The 2023 general elections have come and gone. In spite of all the post-election noise and desperate machinations of the opposition, we have a president-elect and vice president-elect in the persons of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Senator Kashim Shettima who will be sworn-in come May 29, 2023.
This election season was very instructive in a number of ways as it threw up a number of issues which had gnawed at our political national consciousness and proven to be leverage points for mischievous politicians to drive their personal ambitions and benefits. Two of these are PDP legacy issues of power distribution between the Northern and Southern regions and the two most popular religions, Christianity, and Islam. Thus, if the presidency is zoned to the North, the vice presidency is zoned to the South. Also, if the presidential candidate is Christian, the vice-presidential candidate would then be Muslim and vice versa.
The intention of this arrangement is purportedly in keeping with a desire to balance national character. This arrangement seeks to pacify the two broad regions and religions. However, it is instructive to recall that the freest and fairest election thus far in our national history, the MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe ticket in 1993, only agreed in principle to the arrangement of the North and South spread but differed on the religion spread tenet with a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
A quick recall of the events leading to the selection of Senator Kashim Shettima might be instructive. APC Northern governors and stalwarts had agreed to a Southern presidential candidate for the party and this led to the emergence of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu as the party’s presidential candidate. The next hurdle became the choice of a vice presidential candidate. The expected norm, as stated above, is to find a Northern, Christian candidate as the running mate. This was when the political drama and intrigues began.
For the team of the presidential candidate, it was imperative that a politically strong candidate with the requisite political capital and grassroot support be chosen as the running mate. The team considered a lot of options with the intention of agreeing on a suitable North-South, Muslim-Christian arrangement. Unfortunately, all the permutations considered by the political models revealed that there wasn’t a suitable Northern Christian candidate that could deliver the crucial northern votes.
At this point, it became inevitable that a Northern Muslim would be chosen as the running mate for the party’s vice-presidential position. The only question at this point was who. After a rigorous review period, Senator Kashim Shettima emerged the best option to guarantee electoral success.
It must be emphasiSed here that this option was a matter of political expediency and not an attempt to slight the received wisdom of North-South, Christian-Muslim ticket. Elections are not mere stages for showmanship but a platform driven by the deployment of the best machinations to deliver electoral success. The attempt to play to the gallery that would ultimately dilute the chances of winning at the polls is the height of self-sabotage.
Suffice it to say that there were members of the APC who felt aggrieved by this permutation and had hoped to be the running mate based on the received arrangement. Their personal ambitions forgot the June 12, 1993 electoral victory of MKO Abiola and Baba Gana Kingibe, a same faith ticket that romped to undeniable national electoral victory with aplomb.
These erstwhile acolytes and party leaders formed themselves into an in-house opposition bloc within the APC. They declared, as boldly stated by Babachir Lawal, that no Christian would vote for All Progressives Congress (APC) Muslim-Muslim ticket and went ahead to rally opposition among adherents of the Christian faith against the ruling party.
This created tension within the party and led to significant public malignment of party faithfuls who chose to see the big picture that works in the party’s favour. The likes of Plateau State governor Simon Lalong and Minister for Special Duties George Akume were called names. However, arguably none suffered more humiliation than what one-time chairman of the Action Congress of Nigeria (ACN) in the FCT and erstwhile APC National Chairman and Deputy National Chairman aspirant, Sunny Moniedafe endured, especially after he publicly went on Channels Politics Today to rally support for the Tinubu-Shettima ticket contrary to the position of many Adamawa Christians in the ruling party.
He was derided and specifically singled out as a traitor and a betrayer of the Christian faith. Interestingly, he had always stayed true to the progressive ideals that birthed APC from his years in one of the legacy parties that came together to form the ruling party in 2014, the All Congress of Nigeria (ACN).
A true party man, he ran for the national chairmanship of the APC but stepped down for the incumbent Senator Abdullahi Adamu based on the consensus candidacy arrangement advanced by President Buhari.
Even when the Vice Presidency was zoned to his region, and he eminently qualified to challenge for the position based on his Christian faith, he conceded that Senator Shettima offered the best chance of electoral victory to the party and gladly supported the presidential ambitions of both he and Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu. As time has shown, the loyalty and trust in what was best for the party was actualised in the eventual electoral victory of the party’s ticket bearers.
Following APC’s electoral victory, it is only fitting that these party faithfuls are rewarded for their loyalty and faithfulness in the face of bullying, embarrassment and public ridicule. In fact, not only were the Northern Christian men and women faithful, they also mobilized and rallied the Northern Christian community in the region for the party’s ticket. They chose national interest over personal ambition and ethnoreligious bigotry. These are true Nigerians!
Clearly, there is a serious need for confidence building in the values the party stands for and abides by.
Dapo Okubanjo wrote via [email protected]