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Muslim–Muslim Ticket: How Far Can APC Northern Christians go?


August 07, (THEWILL) – It seems that the All Progressives Congress (APC) is not ready to do away with the Muslim-Muslim ticket, which it has adopted as a strategy for the 2023 presidential election, anytime soon. In fact, it may become a recurring campaign issue till the general election in February 2023.

Two major voices within the party that are vociferous against the Muslim – Muslim ticket belong to a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara and a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal.

It would be recalled that Dogara and Lawal, as well as the current Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Boss Mustapha, all of them Christians from the North, were being mentioned by political analysts as the choices available to Tinubu to pick as vice presidential candidate. But the APC presidential candidate decided to pick former Borno State Governor, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, a fellow Muslim, as his running mate.

In fact, both Lawal and Dogara played a key role in the emergence of Tinubu as the party’s standard bearer in the forthcoming presidential election. Their closeness to Tinubu during the campaign leading to the presidential primary was very glaring.

Lawal for instance was the leader of the group that went to submit Tinubu’s Expression of Intent and Nomination forms to the APC National Working Committee after they were filled.

On the day of the presidential primary election, Dogara was seen accompanying Tinubu to greet President Muhammadu Buhari and other leaders of the APC after the counting of votes and Tinubu’s declaration as winner of the election.

Perhaps, the two were very disappointed and might have vowed to work against the Tinubu/Shettima ticket, which, unfortunately, is their party’s ticket for the 2023 presidential election.

Penultimate Sunday in Abuja both Dogara and Lawal held a meeting with northern Christian leaders in the APC, where they made a decision to vote against the party’s candidates in the presidential election, Tinubu and Shetima, for having the effrontery to shun a Muslim-Christian ticket.

At the meeting, Lawal said, “The Permanent Voter Card and our prayers will be our weapons. We shall massively deploy them in 2023.”

On his part, Dogara noted that Tinubu and the APC made an error of judgment on Muslim-Muslim ticket.

At the meeting it was resolved that Christians should vote against the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling party in the 2023 presidential election.

Speaking at the forum tagged, ‘APC Northern Christians Political Summit, Abuja 2022,’ with the theme, ‘Righteousness Exalts a Nation, But Sin is a Reproach to Any People,’ Babachir alleged that there was an agenda to politically, religiously and economically suppress and oppress northern Christians, but he told the gathering that such agenda would be resisted.

He said that northern Christians were ready to battle the politics of exclusion and oppression, but remain open to discussions with anyone who wants to engage with them in good faith.

Lawal stressed that northern Christians’ opposition to the Muslim-Muslim ticket was based on historical evidence, adding that there were times in the past when Christians produced deputy governors in Kebbi, Niger and Kaduna States, “Now it is wholly Muslim-Muslim tickets in most places,” he added.

The former SGF said it was worth noting that this was happening in APC-controlled states.

He said that proof of the APC anti-Christian agenda was the fact that it had completely excluded northern Christians from the composition of its National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Council (NEC), just as their protests as party members have been completely ignored by the party’s leadership.

He noted that as members of the APC, northern Christians have the right to continue to express their indignation at some of the things happening in the party and they will not give up until they secure the justice that is due them.

Lawal said, “The purpose of this historical narrative is to let you know that for the APC, a Muslim-Muslim ticket has been a long-term political strategy and not a one-off decision. Thus, all this talk of competence as the reason for the choice of the Muslim VP is balderdash and diversionary. This is a calculated anti-Christian exclusion agenda that is being implemented.

“One might ask: why is the APC itself mute about our rejection of this Muslim-Muslim ticket? And why has none of the other perpetrators of this crisis reached out to Christians for a dialogue? Why are they instead hiring fake Bishops and taking church groups to further embarrass the Church? Why are they embarking on a vicious media war against CAN and the Church instead of seeking reconciliation? Truly, things are not adding up.

“So why are Christians, northern Nigerian Christians in particular, against the Muslim-Muslim ticket? I will try to enumerate just a few more reasons, in addition to the ones I have already mentioned.”

Lawal stated categorically that the Muslim-Muslim ticket is viewed as assent to the educational, economic and political marginalisation of northern Christians.

According to him, Christians all over the country see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a deliberate and premeditated attempt to introduce and firmly entrench religion into the politics of this country.

The APC chieftain noted that this would further lead to disharmony and disruption of the peace, which would in turn affect the social and economic development of the country.

He said, “Implied in this ticket is the insinuation that northern Muslims are not willing to vote for a ticket that has a Christian name on it and on which they are not represented. It is our belief that northern Muslims would have seen the justice in a Muslim-Christian ticket and would have given it their overwhelming support, had the party been inclined to do so.

“A corollary to this mindset is that Christians should also not vote for a ticket in which they are not accommodated. Unfortunately, this is the message we get loud and clear from this Muslim-Muslim ticket. This is truly a wakeup call for all Nigerian Christians. We didn’t start this religious politics. APC and its candidates did. So, all of us should take note and act as appropriate.

“So, our dear APC colleagues spare us these sanctimonious lectures on competence and the cliché, ‘religion of the candidates does not matter.’ The truth is that the 2023 presidential election will be all about religion and sadly, you started it. Religion does matter in this context. So be ready for the consequences.

