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Road to 2023 ElectionsParty CandidatesOPINION: Muslim-Muslim ticket and the death of good conscience in politics

OPINION: Muslim-Muslim ticket and the death of good conscience in politics

 

As the choice of a Vice Presidential candidate by the APC continues to elicit diverse reactions across the polity, this opinion piece examines the merits and otherwise of its Muslim-Muslim ticket. 

Political developments of different magnitude and implications continue to hit the political atmosphere. Among these developments however, none can hardly be termed as more manipulative than the deceit of “religion not being an important consideration in national leadership.”

This argument is obviously a fall-out from the now settled choice of Senator Kashim Shettima, as running mate to Bola Ahmed Tinubu; Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) for the 2023 election.

Shettima is a two-time former Governor of North-East Borno State, and a sitting lawmaker elected in 2019 to the Ninth National Assembly representing Borno Central Senatorial District under the platform of the governing APC.

Firstly, I understand that deceit appears to be almost a necessary currency for the typical politician in this part of the world. However, a good number of us remain unconvinced that it should stand as a valid reason to completely erode morality from politics. We mustn’t also join these persons in plying their trade of insensitivity.

Secondly, the blanket opinion that competence is all that matters in leadership will do us more harm than good, and all persons of good conscience must do all that is necessary to discourage it. 

In leadership (especially on a national scale), issues of character, inclusion, and fairness are vital considerations that should be put forward whenever. And assuming (without conceding) that we are to work from the prism of competence alone? Together, let’s interrogate:

Is there any part or among any group (ethnic or religious) in Nigeria that is bereft of COMPETENT LEADERS? 

Why has it been a convention for frontline candidates running for elections since 1999 to have a North-South ticket or South-North ticket?

Why are Governorship candidates and their running mates including in the APC chosen across two Senatorial Districts?

READ ALSO: #RoadTo2023 Spotlight: Profile of Bola Ahmed Tinubu | Presidential Series

THE LAGOS STORY

Thirdly, a lot of us are interested in getting sincere answers from the APC Presidential Candidate on why ‘religious balance’ was such an important factor in his endorsement of successive governors after him in Lagos State (a perfect definition for a mini-Nigeria).

Tinubu as governor in Lagos had Senator Kofoworola Bucknor-Akerele (a woman) as his deputy for nearly four years before they fell out politically. She would later resign before the end of their tenure.

While that can be argued as a choice foisted on him by the leadership of the Alliance for Democracy (AD) on whose platform they were jointly elected, what do we say about his immediate successor?

Governor Babatunde Fashola had two female deputies; Sarah Sosan and Adejoke Orelope-Adefulire, while Governor Akinwunmi Ambode served for four years with Idiat Oluranti Adebule (a Muslim) as his deputy.

This trend went on for three consecutive electoral cycles before a departure in 2019 for ‘political balancing’ when a sitting governor had to be edged out from within his party. According to political watchers, the interest of his group within the Lagos APC was perceivably threatened in the absence of equitable balancing and party harmony.

Hence, Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu‘s choice of Femi Hamzat as his deputy is largely believed to be a choice arrived at by compromise.

Nonetheless, each of these pairings featured a candidate of a different religion, with Tinubu as ‘supreme leader’ of the Lagos APC presiding over the processes leading to their emergence as flagbearers and eventual winners at the general election.

DEMONISATION OF DIVERSITY

“To forge ahead as a nation toward development and prosperity, we must break free of old binds.

We must recalibrate our political calculations to where competence and fairness matter more than reductive demographics.” Bola Tinubu

As a student of history, I have often argued that one bane of development in our country is the ‘ignorant denial’ of our differences and diversity. The founders of this union would never have intended Nigeria to be run this way and evident examples abound to arrive at this conclusion.

We deny and even demonise our identity and peculiarities as different peoples living within a union. Politicians lead us to describe them with derogatory terms such as ethnicity, religious bias, or even primordial sentiments, and then we leave it all to a survival of the fittest – which hardly ever works.

We argue that politics is a game of interests. Yes! but how come we are usually brought back to the same reality of powerful and scheming individuals masquerading their private interest as that of their group and even dare stretch it as the “national interest?”

You can be a democratic country and still practice constitutional rotation of power among regions or geopolitical zones balanced by conventions on sex (gender) and age as worked out within the political parties. Not every country needs to entirely run the American model of democracy. 

Indeed, no law forbids a country from building a homegrown democratic model befitting its peculiarities and the context of environment where it is intended to be practised. See the British practice of parliamentary system and the Swiss model of democracy as examples.

INCLUSION

In discussing peculiarities, one global trend we must pay attention to in 21st-century leadership recruitment is the issue of inclusion. This explains why many of us remain sad that the 9th National Assembly voted on March 1st, 2022 against gender-related bills during the ongoing 5th Alteration to the 1999 Constitution.

It amounts to nothing less than colonialism to have under 20 female lawmakers represent a demography that constitutes more than half of your population in a 469-member National Parliament.

It’s also disingenuous to argue that women can contest elections like anyone else and win if they truly want a seat. The system is skewed against them and that argument is against the spirit of inclusion.

This brings a lot of us to wonder; if we are still struggling to get the issue of faith and regional balancing as key indexes of inclusion right; at what point would we press on to critically important indexes like affirmative action and youth inclusion in politics?

It is important to state that inclusion is never left to chance. It’s always about taking deliberate steps to create seats at the tables where decisions are taken for major demographics of that society.

I dare posit that our refusal to make room for constitutional provisions on youth and women’s inclusion in executive offices is the reason why two septuagenarians are top contenders in an election being held to replace another septuagenarian exiting power. 

