*Babachir: The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons, we will massively deploy them
*Dogara: Tinubu, party made fatal error of judgment on Muslim-Muslim ticket
The former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal and the former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, led a meeting of the All Progressives Congress (APC) Northern Christian Leaders in Abuja yesterday, where it was resolved that Christians should vote against the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the ruling party in the 2023 presidential election.
Bola Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the party picked Senator Kashim Shettima, the former governor of Borno State, who’s also a Muslim, as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election, a development that continues to elicit outrage from APC’s Christians stakeholders.
Speaking at the forum tagged, “APC Northern Christians Political Summit, Abuja 2022”, with the theme, “Righteousness Exalts a Nation, But Sin is a Reproach to Any People”, Babachir alleged that there was an agenda to politically, religiously and economically suppress and oppress Northern Christians, but assured that such agenda would be resisted.
He said Northern Christians were ready to battle the politics of exclusion and oppression, but open to discussions with anyone who wants to engage with them in good faith.
Babachir stressed that northern Christians’ opposition to Muslim-Muslim ticket had some historical basis, adding that there were times in the past when Christians produced the Deputy Governors in Kebbi, Niger and Kaduna States, “and now it is wholly Muslim-Muslim tickets in most places.”
The former SGF said it was worth noting that all these were happening in the APC-controlled states, stressing that they were threatening to do likewise in Gombe, Kogi and Adamawa states.
Lawal said the proof of its anti-Christian agenda was that APC had completely eliminated Northern Christians from its National Working Committee (NWC) and the National Executive Council (NEC), noting that all their protestations as party members have been completely ignored by the leadership.
He emphasised that as members of APC, they have the right to continue to express their indignation at these happenings and would not give up until they secure the justice that is due them.
Lawal states: “The main purpose of this historical narrative is to let you know that for the APC, a Muslim-Muslim ticket has been a long-term political strategy and not a one-off decision. Thus, all this talk of competence as the reason for the choice of the Muslim VP is balderdash and diversionary. This is a calculated anti-Christian exclusion agenda that is being implemented.
“One might ask: why is the APC itself mute about our rejection of this Muslim-Muslim ticket? And why has none of the other perpetrators of this crisis reached out to Christians for a dialogue? Why are they instead hiring fake Bishops and taking church groups to further embarrass the Church? Why are they embarking on a vicious media war against CAN and the Church instead of seeking reconciliation? Truly, things are not adding up.
“So why are Christians, Northern Nigerian Christians in particular against the Muslim-Muslim ticket? I will try to enumerate just a few more reasons in addition to the ones I have already enumerated above.”
Babachir stated categorically that they see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as an assent to the current and continuing educational, economic and political marginalisation of Northern Christians.
He noted that Christians all over the country see the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a deliberate and premeditated attempt to introduce and firmly entrench religion into the politics of this country.
The APC chieftain noted that this would further lead to disharmony in the hitherto fragile coexistence of the Nigerian society, disrupt peace and hamper both social and economic development of the country.
He added: “Implied in this ticket is the insinuation that Northern Muslims are not willing to vote for a ticket that has a Christian on it and on which they are not represented. It is our belief that Northern Muslims would have seen the justice in a Muslim-Christian ticket and would have given it their overwhelming support, had the party been inclined to do so.
“A corollary to this mindset is that Christians should also not vote for a ticket in which they are not accommodated. Unfortunately, this is the message we get loud and clear from this Muslim-Muslim ticket. This is truly a wakeup call for all Nigerian Christians. We didn’t start this religious politics. APC and its candidates did; so, all of us should take note and act as appropriate.
“So, our dear APC colleagues, spare us these sanctimonious lectures on competence and the cliché, ‘religion of the candidates does not matter.’ The truth is that the 2023 presidential election will be all about religion, and sadly, you started it; religion does matter in this context, so be ready for the consequences.
“It is important to reiterate that we Nigerian Christians, want to live in peace and harmony with all practitioners of other religions. We want to enjoy social and economic developments like other parts of the world but without peace, justice and religious harmony, this is not possible.
“On our part, we neither seek to oppress nor dominate anyone or any religion. But we will also resist any one trying to discriminate against us and our religion. We were not the ones that started this fight. The APC started it and must be ready to carry the cross it has created. Blaming Christians and heaping insults on CAN will take them nowhere.
“For how do they expect Christians to keep silent when a Northern state governor publicly states that they pressured Tinubu to get a Northern Muslim VP because they did not believe him to be a good Muslim? Is the VP going to be the National Deputy Imam?
