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RUNNING MATES: Battle For Muslim-Muslim Ticket Rages As El-Rufai, Fani-Kayode, Others Back Pairing


(AFRICAN EXAMINER) – Controversy over the possibility of Muslim running mates emerging for the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC) and Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Alhaji Atiku Abubakar respectively, escalated at the weekend.

Those who defended Muslim-Muslim ticket for either candidates, especially Tinubu, include Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State; a former Minister of Aviation, Chief Femi Fani-Kayode, and a member of the APC National Working Committee (NWC), Salihu Mohammed Lukman.

Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) also weighed into the controversy, saying such a ticket was possible.

The emergence of Tinubu and Atiku, both Muslims, had stoked the debate about the desirability of Muslims equally emerging as their running mates. The case of Tinubu has, particularly, been in the front burner as many argue that, being a southerner, it may be difficult to find a suitable Christian up North to balance his APC presidential ticket.

But those in favour of a Muslim-Muslim ticket for Tinubu cite the 1993 similar presidential ticket of the late Chief MKO Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe which presumably won that year’s election.

Among those who kicked against potential Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election, last week, include the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Mr Babachir Lawal. El-Rufai, at the weekend, defending potential Muslim-Muslim ticket ahead of the 2023 presidential election, said religion has no place in politics.

Fani-Kayode said he would support Tinubu if he settled for such ticket.

Lukman cautioned APC leaders against riding on what he called cheap sentiments in picking the APC presidential running mate.

MURIC harped on issues such as credibility, integrity and competence as overriding factors in any presidential ticket rather than religion.

El-Rufai, who spoke on Channels Television, said Nigerians should be concerned about getting the right person for the job and not religion.

His words: “You are asking the wrong question. I don’t know about Muslim – Muslim ticket. Some of my closest friends are Christians. It was Pastor Tunde Bakare that took me to CPC and not President Buhari. I am very close to many Christians. I don’t think that the business of governance has anything to do with religion.

We should look for the best person for the job, the person that can get the job done. I think I am the wrong person to ask of Muslim Muslim Ticket because, in my state, I picked a very competent Muslim woman as a running mate in 2019. They said it was Muslim – Muslim ticket, that we were going to lose but we won overwhelmingly.

This fixation on religion instead of competence and capability is quite sad and sympathetic. I urge you as the media to please take religion out of governance and let’s look for competence, capability and delivery. I don’t think we should be looking at religion if we want to develop this country.

“When I get into a plane, I don’t ask for the religion of the pilot and when I get to the hospital, I don’t ask for the religion of the doctor. I just want to get well. The way the media and many irresponsible people try to inject religion into politics and governance is sad and pathetic and will not take us anywhere.

Nigeria is at a crossroads. It is so sad. It is not religion that will address the problem of this country. It is competent people that will address them, unite the country and put it in a progressive part.”

In his own contribution, Fani-Kayode said he would support Tinubu should APC settle for Muslim running-mate

“It is an issue and we will have to explain and defend to the wider population of the Nigerian people if we choose to go that way. I am not saying I’m against it.

If that’s what the candidate wants, we will stand by him and defend him”, the former Minister stated on a TV programme.

“However, we need to defend it. We can’t just say religion has no place in the politics of today. It certainly does, especially where 50 Christians were slaughtered in a Church in Owo the other day. In Southern Kaduna the other day, 34 Christians were slaughtered.

Fani-Kayode, who noted that these were facts that could not be dismissed, however, said he would support the presidential candidate should he (Tinubu) decide to pick a Muslim running-mate.

“Let’s just hope he reasons it out carefully and chooses the right candidate to run with him,” he said.

Lukman, on his part, in a statement, yesterday, cautioned leaders of the APC against riding on sentiments in picking Tinubu’s running mate.
According to him, religion should not be a determinant.

“The challenge facing Nigerian politics is about opening the democratic space. It is not going to be easy, but Nigerians must be challenged to make hard choices.

Important as ethnic and religious identities are, addressing challenges facing the country, require that political leaders are not allowed to ride on cheap sentiments of religion and ethnicity to opportunistically win elections,”he said.

“If Nigeria is to move forward, 2023 Presidential campaigns must not reduce important debates of moving Nigeria forward to sentimental considerations of ethnicity and religion. If the truth is to be told, both Islam and Christianity, as well as all our ethnic factors have been used in equal measure to hold Nigeria at a standstill.



Many so-called religious and ethnic leaders have used and are still using religion and ethnicity to pollute the minds of Nigerians against one another. If Nigerian politics is to overcome the adversities of these so-called religious and ethnic leaders, religious and ethnic backgrounds of leaders must be subordinated to experiential attributes of persons being considered for leadership.

“Perhaps, it is important to stress the point that whatever is the final choice of Asiwaju Tinubu and APC leaders with respect to who emerges as the running mate, the 2023 Presidential election will be keenly contested, irrespective of religious and ethnic identity of both Asiwaju Tinubu and whoever the running mate may be.

APC leaders must acknowledge the fact that the 2023 elections present another golden opportunity for the APC to re-invent itself.