This phenomenon as well as the composition of our federal cabinet is grossly misrepresentative of our current reality where youth form the largest percentage of the population. You don’t correct that by continuing with the status quo: it takes deliberate action- INCLUSION.

Imagine a situation where 35% of seats in our Federal Executive Council are occupied by women and 35% of its members are youths.

RELIGIOUS INTOLERANCE

Let’s pretend for a moment that religious intolerance isn’t a huge challenge in Nigeria at this time, as in 1993 when the idea of a Muslim-Muslim ticket was first experimented with.

That is, Deborah Samuel, the unlucky student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto wasn’t lynched by bigots because of her belief. This would also mean that the Islamic State of West African Province (ISWAP), Boko Haram, and other criminal elements running various enterprises in the North are not using religion as a cover.

Additionally, the most important decision on the mind of the average Nigerian voter in 1993 was to boot out the military junta which had on multiple occasions postponed its promised transition to civilian rule. From Major General Muhammadu Buhari’s overthrow of the Shehu Shagari led-government on 31st December 1983 to the maradonic days of General Ibrahim Badamasi Babaginda, the military by 1993 had already spent about ten years in the reins of power.

How many voters really cared about religious tensions at the time? Amidst an unstable democracy at the time, no one needs a soothsayer to declare that the common enemy was the men in khaki. 1993 is certainly not 2023!

Given this background, how much sense does it then make for a governing party to present two candidates of the same religion as its best electoral option to preside over a population where about 50% of its population subscribes to a different religion? 

I hear supporters argue that “it doesn’t matter in the United States from where we got our democracy from.” The accompanying question we must ask is if we share the same peculiarities as the U.S.?

NATIONAL COHESION

It must be said that due to the inability of successive leaderships elected at the federal level to cast a proper vision for the country; one that inspires nationalism among citizens, Nigerians largely take solace in other instruments of unity like faith (religion), and their ethnic background, reality TV shows, etc.

Permit me to add that with the dwindling performance of the country’s national football team in international competitions and the loss of interest in our local football leagues, soccer can hardly even be seen these days as unifying. This is except one is speaking of foreign football competitions.

And as media personality, Rufai Oseni puts it; “we have created Nigeria, but we haven’t created Nigerians.”

Flowing from this, therefore, it’s a fact that more Nigerians owe allegiance to their respective faiths before the country or its national leadership. Why then should it be acceptable to present a ticket for a crucial election that further alienates that large demography they belong to?

READ ALSO: Tinubu: ‘Staunch belief in our diversity made me choose Shettima’

“Has a Christian Vice President stopped Nigerian Christians from being killed?”

No one says it will. Only competent leadership with a human face can stem such a dastardly trend, but that demography must be represented in the national leadership of a diverse society like ours. It is the most basic expectation of leaders concerned about equity and fairness.

“You won’t have voted for them even if he chose a Northern Christian.”

This may be the case for many voters from the South, given the pattern of nepotism that has characterised the outgoing Buhari administration and the brazen rape of our federal character laws as well as understanding.

It must be said, however, that for a party to make choices on this assumption is indicative of its inability to lead in a way that would unify a people battling an unprecedented level of disunity. Again, orchestrated by the policies and actions of the APC-led government.

Justice remains a key requirement for social order and stability to thrive in any society, not even one that is as plural as Nigeria. The United States does not have as many ethnic nationalities as Nigeria, but it used the opportunity of its last presidential election to further drive the message of inclusion in the election of Senator Kamala Harris as its Vice President.

Need I remind you that she is the first female vice president of the United States and the highest-ranking female official in their history? While religion isn’t as much a peculiarity in the United States as in Nigeria, she is the first African-American and first Asian-American vice president. This feat happened barely five years after they elected their first African-American president.

Don’t forget that these developments were largely products of ‘delegate choices’ within the Democratic Party; one of the country’s major parties like the All Progressives Congress (APC).

Proponents of this same faith ticket and supporters of the APC continue to argue that competence was the most important choice of its Vice Presidential candidate for the 2023 general election.

Hear from Tinubu himself, “May I say this to all of you, especially to those who will be disappointed in my selection based on religious considerations. I will not and cannot ignore the religious concerns and ethnic sensitivities of our people.

Taking them into due consideration is an important part of good and able governance. But religion, ethnicity, and region cannot always and fully determine our path.”

With the counter-arguments as I have adduced above, we can borrow a leaf from the language of international politics to conclude that what competence makes equal, imbalance makes unequal.

There is nothing convincing about this cosmetic arrangement of naked lust for the actualisation of a “life-long ambition” as the triumph of competence over religion or any other considerations on inclusion. There is an avalanche of candidates that tick these boxes who are well known to him, his advisers, and the governing party.

So I say, competence my foot!

This real legion of ‘presidency by compensation’ must not be elevated beyond the imagination of its proponents if we intend to see our crawling democracy take flight.

Let me make the bold and innovative decision not to win political points but to move the nation and our party’s campaign closer to the greatness that we were meant to achieve.” – Bola Tinubu

In the final analysis, wouldn’t it be interesting to see how the APC convinces a traumatised and near-hapless electorate why this ‘dream team’ must be the first choice on the ballot come next year?

For a people bedevilled over the last seven years by hydra-headed challenges under the watch of the ‘change’ party, I may be forced to advise that hypnotics must be taken to all campaign venues to produce the desired result.

May good conscience not be laid to rest in February 2023!

Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq
Temidayo Taiwo-Sidiq is an ace political analyst and content editor with major interest in Nigerian Politics and Governance
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