[ ] The Mon­day Col­umn One-re­li­gion ticket can win

Daily Trust - - SPORT -

The po­lit­i­cal ac­tors and news­pa­per colum­nists who rushed in the last two weeks to say that a pres­i­den­tial elec­tion ticket made up of two ad­her­ents of the same re­li­gion can­not win in Nigeria have not thought about this mat­ter very care­fully. Or­di­nar­ily I wouldn’t have writ­ten about re­li­gion and pol­i­tics be­cause I, for one, will not cast a vote for or against any­one on re­li­gious grounds. How­ever, I am in­tel­lec­tu­ally pro­voked by the firm as­ser­tion of some com­men­ta­tors that a one-re­li­gion ticket can­not win an elec­tion in Nigeria. It can, un­der some cir­cum­stances.

The flurry of com­men­taries was sparked off by a news­pa­per story which said the op­po­si­tion APC is plan­ning to field what in Nige­rian pol­i­tics is called a “Mus­lim-Mus­lim” ticket in 2015, i.e. Gen­eral Muham­madu Buhari and Asi­waju Bola Tin­ubu. “Re­li­gious bal­anc­ing” is a very sen­si­tive mat­ter in Nige­rian pol­i­tics. It is taken for granted that the pres­i­den­tial ticket of ev­ery ma­jor po­lit­i­cal party must in­clude one ad­her­ent each of the two ma­jor reli­gions. Given this sen­si­tiv­ity, I was per­son­ally amazed that APC did not vig­or­ously deny the story. Its tepid re­sponse al­lowed Femi Fani-Kay­ode, for one, to say that APC is try­ing to pro­mote one re­li­gion over an­other. Some other com­men­ta­tors wors­ened mat­ters by say­ing there is noth­ing wrong with a Mus­lim-Mus­lim ticket. Well, I am not say­ing it is a good thing or a bad thing. All I am say­ing is that in the­ory such a ticket or its ob­verse, a Chris­tian-Chris­tian ticket, can win an elec­tion in Nigeria.

The first rea­son for say­ing a onere­li­gion ticket can win an elec­tion in Nigeria is be­cause it has hap­pened be­fore. Usu­ally, the best ev­i­dence that some­thing can hap­pen is if has hap­pened be­fore. Many Nige­ri­ans ap­pear to be­lieve that this sce­nario will not hap­pen pre­cisely be­cause it hap­pened be­fore. Soon af­ter the ill-fated June 12, 1993 elec­tion, the Chris­tian As­so­ci­a­tion of Nigeria [CAN] did say that it would not con­done a Mus­limMus­lim ticket again. It did not how­ever say if it will tol­er­ate a Chris­tianChris­tian ticket. No one can say for sure that the ex­tra­or­di­nary com­bi­na­tion of cir­cum­stances that pro­duced the Abi­ola-Kin­gibe ticket in 1993 will never hap­pen again in Nigeria.

Any­way, let us re­mem­ber that some of the wis­est men in Nige­rian pol­i­tics did not be­lieve that a two-re­li­gion ticket was needed to win the Nige­rian Pres­i­dency. I re­fer here to Chief Obafemi Awolowo and Dr. Nnamdi Azikiwe. Since his death in 1987, Chief Awolowo is de­scribed by many me­dia writ­ers as “the Sage.” One of the sagely things he did in 1978 was to nom­i­nate Chief Philip Umeadi, an Enugu lawyer, as his run­ning mate on UPN’s pres­i­den­tial ticket.

Awolowo was not a man who did any­thing with­out care­ful study. He reck­oned that there were five reg­is­tered po­lit­i­cal par­ties in the Sec­ond Repub­lic and three of them were go­ing to nom­i­nate North­ern Mus­lims as their pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. He must have rea­soned that the North­ern vote will be split into three. In which case if he could unite the South un­der his can­di­dacy, he could win the elec­tion. This cal­cu­la­tion nearly paid off be­cause Awo got 4.9 mil­lion votes in the 1979 pres­i­den­tial elec­tion com­pared to Sha­gari’s 5.4 mil­lion. If his gam­bit of nom­i­nat­ing Umeadi as his run­ning mate had de­liv­ered even half a mil­lion more Igbo votes, Awo would have topped the race even though he still had a prob­lem with spread, hav­ing got one quar­ter of the votes in only 6 states out of 19.

