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Muslim-Muslim ticket: APC puts on hold Shettima’s unveiling, opposition mounts

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu), Seye Olumide (Ibadan), Leo Sobechi and Nkechi Onyedika-Ugoeze (Abuja)
15 July 2022   |   4:31 am
As it was with the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the announcement of a running mate to its presidential candidate, all is not well within the ruling All Progressives Congress ....

Kashim Shettima.PHOTO: TWITTER/GOVERNOR BORNO

• Make a change now, Ohanaeze tells APC • Archbishop Kaigama: I didn’t endorse Shettima
• Change Lagos APC ticket to Christian-Christian to feel your action, group tells Tinubu
• We want a young candidate, APC groups reject Shettima
• Okorie, Uwazuruike, Olafeso, Akuns, others fault Adamu on ticket as Nigeria’s reality

As it was with the major opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) since the announcement of a running mate to its presidential candidate, all is not well within the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC), especially since Sunday when its flagbearer, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, announced Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate. That choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket has elicited spirited and passionate reactions from different quarters.

What appears to be a crack within the fold of the APC emerged, on Tuesday night, when former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and a Tinubu ally, Babachir Lawal, who headed the panel set up to assist Asiwaju pick a running mate, rejected the choice of the former Borno State Governor, Shettima, describing the all-Muslim pairing as a disastrous error.

While the APC national chairman, Abdullahi Adamu, on Wednesday, described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as an act of God, assuring that Christians have nothing to fear, the party, yesterday, postponed the official unveiling of Shettima as its vice presidential candidate for the 2023 general election.

Tinubu announced Shettima as his running mate on Sunday, after a closed-door meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at his private residence in Daura, Katsina State, saying Shettima was picked to enable good governance, but the APC failed to officially announce him as Tinubu’s running mate four days after.

Shetima was scheduled to have been presented to party members at the APC national secretariat, Abuja, yesterday, but an APC official told reporters the event had been moved forward with no official explanation.

He said a new date will be announced in due time and that the date would probably be sometime next week. The directive for the postponement was reportedly given by the party’s deputy national secretary. No reason has been given for the decision.

Sources said this might not be unconnected to the barrage of criticisms from concerned Nigerians, religious leaders, opposition parties and the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) over the choice of Shettima and that the APC leadership may consider dropping him to pick a Northern Christian with few days left to the deadline of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC).

A coalition of APC support groups has rejected Shettima. In a communiqué yesterday, 28 leaders of the support groups in the coalition said they want a ‘young’ vice-presidential candidate.

While calling on Tinubu and the party to pick Ibrahim Bello Dauda, an APC chieftain, the groups said they want to ensure a more-inclusive governance process. Dauda is the former national coordinator of the Muhammadu Buhari media support group.

VICE President-General of the apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Ichie Damian Okeke-Ogene, has described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a serious threat to the unity and corporate existence of Nigeria. Addressing reporters in Awka, Okeke-Ogene, however, told the APC presidential candidate that it is not too late to correct the anomaly as he could change his running mate before the deadline.

Describing Nigeria as a multi-religious and multi-ethnic country, the Ohaneze leader said any attempt by one religion to dominate the political structure could only widen the gap of mistrust and destroy the delicate sense of tolerance cultivated over the years.

According to him, the choice of the Muslim-Muslim ticket was not only ill-timed, but also a total disregard for the diversity of the country, noting that it has undermined efforts of well-meaning Nigerians over the years to bridge the religious differences and promote ethnic harmonious co-existence.

He said Tinubu’s desperation to be president has thwarted efforts and sacrifice of former President Goodluck Jonathan to consolidate on the corporate existence of the country when he stated that his political aspiration was not worth shedding the blood of any Nigerian, and he walked his talk by not contesting the election he lost as incumbent president.

Former National Chairman of the defunct United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, said the reality over the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC would be tested at the polls.

