The Presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress, Bola Tinubu, on Wednesday said those criticising him over his choice of Kashim Shettima as his running mate in the 2023 polls had approached him for the position.
He said most of them were close to him, adding that they had indicated interest to become his running mate, an overture he claimed he bluntly turned down.
Tinubu spoke during an interactive session with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria in Abuja, led by Archbishop Daniel Ukoh.
The APC standard bearer’s choice of Shettima, a fellow Muslim and former Borno State governor had generated a groundswell of opposition and criticisms from many Nigerians, including the leadership of CAN.
Among the critics of the Muslim-Muslim ticket was Babachir Lawal, a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation and close ally of Tinubu, who described the decision as “a disastrous error.’’
Also, a former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, who was opposed to the idea, asked Christians in Nigeria not to waste their votes on the APC candidate in the 2023 election.
A prominent Christian leader and Bishop of the Diocese of Sokoto, Fr. Mathew Kukah, said the ruling party was insensitive to settle for same faith ticket despite squandering power and misallocating opportunities given to them in 2015.
But addressing Christian leaders at the Ecumenical Centre in Abuja, the former Lagos State governor dismissed the claims that he planned to Islamise Nigeria with his choice of Shettima as the Vice-Presidential candidate.
He said, “People have reacted harshly to my selection. They are because they are my friends, they lobbied me and wanted to be my running mate but I bluntly rejected them. The rumour that this is some plot to suppress the Christian community is untrue and unfortunate. I don’t have that kind of agenda. The bucks stop on my table, not on the vice- president’s table unless so delegated. He cannot even forgive convicted inmates if I don’t delegate the power to him. What is the vice- president?
‘’I can no more suppress the Christians of this nation than I can suppress the Christians in my own household, my very family. I dare not contest the presidential position in my house because I will lose, they are all Christians. If I did not Islamise my family, I cannot Islamise Nigeria. It is awful to hear such allegations. We cannot make progress if we continue to follow that path in the country. Religions will not help us. It won’t do any good to us. “
Reason for Shettima
The APC presidential candidate pointed out that a Christian running mate would have been politically easier, saying that was not his way.
He said, “Why a Shettima? Why the same faith ticket? These are irrelevant to the well-being of our country. I did not choose him so that we could form the same faith ticket. I chose him because I want a progressive government and people- based ideology ticket.
“I chose him thinking of who will best help me govern than who will best help me worship. Picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easier but that is not my way. The easy way is rarely the right one. The selection of a running mate is at once a very momentous yet very intimate decision.’’
Appealing for the Christian leader’s support, the former Lagos State governor stated, ‘’We are all here and witnessed Obasanjo and Atiku publicly fighting. We are asking for your votes; think twice, look at our records, and the way we have behaved in one office before the other before you take a decision. How best has a Christian and a Muslim President worked for Nigeria? Maybe one of these days we will have a Christian/Christian ticket. The person that I know will help me in the election is the person I have chosen.”
He explained that he relied on the aspect of the constitution which preached oneness, adding that he sought to be the president not on the basis of religion
Tinubu stressed that anyone who did not believe in the equality of all should not run for President in Nigeria.
He added, “I seek to become President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria neither on religious grounds nor on faith. I depend on the prefix of the constitution of Nigeria : ‘’We the people of Nigeria, we agree to choose democracy.’’ Nigerians as equals and as brothers and sisters in our national family.
‘’This means no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else, regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender. Anyone who does not hold this fair and equitable view should not run for president in a country such as ours. My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organisations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign.”
Speaks on Obasanjo
Tinubu accused former President Olusegun Obasanjo of frustrating his move to solve the power problem in Lagos when he was the governor of the state, adding that he could have ended the epileptic power supply in the country.
He said, “I was the first governor to bring in independent power generation to the country. Obasanjo, a fellow Yoruba man was the President then, rejected it. If not, we would have been out of this problem since then. I can tell it to his face, I will say it again and again. He stopped that project. “
Attacks Atiku, Obi
Tinubu also took a swipe at the Peoples Democratic Party Presidential candidate, Atiku Abubakar, and his Labour Party counterpart, Peter Obi, saying they have not laid any legacy to deserve to be elected as president.
He said, “I know you will be talking to others as you have the right to do but they will come here and tell you anything. Some are perpetual runners, they know their records, some disobeyed and later turn to obedient. What legacies have they left? How many people have they developed? I have built people, where are their records?”
