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Controversy over Tinubu-Shettima ticket lingers

By Saxone Akhaine (Kaduna), Ann Godwin, Obinna Nwaoku (Port Harcourt), Sodiq Omolaoye (Abuja) and Julius Osahon (Yenagoa)
16 July 2022   |   4:05 am
The fireworks over the emergence of former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as the running mate of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, continued yesterday with the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum...

APC National Chairman, Abdullahi Adamu

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The fireworks over the emergence of former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as the running mate of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Bola Ahmed Tinubu, continued yesterday with the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum (AYCF) lampooning a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal over what it described as unguarded political sentimentalism and provocative stance ahead of the 2023 presidential election.

Rising from its meeting yesterday, which was chaired by the National President of AYCF, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, the group said there could be no better choice of vice president for Tinubu than Senator Shettima, who is a nationalist, adding that no one should turn the nation’s democratic space into the home of religious extremism.

The group, in the statement, said Lawal and his co-travellers in the “myopic, sentimental stance should stop this madness in this new century of advancement all over the world.”

The AYCF faulted Lawal “and all the proponents of this distraction and dangerous religious extremism”, saying, “we are familiar with the antics of narrow-minded, emotionally-driven politicians wearing religious garb.”

The AYCF said: “Talking of Muslim-Muslim ticket, have these people become so blinded by emotional religious fixation that they forgot history? We had Christian-Christian ticket with Awolowo under the UPN in 1978 and Azikiwe under the UNPP when he picked Prof. Ishaya Audu, another Christian as running mate.”

The group further recalled that “since the emergence of democracy till date, the South-South and South-East States have never given the chance for Muslims to taste the seat of running mates even at the level of governorship.”

The statement urged the “anti-Shettima campaign promoters to shut down their provocative comments before they create bad blood along religious fault-lines and drag the nation into further insecurity.”

A founding member of the APC in Bayelsa State, Prince Preye Aganaba, also expressed disappointment over the “inflammatory and extreme” views expressed by Lawal on the same faith presidential ticket of the APC.

Aganaba, the prince of Odi Kingdom, in a statement, yesterday in Yenagoa, said Lawal crossed the line of responsibility expected of him as an elder and delved into the arena of scaremongering as he dissipated his energy promoting unfounded fears capable of further dividing the country.

Aganaba, a Christian, said it was unimaginable that Lawal, who should have known better, toed the path of the opposition political leaders, who whipped similar religious sentiments against his brother, President Muhammadu Buhari during the 2015 and 2019 general election.

“This is the same Lawal, who as SGF, couldn’t balance political appointments between contending political groups within the APC and between geo-political zones that led to a lot of backlash on the President.

“We recalled how the opposition continued with their narratives that Buhari was going to Islamise Nigeria despite having a Christian Vice-President. Buhari has been the president for over seven years. Has he Islamised Nigeria? The answer is no. It is on record that the Boko Haram insurgents are the enemies of everyone. These terrorists have killed more Muslims than Christians.

“The fact is that nobody can Islamise Nigeria. The presidential candidate of the APC, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has built a track record of tolerance, inclusiveness and liberalism.

“In Tinubu’s years as a politician, he has never expressed extreme religious views on any issue. His running mate and former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, has proved himself over the years as a fine gentleman, who as a governor of Borno, ran an all-inclusive government that accommodated all religions, a fact that had been attested to by the Christian community in that state,” he said.

Aganaba said apart from playing politics of hate, there was no basis for fear over the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.

The former governorship aspirant said Tinubu’s choice of Shettima remained a masterstroke that has further created confusion in the camp of the opposition, especially the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP).

He said: “The choice of Shettima or another strong Muslim northern politician was a tough decision the PDP and its likes thought Tinubu and the APC would not make. They prayed against it because they knew it would destroy all their plans and calculations in the North.

“But they were disappointed that the presidential candidate of the APC, governors and other party leaders summoned courage to make that tough decision. The PDP, whose house has been in disarray since this decision was made, has suddenly rushed to the court praying that Shettima should be stopped as Tinubu’s running mate. They are really scared.

“It is now obvious that the PDP resorted to religious politics because they know that the choice of Shettima has destroyed the area they initially thought was their stronghold.

“Members of the public should know that Shettima was chosen because of his strong political character and other qualifications to enable the APC win the forthcoming election. Party men should be judged not by their religious inclinations but by the value they bring to the table, qualifications and character,” he added.

Aganaba assured the people that the Tinubu-Shettima ticket would restore the country to the path of progress, tackle insecurity and build a prosperous Nation.

Speaking in the same vein, a former representative of Rivers South-East Senatorial District at the National Assembly, Senator Magnus Abe, yesterday said that Tinubu’s choice of Shettima as his running-mate despite the fact that both of them belong to the same religion was apt.

Abe, who stated this while speaking on Arise Television programme monitored by The Guardian, said the APC Vice Presidential candidate, has a track record of competence.

He said: “Let me say that he is on record as somebody who has supported people for offices and positions and everything without minding what religion and how they worship their God.

