Con­cerns over Mus­lim/Mus­lim ticket in APC

In­di­ca­tions that the APC may set­tle for a Buhari/ Tin­ubu ticket has un­set­tled many party mem­bers who feel it will af­fect its chances in the next elec­tions. Is the party con­sid­er­ing such an op­tion and how real are the con­cerns be­ing ex­pressed?

Daily Trust - - INSIDE POLITICS - By Andrew Agbese

In 1993, the now de­funct So­cial Demo­cratic Party (SDP) braved the odds of re­li­gious sen­ti­ments in Nigeria and paired Chief M.K.O. Abi­ola with Al­haji Baba­gana Kin­gibe, both Mus­lims, as its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and run­ning mate re­spec­tively.

Be­fore then, ow­ing to the sen­si­tiv­ity of Nige­rian vot­ers to the re­li­gious per­sua­sions of can­di­dates, most par­ties have de­vised means of over­com­ing ac­cu­sa­tions of lean­ing to­wards a par­tic­u­lar side by try­ing to pair their leading can­di­dates in ways that would ap­peal to such re­li­gious sen­si­bil­i­ties.

The first time the pres­i­den­tial sys­tem of govern­ment was adopted in 1979 and in the buildup to that year’s elec­tions, most of the par­ties had what be­came known as a bal­anced ticket with the pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates and run­ning mates care­fully cho­sen to ad­dress the is­sue of re­li­gion.

For the Na­tional Party of Nigeria (NPN) whose can­di­date, Al­haji Shehu Sha­gari won, it had Chief Alex Ek­wueme, who later be­came the vice pres­i­dent as run­ning mate, while the then leading op­po­si­tion party, the Unity Party of Nigeria (UPN) had Chief Obafemi Awolowo as its pres­i­den­tial flag­bearer and af­ter fail­ing to get a for­mi­da­ble per­son­al­ity he could run with in the north, chose Chief Philip Umeadi from the South East to run with him, but by 1983 dropped him for Al­haji Kura, Mo­hammed.

The Mus­lim/Mus­lim ticket of 1993 was the most dar­ing as there were only two reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties then.

Even more sur­pris­ing was the fact that it was the Mus­lim/ Mus­lim ticket that be­came ac­cept­able to Nige­ri­ans as the duo of Abi­ola and Kin­gibe was be­lieved to have won the June 12, 1993 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion.

In the buildup to the 2015 elec­tions, the All Pro­gres­sives Congress (APC), one of the ma­jor par­ties get­ting set to con­test in next year’s gen­eral elec­tions is said to be fid­dling with the idea of go­ing the SDP way; field­ing per­sons of the same re­li­gion as pres­i­den­tial can­di­date and run­ning mate.

The idea is said to stem from the fact that the two lead­ers of the party, Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari and Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu are both crowd pullers in their re­spec­tive re­gions with al­most no other per­sons from their re­gions hav­ing the ca­pac­ity to match their pop­u­lar­ity.

Party strate­gists are said to have rea­soned that sub­sti­tut­ing ei­ther or both of them is no idea com­pared with what both of them could achieve on a joint ticket.

Buhari, who was the pres­i­den­tial can­di­date of the de­funct Congress for Pro­gres­sive Change (CPC) in 2011, polled over 12 mil­lion votes com­ing mainly from his north­ern base. He de­feated the can­di­date of the Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP); Pres­i­dent Good­luck Jonathan who polled over 8 mil­lion votes in the re­gion, with al­most 3.5 mil­lion votes as he polled more than 11 mil­lion votes in the North.

The con­cern of the APC, ac­cord­ing to sources within the party, is that no other can­di­date can put up a bet­ter show­ing than that from the North hence the idea to re­tain Buhari as its pres­i­den­tial can­di­date.

The op­tion of hav­ing Tin­ubu on the joint ticket is also said to be for sim­i­lar rea­sons. A source in the party said the APC is con­sid­er­ing the idea of putting him on a joint ticket with Buhari to en­sure his to­tal com­mit­ment to the APC project in 2015 to avoid the kind of half hearted com­mit­ment he gave when the then Ac­tion Congress of Nigeria (ACN) went into al­liance with the CPC in 2011.

An­other thing is that Tin­ubu is be­lieved to be one of the strong­est po­lit­i­cal lead­ers in the South­west with an un­equalled num­ber of fol­low­ers in the op­po­si­tion party.

Though he did not con­test any elec­tion in 2011, the fact that his party, the ACN, con­trols five states in the South West is con­sid­ered a huge as­set.

The South West, ac­cord­ing to INEC’s fig­ures, has a voting pop­u­la­tion of more than 14 mil­lion, while the North West and North East be­lieved to be Buhari’s turf have a voting pop­u­la­tion of over 18 mil­lion and 10 mil­lion each.

The cal­cu­la­tion of the APC stal­warts is that if the bases of the two lead­ers of the party could be re­lied upon in 2015, then they could give the party a ma­jor­ity in terms of votes.

But the prospects of the joint ticket have equally drawn crit­i­cisms from var­i­ous quar­ters. A prom­i­nent leader of the APC, Chief Femi FaniKay­ode was about the first to go pub­lic with a dif­fer­ent view.

