Finally, the three leading political parties have put behind them the issue of who their presidential running mates are. Between the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), the All Progressives Congress (APC) and the Labour Party (LP), perhaps, that of the Labour Party was less contentious and acrimonious. For the APC and the PDP they would need a great deal of bridge-building and fence-mending of their houses to keep them intact going into the big one in 2023.
The choice by the PDP presidential standard bearer, Atiku Abubakar, to opt for the governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa, against the choice of Nyesom Wike by a committee set up by Atiku himself has left the party in tatters. While Wike has since become the beautiful bride to some political parties, Atiku himself has assured that whatever the differences are will be taken care of before long.
Similarly, the choice of Yusuf Datti Baba-Ahmed by the Labour Party presidential standard bearer, Peter Obi, did not create any serious upheavals, apart from the initially speculated alliance between the party and the New Nigerian Peoples Party (NNPP), which fell flat on its face, Obi’s choice has continued to receive accolades from party faithful and all those who have been caught by the Obi-mania.
However, Tinubu’s choice of Kashim Shettima has thrown the political ecosystem into some kind of heated debate. For a lot of people, it’s unthinkable the choice of Shettima from northeast and a Muslim as running mate, given that not only is President Muhammadu Buhari also from the north, but that Tinubu, himself a Muslim, could have picked a northern Christian, given the not too pleasant experience of Christians in hands of the Buhari administration.
Yours sincerely, have also argued that calls of marginalization and ethnic balancing and religious representations are often louder when some self-serving politicians think that they are being sidelined. Are the fears real or not? They are absolutely real. But the truth is, especially when it affects a particular region, the cries become louder and when that same part is favoured, it is seen as no longer an issue.
Prior to 2015, the nation was practically going to burn if power had not shifted to the north. The cry of being shortchanged by the north, made all the elite, especially in the Muslim north, to gang up and ensure that then President Goodluck Jonathan is booted out of power. The plot was so thick that even those in the ruling PDP as party officials promoted the narrow interest of their region by supporting the APC, the opposition party.
Fast forward to 2022, after the statutory two terms of President Buhari, some smart-by-half Muslim elite from the north now think that competence, merit and not region or religion should be the sole consideration. How asinine! Who says there is a dearth of competent hands from across all regions and religions to move this nation forward?
While one would think this a case of commonsense, the action of the bigoted APC chairman, Abdullahi Adamu during the party’s primary, who against equity, justice and fairness, had unsuccessfully plotted to foist Ahmed Lawan as the party standard bearer for the presidential election, but failed as a result of opposition led by APC governors and other party stakeholders, is a case of bare-faced hypocrisy.
Adamu had summoned a meeting of the 25-member National Working Committee at the party’s headquarters in Abuja ahead of the presidential primary. At the meeting, Adamu informed the NWC that Lawan was the anointed candidate of the party, a move which was not accepted by all of the members.
Once Adamu’s evil plot to impose Lawan as the presidential candidate failed; he is now attributing the choice of Shettima to the will of God. Adamu described the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket as the work and will of God, saying Christians in the country who are agitated by the choice need not fear. How would anybody not fear, when you have to deal with the likes of Adamu as national party chairman?
According to Mr. Adamu, the party went through a rigorous practical assignment on the selection process before arriving at the Muslim-Muslim ticket. He described Shettima as a Nigerian citizen who doesn’t need to be either Muslim or Christian before being selected as running mate to a presidential candidate.
Also speaking on the issue alongside Adamu on the choice of Shettima during the visit to the president in Daura, Katsina State governor, Bello Masari, said what mattered was good leadership no matter where he comes from.
Incidentally, Tinubu, himself was a victim of religious balance considerations prior to the 2015 polls.
Should this really be a thing to worry about? I do not think so. Democracy affords the opportunity of making a choice. Secondly, this is a contest and the first and prime considerations would always be to win the elections. So, everybody would want to go into that contest with the best options available to him or her.
Again, the fact that Tinubu is a detribalized Nigerian, given the opportunities he has given to all in his establishments and political family, even while in government, means he should not suffer the same fate with those who only see Nigeria from their narrow prism of religion and ethnicity. To also think that Tinubu is married to a Christian also speaks volume of his depth of character, tolerance and brand of politics.
However, his choice of Shettima is what makes the issue more complicated. Despite several reports and reactions, linking Shettima to the activities of Boko Haram while he was Borno State governor, I will not want to be dragged into the kind of a man he is, as I do not have a firsthand knowledge of him or had any meeting with him, but he clearly comes to me as a person who would not own up to his mistakes even when they stare glaringly at him.
Shettima has not told the nation what Kabiru Sokoto, mastermind of the 2011 Christmas Day bombing of St. Theresa’s Catholic Church, was doing in Borno State Governor’s lodge in Abuja, after mysteriously escaping from detention.
Again, Shettima as governor of Borno has not told the world what role he played in the unfortunate abduction of hundreds of Chibok school girls in the state, in spite of overwhelming evidence against him that he was warned to relocate the venue of the examinations to a safer place. The least he could have done was accept his indiscretion and failure to take precaution, if he was truly not in the know of the plot to kidnap the students, rather pointing the finger at Jonathan.
Why Asiwaju Tinubu chose a running-mate with so much baggage remains a mystery. Surely, Shettima cannot be the only Muslim, if he insists on Muslim running mate, neither is he the only northerner, including Christians too, who can pull the necessary votes of the north.
And as though to confirm the fears in some quarters, his comment on Obi being only fit to be President of Igboland, is clearly a statement from a narrow-mind not large enough to accommodate or tolerate those from different religious or ethnic backgrounds.
For heaven’s sake, in spite of the false belief by the elite Muslim north, is there really a monolithic north? Is Tinubu ready to go into the race struggling to explain Shettima’s seemingly Islamic extremist personality and eventually hoping to get the support of the Christian South, or does their vote not amount to anything? Or as some have argued, is it payback time for Shettima for his alleged role in the Boko Haram insurgency, which in no small measure led to the sack of the Jonathan regime?