Journalism in the service of society

Bakare on controversies surrounding Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC

ON SUNDAY, JULY 17, 2022

Fellow Citizens of Nigeria:

Following the announcement of the former Governor of Borno State, Alhaji Kashim Shettima Mustapha, as the running mate to the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC) by the candidate himself, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the national discourse has been in a tailspin with vehement opposition to this choice coming from members of my constituency, the Christian community. Accordingly, this announcement has been accompanied by rejections, resignations and resentment. Given the diversity of our nation, the mood of the nation and the degree to which true nationhood is yet to be forged, this aversion to what has been termed a Muslim-Muslim ticket is not unexpected.


As standard-bearers of the message of the New Nigeria, we dream of a nation in which every Nigerian will be judged, not by their ethnicity, political leaning, regional affiliation or religious persuasion, but by the content of their character, as Dr Martin Luther King, Jr. once proclaimed in respect of his nation, the United States of America. We dream of a Nigeria where there will no longer be indigene or settler but only a Nigerian citizen. We dream of a Nigeria where state of residence will replace state of origin in our official forms and where ‘zoning’ or ‘Federal Character’ will become archival aspects of our journey into political maturity. We dream of a Nigeria in which every woman as well as every man will be able to aspire to any political office at any time without playing the ethnic card and without recourse to ‘it’s our turn’ or ‘it’s their turn.’ We dream of a Nigeria where the political mantra will no longer be “emi lo kan” or “awa lo kan” but “Nigeria lo kan;” a Nigeria where every Nigerian citizen, at any point in time, will have the absolute freedom and liberty to contest for any political office and will be assured of the citizens’ wise use of the power of the vote without consideration of what part of the country he or she is from or in what manner he or she chooses to worship God; a Nigeria where the phrase “tiwa n tiwa” will no longer be relevant because Nigeria will be for every Nigerian and every Nigerian will be for Nigeria.


Our inspiration in this regard has always been the example of Israel which began with twelve tribes but is today one nation with no tribal distinction. However, we acknowledge that Israel’s journey to nationhood was a long and arduous journey. It took more than two millennia, a series of tumultuous experiences, and nationalistic leaders in the mould of King David to forge one cohesive nation from the twelve tribes of Israel.

In the United States of America, 246 years after independence, factors like race and religion continue to play a role in that nation’s politics and, as such, America is still working towards “a more perfect union” in accordance with its constitution. The arduous road to nation-building is not a 100m dash. It is a marathon. This much was captured by President Barack Obama in his victory speech on November 5, 2008. Hear him:

And, above all, I will ask you to join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it’s been done in America for 221 years — block by block, brick by brick, callused hand by callused hand.

This is why we choose to remain the bridge between Nigeria’s past, present and future, and the galvanising force that brings every Nigerian together around the ideal of a New Nigeria irrespective of what part of


the country they come from, what political party they pitch their tent with, or in what way they choose to worship God. We choose to do this because we believe that building the New Nigeria is the calling upon every Nigerian worthy of the name.

In line with this ethos, in tackling complex matters of nation-building, our position has always been in favour of statesmanship. On the difficult path to nation-building, statesmanship demands that leaders take into consideration the mood of the nation in making decisions, unless of course the motivation of such leaders is neither statesmanship nor nation-building but raw politics, for, as James Freeman Clarke once stated:

A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman of the next generation. A politician looks for the success of his party; a statesman for that of his country. The statesman wishes to steer, while the politician is satisfied to drift.

Nation-building is a deliberate process towards inclusion. It is an art as much as it is a science. It is not done only with the head; it is done also with the heart. Unlike politics, it is not all about the headcount, it is about the hearts and minds behind the headcounts. It is not all about the numbers, it is about the aspirations of the citizens who make up the


numbers. The only way to bring those diverse heartbeats throbbing at different rates to the table of brotherhood and sisterhood is the way of compromise and trustful give-and-take. As President Dwight D. Eisenhower once said:

People talk about the middle of the road as though it were unacceptable. Actually, all human problems, excepting morals, come into the gray areas. Things are not all black and white. There have to be compromises. The middle of the road is all of the usable surface. The extremes, right and left, are in the gutter.

The very idea of representative democracy is the ideal that everyone will not only be represented but will feel represented in his or her government. It was why Thomas Jefferson once said: “That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part.”

The pillar of Northern Nigerian politics, the late Premier of Northern Nigeria, the Sardauna of Sokoto, Sir Ahmadu Bello, recognised this moral obligation to ensure that due consideration is given to diversity of persuasions in public policy. Hence, his statement to the peoples of Northern Nigeria in a unifying message. Hear him:


Subject to the overriding need to preserve law and order, it is our determination that everyone should have absolute liberty to practice his belief according to the dictates of his conscience.

As a result, Northern Nigeria had its political foundation built on the principles of inclusion and religious harmony. This value system of religious neutrality and inclusion played out when military forces from Northern Nigeria took over power in the 1966 counter coup. The military had the confidence to leave the nation in the custody of a Christian from a minority ethnic group in the North. General Yakubu Gowon would go on to govern Nigeria for nine years keeping Nigeria one amidst a Civil War.

This moment calls for every Nigerian, from the North, South, East and West, to renew our commitment to nationhood, building upon what worked in the time of our founding fathers, while learning from their mistakes and imperfections as we build a more perfect union.