The APC chairman was quoted as saying that the Muslim-Muslim ticket of his party reflected the reality of the country and called on Christians to stop expressing fears, but reacting to the development, Okorie said: “My attitude to it is that every candidate is entitled to his political permutations that he thinks would give him advantage in the election, but the consequences to any person who has made a particular choice will be out there in the field when the people will vote.

The Emeritus President-General of Aka Ikenga, Chief Goddy Uwazuruike, faulted Adamu’s position. He stated the country was one of diversity and, therefore, should be seen as that in all its dealings.

According to him, “what the choice of Muslim-Muslim ticket means is that we are now in a mono-religion status. Mono religion because if you look at the APC, the president is Muslim, the presidential candidate is a Muslim, his running mate is a Muslim, the party chairman is a Muslim, deputy chairman is a Muslim. Head of the legislature and judiciary are Muslims. So, when you look at all these, you don’t need to be told.

“The APC chairman does not understand the anger of the people. The worst mistake he can ever make even in his North is to assume that everybody is a Muslim. Saying that the choice reflects the country’s reality is like saying that those in other religions in the North are irrelevant.”

A pro-democracy group, The Nigerian Agenda for Inclusion (TNAI), has equally dared Tinubu to test the feelings of the Muslim community in Lagos State with a Christian-Christian ticket.

TNAI, in a statement on Thursday, signed by its co-Convener, Alexander Obisesan, described Lagos as a reflection of Nigeria’s religious diversity and a fine place for Tinubu to test the “alternative reality of his unthoughtful action with a Christian-Christian ticket.”

According to the statement, “the supporters of APC presidential candidate are putting together all manner of disingenuous narratives when they could easily test the alternative reality of their agenda in Lagos.

“Tinubu is the godfather of APC in Lagos; he is in a pole position to field a Christian-Christian ticket to gauge the temperament of the Muslim community in the state as the first line of evaluation of his insensitivity to Nigeria’s diversity.  

“If the former Lagos governor could not broach the idea of a Christian-Christian ticket in his immediate domain, which is more secular and diverse, why is he contemplating such a divisive option for Nigeria?

“Lagos has, indeed, had the history of a Muslim-Muslim regime under the Jakande-Jafojo administration, but that situation has seriously changed because the man Tinubu supported to power in 2015 has deeply polarised the country along religious lines. The APC has also made 1993 impossible to repeat because it has widened Nigeria’s fault lines and deepened the ethno-religious divide among Nigerians.

“We want Nigerians to take their time to evaluate Tinubu’s consistent relegation of Christians in the scheme of things: He wanted a Muslim-Muslim ticket in 2015; when APC won, he opted for a Muslim-Muslim arrangement in both chambers of the National Assembly, but he failed.  

“When Tinubu had another chance in 2019, he openly pushed for a Muslim-Muslim leadership of the National Assembly, including an arrangement that ensured a Muslim-Muslim Speaker and Deputy Speaker.”

National Vice Chairman of PDP, Southwest zone, Dr Eddy Olafeso, said Nigerians should not trust the ruling party because APC has persistently lied and failed since it took over power in 2015. He described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a well-orchestrated agenda of the North to further entrench the religious division, which the incumbent administration has perpetrated in the country in the last seven years.
 
According to him, “Adamu should be taken to he people’s court and convicted for saying Muslim-Muslim ticket is not a threat to Christians after all the havoc same region’s sector have inflicted on the Christian faith since 2015. Does he mean Christians are not in the North?”

  
In another reaction, National Secretary of Social Democratic Party (SDP), Dr. Olu Agunloye, said Muslim-Muslim ticket is not the issue but that the manner Buhari’s government has polarised the country along ethnic and religious lines in the last seven and half years is generating the fear and mistrust.
 
Also reacting, Chairman of Afenifere Renewal Group (ARG), Mr. Wale Oshun, said religion is the last of his worries in Nigeria but capacity and competence. He said people are free and also have the right to criticise how APC ruled and fuelled insecurity in the country, but to attach any sentiment to religion in Nigeria at the expense of capacity and competence is wrong.
  