He promised to engage with the CAN leadership on a regular basis if elected.
“If elected, my doors will be open to you and you will be consulted regularly on the affairs of this country,’’ he promised.
The APC candidate was accompanied by his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu; running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima; Speaker of the House of Representatives; Femi Gbajabiamila; Deputy Senate Leader Senator Boroffice Ajayi, Senate Chief Whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu, and Minister of Special Duties, Senator George Akume.
Governors Hope Uzodinnma of Imo State, David Umahi, Ebonyi; Abdullahi Ganduje, Kano and Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq of Kwara were also at the programme.
While welcoming the candidate, the CAN President, Archbishop Ukoh, presented him with a charter of demands.
CAN lists demands
Okoh in his statement titled, ‘CAN Proposal for Nigeria Post-2023,’ acknowledged that the restructuring of the country required constitutional amendment, but he noted that the next President could use Executive Order to effect some structural changes in the country.
Among other demands, the CAN leader called for a fully decentralised police authority, unambiguous religious neutrality of the Nigerian state, enforcement of fundamental rights of all Nigerians, including economic and social rights as well as equitable and enforceable sharing of executive positions.
He also demanded ethnic and religious representation in the military and other security agencies, self-determination for all Nigerian people, ranching, education and free healthcare for all Nigerians, ban on open grazing and local control of the economy, including waters, rivers, and forests.
The cleric said the constitution failed to provide an order for a society with multiple religious beliefs and practices, stressing that this failure had thrown Nigeria into perennial religious conflicts.
He said, ‘’The constitution in Section 10 states that Nigeria and any state in Nigeria will not have a state religion. This provision is reinforced by Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution which guarantees to every Nigeria the freedom of religion which includes the right to hold, change and propagate his religion.
‘’The prohibition against having a state religion is not only that the country or part of it will not make an official declaration that no one else should belong to another religion. No. it is more than that.
‘’It includes the government of the federation or the state acting in any manner that confers one advantage or disability to one religion and not the other.
‘’This means that when governors of states in northern Nigeria implement a policy of not granting the statutory right of occupancy to churches over landed property they are violating Sections 10 and 38 of the Constitution.
“It means that when a government spends public money to hire teachers for Islamic schools and not for Christian schools, it violates Section 10 and 38 of the Constitution and vice versa. This position was brought out clearly by the Court of Appeal in the case of Adamu v. Bauchi State Government.
‘’Anyone who soberly considers the actions of the previous and current Nigerian government over religion will realise that those actions proclaim a state religion.
‘’It is this flagrant violation of our common citizenship through the co-mingling of religion and politics that is the main cause of religious conflict in Nigeria, terrorism, and insecurity. We cannot make progress as a nation if we do not behave like other multi-ethnic, multi-religious nation-states that remove religion from politics.’’
Stressing the need to separate religion from the state, the Christian body contended that the next President must ensure a balance between Christians and Muslims so that the past practice of reckless violation of the rights of one religion or the other will not reoccur.
He argued further, “We have to be a religiously neutral state, not a religious state. We must have a constitution that is focused on democratic citizenship where the government pays no attention to any private identity apart from citizenship.
‘’This transition to a modern, democratic, secular state from a neo-feudal, theocratic state requires both constitutional and administrative reforms.
‘’It requires that the next Nigerian President carefully constitutes his policy and programme to ensure good balance between Christians and Muslims so that the past practice of reckless violation of the rights of one religion or the other will not reoccur. That is the minimum requirement of saving Nigeria.’’
Okoh asserted that the founding vision of a prosperous and united country founded on justice and equity has not been realised, adding regretfully that Nigeria is a poor and conflict-ridden country with neither justice nor equity.
‘’Why did our vision fail? Nigeria failed because of incoherence between the vision of justice, prosperity and unity in diversity, and its institutions and practices of politics and economy.
“In place of inclusion, Nigeria instituted and entrenched the politics of exclusion; in place of protection of fundamental rights, Nigeria embraced violations of the rights of its peoples; in place of justice for all, Nigeria practiced privilege for the few; and in place of secular, democratic governance, Nigeria promoted theocratic, neo-Feudal governance,’’ he maintained.
He further recommended a constitutional order that is based on sharing rather than producing and rewarding those who consume rather than those who produce, thereby creating no incentive for productivity.