Re­act­ing to the idea of hav­ing a Mus­lim/Mus­lim ticket, the for­mer avi­a­tion min­is­ter warned that the APC stands the risk of los­ing the 2015 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion if it ven­tures to make the pair a re­al­ity.

He said this is be­cause re­li­gion is still an im­por­tant fac­tor in the pol­i­tics of the coun­try and that all must be given a sense of be­long­ing.

“If we do that, he says, “we will not only of­fend the Chris­tian com­mu­nity but we will also lose the elec­tion woe­fully.”

The for­mer avi­a­tion min­is­ter said Nigeria has gone past the 1993 era when Abi­ola and Kin­gibe ticket de­fied the forces of grav­ity and went ahead to coast home to vic­tory.

“Whether we like it or not, we must ac­cept the fact that re­li­gion plays a ma­jor role in our pol­i­tics to­day. Our party must have both a Chris­tian and a Mus­lim on the ticket if we want to be taken se­ri­ously in the pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. I im­plore those who think other­wise to sit down and think this through prop­erly. We must not present a Chris­tian-Chris­tian ticket as this would be in­sen­si­tive to the feel­ings of Mus­lims and we must not present a Mus­lim-Mus­lim ticket as this would be in­sen­si­tive to the feel­ings of Chris­tians,” he said.

Many say Fani-Kay­ode has a point as there are al­ready al­le­ga­tions of re­li­gious bias com­ing mainly from the ri­val Peo­ples Demo­cratic Party (PDP) that the APC bears the sem­blance to the Mus­lim Brother­hood of Egypt.

In an­other widely cir­cu­lated flier show­ing the com­po­si­tion of the APC lead­er­ship, a point was made that it tilted to­wards hav­ing a pre­pon­der­ance of Mus­lims with­out con­sid­er­a­tion for bal­ance.

One of the post­ings for in­stance in­di­cated that the two recog­nised lead­ers of the party, Buhari and Tin­ubu, are Mus­lims while the na­tional chair­man of the party, Bisi Akande, deputy na­tional chair­man (North), Bello Masari, sec­re­tary, Ti­jani Musa Tumsa, deputy sec­re­tary, Nasir el-Ru­fai, na­tional trea­surer, Sadiya Umar Faruk and na­tional pub­lic­ity sec­re­tary, Al­haji Lai Mo­hammed all be­long to one re­li­gion.

The APC has how­ever had cause to clar­ify that it is not a re­li­gious party and that there are many in the ex­ec­u­tive com­mit­tee of the party, that are not Mus­lims say­ing they in­clude; the deputy na­tional chair­man (South) An­nie Okonkwo, Niyi Ade­bayo, na­tional vice chair­man South West, na­tional wel­fare sec­re­tary, Emma Eneuku, na­tional au­di­tor, Olisa-Emeka Aka­mukali, and na­tional women leader, Madam Sharon Ikea­zor.

Gover­nor Ro­timi Amaechi of Rivers State, who had cause to com­ment on the ob­ser­va­tion on the lop­sid­ed­ness of the APC exco re­cently, said there was no ba­sis for the ac­cu­sa­tion as the people be­ing re­ferred to are even more tol­er­ant of other reli­gions than the ones mak­ing the al­le­ga­tions.

He said both Tin­ubu and Gover­nor Ba­batunde Fashola of La­gos are mar­ried to Chris­tians hence can­not be said to be re­li­gious big­ots.

But even with the ex­pla­na­tion, it is not dif­fi­cult see­ing what would be the re­ac­tion to the Mus­lim/Mus­lim ticket if it sails through as many feel there is a sur­feit of Chris­tian as­pi­rants like Ro­timi Amaechi, Sam Nda Isa­iah, Rochas Oko­rocha, and a host of oth­ers to pick from.

An­a­lysts say, if the APC goes ahead to field Buhari and Tin­ubu, then it would au­to­mat­i­cally be for­feit­ing places like the South East, South South and parts of the North Cen­tral re­gions of the coun­try which may also be moved to vote on re­li­gious lines to sup­port Pres­i­dent Jonathan who is likely to fly the PDP flag.

Those in the APC how­ever are of the view that the party can go ahead with the idea given that those re­gions would not sup­port the APC even if it picks a run­ning mate from their zones. They also ar­gue that bloc votes from the South South and South East can­not match votes from the North West, North East and South West.

Those against the ar­range­ment have posited that there are con­sid­er­able num­ber of Chris­tian vot­ers in the South West who may also be moved to vote along re­li­gious lines say­ing in the 2011 elec­tions, the PDP was able to pen­e­trate the South West while har­ness­ing al­most all the votes in the South South and South East re­gions and pulling a con­sid­er­able num­ber from the North Cen­tral.

Why the APC seems dis­posed to­wards try­ing the idea is be­cause, ac­cord­ing to a source, in the party, it is con­vinced that the South West will be moved more by rea­sons of eth­nic af­fil­i­a­tions to vote for Tin­ubu.

“Once they know that Tin­ubu is there, they will vote, you re­mem­ber how Osun State voted for Ribadu in the last elec­tion not mind­ing his re­li­gious lean­ing. So if we can have the three re­gions, then I think the Buhari/Tin­ubu ticket is sell­able,” the source said.

The APC spokesman, Lai Mo­hammed, when con­tacted re­fused to com­ment on the is­sue.

Gen Muham­madu Buhari Sen Bola Ahmed Tin­ubu

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