He appealed to those agitating against the Muslim-Muslim ticket to refocus their arguments and not to necessarily focus on religion.

A PDP governorship aspirant in Plateau State, Chief Jonathan Sunday Akuns, has picked holes in the assertion by Adamu that the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket reflects Nigeria’s reality. Akuns said: “The APC ticket that is touted as a ‘Nigerian reality’ aims at a religious transition; a similar exercise undermined unity and national cohesion in defunct Yugoslavia/Czechoslovakia.
   
“The APC heavy and high-handed reliance on religion for governance is a sure way to stoke Nigeria on the road to Somalia, Syria, Lebanon, Sudan, et al. Egypt fought hard to subdue such a can-do ‘reality’ foisted on its national interest by Islamic brotherhood.”
  
On LP, Akuns said the LP ticket “depicts a regional transition of power from North to South of Nigeria. This is in sync with the governance model of Switzerland and is capable of birthing a seamless power devolution.”

  
Akuns, therefore, contended that nobody should try to create alternative reality to befuddle the citizenry or excuse obvious failure to reflect the overriding national interest in political calculations

MEANWHILE, the Catholic Archdiocese of Abuja has described as false, reports alleging that Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama endorsed Shettima, as the vice presidential candidate of the APC.

In a statement, yesterday, in Abuja, Director of Communications in the Archdiocese,  Rev Fr. Patrick Alumuku, noted that Archbishop Kaigama has not and will not endorse any candidate, as his flock cuts across political parties and he would not prefer one candidate above the other, adding that it is up to Nigerian voters to make their choice through the ballot box by electing the best candidates. 

According to him, the loyalists of the APC have been at their wits end explaining to Nigerians the soundness of their choice.

He said: “One of their antics to give credit to the much-criticised choice has been to use the good names of reputable Nigerians to ‘launder’ the image of Shettima. One of such futile attempt is dragging the name of Most Rev Ignatius Kaigama, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, into the fan base of APC. Recently, social media was agog with the skewed news of such spurious endorsements. 

“To set the records right, at no point has the venerable archbishop either in his personal capacity or as the Metropolitan of Abuja Ecclesiastical Province made such comments. Those familiar with the norms of the Catholic Church understand that Canon 285 and 2 admonishes that ‘Clerics are to avoid those things which, although not unbecoming, are nevertheless foreign to the clerical state.”

“Endorsing a candidate of a particular party by any cleric as purported is certainly foreign to the clerical state and not a possible action by Catholic cleric. It is therefore unthinkable that Archbishop Kaigama who knows better the workings of the Church as a top cleric in the Nigerian sphere, would make such alleged endorsement. How could he when such posture contradicts the very essence of his episcopal ministry?”

According to Alumuku, “the rumour peddlers depict that they are out of touch with ecclesiastical reality in Nigeria. Archbishop Kaigama ended his tenure as President of Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria since 2018. After him, there have been two successors, yet the bearers of the false news presented him now in 2022 as the President of CBCN, which he no longer is.

“The bigger question to be asked is: How did we come about such a nasty insinuation? Why the futile attempt to put words in the mouth of the Archbishop? Well, it has to do with the event of 2016. As the then President of CBCN, Archbishop Kaigama along with other bishops, graced the Golden Jubilee of the Catholic Diocese of Maiduguri, while Shettima was the governor of Borno.

“As it was customary, he led the bishops to pay a courtesy visit to then Shettima. Archbishop Kaigama minced no words in reminding his listeners that the Catholic Bishops of Nigeria has a prophetic voice. His words: ‘We are a voice for the people. Our voice is a prophetic voice. We see things where things are good, we say it so. Where things are bad, we say it so.”

“Coming from such premise, he of course commended some virtues he found in the governor as it relates to his working relationship with peoples of other faith. Six years after however, it is surprising that his innocuous comment has been reinvented by mischief makers to mean endorsement of Shettima as Tinubu’s vice presidential candidate, what a shame.”