Against this backdrop, on the one hand, I challenge the political class not to sacrifice nationhood on the altar of political expediency but to demonstrate, as candidates, that they can unify the nation as president. This is the time to show maturity in decision-making and to give every


Nigerian a sense of belonging. This is the time to become statesmen and stateswomen, mindful of the next generation, and not just politicians, consumed by the next election.

On the other hand, I charge my fellow Christian leaders to approach the issue in question and the broader context of the 2023 elections with civility, clarity and with continued hope in the possibilities of a united Nigeria — a New Nigeria that works for every Nigerian, Christian as well as Muslim. Nationhood, rather than divisiveness must be the objective of every engagement.

As Christian leaders, we must also realise that the church in Nigeria is today paying for decades of erroneous teaching that posited that Christians have no business in politics. What is happening today is the price we are having to pay for the years of failure of the church to strategically participate in the political process. The antagonism that was meted to some of us who have ventured from the pulpit to the podium, even from amongst our fellow Christian leaders, was always a pointer that a day would come when the church would face a rude awakening of the consequence of passivity, apathy, non-participation and an anachronistic adherence to the Aaronic priesthood, especially long after the author and finisher of our faith had moved on to the Melchizedek priesthood. Failure to admit this would amount to hypocrisy.


Going forward, ahead of 2023, we must learn from our mistakes. Christian leaders must, at this point, bring the candidates and their running mates to the negotiation table — doing so with an open mind and based on a clearly articulated charter for nation-building and national development. Such strategic engagement would be reminiscent of the interventions of the Save Nigeria Group (SNG) in 2010 when it engaged the presidential candidates on the basis of the SNG Charter, A Contract to Save and Transform Nigeria. In this regard, Nigerian Christian leaders must provide answers to a cogent question: What kind of nation do Nigerian Christians want?

Guided by the answers to this question, Christian leaders must, at this point, convene a strategic concourse to define the minimum standards across sectors of governance below which no Nigerian, Christian or Muslim, must be subjected. The SNG Charter and the Nigerian Charter for National Reconciliation and Reintegration which was unanimously adopted by the delegates to the 2014 National Conference, can be a springboard for such sector-by-sector deliberations. This must be done between now and September when the campaigns will officially commence. The Charter may be launched in Abuja and may be termed The Abuja Declaration for Nationhood.


Thereafter, Christian leaders must then carefully engage each presidential candidate and running mate based on that Charter and provide a unified direction to the body of Christ in Nigeria having assessed each presidential/vice-presidential ticket based on key performance indicators around the Charter. This would be a more mature, structured and strategic way to respond to the situation as against the emotional reactions that have dominated the polity since the choice of a running mate was made by the APC presidential candidate.

For the Christians in Northern Nigeria who feel marginalised by the choice of a Northern Muslim as running mate, the time has come to upgrade the conversation from politics to governance. The time has come to interrogate the impact of politics on development. In this regard, key questions must be asked:

1. What will the candidates do to change the social, economic and political landscapes in Northern Nigeria to ensure the emergence of an enlightened electorate that will make political decisions not based on religion or region but on rational indices of character, competence, capacity and policy?

2. Reports attributed to UNICEF suggest that 18.5 million Nigerian children of school age are out of school – an increase from the 13


million previously reported. The majority of these are from Northern Nigeria and there are reports indicating that the North East accounts for 60 per cent of Nigeria’s out-of-school children. The running mate of the APC candidate is from the North East. What will this ticket do to get these Nigerian children back to school? What will this ticket do to put an end to the ignoble and shameful situation in which the political class has, over the years weaponised the poverty and illiteracy of a population and used it to perpetuate itself in power? What are their antecedents? What have they done in the past to address these issues?

This is the root of the unrest in the North, a crisis of human development, the consequence of which Nigerians, Christians as well as Muslims are faced with today. These are issues that must be brought before the ticket and before every party and candidate for the presidency. It is, therefore, time to upgrade the conversation from politics to governance.

Even as we advocate for balanced political representation, the weightier matters should be the stark realities of underdevelopment, not just in the North but across the nation.

Finally, I am fully persuaded that peace is the foundation for increase and prosperity, and until we learn to execute true justice and show mercy


and compassion everyone to his brother, the peace we long for in this nation may continue to elude us. I believe this is why the Psalmist declared in Psalm 122:69:

Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: “May they prosper who love you.
Peace be within your walls, Prosperity within your palaces.” For the sake of my brethren and companions, I will now say, “Peace be within you.”

Because of the house of the Lord our God I will seek your good.

Dear Brothers and Sisters, without true justice, equity and fair play, we will continue to fertilise instability and chaos in the land. The word of the Lord that came to Prophet Zechariah confirms this. Listen to him in

Then the word of the LORD came to Zechariah, saying, “Thus says the LORD of hosts: ‘Execute true justice, Show mercy and compassion
Everyone to his brother.

Zechariah 7:812:


10 Do not oppress the widow or the fatherless,
The alien or the poor. Let none of you plan evil in his heart Against his brother.’
11 “But they refused to heed, shrugged their shoulders,
and stopped their ears so that they could not hear.
12 Yes, they made their hearts like flint, refusing to hear the law and the words which the LORD of hosts had sent by His Spirit through the former prophets. Thus great wrath came from the LORD of hosts.

There you have it boldly written. Without justice, equity and fair play, the notion of ‘One Nigeria’ will remain a desert mirage.

It is, therefore, imperative that we act with understanding of the times and rise up to the challenge of nation-building that this occasion calls for.

Thank you for listening, God bless you, and God bless the Federal Republic of Nigeria. And may Nigeria win in 2023 in Jesus’ Mighty Name, Amen.

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