With the landmark initiatives of President Buhari’s government in the last seven years, challenges of insecurity are being used by opposition parties, especially PDP, to falsely alleged that APC has failed. The claim is that APC government has mismanaged the economy, divided Nigerians and created insecurity. Part of the arguments is that Nigeria is now the ‘poverty capital of the world’, alleging also that the so-called poor performance of APC led government of President Buhari contrasts with so-called ‘achievements’ of sixteen years of PDP between 1999 and 2015. Many PDP leaders and their supporters have even claimed that if PDP failed to win the 2023 election, Nigeria will collapse”.

Toeing same line, an aide to Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje of Kano State, Shehu Isa, said: “It is not constitutional and Kaduna had experimented it and since then, the state has been peaceful, void of ethnic violence the state had been known for.”
On that note, he called on Tinubu to pick Ganduje as his running mate, saying the latter would assist in addressing problems bedevilling the country, especially herdsmen clashes.
His words: “Looking at the calibre and track record in civil service, politics and the kind of person he is, Ganduje is perhaps the only option APC has.

“It is Ganduje, in the whole North who stood for Tinubu openly despite the challenges of rejection. Stakeholders in the North were afraid to endorse him publicly.
“Despite being a native Fulani, he gave his daughter to Yoruba. Even Tinubu will be at peace to work with him as a running mate.
“Ganduje as Vice President will surely mediate the issues of Fulani herdsmen, kidnappers, banditry and other forms of criminality bedevilling the country.”

In MURIC’s case, its Director, Prof Ishaq, Akintola, said: “Nigerians are currently engaged in hot debate on the suitable running mate of the presidential candidate of the All People’s Congress (APC), Senator Ahmed Bola Tinubu. We would like to advise that apart from ensuring that the position of Vice President in 2023 goes to the North, Senator Tinubu should consult the ‘Noble Dozen’.

“Those we refer to as the Noble Dozen are those sincere northern governors who disabused the minds of Nigerians concerning the myth of Northern hegemony and a nonexistent caliphate oligarchy.

“While we submit that credibility, integrity and competence must be the overriding parameters, we aver that the faith of the running mate should not be an issue.
If it has never been an issue in places like Jos, Benue, Ekiti, Ondo, Edo, the Southeastern states and the South-South where both the governors and their deputies have always been Christians despite the existence of a substantial number of Muslims, why should it suddenly become an issue at the federal level?

“MURIC charges Senator Tinubu to remain focused on building a united, virile and progressive Nigeria. Though we have no special objection to the choice of a Christian running mate, it will be wise for him to allow the Noble Dozen to influence his choice. Once this happens, the same Noble Dozen will sell his idea to the whole North. That may also secure Northern votes for him. Democracy is a game of numbers, not primordial sentiments, not social media noise or the cantankerous cacophony of demagogic charlatans.

“Other Muslim candidates like Alhaji Atiku Abubakar and Kola Abiola do not seem to have the same challenge. Neither do Christian flag bearers. By the way, Christian flag bearers are free to pick fellow Christians in Christian-Christian tickets. What is necessary is for all candidates to look for running mates who meet their vision and mission in the project to keep Nigeria strong, united and secure.”

CAN warned the leading political parties against Christian/Christian or Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket in 2023.
Its National Secretary, Joseph Daramola, said it should be avoided in the interest of peace.

He said: “CAN urges that a balance of both religious practitioners be considered in the choice of running mates of the presidential candidates. We do not subscribe to Christian/Christian ticket or Muslim/Muslim ticket.

“Politicians can talk politics but we have stated our view long before now. Any party that tries the same religion ticket will fail. This is not 1993. Even when we have a joint Muslim/Christian ticket, the church still goes through hell.

“Imagine how bad it will be if we have two Muslims in power? The extant Nigerian constitution promotes religious balance. So, if any political party wants to try Muslim/Muslim ticket, it is at its peril. CAN is only forewarning, but will make a categorical statement in the event our warning is not heeded.”

Similarly, Babachir Lawal cautioned APC against opting for a Muslim/Muslim ticket, saying the country is so divided for such.

He said: “It could have been possible for a northern presidential candidate to emerge. But then, you would know that running the country in that manner would have the southern part of Nigeria hostile to that government. So, we allowed it to shift.’’

“Now, extending that consideration to the Muslim-Muslim ticket, I have lived among the Christians and I know that among the Christians, the question of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a no-go area. It is dead on arrival. Buhari himself, even at that time, had to drop this present presidential candidate because of the tension of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. And we have not seen anything in the country that has changed significantly to allow that to happen.

“On the contrary, it has worsened. The religious divide has increased. Tribal divisions have increased. Regional divisions have increased. So, it would be a good thing if APC would settle for a Muslim-Christian ticket because we know (that the) PDP, that is what they would do.”

However, the presidential candidates of the two leading political parties, APC and Peoples Democratic Party, PDP, haven’t picked their running mates. But since their emergence, concerns are growing over the religion of their likely vice-presidential candidates.

Apart from ethnicity, religion is a key issue in the sharing of political offices in the country.

Since the First Republic and even during military era, leaders ensured religious balance in the composition of their teams. But there are indications that APC may jettison that time-honoured tradition given the utterances of some of its chieftains.

PDP’s Atiku Abubakar, a northern Muslim, is expected to choose a Christian running mate from the South.

VANGUARD


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