By Abimbola Adelakun
After weeks of speculating whether the All Progressives Congress would choose a Muslim for their vice presidential candidate or consider the precarious balance of Nigerian politics, they did the former. This past weekend, the APC settled for the former Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima. For a while, the people who are hurt over the decision will spend some time ruminating over the implications of pairing two Muslim candidates despite the mood of the times. Given that the APC has the incumbency factor on their side, there will be many analyses of their choice and perhaps some conspiracy theories too will be thrown around in the coming months. However, none of that is likely to change anything. What is done is already done.
The arguments were worthwhile before the decision was officially announced. Now that the decision has been taken, it is no longer worth fighting over. The quicker we move on, the better we can engage substantial issues of our failing polity. At best, we will merely sow disaffection amongst ourselves. On the bright side, one hopes some people learn a few lessons about the nature of high-stakes politics so they can prepare for future elections. In case it is still not self-evident, let me put it across more clearly: Politics is a calculative art of taking advantage of others’ weaknesses. Politics is a game nobody plays for their opponent to win. It is inherently self-serving, and prudent politicians are unapologetic about looking out for personal interests. We too must do the same for ourselves. Enough of serving politicians’ interests while overlooking yours.
If anyone had told those who thought the Redeemed Christian Church of God overreached itself when the church announced the setting up of a department to mobilise support for their parishioners in politics that we would eventually end up with a Muslim-Muslim candidate, they would have thought it impossible. Especially not after Vice President Yemi Osinbajo was badgered into defending himself over appointing his church members—less than a dozen of them, mind you—into offices. I know a few people, Christians, who are still stunned by the brazenness of the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket. They feel outplayed, but they have only themselves to blame for expecting too much from a collective who never regarded anyone outside their circles.
From peddling the conspiracy theory of Osinbajo’s Pentecostal ‘mafiasation’ of the country to now excusing a Muslim-Muslim ticket, by arguing that religion should not trump competence, APC partisans have come a long way. Their inconsistent reasoning and forked-tongued justification are the amoral nature of politics. That is why those who tend to win elections are the ones who double down on radical choices. The weak ones who do silly things like making a video to show their critics that they appointed the right mix of Muslims and Christians into their cabinet will end up unappealing to any serious constituency.
To stave off the embarrassment of their 2023 presidential ticket, some APC stalwarts have asked people to consider that the spouse of their presidential candidate, Remi Tinubu, is a Christian and even a pastor in the RCCG. Good for her, but they cannot urge us to overlook religion in one breath and still drag their candidate’s marriage into a political campaign to justify their choices. And if we are talking about the same Mrs Tinubu who chided her colleague, Smart Adeyemi, when he stood up to raise the issue of insecurity in the Senate, then those party advocates are not taking public resentment seriously enough. Otherwise, they would not ask Christians to console themselves with a woman who casually dismissed legislative intervention in an unfolding national disaster just so that her privileged position would not be jeopardised. Anyone who thinks a woman like that in power will represent the interests of Nigerian Christians is self-deluded. Even if you will toss a token in people’s direction, at least ensure its usefulness.
What is even better than agonising over religion is to vote your religious choice. If religion is that important to you, enough to want to demonstrate irritation at being shoved aside in Nigeria’s ‘religionised’ politics, you can always vote a Christian presidential candidate. It is really that simple. It is what others too will do if the shoe is on the other foot. Some months ago, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) unabashedly vowed that Yoruba Muslims would never vote a Yoruba Christian as their President, and that without the Hijab issue straightened out for them, Muslims would withhold their votes. Such cynical manipulation of basal sentiment is not new in Nigerian politics. Travel as far back as 1993, and you will find similar politicking. As much as I find identity politics rather distracting, I also do not know anywhere in the world where people are past it. It will keep recurring every election season.
Well, Christian or Muslim, nobody needs denigrate the other over this; Nigeria is already hard enough to survive already. Those who abhor the APC presidential ticket composition reserve their right to vote whomever.
That said, it is still important to remind ourselves that the case against the Tinubu-Shettima ticket is not their religion. Whichever God(s) they believe in is their private business. Although we cannot but talk about religion since they frequently dangle it in our faces, the faith politicians practice is inconsequential in the larger scheme of things. That is why we need to maintain some focus on what truly disqualifies this ticket. The case against the Tinubu-Shettima ticket is simple: They represent continuity with the failure that jinxed Nigeria for seven years and counting. The APC failed us serially, and that is the most important reason they should be swept off with their own brooms. They cannot be a government with so many failed policies that have brought poverty and hardship to Nigeria, and people only reject them based on religion.
The APC has failed in the same way—and perhaps far worse—than the Peoples Democratic Party did until 2015. We should hold the APC up to the standard they used to campaign against the PDP and reject them for the same reason they asked us to sack the PDP. Their administration has failed and voting them in 2023 is endorsing that failure. Their scorecard in areas of security, economy, education, healthcare, and overall policies pertaining to the soul of the nation is enough reason for them to be ousted from power forever. They have nothing useful to offer Nigerians; do not be deceived by the nonsense-peddling of their paid hacks who tell you that their candidate will build Nigeria as he built Lagos. Like everything else about their candidate, it is a lie.
Lagos is one of the most dysfunctional cities in the world, and several objective assessments have demonstrated so. Lagos sits at the bottom of every rating that measures the liveability of cities worldwide. Year in and year out, the administrators of Lagos get exposed as a bunch of phonies. During the rainy season especially, their shoddy infrastructure collapses on their faces and their cluelessness is revealed. The only thing going for those who trot out the silly defence of their paymaster is that most of their audience have never seen an actual city before in their entire lives, and therefore have no framework for a reasonable comparison. That is why they dutifully regurgitate the lines of “Lagos is working” when they do not know what a working city even looks like.
For a state that has been under the same political party and leadership administration for the entire length of Nigeria’s return to civil rule since 1999, Lagos State administrators have little to show as proof of their administrative capacity. If after 23 years, Lagos still does not come up in the top 30 most liveable cities in Africa, there is no guarantee these people will fare better in Aso Rock. This truth does not need to be paired with religion to disqualify them. Why waste time and emotions on the insularity of the APC ticket when the issues that will ultimately affect everyone—Christians, Muslims, African Traditional Religionists, atheists, agnostics, and every other faith or non-faith—are already staring us in the face? The APC team’s weak spot is not religion. Obsessing with religion will let them get away with what truly disqualifies them, which is their awful record of leadership. It is the case against them, and it speaks louder than whatever God they believe.
Culled from The Punch