Prominent Nigerians, including frontline Islamic cleric have cautioned against same religion presidential ticket, saying it would exacerbate the religious tension in the country.
Since Bola Tinubu emerged the presidential candidates of the All Progressives Congress (APC), there have been arguments and counter-arguments as to whether he would pick a Muslim or a Christian as running mate.
Kaduna-based Islamic cleric, Sheik Haliru Maraya, said it was wrong for any Muslim to support a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The former special adviser to the late Kaduna State Governor, Ibrahim Yakowa on Islamic Matters and Hajj, said a one faith joint ticket was at variance with the spirit of justice entrenched in Islam.
The cleric, in a statement, yesterday, said those promoting the Muslim-Muslim ticket do not wish the country well.
“I don’t think there is a Muslim who will support a Christian-Christian presidential ticket. Undoubtedly, the Muslims would cry out for the perpetration of injustice against them. Hence, it is wrong for a Muslim to support a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket as it is at variance with the spirit of justice which the religion of Islam promotes and defends at all times.
“Those promoting the idea of a Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian presidential ticket, in today’s Nigeria, do not wish the country well, especially now that it is divided along religious fault lines. I wonder what the country would be should the various agitations in the land assume
“For a political party to have Muslims as its national chairman, presidential candidate and vice-presidential candidate, such a party is indeed not in a position to say it promotes and defends the spirit of justice, fairness and equity.
“Nigeria is a multi-religious country of more than 200 million people who are Muslims and non-Muslims. Hence, one can say that the country is owned by more than 200 million citizens who are of diverse religious background. In order to be just to all the citizens of the country, and also to balance the apparent religious sentiments prevalent in the country, Nigeria’s politicians and its major political parties have avoided fielding same-faith presidential candidates since the present political dispensation from 1999.
“In any event, the combination of people of different religious background, on a presidential ticket, appears to give vent to the constitutional requirement that the composition of the Federal Government and its agencies should reflect the federal character of the country, and the need to promote national unity, thereby ensuring that there is no predominance of sectional groups in the government, as enshrined in Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria as amended.”
Maraya said the combination of a Muslim and non-Muslim, in a presidential ticket, in Nigeria of today, also gives vent to the spirit of justice, fairness and equity as enshrined in the religion of Islam.
In its reaction, the Nigeria Democracy Defence Watch, also warned that a Muslim/Muslim ticket would adversely affect its fortune.
Its National Coordinator and National Secretary, Ahmed Adamu and Adeniji Adegoke, in a letter addressed to President Muhammadu Buhari, yesterday, said the plan would portray Nigeria as an Islamic and sectarian nation.
The group said millions of Christians, moderate and progressive Muslims, civic groups, ethno-cultural associations and enlightened members of the international community, would rise against the ticket.
President of the Middle Belt Forum (MBF), Dr. Pogu Bitrus, said anybody contemplating that alternative was not thinking about the sensitivity of Nigerians and the situation at hand. He noted that Nigeria is currently polarised so much that such a move is capable of inflaming the country beyond anybody’s control.
Though President of the Arewa Youths Consultative Forum (AYCF), Alhaji Yerima Shettima, agreed that Muslim-Muslim ticket is not ideal, he said it was inevitable for the APC under the current circumstance.
“As it is today, considering the numerical strength of Muslim North, it will amount to a big risk and gamble for Tinubu to pick a non-Muslim from the North as his running mate. It is not because it is what I want but nobody can afford to gamble with a non-Muslim and expect a typical Northern Muslim to support that. It will be difficult, not because some of us want it that way, but that is the reality. I am sure if the APC had their way, they could have put a Christian from the North but considering the fact that there is mutual suspicion between Muslims and Christians in the North, it will be difficult for that to happen.”
He insisted that APC has no choice, even as he noted that the journey with be rough with such arrangement.
“The journey will still be rough for Muslim-Muslim ticket but it is a lesser risk for the party. So, I am sure they took the lesser risk above the major risk. An average Muslim in the North does not see Tinubu as his candidate; that is the sentiment.
“Tinubu knows the game and the Muslims in the North also know the game and understand the consequences and that is why they are picking Muslim-Muslim. It is unfortunate because ordinarily, we would want to see a situation where we can all be equal in this project; a situation where it does not matter your religion as long as you can give us the result. That’s my personal opinion but the reality on ground is different,” he said.
For the Director General of Voice of Nigeria (VON) and chieftain of the ruling party, Osita Okechukwu, there is nothing wrong in the arrangement.
He said it would not be politically wise for the APC to go with a Northern Christian, who is a minority in the North, since Tinubu is a also minority in the South by the virtue of his faith as a Muslim in the South.
“There is a huge difference between when a Northern Muslim runs a Southern Muslim presidential ticket, and when a Southern Muslim runs a Northern Muslim presidential ticket. A Southern Muslim is a minority in the South, therefore, may be compelled to choose a Northern Muslim who belongs to the majority in the North. Bear in mind that we are talking of real politicking, where victory is determined by numbers.”
But for a chieftain of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Dr. Adetokunbo Pearse and the National Publicity Secretary of pan-Yoruba socio-political organisation, Afenifere, Jare Ajayi, it would be the height of insensitivity for the APC to run with a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Pearse noted that the APC would be sending a clear message to Nigerians that it does not care about the unity of the country if it goes ahead with a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“The APC will be telling Nigerians that their purpose is to win for the sake of winning, not for the sake of bringing unity or peace, if they go with a Muslim vice presidential candidate. A Muslim-Muslim ticket will further reduce the electability of Tinubu whose chances are quite narrow even now. Keeping in mind that the Vice President is selected and not elected, a Muslim- Muslim ticket, or a South-South ticket will represent a clear demonstration of insensitivity and political recklessness,” he said.
Though Ajayi said religion is not a measure of performance, he noted that agitation for religious balance has become a big issue in Nigeria’s politics due to lack of equity, fairness and justice in the way the country is being governed.
“The issue of religion, like the issue of ethnicity, becomes topical in Nigeria today because those governing the country, especially in the recent time, have shown deleterious and unbiased bias against those who are not of their faith or the same ethnic group like them. Because of the polarisation in the country today, the ideal thing is to have people of the two faiths combining – Muslim/Christian or Christian/Muslim. What I think we should stress more is good governance; the type that would ensure that equity, fairness and justice are the operational norms,” he said.