By Joseph Y. Chibok
Some two or so months ago, the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) Party came up with a clever, unexpected political move or calculation aimed at helping it win next year’s presidential election by deciding that a northern Muslim man in the person of former Governor Kashim Shettima of Borno State should pair with the southern Muslim candidate of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, for the 2023 crucial presidential election.
When this decision was announced, it certainly disconcerted a good number of Nigerians who felt that that move was not good enough given our country’s religious sensitivity. But party elders and strategists did not drop the message as a take-it or leave- it matter. They were not unaware of or unconscious of the sensitivity or gravity of the decision they had just taken. They said what was right in their political wisdom for them to say publicly in justification of the move, and what was not expedient for them to say publicly, they left it unsaid.
However, painstaking efforts were made on the part of the party, its apparatchik and sympathisers to explain the rationale behind it. It was said that since the advent of this democratic dispensation in 1999, majority of Christians in the North East and North Central zones of the country have consistently and overwhelmingly voted PDP in most presidential elections, it will, therefore, not be wise or profitable to choose a Christian as running mate to the APC candidate.
Some analysts even added a comic line to it by saying that as things stand today in the northern Nigeria political firmament, even if a Pope is selected from among the northern Christians as a vice-presidential candidate to run for the APC, the party will not gain any appreciable mileage from the gamble. The people will vote the PDP any way! So it will be more pragmatic to incentivize a constituency that has since 1999 been solidly supporting the parties that later formed the APC and the APC since 2015, more so as a Fulani Northern Muslim in the person of Atiku Abubakar of the opposition PDP, is standing for president.
It was sensibly explained that in view of this clear reality, the concession of this part of the ticket to Northern Muslims was not in any way a bid to punish the Northern Christians for their political inclination but clearly a legitimate device of a competitive political party to win a crucial political contest. No matter how painful this argument sounds to you as a patriotic Nigerian who, ordinarily, would not care about religion or region in the qualifications of a candidate for a political office or no matter how insulted you feel as a Christian northerner or southerner, you cannot fault the truth of that argument. The argument is fool-proof. Serious political parties all over the world enter into electoral contests to win. They don’t do so to assuage bruised ego or some sentiments. It is true that in the process of political contests, inevitable bruises are inflicted on some persons, groups or individuals and that is why party organs or machineries exist to address so observed lapses or oversights while the party marches on with its campaign.
When the logic of this APC’s violation of a convention was explained, many reasonable and liberal-minded Nigerians accepted the explanation. Those who did not fully buy the argument have been generous enough by conceding that a political party of the experience and sophistication of the APC reserves the right to live with the consequences of her decisions if some of her members and antagonists are truly convinced that her decision is terribly wrong for the party and or country. The party has decided to courageously and confidently forge ahead with its consultations, convinced of the rightness of its decision. It was not motivated by political or any other malice against any religious group or political constituency. It simply wants to win an election it thinks it has good chances of winning!
The performance of its Vice-Presidential candidate, Kashim Shettima, in the recent Nigerian Bar Association Conference held in Lagos has done so much to convince earlier pessimists of its choice of a running mate, that the APC can indeed win the 2023 presidential election despite doubts of earlier belief.
Some of us, therefore, think that it is this positive development for the APC and its efforts so far in holding unto its resolve to respect its earlier stand on the presidential running mate issue that has now created panic in the camp of her opponents, especially the PDP, which believes the party has self-destructed with the choice of Shettima.
This explains why in the past few days, the PDP is strongly suspected of being the source or sponsor of the daily manufacture of groups upon groups in the name of one northern APC Christian group or the other with one and only one goal: address a press conference and call on APC to jettison the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
The aim is to create hate for the APC, heat up the polity and present a scenario that the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is so abhorrent especially among northern Christians that the move be given up or else the APC will eventually poison itself. As this gambit is not appearing to be working, the PDP has apparently taken possession of what looks like its last desperate trump card: use a well-known social media warrior in its arsenal: Reno Omokri, to bring in a Biblical, Apocalyptic narrative of an End Time Islamic agenda to conquer, dominate and destroy Christianity and enslave all its practitioners on the surface of the earth for a Millennium if a political party in Nigeria called APC is allowed to fly its Muslim presidential and Muslim vice-presidential candidate to run an election!
That is the essence of Mr. Omokri’s article entitled ‘’Muslim-Muslim Ticket: Lessons From The Islamisation of Constantinople’’ published in his Tuesday column of ThisDay newspaper of September 3, 2023. No falsehood can be so blatant, so outrageous to dignify an intellectual argument. The truth of the matter is that to even Reno Omokri himself, to those he is running errands for, including Atiku Abubakar and the entire PDP hierarchy, they know that they are embarked on mischief and the misleading of the clearly gullible who can be led by the nose to believe the unbelievable.
No matter what length anyone can seek to stretch the truth in an election year among a gullible people, no one can make sense in saying that the presentation of the number one or number two men of similar faith in an election is ever remotely a part of an agenda to sack other faiths from a social polity.
As far as any sane man can see, there is no agenda anywhere in the whole wide world, in the APC, in the Muslim world or anywhere else on planet earth to overthrow Nigeria’s secularity if Tinubu and Shettima win next year’s election. Patriots should discourage Omokri from his senseless scare-mongering campaign and focus on presenting Atiku’s plan for Nigeria to Nigerians.
It’s equally important to stress that the usual resort to the agony of my people in Chibok over the abduction of their daughters by the depraved Boko Haram to malign Shettima will no longer hold water. Shettima did so much with so little in Borno hence the likes of Omokri have resorted to maligning his person.
For us in Chibok, the APC under Buhari did a lot by rescuing our sisters and daughters from Boko Haram and as I write this piece, more of them are still being recovered.
I will urge Omokri to leave the Chibok people out of their political propaganda, which is mainly motivated by malice and envy and to a large extent, the fear of what Shettima is bringing to the table because of his intellectual capacity.
Joseph Y. Chibok writes from Abuja