When the All Progressives Congress (APC) took strong exceptions to being clad in a Janjaweed toga by the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), many sympathized with the party, and rightly so, because it was feared that if religion was allowed to be played up by the politicians for their selfish motives, we could have another Lebanon on our hands.
Almost about the same time, the APC strongman, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, began to warn against playing up religion. Having a known Christian wife, many began to think that he was pushing the case of those who wanted a Christian to run for the Lagos Government House in Alausa.
But the cat slipped out of the bag when kite flyers sold a story to journalists that APC was seriously considering a Muhammadu Buhari/Bola Tinubu ticket for 2015. So, that was the motive for all the statesman-like talk about not mixing religion with politics. Very typical of politicians to be selfish! But then what is the true story and what are the implications?
As the story goes, some Buhari die-hard supporters do not see anyone that commands vote in the south of Nigeria like Tinubu (but this is a moot point because if it is Raji Fasola, the position would have been crebible), and are ready to stake the future of the party on this suicidal bet rather than allow the aging General to wait for another four agonising years. They believe that the like of Rotimi Amaechi with all the noise they make on behalf of the APC cannot deliver electoral dividends that will be substantial to upturn the PDP votes.
Knowing that Tinubu is actually desirous of the ticket, and not caring if Atiku Abubakar gets another bloody nose from Tinubu, who purportedly short-changed him in the recent past, Buhari strategists are bent on gambling on Tinubu. According to ThisDay newspaper report which quoted a reliable party sources, the decision to field both men was informed by the massive votes, which the pairing of both men could garner for the party during the election.
The political mathematicians of the party, the newspaper wrote, are ”banking on an estimated 44,848,911 registered voters (in the north west, north east and southwest) who accounted for 61 per cent of total registered voters of 73,528,040, in the 2011 election.
“This is in contrast to the 27,735,678 registered voters in the North-central, South-south and the South-east zone combined, who accounted for 39 per cent of total registered voters in the 2011 election. APC’s strategists are also confident that with Tinubu as Buhari’s running mate, the pair will be able to secure the bulk of the 2,941,214 votes cast for Jonathan in the South-west and Edo State in 2011. According to an APC source, ‘With Buhari and Tinubu as presidential and vice-presidential candidates respectively, our goal is to secure the core north and South-west, which are the most populous sections of the country and can guarantee us at least 50 per cent of the total votes in the country during the presidential election’.”
The report continued: “On the impact of the Muslim-Muslim ticket on the electorate, especially with the insurgency in the North-east which has resulted in the deaths of so many Christians, he said the party had decided to forge ahead with the ticket because it is certain that it has a winning formula. Initially, Buhari’s handlers and Tinubu’s men were hesitant due to the Muslim-Muslim pairing. But they have decided that it should not be an issue, irrespective of the accusations by the ruling Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) that APC is a Muslim party.”
“Lest you forget, Tinubu is an extremely liberal Muslim and is married to a Christian, and has been known to attend church services during weddings, funerals and other special occasions. (Personal comment: So Buhari is not a liberal Muslim? Who thought up this comment for the newspaper?) Like most South-westerners, he is quite liberal and we hope this would persuade Christian voters that they have nothing to fear. So Buhari and Tinubu have reached a quiet agreement to contest on a joint platform, with the latter already setting up structures nationwide,” the source said.
But the hogwash permutations, which appears to be proving former Kano Governor, Ibrahim Shekarau, right on his allegation that the military general and the Yoruba “general” were manipulating the APC, is already pitching APC chieftains against themselves. Curiously, it is two of the young Turks and turn coats from the PDP who have gone public with their positions. Femi Fani-Kayode, confirming that the idea was on the table all along said: “I have said it privately in countless political meetings and I will say it publicly today: please mark it, the biggest mistake that my party, the APC, can make is to field a Muslim/Muslim ticket in the 2015 Presidential election.
“If we do that we will not only offend the Christian community but we will also lose the election woefully. This is not 1993 and whether we like it or not we must accept the fact that religion plays a major role in our politics today. Our party must have both a Christian and a Muslim on the ticket if we want to be taken seriously in the presidential election. I implore those that think otherwise to sit down and think this through properly. We must not present a Christian/Christian ticket as this would be insensitive to the feelings of Muslims and we must not present a Muslim/Muslim ticket as this would be insensitive to the feelings of Christians. Let us be mindful of our actions, deeds and words, no matter how well-intentioned they may be, and let us ensure that we do not confirm the terrible stereotyping that those that are against us are trying to label us with.”
Actually, Fani-Kayode meant the APC chieftains should not allow the Janjaweed toga for which PDP spokesman, Olisa Metuh, has been notorious for throwing around to stick. But another Turk, and one of the men who love to criticise the PDP, like Fani-Kayode, forgetting they were part of the so-called malaise that PDP is today, disagreed vehemently. Incidentally, both men were creations of Obasanjo who must be laughing his head off in Ota.
Former Minister of the Federal Capital Territory, Nasir el-Rufai, believes the choice of a presidential candidate and deputy should not be dictated by religion: “APC will present an integrity-competence ticket not religion. Politics and governance are not to be mixed or dictated to by any religion,” Mr. El-Rufai said. Is that so? What kind of rubbish is this? The APC will present to Nigerians the best persons with the integrity, capacity and competence to create jobs, fight corruption and rebuild our nation without discrimination.” So, both men have integrity, capacity and competence to create jobs, fight corruption…, including Tinubu?
He added that a candidate’s religious persuasion is a private affair. Read him: “How these persons worship the Almighty God is private to them and does not matter to discerning Nigerians particularly young people that suffer most from bad governance, unemployment and the Jonathanian culture of impunity…. The PDP that has no record to show other than escalation in corruption, grand larceny, trillions missing, private jets and deaths of innocent people. The PDP’s only “winning strategy” is built around promoting and financing regional and religious division, and using the proceeds of corruption to buy the military, police and INEC officials to rig the next elections. They will be defeated no matter what they think because Nigerians are wiser and will not be taken for a ride any longer.”
el Rufai’s positions smacks of crass ignorance of the politico-religious sensitivity of Nigeria, and goes to prove the naivety that caused the opposition to lose the elections in 2011. It also clearly shows the APC is a Special Purpose Vehicle for Buhari and Tinubu to mount the saddle. How sad! It only goes to show that APC is insensitive to the complex mix called Nigeria as it is presently.