sharia states of the time, is now the operational base of terrorist groups in the country! The fire has since spread throughout the Northern Nigerian states and beyond. The chickens have come home to roost. This is one of the regretful effects of our becoming more religious in Nigeria!


After the imposition of Sharia on the masses by many Northern governors during Obasanjo regime, the next epoch in our descent to anarchy was the emergence of a ‘strong’ Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on the scene. Although within CAN itself there are unresolved disputes among various sects comprising the body, particularly between the Catholic faithful and the Pentecostal (which has another umbrella body in Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria, PFN, anyway), when it comes to any Nigerian issue the divided CAN suddenly becomes the ‘voice’ of the ‘voiceless’ Christians where they engage whoever is the President of Nigeria as if they were an opposition political party. Even President Olusegun Obasanjo, a detribalised and non-partisan Southern Christian was not excluded from the war on occupiers of Aso Rock by CAN. But trust the man that has been referred to as Ebora Owu (Owu spirit) who could not brook hypocrisy, he had to give it back to CAN during a major crisis in 2004 in Plateau state in North Central of Nigeria, when he was asked a question considered to be insincere. “What role have you played to bring about peace as CAN Chairman in Plateau State? CAN, my foot! What kind of CAN Chairman are you?” That was President Obasanjo, tongue-lashing the then Chairman of CAN in Plateau State, Rev Yakubu Pam. Obasanjo got away with his insult of a state Chairman of CAN because he is a Christian; the story would have been different for the country had he been a Muslim! Such is the division the religious people have created in our dear country.


The influence or impact of CAN on the country became more noticeable during the time of Jonathan’s Presidency. Apart from ethnic defenders of President Goodluck Jonathan, CAN was the major supporter of Jonathan as if Nigeria was all about CAN versus the Muslims. The ignoble roles played by CAN during Jonathan regime was one of the reasons for the tensions associated with the 2015 general elections. This behaviour of a supposedly religious body, now acting like a political party, gave rise to some Islamic bodies like MURIC which then became a counterpoise to CAN. Nigerians were then effectively polarised along the religious line. Though the Muslim’s equivalence of CAN in Nigeria, the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) are more urbane in their approach to issues affecting Muslims or in giving comments about Nigerian issues in general, the MURIC as an Islamic organisation has been a real counterbalance to CAN in terms of creating tension in the country.


Personally, I have had cause to disapprove some of the contents emanating from MURIC. I am always of the opinion that the Director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola (whom I had met personally in the 90s) should have directed his resources, particularly his immense knowledge, to the service of the nation while still making contribution to his professed faith in his own way. This is based on my personal conviction of worshipping God through serving humanity without any form of discrimination. More importantly, you can only worship God sincerely in an atmosphere of peace. But some Muslims have argued that there has to be a response to the nuisance of CAN in the country if NSCIA officials have decided to be urbane in their approach. So, to them, the presence of MURIC on the stage is welcoming. But unfortunately, collectively we suffer as a people! The consequences of religious intolerance are now staring us in the face.


Of more concern is even our sincerity to various religions we claim to practise and for which some are even ready to harm other Nigerians! Nigeria has always been referred to as a highly religious country, but it is also one of the most corrupt countries in the world. For many years now, Nigeria has always been at the lower rung of corruption index of various Corruption rating organisations. Despite the activities of various religious bodies in the country, there has never been any time in history of this country when evil reigns supreme in our midst as it is now. Then of what use is our being religious!? The hypocrisy of our religiosity cries to high heaven when we consider the abject poverty of more than half of our population who are daily struggling to eat in the land flowing with milk and honey! How would it be if NSCIA could hold accountable through Sharia the governors of Northwest and Northeast Nigeria who are usually Muslims, and ensure that they turn these predominantly Muslim regions to our own Dubai, even if they would rename them as Sokoto Emirate and Bornu Emirate of Nigeria? How would it be if CAN instead of confronting whoever is president of this nation could ensure that most pastors under its fold are not exploiting our impoverished Christian masses in various ways but concentrate on preaching the Gospel of Jesus Christ and provide other means of living a fulfilled life for them. All these should be the priority of anyone claiming to believe in God and the Day of Judgment.


As it is now, our problems go beyond who governs us from 2023. The current leading candidates in the next year presidential election are far from being the best this country can produce. None of them could even be in the best eleven of our hugely talented team of brilliant people, despite misinformation being circulated on social media by each camp and followers of these presidential candidates! But these are the people the current system threw up at us based on our exceedingly corrupt system. The onus is on us to work with whoever wins in 2023 so as to begin the process of rebuilding this country. We need to rebuild this country so that the generations unborn would not curse us after we might have long gone. All people of good conscience should rally people and enlighten them on the need to vote based on their conscience and not on superficial religious affiliations. What happened in Osun State in recently concluded governorship election, where a particular Northern governor was canvassing for vote on the basis of religion, should be spoken against publicly by all who want a saner country. The 2023 general election is a gamble for this nation, what is important is to have a nation after 2023! So, we must not allow politicians and any politically inclined religious body to further divide us using any of our fault lines. We have lived happily with one another before and we can still live happily again, in true love and harmony irrespective of our proclaimed beliefs.


Currently, this country is extremely corrupt, morally and economically. Many of our youth do not want to work, even though we have many of them too who are highly creative and are really working hard to earn their living. The politicians and elite have corrupted our young ladies, camping them in various hotels all over the country where they are exploiting them sexually. There are also outlets for ‘short let’ everywhere in the country where young girls are prostituted for a small change. This is one of the reasons hotel business is one of the most profitable businesses in the country! Some of our male youngsters are also into money rituals and Yahoo-Plus! We all know this, but we pretend as if all these are not taking place in a ‘highly religious’ country. Billions of dollars are either buried in the house, in the farm, or stashed away in foreign banks by our officials and their bagmen while the nation’s economy has been run aground! Yet, we keep creating tensions in the country in the name of God even when we do not fear the same God in all our daily activities! This should be our major concern as a people.


In conclusion, the APC as a party has chosen what it considered as its best combination to win the 2023 presidential election in a highly polarised country as ours. But there are other options available to explore by anyone not happy with this combination instead of creating unnecessary tension in the country. The media should organise major debates for the leading candidates in the presidential election for the people to be able to take a more informed decision. Thus, we enjoin everyone to choose according to their own desire, and not on the basis of any religious identity. *We should all remember that, if this country has to change, someone, some people, somewhere, at the appointed time for the liberation of this country, will have to take some decision or make some mistake that will ignite this change!* Has APC provided an opportunity for this change?




Olaide Azeez


Email:[email protected]

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