What’s wrong with Muslim-Muslim ticket?

acc tinubu and masari
acc tinubu and masari

As the political cloud thickens ahead of next year’s general elections, the selection of the running mate—vice-presidential candidate —for the respective presidential hopeful remains topical. This is because the position of the presidency is the highest in the land and everyone is concerned and interested in who emerges as this would go a long way in determining the future of the people and the nation. Not only that, the success or otherwise of the performance of the would-be president would depend largely on the intellect, loyalty and the ability of his deputy, hence, it’s not a joking matter.

In the last few weeks, what has dominated the public space borders on religion as the key factor to be weighed in choosing presidential running mates. It is becoming increasingly interesting by the day, who becomes running mates to leading aspirants like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress, Dr Rabiu Kwankwaso of the New Nigeria Peoples Party, and Mr Peter Obi of the Labour Party, amongst other contestants. The former vice president and presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party, Atiku Abubakar, has chosen Governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, as his running mate; a decision that has generated controversy with the PDP.

Many parameters can be used to select preferred candidates but the geopolitical paradigm seems to be more relevant than religion, godfatherism or other considerations that have dragged us backwards as a nation.

Therefore, if the geopolitical parameter is allowed to reign, the better for the polity. It is expected that a working combination in the dimension of southern-northern configuration, in a highly pluralistic society such as ours, is desirable. In other words, for candidates such as Tinubu (South-West) and Obi (South-East), their running mates should come from the North-East, North-West, or North-Central geopolitical zones for this balancing to be entrenched. Toeing this line of reasoning, the least and parochial basis to be looked at in picking the right candidate is religion; it does not really matter to have Muslim-Christian, Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian tickets. What matters most is for the nation to get dividends of democracy and good governance through quality leadership?

Why the fuss over the choice of Tinubu to get a Muslim running mate from the North, Atiku or Kwankwaso selecting another Muslim from the South or, better still, Obi picking his preferred Christian running mate from the North? The truth that must be told is that the state of affairs in Nigeria today has gone bad to the extent that nothing seems to be working again. Security is almost zero, poverty level is at its highest, unemployment level has reached an alarming point, corruption is killing by the day, capacity utilisation of industries is at the lowest ebb, while the purchasing power of the people has almost crashed beyond salvaging. It is for these reasons that the leadership that the country needs at this trying time is one that is tolerant, competent, sincere,  sensitive, frank, proactive, understands the problems and knows what to do. Hence, the call for a Muslim-Christian ticket at all costs, at the expense of quality leadership, should be taken with a pinch of salt.

What our country requires at this critical moment of its life is purposeful leadership that can never emerge as long as we continue to promote ethnoreligious patronage—with little or no respect for meritocracy. By the way, who says a Muslim-Muslim ticket cannot work for Tinubu or Atiku’s candidacy? Before we continue this discourse, let us revisit the fears of the Christian Association of Nigeria, Pentecostal Fellowship of Nigeria and other interest groups alluding that Muslim-Muslim ticket is forbidden. Looking at the Tinubu example without prejudice, can we or can’t we see him as a detribalised Nigerian with a large heart and high level of religious tolerance? It is instructive to note that despite being a staunch Muslim, he has allowed his wife to practice her faith without any hindrance. In fact, Senator Oluremi Tinubu is an active pastor in her church. How many CAN members can marry a non-Christian in the first place or allow their spouses to practice another faith different from theirs without any consequence?

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On the other hand, how many Muslim men can live peacefully with their wives who practice another religion without forcing them to convert to Islam? It is also relevant to add that while Tinubu was governor of Lagos State, he was never myopic nor tribalistic in his appointments. This benevolence made it possible for non-indigenes to become commissioners and heads of government establishments in the state. Let me say without equivocation that I am neither a member of any political party nor embarking on a campaign for any candidate; I’m just saying it as it is. What have we to boast of that Mr President or his vice must be a Christian by all means? How do we explain a situation that despite the occupation of Christians in top government positions under the present dispensation, unwarranted killings, attacks on churches and perceived marginalisation of Christians continue unabated in the land?

Despite the secular nature of the Nigerian state by virtue of Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended), which reads “The Government of the Federation or of the State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.” The huge influence of religion on politics in the country can be said to have threatened our corporate existence. What we see every time is that, hiding under the toga of religion, Nigerian politicians and elites have failed at entrenching solid democracy and bridging the gap between politics and religious values. The deficit is increasingly manifested in virtually all facets of our national life.

The nation has had many bitter experiences when it comes to religiosity. We can still recall what happened during the introduction of the Sharia Court of Appeal that almost brought the Constituent Assembly to an abrupt end in 1978 and the walk-out that was staged by some Muslim and non-Muslim supporters then, the sectarian crises of the 1980s, enrolment of Nigeria as a member of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation and the series of ethno-religious violence that have dotted the political landscape from the 1990s till date. What do we have today? Politicians have simply refused to desist from using religious sentiment to manipulate the electoral process to the detriment of national development and genuine democratisation.

No doubt, religion has remained a major factor in Nigerian politics in the post-independence era such that the interplay between religion and politics has continued to elicit intellectual discourse. However, the English philosopher and a leading scholar in modern political philosophy, Thomas Hobbes, in his 1651 seminal publication, , had warned that religion is a potent tool of divisiveness and a stimulant to political instability.

In view of the above, all the presidential aspirants should look beyond their political parties to get the best materials to bring about the desired change for many eligible candidates are not necessarily partymen or women. Tinubu and co-aspirants, who may not necessarily be the best candidates for the contest, should take a different route and search for seasoned and tested professionals in the diaspora, academia and the private sector to make up for their deficiencies and turn around the fortunes of the nation.

Dr Kupoluyi writes from the Federal University of Agriculture Abeokuta, 

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