“So, this is a man who already has a track record of bringing people together and I believe that Nigerians should give him an opportunity to do what he knows how to do best, which is to bring people together and get the best out of them. I think that is the path that he is on.

“Those who are making the allegations that the only reason he picked Shettima is because of religion, if I am to be very honest, I think they are childish.”

Also, the spokesman of APC in the state, Mr. Chris Finebone, yesterday declared that the argument over Muslim-Muslim ticket was inconsequential, stressing that what matters is that the party has adhered to the rotation agreement by shifting power from the North to the South.

According to Finebone, who is an ardent supporter of former Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi, rotation is the most important thing, stating that the issue of religion was needless.

Finebone noted: “We the APC in Rivers State are happy with the choice of APC’s vice presidential candidate. Those criticising the party should take note of this.”

Similarly, a political analyst in the state and former Chief Press Secretary to Rivers State government, Blessing Wikina, said what Nigerians need at the moment is what would bring economic progress.

According to Wikina, “we are in dire need of economic resuscitation and growth. We need to get out of the present economic state. So religion should not be the case now. What matters is who has the competence and capability to deliver this nation.”

He pointed out that globally, Muslims are known for foresight on investment, citing Dubai and Qatar.

However, a Nigerian cleric in the Philippines and the Presiding Bishop of The Evangelical Ark Mission International, Rev. Tony Marioghae, has said those defending the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by the APC were the real enemies of Nigeria.

The cleric described as “foolish” and a slap on Christians of northern extraction, the decision of the APC presidential candidate to pick a Muslim running mate.

Speaking with journalists in Abuja, Marioghae added that the APC standard bearer should have paid attention to the sensitivities of the different faiths in the country before making his final decision.

He said Nigerians must be suspicious of any candidate who chose a running mate of same faith for the 2023 elections

According to him, although Tinubu’s argument of competence as the reason for choosing Shettima as his running mate was plausible, there are capable Christian political leaders from the Northern region who could have complemented him as well.

He cautioned that the APC Muslim-Muslim ticket would not promote trust between the people of the different faiths, stressing that there was so much disunity in the country already.

His words: “There’s a lot of distrust among people of the various faiths, especially Christians doubting the sincerity others.

“Under the prevailing circumstances, it is foolish to bring a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket though it may be politically right. It is foolish to pursue that course of action.

“If I were in that situation, I would have looked at the sensitivity of the subject matter so as to calm people down.

“The Muslim-Muslim ticket does not promote trust. When you have two major dominant religions in this country, the proper thing to do is to, for the sake of peace, carry everyone along.

“If you talk about competence, we have many Christians that are capable to play the role of vice president just as we have Muslims.

“It is simply a slap on the faces of Christians to say that in the whole North we don’t have competent Christians.”

Meanwhile, youth groups from the six geo-political zones of the country have written to Tinubu, declaring that his choice of running mate was unacceptable to them.

The youth groups urged Tinubu to pick a younger running mate from any part of the country, saying they would not mind whether the person is a Christian or Muslim.

The youth groups comprise the Ijaw Youths Council (IYC), National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), ex-Militant Generals in Niger Delta, National Association of University Students (NAUS), National Association of Polytechnic Students (NAPS), National Association of Nigerian Colleges of Education Students (NANCES) and All Farmers Progressive Association (AFPA).

Others include the Yoruba General Assembly (YGA), the Coalition of Northern Christian Youth Groups, EL-DABI Grassroot Mobilisation Movement, EL-DABI Support Groups and EL-DABI Women Support Network, among others.

They said they would work against the Tinubu-Shettima presidential ticket if the party decides to uphold it.

In a statement made available to journalists in Yenagoa and signed by the Director of Communication, Comrade Salisu Olowonikoko, the coalition said: “It is notable and worthy to say that youths and women have the largest percentage ratio of the electorate and are the most affected by the type of leadership produced. Therefore, we are very interested in who leads our nation at different levels of governance.

“We agreed that it is in the interest of the youths to present to Tinubu and the APC, Dr. Ibrahim Bello Dauda also known as EL-DABI. Today, the Ijaw Youth Council (IYC) also joins all the above-mentioned groups in making our position known to Nigerians and indeed the whole world. After several consultations within the Niger Delta, we have resolved to adopt Dr. Ibrahim Bello Dauda as the representative the youth.

“Dauda is not to us a Christian or a Muslim, a northerner or southerner, but a unifier and an example of patriotism personified. We therefore strongly appeal to APC to adopt him as running mate to the candidate of the party. You have our full assurance that the IYC will work tirelessly to ensure support for the party if our humble request is granted. This will demonstrate beyond words the youth inclusion drive of the APC and will foster the re-unification of the youth and people of our dear country Nigeria.”

The groups added: “It is time we do away with the sentiment and emotions that have driven us apart as a people. We have co-existed peacefully without these sentiments and we strongly believe that we will be better off without it. Let leadership be about values, integrity, character, ethics and patriotism, and not about sentiments.”