#YNaija2023: This is why the Muslim-Muslim ticket is a concern

I don’t look at people from Muslim-Muslim or Christian-Christian angle. Most of my closest friends are Christians. It was Pastor Tunde Bakare, a Pentecostal pastor, that took me to the CPC, not President Buhari. I’m very close to Bakare. I’m very close to many Christians. I don’t think the business of governance has anything to do with religion. I think we should look for the best person for the job. A person that will get the job done and let him do that.

Governor of Kaduna, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai

Talk of a Muslim-Muslim ticket has rattled many Nigerians. In fact, that conversation has clouded every other issue, including what exactly the candidates have to offer. The muses are PDP presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his APC counterpart, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, who are both Muslims.

The argument is that Atiku Abubakar should not be thinking of a Muslim running mate, while Bola Tinubu should be looking for a Christian – who has to be from the North, considering Atiku’s political presence in that region.

The conversation has not yet gotten to Labour Party’s Peter Obi, maybe because those other two candidates may stand a better chance at winning in 2023. But, magic happens and people make things happen. If you watch football, upsets happen and Nigerian youths – on social media – are attempting an upset in 2023. But, that is for 2023.

For now, it is that religion is leading the conversation and there are camps and groups who are already reacting.

El-Rufai’s statement came after criticism from a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, who had warned the leadership of the APC against fielding a Muslim as running mate to Tinubu.

The former SGF had insinuated that Nigerians were still conscious of ethnoreligious factors in politics, adding that it was the same reason that made the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), to dump the choice of Tinubu as running mate in 2014.

Reiterating, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) warned the leading political parties to avoid the thought of a Christian/Christian or Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket in 2023.

CAN’s National Secretary, Barrister Joseph Bade Daramola, said Friday, in Abuja, that such development is a threat to the fragile peace and unity of Nigeria.

Politicians can talk politics but we have stated our view long before now. Any party that tries same religion ticket will fail. This is not 1993. Even when we have joint Muslim/Christian ticket, the church still goes through hell. Imagine how bad it will be if we have two Muslims in power? The extant Nigerian constitution promotes religious balance. So, if any political party wants to try Muslim/Muslim ticket, it is at its own peril. CAN is only forewarning, but will make a categorical statement in the event our warning is not heeded.

CAN

Also, a former Commissioner for Information, Culture and Tourism, and chieftain of All Progressives Congress (APC) in Niger, Jonathan Vatsa lambasted El-Rufai, saying, “those scheming for Vice President position like El-Rufai are the ones advocating for a Muslim-Muslim ticket because of their unrealisable ambition even when they know fully that it is not absolutely possible. This country called Nigeria has grown past what people like El-Rufai think.”

Meanwhile, the immediate past Director-General of the Progressive Governors Forum and sitting national vice Chairman, North-West of the APC, Salihu Lukman in a statement argued that

If Nigeria is to move forward, 2023 Presidential campaigns must not reduce important debates of moving Nigeria forward to sentimental considerations of ethnicity and religion.

Religion in Nigerian Politics

In an essay, Ikenna L. Umeanolue argues that “in political aspects such as style of governance, policy formulations and the electoral process in Nigeria, religion has been a strong determining factor. However, the influence of religion on politics in Nigeria could be both positive and negative. In other words, as religion enhances national development, so also it could be counterproductive.”

Nigeria is a highly religious society where the people are quite sensitive to issues concerning their faiths, and where intolerance is more pronounced than anyone would admit.

Unrelatedly, we would see this intolerance when marriage partners are discussed, in schools when dressing codes become a problem, and at home when either parent wants their children to practise their faiths.

This sips into politics and encourages deep apathy for leaders who practise a different religion other than each individual practises.

There is a general belief that when the leader is a Muslim, there is a tendency to favour Muslims above Christians, especially in cases of terrorism and effective leadership. We would argue against that, citing personal examples like El-Rufai has done, but the belief exists and a certain realisation that many Nigerians do not trust people from other religions other than theirs.

The hatred is deep-rooted, but tolerance also exists, reason religious crisis is almost non-existent in Southern Nigeria. This may be also why there is a call for a Muslim-Christian ticket, so as to nurture the tolerance level before it gets to the tipping point.

Neither Atiku nor Tinubu have chosen their running mates, but there are Nigerians who hope they choose wisely.

We all understand one thing: Religion matters in Nigerian politics, at least until we become less religious and learn to separate ‘religion’ from ‘politics’.

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