Ever since Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate nominated Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate for the 2023 presidential race, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been on overdrive going beyond the decent and tolerable limits of fair criticism, to the dangerous territory of inciting disharmony and disaffection in the country.
It is normally expected that in pursuance of the constitutionally guaranteed rights to free speech, criticism and even objection of the running mates of the presidential candidates will follow. This will come from within the party and from the larger public. And all this will be in the interest of improving the quality of the democratic process which holds our public officers to account for their deeds.
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Thus there have been criticisms of the choice of Governor Ifeanyi Okowa as the running mate to Atiku Abubakar, the presidential candidate of the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).
The same was also made of the choice of Yusuf Datti Ahmed who is running with Peter Obi of the Labour Party.
Rabiu Musa Kwankwaso’s choice of Reverend Idahosa to run with him also received a fair share of comments.
Comments and criticisms of all these choices, it must be said, have been decent and tolerable in the main by those who made them.
But not so with the choice of the APC presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
Even before Tinubu made his choice there was an ambush party laid and led by the CAN literarily giving him orders on where he should choose his running mate from and who it should be. CAN and its lynch mob never even allowed Tinubu the discretion that is due him in determining who to choose as his running mate. While CAN took very little notice over how and who the other presidential candidates chose as their running mates, in the case of Tinubu they practically took over what should be the role of Tinubu himself and the APC in this regard. They were not just content to offer their opinion and advice and leave it at that as expected of them. No, they had to resort to tendentious comments and actions capable of threatening peaceful coexistence in the country.
What is the contention of CAN with regards to Tinubu’s choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate?
Like Tinubu, Shettima is a Muslim and by CAN’s reckoning, a Christian from the North should have been chosen instead. This request is fair enough and the reasons adduced which centre on ethnic, geographical and religious balancing in the interest and reflection of the diversity of the country, are germane.
But sound as these arguments are, it is left to the discretion of the presidential candidate and the party which gave him the mandate to either take them or not.
Rather than choose that simple democratic path, CAN has instead opted for the path of destructive actions that threaten our democratic system. CAN is fanning the embers of religious conflict through the irresponsible statements of its leading figures. Some of them have been heard saying such tendentious treasonable statement which indicates that they will willingly set the country on fire in pursuit of their dark aims.
And the authorities and Nigerians should take these threats issuing from CAN and their figures seriously.
It is clear to deduce from CAN’s reasoning that they have zeroed in on the likely victory of Tinubu and the APC at the 2023 presidential polls. Their calculation is that of all the presidential candidates Tinubu stands the best chance of winning the 2023 polls and thus for their own selfish aims they are directing pressure on the APC candidate.
If CAN really believes that there are politically influential northern Christians that can enable Tinubu to win the northern Christian votes why has not the body found it necessary, since its inception, to elect a northern Christian as president with the exception of Archbishop John Onaiyekan a Roman Catholic from Kabba province in present-day Kogi State? Even at that it had to wait for 31 years after the 1976 formation of CAN. Let CAN start its crusade for political fairness for northern Christians from within it by giving them their due recognition.
I believe Nigerians ought to pause and interrogate what CAN is about. It is by its account a body that represents the various interests of Christians in Nigeria. But do all Christians belong or subscribe to its methods? The very influential Catholic denomination and other groups do not agree with CAN and its methods and they have publicly dissociated themselves from its activities.
These groups object to CAN’s attempt to define what Christianity is and who should be termed a Christian. These are the groups who call for interfaith dialogue and who believe in peaceful co-existence among denominations and peoples of different faiths.
CAN, on the other hand, has chosen the path of provocative confrontation against even groups within Christendom and with other faiths in pursuit of its aims. More ominously the body has chosen the path of actions that would lead to the dismemberment of this country.
The gratuitous appointment of a quiet but prominent Northern member of CAN as Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) might have emboldened the loud criticism, though the office of the SGF has always been occupied by professional civil servants who had risen to the position of Federal Permanent Secretary.
Against this background, it behoves on Nigerians and the authorities to come to terms with the reality of the situation and determine what course of action to take in order to rein in the excesses of CAN before it plunges the country into avoidable crises by its reckless behaviour.
By Buhari Umaru, who is a retired civil servant, can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org