“It is important to reiterate that we Nigerian Christians want to live in peace and harmony with all practitioners of other religions. We want to enjoy social and economic development like other parts of the world, but without peace, justice and religious harmony, this is not possible.

“On our part, we neither seek to oppress nor dominate anyone or any religion. But we will also resist any one trying to discriminate against us and our religion. We are not the ones that started this fight. The APC started it and must be ready to carry the cross it has created.

“For how do they expect Christians to remain silent when a northern state governor publicly stated that they pressured Tinubu to get a northern Muslim VP because they did not believe him to be a good Muslim? Is the VP going to be the national deputy Imam?

“How do they expect us to remain silent when another northern state governor went to Osun State and urgesdthem to vote for someone just because he is a Muslim? Was he there for the election campaign or ‘dawah’? What can be a better example of religion in politics than demonstrated by these governors?

“Clearly, there is an agenda to politically, religiously, and economically suppress and oppress the northern Christian. But we are up to the task. We will protect ourselves. The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons of choice and we will massively deploy them in 2023.”

Also speaking, Dogara said the adoption of a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by APC was capable of leading Nigeria to disintegration like Yugoslavia.

He said that the northern Christians’ opposition to a Muslim-Muslim ticket should not be understood to be objecting to Muslims or that they don’t want Tinubu to be President.

He said, “It is not about Senator Kashim Shettima. It is about what is right and what is wrong; it is about justice, fairness and equity. It is about Nigeria, its diversity and how it can be harnessed in an inclusive manner for the greater good of all of us.

“Be that as it may, some of us really wanted Asiwaju to be President because he has sacrificed so much for our party, the APC and for what he represents to many people. So our position cannot be against Muslims or Islam. That fact cannot be denied in any way.”

Dogara recalled that he could not have been the Speaker of the 8th House without the support of his Muslim colleagues who believed that the nation’s diversity must be reflected in national positions for the unity, peace and advancement of our dear country.

“In 2015, when we were called “janjaweed party,” my response was usually very simple. I could then say that His Excellency, John Oyegun, was the Chairman of my party and the VP was Pastor Yemi Osinbajo. We don’t enjoy that luxury anymore as the President, Senate President, Speaker and his deputy; Senate and House of Reps leaders; National Chairman and the Deputy National Chairman of the party; the presidential and the vice presidential candidates are all Muslims, leaving the Christians with just the position of VP Osibanjo and Deputy Senate President Omo-Agege at that level in a country whose population is fairly split between Muslims and Christians.

“Given this scenario, can any God-fearing Muslim or Christian, nay even the amoral and the atheist says this is fair, just and righteous? Does this represent the act of a just God? This is the real context of objections from the Christian community, not just the presidential ticket and the VP slot.

“Let us go out from this summit with the resolve to seek out our Muslim brothers and sisters who believe in unifying our people in order to usher in the much-needed peace and advancement for Nigeria to unleash her true potentials.

“I am sure we will jointly agree on a platform that would advance our collective search for unity, peace and development.”

Elisha Abbo, a serving senator from Adamawa State and Solomon Dalung, a former Minister of Youths and Sports, were present at the event.

The question on the lips of political analysts and watchers of political development in the country is whether the duo of Dogara and Lawal, as well as other Christian leaders in the APC will dump the party before the 2023 presidential election or they will stay in the party and work against its chances of winning the election. How far can they mobilise against the Tinubu/ Shettima candidature in the North?

Some are of the opinion that they cannot mobilise many people as they are not in control of Christians’ in the north and so, Tinubu has nothing to fear with the gang up.

But if one takes into cognizance the fact that Christian population in the north is substantial especially in the north Central states of Plateau, Benue and Taraba, it will be foolhardy to dismiss the threat of the northern APC Christian leaders.

One should also ask what the leadership of the APC is doing to placate the Christians in the North and encourage them to vote for the party in the general election. The population of Christians in the North-Central should be up to between 50 per cent, at least.

While some people have said that Dogara cannot even boast of winning in his home state and should be ignored by Tinubu and the APC, others believe that a divided house cannot win the general election.

Speaking with THEWILL, a public affairs commentator, Bassey David, said a house divided against itself cannot stand.

He cited the just concluded governorship election in Osun State, saying the party leadership later agreed that what cost them the governorship election was the division within the party.

“Let me warn Tinubu and by extension, the APC that what they had done may boomerang and they should find a way to appease Christians, especially northern Christians,” David said.

However, a former Governor of Edo State and a chieftain of the APC, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole, said both Dogara and Lawal were doing all they were doing because they had expectations that they were going to be picked as vice presidential candidates, but their hopes were dashed.

“You do not expect the people, who had expectations when they suddenly found out that they are dashed to celebrate, in terms of personal interest. If those leading the campaign were such believers in Christianity, they had the opportunity to vote and canvas for one of the Christian aspirants and they were quite a few. But they were on record as having led the campaign on the side of Asiwaju Tinubu, knowing very well that he is a Muslim. I think Nigeria’s challenges are beyond religion,“Oshiomhole said.