Up till this moment, the mood across Nigeria is that of celebration, especially in the camp of the supporters of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
Tinubu, yesterday, was declared as the flag bearer of the ruling party after a free election where he won the goodwill of the majority. He raked in 1,271 votes to lead the immediate past Minister of Transportation, Rotimi Amaechi who got 316 and Vice President Yemi Osinbajo who shockingly scored 235 votes.
Even though the former Lagos State Governor is loved and highly respected across the country, being a highly ranked politician, the contest ahead goes beyond respect, it is a battle that will be won or lost by the accuracy of the strategy employed. And for this particular election, the running mate of the leading aspirants are the major deciders.
As Tinubu represents APC, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar is the presidential candidate for the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) while Peter Obi is the presidential flag bearer of the Labour Party in the 2023 presidential election. These three gladiators are undoubtedly the “Jackie Chans” of the 2023 presidential election but it is the choice of their running mate that will brighten or dim their chances, most especially, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu. Little wonder the APC presidential candidate swiftly invalidate claims circulated at the Eagles Square, the venue of the APC Special Convention that he endorsed a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
In a statement signed by his Media Office, and posted on his verified Twitter handle, Tinubu said, “We have been informed of a text message going around APC delegates at Eagles Square in Abuja purportedly from Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu claiming that with his imminent victory at the APC presidential primary and emergence as the party’s presidential candidate, the APC leader has now decided on a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“There is no truth whatsoever in any of these messages. They are lies perpetrated by shameless, desperate and misguided individuals and should be ignored as such.”
Nigeria, is a highly religious country, and most political decisions have been made by using the sentiments, and of course, with no apology. Tinubu himself is aware of this if he goes back in history to the rumoured reason he was not the running mate of President Muhammadu Buhari.
In January 2022, the Christian Association of Nigeria warned that two Muslims running on a joint presidential ticket in 2023 will not be accepted and can lead to the country’s collapse. Although the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar III, said the most important thing should be competence and that is what Muslims are praying for, it does not water down the sentiment and attachment to the religion of an average Nigerian.
It is an unwritten rule that has been abided to by all major candidates in the country, including incumbent President, Buhari. The Daura-born president has always picked a Christian southerner as running mate in deference to our religious and ethnic diversity in all the presidential elections he has contested since 2003. Religion is sensitive in Nigeria. Even though the Christian population in the North is relatively small, the decision to ignore them not only affects Northern Christians but also, their counterparts from the South.
It would be a monumental political disaster and a clear case of religious insensitivity to the nation’s over 60 million Christians by the APC in these very challenging times. In fact, it spell doom for the party in the elections next year if it dares to field all-Muslim candidates.
Both Atiku and Tinubu seem to be underrating Obi, unknown to them, when they make the wrong move by their decision of who runs with them, the bulk of the Christians vote goes to them.
One thing that Tinubu must delete from his consciousness is that all Northern votes will be shared among Muslims and Northerners. How much more can anyone make a generational error? The North, at this point, seeks a good representation. This is substantiated by the numerous disapproval of Buhari, the sacred one right in the heart of the North. We have, over the years, seen how bad governance has affected them and crippled their economy. That is exactly why Tinubu must pick someone the North believes in and the South reveres.
Nigeria has gone past the 1993 era when M.K.O Abiola and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) defied the forces of gravity and went ahead to coast home to victory.