Over 10,000 Nigerians from across the 19 northern states yesterday converged on Abuja to protest the Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the All Progressives Congress (APC).
Presidential candidate of the governing party, Bola Ahmed Tinubu had last Sunday named a fellow Muslim and former Borno State governor, Kasim Shettima, as his running mate after meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari in Daura, Katsina State.
In continuation of the protest that greeted the decision, the protesters under the All Christians Community of Northern Nigeria on Friday marched to the presidential villa where they submitted a protest letter to the federal government against the Muslim-Muslim agenda adopted by the APC.
Leader of the group, Moses Adams, said these are indeed not the best times for Christians in the APC and Nigeria in general.
He said, “Our sensibilities have been insulted by the ambition of a select few that have elected to throw caution in the wind.
“As you may be aware, Nigeria is a multi-ethnic and multi-religious state. The two major religions in the country are Islam and Christianity. And these have defined our way of life since the country attained independence in 1960. Successive governments in the country have respected the multi-religious nature of the country, especially during elections, to create a balance in the leadership of the country.
“We are therefore alarmed with the decision of the All Progressive Congress Party (APC) to disregard the Christian community in the choice of its vice presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential elections. Without mincing words, this is unacceptable and a recipe for creating sharp divides between the Muslims and the Christians in the country.”
The protesters reminded Buhari that since the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, the tradition had been a Muslim-Christian or Christian-Muslim paring by all political parties, a practice they said has to a large extent ensured religious harmony in the country.
“However, the move by our party to adopt a Muslim-Muslim ticket is most insensitive and the height of discrimination against Christians in our country . This is on the heels that other political parties indeed reflected the religious balance in the composition of their presidential team,” they added.
The Christian group wondered why the APC elected to tow the path of dishonour which it said, in its considered opinion, is a deliberate attempt to relegate the Christians in Nigeria into oblivion, noting that it is not in the best interest of the country in this critical period of our existence.
The protesters continued: “Your Excellency Sir, we the Christians in Northern Nigeria are displeased and angered by this insensitivity. By their action, the APC sent a strong message that Christians are not relevant in the scheme of things in the country.
“The APC has also displayed religious intolerance that would eventually bring about religious tension in the country if not reversed in the overarching objective of entrenching peace and tranquility.
“As stakeholders in the APC, we know that there are credible Christians in the APC from northern Nigeria and other parts of the country who are dedicated and have outstanding credentials that could make the vice presidential slot.
“Mr. President Sir, we are tempted to mention that the move by the APC is intended to cause a crisis of unimaginable proportion along ethno-religious lines. And you must admit that this is not what Nigeria needs, in all fairness.
“This despicable display aggrieves the Christian community in Nigeria by the APC in presenting a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential elections.
“We are using this medium to appeal to your good office to intervene in reversing this ignoble move by the party’s Presidential Candidate. We demand that you invite the Presidential Candidate of the party to quickly retrace his steps immediately”.
In naming Shettima as his running mate, Tinubu had stated that his choice for the vice president slot was made because he believes “this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians, period, regardless of their religious affiliation or considerations of ethnicity or region.
Here is where politics ends, and true leadership must begin.”
But the decision to adopt a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket generated a lot of concerns across the country, as critics alleged that it was a clandestine plot to Islamise the country.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) was among the first to rally Christians across the country against Tinubu’s decision
Even within the APC, notable members like Senator Ishaku Abbo and former secretary to the government of the federation, Babachir Lawal, also led campaigns pressuring Tinubu to drop the Muslim-Muslim ticket or face internal revolt that could cost him the presidency next year.
Abbo had told the media earlier that he cannot work for such a man like Tinubu.
“I will oppose (a) Christian-Christian ticket because I am invested in the stability of this country. A Christian-Christian ticket will be insensitive to Muslims of this country,” Abbo said.
No DSS Advisory Before PMB On Muslim/ Muslim Ticket- Presidency
Meanwhile, the presidency yesterday refuted media report claiming that an intelligence report by the Department of State Service (DSS) before President Buhari warning that a Muslim/ Muslim ticket adopted by the APC is a recipe for renewed sectarian crises that could destabilise Nigeria.
An online newspaper had reported that the classified report which was sent to Buhari by the DSS was shared with it by national security officials this week.
The said document, which allegedly got to the president by way of the National Security Adviser (NSA), Gen Babagana Monguno (rtd), said Tinubu should consider security implications of his selection before making it public.
“The SSS produced the report and handed a copy to the NSA. The NSA looked at the report and added it for security briefing to the president. Simply put, our understanding is that the alliance will destabilise Nigeria and embolden attacks on Christian citizens from their fellow Muslim citizens. The distrust Christians are likely to harbour against a presidency occupied by two Muslims won’t make our work easy at national security level,” the online paper quoted an intelligence officer as saying.
But presidential spokesman, Mallam Garba Shehu, in a statement, urged Nigerians to ignore what he described as laughably puerile report.
Shehu said, “We wish to advise well-meaning Nigerians to ignore a laughably puerile report by an apparently pirate online newspaper seeking to sow division and chaos on the choice of Governor Kashim Shettima as the running mate of our party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
“This so-called newspaper is like a deadly virus. Stay safe by keeping away from its toxic reports.”
According to the online report, the security intelligence agencies, such as the DSS and National Security Adviser’s office are allegedly advising against the decision as it could create more security issues for the country in future.
The online paper claimed that in an intelligence report allegedly sent to President Buhari by the DSS, the security agencies urged Tinubu to reconsider security implications of his selection before making it public.
Part of the intelligence report quoted by the online medium, stated: “The SSS produced the report and handed a copy to the NSA. The NSA looked at the report and added it for security briefing to the president. Simply put, our understanding is that the alliance will destabilise Nigeria and embolden attacks on Christian citizens from their fellow Muslim citizens.
“The distrust Christians are likely to harbour against a presidency occupied by two Muslims won’t make our work easy at national security level,” the security agencies alleged.
However, the DSS spokesperson, Dr Peter Afunanya failed to comment on the issue when LEADERSHIP Weekend asked him.
Arewa Group Tackles Babachir, Other Critics
Meanwhile, the Arewa Youth Consultative Forum ( AYCF) has taken a swipe at the former secretary to government of the federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and other critics over what it described as “narrow-minded, unguarded political sentimentalism and provocative stance” over the 2023 presidency.
Rising from its meeting yesterday, AYCF averred that there can be no better choice of a vice president for Tinubu than Senator Kashim Shettima who is a nationalist to the core, saying “no one should turn our democratic space into the home of religious extremism”.
The group, in the statement issued after the meeting chaired by tits national president, Alhaji Yerima Shettima, said Babachir and his co-travellers in the “myopic, sentimental stance, should stop this madness in this new century of advancement all over the world”.
The AYCF queried Babachir and all the critics against the Muslim-Muslim ticket which it described as “distraction and dangerous religious extremism”, saying “we are familiar with the antics of narrow-minded, emotionally-driven politicians wearing religious garb”.
The AYFC pointed out: “Talking of Muslim-Muslim ticket, have these charlatans become so blinded by emotional religious fixation that they forgot history? We had Christian-Christian ticket with Awolowo under the UPN in 1978 and Azikiwe under the UNPP when he picked Professor Ishaya Audu – another Christian as running mate.
“Since the emergence of democracy till date, the South-south, South-east States have never given the chance for Muslims to taste the seat of running mates even at the level of governorship”.
The statement warned the “anti-Shettima campaign promoters to shut their mouths before they create bad blood along religious fault-lines and drag the nation into further insecurity”.