Tinubu’s Running Mate And The Religionisation Of Nigeria Politics

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In the last few weeks, speculation has been rife about what some political pundits refer to as the “Muslim-Muslim” ticket of the APC presidential candidate.

Therefore, it appears a prediction came to past when the APC candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu announced a “Kanuri Muslim; former lecturer, banker, ex-Governor of Borno State and serving Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate.

Expectedly, this has degenerated into a backlash, particularly from the Christian community with its feeling of marginalisation and its age-long alleged Islamization of Nigeria by the ruling (Muslim) elite class. The reaction of CAN to the development confirms the mood and position expected from the Nigerian Christian community.

Just this morning, in his weekly column in The Punch Newspaper, Tunde Odesola is quoted thus: “… the mind of an average Nigerian has been basely reconfigured to see issues only from ethno-religious and Political prisms.…..”. Since independence, politics in Nigeria has been predominantly ethno-religious inclined, but more of ethnicity. This has been the basis for who gets what, where and when?

Interrogating the Nigerian political trajectory suggests that religion matter less to the people as to the strength of their ethnic affinity. This was evident in the agitation by actors in the major parties that Power should shift to the South, with no caveat that it must be southern Christian.

Recall, in 1993, Nigerians overwhelmingly voted MKO Abiola, a Yoruba Muslim from Ogun State and Babagana Kingibe, a Kanuri Muslim from Borno State as president and vice president respectively. Ahead of the 2019 election, Governor El-Rufai of Kaduna state picked a Muslim running mate for his second term and he went ahead to win the election with a wide margin. Prince Olagunsoye Oyinlola and his Deputy, Erelu Olusola Obada (2003-2010) ran on a Christian-Christian ticket and won elections for two terms in Osun State. In my state, Ekiti, Dr Kayode Fayemi demystified this tendency when he picked Chief Bisi Egbeyemi and they both won the Governorship election on a Christian-Christian ticket. Just on the 18th of June this year, Mr Biodun Oyebanji and Prince Monisade Afuye, both Christians were elected as Governor and Deputy Governor of Ekiti State.

However, the hues and cries over the Muslim choice of the APC presidential candidate are unnecessary. As a Yoruba Nigerian, I know religion has never been a factor in our clime as maybe elsewhere. We inter-marry, sometimes husband and wife practise different faiths and their marriage is never threatened. There is hardly a family that is exclusively Christian or Muslim or traditional religion worshipers in Yoruba-land.

Any reaction by an anti-Muslim-Muslim ticket is illogical and stands equity and fairness on its head. This agitation should have been for the ‘Muslim-Africa Traditional Religion worshipers’ ticket if the claim is anything to go by. The ATR has suffered an unpardonable onslaught from both foreign religions since they were forcefully introduced to Nigeria.

Unfortunately, these forces have only been explored by the ruling class to whip the emotions of the poor Nigerians to clinch power. Neither religion nor ethnicity is a determinant of progress and development, rather a strong, disciplined and determined people with commensurate leadership. In the leadership deficit bedevilling Nigeria, the average Nigerian is as guilty as the ruling elite in his conspiracy of silence or outright collaboration.

In any event, we in the Christian Community have choices from the 15 presidential candidates published by INEC.

As for me, as a Nigeria exercising his political right, the ‘Tinubu-Shettima’ ticket is well-considered and it is ok for the next phase of Nigeria.

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