“How do they expect us to keep silent when another Northern state governor goes to Osun State and urges them to vote for someone just because he is a Muslim? Was he there for the election campaign or ‘dawah’? What can be a better example of religion in politics than demonstrated by these governors?
“Clearly, there is an agenda to politically, religiously, and economically suppress and oppress the Northern Christian. But we are up to the task. We will protect ourselves. The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons of choice and we will massively deploy them in 2023.”
Tinubu, APC Made Fatal Error, Says Dogara
On his part, Dogara said the adoption of a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket by APC was capable of leading Nigeria to disintegration like Yugoslavia.
He said the opposition of Northern Christians to all Muslim ticket should not be understood to be objecting to Muslims or that they don’t want Tinubu to be president, “neither is it about Senator Kashim Shettima. It is about what is right and what is wrong, it is about justice, fairness and equity.”
Dogara continued: “It is about Nigeria; its diversity and how it can be harnessed in an inclusive manner for the greater good of all of us. Be that as it may, some of us really wanted Asiwaju to be president because he has sacrificed much for our party, the APC and for what he represents to so many people. So, our position cannot be against Muslims or Islam. That fact cannot be denied in any way.”
Dogara recalled that he couldn’t have been the Speaker of the 8th House without the support of his Muslim colleagues who believed that the nation’s diversity must be reflected in national positions for the unity, peace and advancement of our dear country.
He said: “In 2015, when we were called “janjaweed party”, my response was usually very simple. I could then say that, HE John Oyegun was the chairman of my party and the VP was Pastor Yemi Osinbajo. We don’t enjoy that luxury anymore as the President, Senate President, Speaker and his deputy; Senate and House Leaders; National Chairman and the Deputy National Chairman; Presidential and the Vice-Presidential candidates are all Muslims, leaving the Christians with just the position of VP Osibanjo and Deputy Senate President Omo-Agege at that level in a country whose population is fairly split between Muslims and Christians.
“Granted this scenario, can any God-fearing Muslim, Christian nay even the amoral and the atheist say this is fair, just and righteous? Does this represent the act of a just God? This is the real context of objections from the Christian community, not just the Presidential ticket and the VP slot.
“For me, it is a rude awakening and I am so happy it happened sooner than later. The very fact that they said we should not worry about a Muslim-Muslim ticket while a Muslim-Christian ticket gave them sleepless nights should make you worry the more. To worry about a Muslim-Christian ticket while counselling others not to worry about a Muslim-Muslim ticket is the very textbook definition of cognitive dissonance and an attempt at gas lighting gullible Christians.
“The other funny argument in the media is the claim that without a Northern Muslim on the ticket, elections cannot be won. The implications of that argument are quite unambiguous – Northern Muslims don’t vote for the South – even if the candidate is a Muslim like them – and, of course, don’t vote for Christians. However, nothing can be further from the truth.
“If you stretch this argument further, it may lead to questions such as, ‘if Muslims in the North don’t trust a Southern Muslim for any reason(s), why should Christians in Nigeria trust a Muslim from the South and North?’ These are the kinds of arguments I hate to engage in and which we must avoid if we hope not to injure the health of our Republic.
“Other unhelpful framings of the debate by the so-called pundits posit that Christians in the North are so small in number that their votes don’t count. This strange argument seeks to reinforce the satanic agenda of dividing the church in Nigeria into North and South, and also ignores the fact and reality that Nigeria is evenly split on religious lines.
“These pundits are still not smart enough to tell us what is in the Muslim-Muslim ticket for Southern Christians. The argument also ignores the fact that our official policy excludes religious affiliation from census data. There is therefore no scientific basis for these bizarre conclusions. Let us now look at a model for managing diversity.”
Dogara said he considered the decision by the APC to settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket as not a bold, but a bad decision because it fuels inequality.
He noted: “We must always bear in mind that the liberty we enjoy is as rare as it is fragile. Inequality has a way of upsetting the balance due to the universal law of cause and effect. Throughout history, every revolution has been waged to either consolidate or destroy inequality. Just like all revolutions, they first seem impossible and then improbable until they become inevitable.
“Let us go out from this summit with the resolve to seek out our Muslim brothers and sisters who believe in unifying our people in order to usher in the much-needed peace and advancement for Nigeria to unleash her true potentials.
“I am sure we will jointly agree on a platform that would advance our collective search for unity, peace and development.”
Elisha Abbo, a serving senator from Adamawa State and Solomon Dalung, a former Minister of Youths and Sports, were present at the event.
Credit: This Day