The emergence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) as the winner of the February 25, 2023 Presidential and National Assembly elections presents another opportunity to address the challenges of uniting the country.
Given the divisive campaigns sponsored by opposition parties, especially around the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu and Sen. Kashim Shettima, now President-elect and Vice President-elect respectively, APC needs to demonstrate that the politics of uniting the country require unconventional approaches.
Beyond the challenge of electoral viability, the Muslim-Muslim Presidency also risks mobilizing strong opposition largely because it may have to alter the political equation in favor of a particular religion to the disadvantage of other religions.
The challenge, which the APC has to respond to with the emergence of Asiwaju Tinubu as the Presidential candidate and Sen. Shettima as Asiwaju Tinubu’s running mate of the party for the 2023 Presidential election, brings to fore, the role of religion as a major factor in political decisions.
APC, zoning and the 10th National Assembly
The Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party (LP) and the New Nigeria Peoples Party (NNPP) throughout the campaign used the choice of the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC as a big campaign issue. They used it to mobilize Nigerians against the APC and all its candidates, especially Asiwaju Tinubu being the Presidential candidate.
And they succeeded in making little political gains out of it with some shocking victories for the Labour Party in some states largely attributed to Christian voters who voted massively on religious grounds.
Now that the election is won by APC and Asiwaju Tinubu, it is important to demonstrate that the Muslim-Muslim ticket of Asiwaju Tinubu and Sen. Shettima is simply an electoral strategy and indeed represents a progressive template for inclusion in Nigerian politics. For this to be achieved, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu must not allow parochial politics or selfish ambition of potential office holders to drive the process of constituting the next cabinet. Individual aspirations by potential office holders may only result in unmanageable contests for positions in the next cabinet. APC must avoid past pitfalls and develop a proactive strategy of producing a religiously balanced government post May 29, 2023 under the leadership of Asiwaju Tinubu.
It is important that before the May 29, 2023 swearing in of Asiwaju as President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, necessary steps should be taken to proactively make major appointments of Christians into top positions in other to give them a sense of belonging, importance, respect and recognition in a Tinubu government in other to give christians assurances and comfort.
Asiwaju Tinubu must not make the mistake of proceeding with the task of constituting a new government based on business-as-usual strategy, which will be inconsiderate. The opportunity of constituting a new all inclusive government must be used strategically to reconcile the APC with Nigerians. Sacrifices must be made by every leader of the party to create the condition for an Asiwaju Tinubu led Federal Government to emerge with strong legitimacy and wider support base by Nigerians.
There is a need to reflect religious considerations in the distribution of political offices. Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu must consciously avoid any mistake that could be used by political adversaries to suggest religious insensitivity to Nigerians. He must take steps to manage the aspirations of individual leaders to positions in the next Federal Government. Some positions, for instance, must be deliberately balanced with religious considerations.
Some specific recommendations may be necessary at this point. The offices of Chief of Staff to the President and Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) would have to be allocated and reserved for Christians. Given that the president and vice president are both Muslims, no Muslim should aspire for any of these offices. Opportunists may argue that in the past, little consideration was given to religion.This kind of lop-sided reality must be corrected as a strategic approach to dousing religious tension in the country.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu needs to recognise that the Muslim-Muslim ticket he introduced that won the 2023 Presidential election, if not managed to produce the desired outcome of religious inclusivity could further widen the division among Nigerians, which should be avoided. A successfully well-managed Muslim-Muslim ticket would make a Christian-Christian ticket viable and possible in the nearest future.
That is the only way to show Nigerians that the alleged Islamisation agenda that has become a singsong for the opposition is only the hallucinatory proclamation of some individuals and groups.
Nuhu Ibrahim bunu write from maiduguri and was a member of Stakeholders Relation Directorate of the PCC
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