Awo’s hopes of win­ning the high­est num­ber of votes were up­set by the late en­try into the race of Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe who quickly lured away all the Igbo votes. As it hap­pened, the bril­liant Zik ar­rived at the same cal­cu­la­tion as Awo did. There were three North­ern Mus­lim pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates but there was not one North­ern Chris­tian on any ticket. So Zik picked the em­i­nent Pro­fes­sor Ishaya Audu from old Kaduna State as his run­ning mate. He prob­a­bly cal­cu­lated that Audu’s choice could deliver the en­tire North­ern Chris­tian vote which, added to the Igbo vote, could be­come the largest bloc of votes with the Yoruba go­ing one way and the North­ern Mus­lim vote split into three. It was a very good cal­cu­la­tion on paper but it did not work mostly be­cause, up un­til that time, the South­ern mi­nori­ties voted mainly for North­ern can­di­dates whom they saw as a bul­wark against Igbo dom­i­na­tion. Up to that time.

Now, when a politi­cian is mak­ing elec­toral cal­cu­la­tions based on re­li­gious bloc votes, he must worry about the flip side. Harold Lass­well said in his

Pol­i­tics: Who Gets What, When and How

clas­sic 1935 book

that it will be ad­van­ta­geous for an Amer­i­can can­di­date to get all the Ro­man Catholics to vote for him, “pro­vided that does not unite all the Protes­tant vote against him.” This is be­cause in the US, Protes­tants are much more nu­mer­ous than Catholics. In Nigeria, no one knows for sure whether there are more Mus­lims than Chris­tians or vice versa be­cause the Na­tional Pop­u­la­tion Com­mis­sion ex­cluded re­li­gion and tribe from the cen­sus ques­tion­naire. Even though the lead­ers of both ma­jor re­li­gious blocs reg­u­larly claim that they are in the ma­jor­ity, no one can prove it.

From rough ob­ser­va­tion how­ever, one can say that the two ma­jor re­li­gious blocs in Nigeria are roughly equal in pop­u­la­tion and elec­toral power. In the­ory there­fore, if one bloc were to unite its votes while the other bloc splits its votes, the for­mer bloc will win. The key is­sues here are unity ver­sus split. Some com­men­ta­tors are also as­sum­ing that re­li­gion is the ma­jor or even the only ba­sis upon which Nige­ri­ans cast their votes. I hope they are wrong.

There are other things to re­mem­ber. As­sum­ing, just as­sum­ing that there are more Mus­lims than there are Chris­tians in Nigeria, does that au­to­mat­i­cally trans­late into ma­jor­ity votes? Of course not be­cause dur­ing elec­tions, INEC does not use cen­sus fig­ures but reg­is­tered vot­ers. It is there­fore pos­si­ble for a re­li­gious bloc to be in the ma­jor­ity in the over­all pop­u­la­tion but to be in a mi­nor­ity on the vot­ers’ reg­is­ter if for any rea­son its po­ten­tial vot­ers did not turn up to reg­is­ter.

Even if they did turn up to reg­is­ter, that is dif­fer­ent from turn­ing up at the polls. Turn­ing up at the polls is also dif­fer­ent from cast­ing a valid vote. If for some rea­sons such as heavy rains in their lo­cal­ity, fuel short­age, fear of vi­o­lence or the like, vot­ers who or­di­nar­ily be­long to that bloc did not turn out to vote, then the bloc would have been trans­formed into a strate­gic mi­nor­ity de­spite its ab­so­lute ma­jor­ity in the vot­ers’ reg­is­ter.

Let us even as­sume that mem­bers of one re­li­gious bloc are in the ma­jor­ity, that they all reg­is­tered and they also turned up at the polls. How about the way they will vote? As­sum­ing they vote strictly on re­li­gious grounds, there could be sev­eral can­di­dates of their faith so their vote could well split. There are 26 po­lit­i­cal par­ties in Nigeria to­day, so there will be sev­eral Mus­lim and sev­eral Chris­tian pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates. It de­pends there­fore on whose vote is split the most.

There are two ways in which a onere­li­gion ticket can win an elec­tion in Nigeria. The first con­di­tion is if vot­ers cast votes strictly along re­li­gious lines and the other bloc records a greater split in votes. The sec­ond, much more pleas­ant con­di­tion is if ma­jor­ity of vot­ers de­cide to vote for that ticket for rea­sons other than re­li­gion. No one should there­fore say that a one-re­li­gion ticket can­not win an elec­tion here. How­ever, since I am not a sage, I am not ad­vis­ing any­one to try it.

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