Muslim-Muslim Ticket: A Peoples’ Interest-Based Approach

Muslim-Muslim Ticket: A Peoples’ Interest-Based Approach

Dr. Emmanuel Abiodun Dada

The choice of Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of APC, a Muslim, to pick as his running mate, vice presidential candidate, a fellow Muslim, Alhaji Kashim Shettima, does constitute a Minority Muslim-Majority Muslim ticket has generated a lot of opposition and concerns from some Christian communities as an unacceptable Muslim-Muslim choice ticket. This contribution is to rationalize Bola Tinubu’s choice and allay the fears of the concern of some Christian communities bothering majorly on potential marginalization and Tinubu’s insensitivity to Christians among others. The reality of the situation in Nigeria coupled with the already known choices of Tinubu’s major political opponent’s presidential tickets (Atiku of PDP a Majority Muslim-Majority Christian and Obi of the Labour Party-LP, a Majority Christian-Majority Muslim) leaves Tinubu with no other choice than to have a Minority Muslim-Majority Muslim ticket against a Minority Muslim-Minority Christian ticket as being suggested if he wants to win the 2023 presidential election.

The main goal of any candidate is to win the election and the candidate will do all it takes to win. In Nigeria, the reality of winning a presidential election is to do the right permutations of the complexity of our diversity that rested on three legs of religions (Muslim, Christian, and Traditionalist), regions (NorthWest-NW, NorthEast-NE, NorthCentral-NC, SouthWest-SW, SouthEast-SE, and SouthSouth-SS), and ethnicities ( Fulani, Yoruba, Ibo, Hausa, Kanuri, Ijaw, Igala, Ibiobio and others). No single one of these three legs will win an election and in this particular case being a Christian or Muslim alone will not win an election. However, our complexity of religions, regions, and ethnicities can be simplified into the Majority Muslims in the Northern regions (NW, NE, and NC), the Majority Christians in the Southern regions (SW, SE, and SS), and we have Hausas, Fulanis, Kanuris, Igalas, and other minorities in the Northern region, and the Yorubas, Ibos, Ijaws, Ibibios and other minorities in the Southern Nigeria. That is, our ethnicities are majorly, Hausa, Fulani, Yoruba, Ibo, Kanuri, Igala, Ijaw, Ibibio and other minorities. These different ethnicities interplay and influence the regionalities of Majority Muslims and Majority Christians in the choice of a ticket to win the presidential election.

Further, this three-legged complexity of religions, regions, and ethnicities finally influences the reality that the Majority Muslims in the North will only vote for the ticket that has a Muslim as the number one (president) or number two (vice president) and on the other hand, the Majority Christians in the South has no preference or is less influence by the religions (Muslim-Muslim, Muslim-Christian, Christian-Muslim or Christian-Christian) of the ticket. A case in point is the outcome of an opinion poll with participants who are mostly Yorubas resident in the SouthWest region conducted by Renew Our Hope, a USA based Non-Governmental Organization (NGO, PAC that I founded in the year 2012 ) towards the end of May 2022 just before the APC presidential convention to pick the party’s presidential flag bearer. The results of the poll showed that on the issue of Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket out of about 8000 participants in the poll, 2963 participants (39.7%) has no opinion, 2632 participants (35.2 %) has concern, and 1878 participants (25.1 %) has no concern. That is, overall, 4841 participants (64.5%) have either no opinion or no concern on a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.

The final decisive influence on the complexity of our three legged religions, regions, and ethnicities in the choice of a presidential ticket as highlighted above is our 1999 Constitution that states that:
(1) Nigeria is a secular state not an Islamist, Christian or traditionalist state. In spite of what is going on currently in Nigeria on religion persecutions especially banditry, Boko Haram, and perceived/real marginalization of Christians in some States, Nigeria is still a secular state.

(2) For the ticket to win the presidential election, it must secure at least 25% of votes in each of the two-thirds of the States which is currently, the ticket has to fulfill this criterion in 24 out of 36 States in Nigeria. This singular two-third requirement more than anything else complicates the final choice because as big votes from the States in the NE and NW regions combined are almost more than the rest of the votes from the remaining States of the four regions of SS, SW, SE, and NC, any presidential ticket that predominantly gets his/her for votes from NE and NW only will not win the election no matter how big is the winning margins in those two regions of NE and NW. That was one of the main reasons that President Buhari did not win the presidential elections in his three previous attempts in spite of the fact that he balanced the ticket as a Muslim (Buhari) –Christian (Vice president) as the Country appeared to favour at those times.

(3) That the president makes the final decision delegating or not delegating any function/authority to his/her vice president. There are many examples to back the fact that by our 1999 Constitution, the president makes the final decision and he/she can override decisions made on his behalf by his vice president. Ultimately, the most important function directly assigned to the vice president in our Constitution is to succeed the president if something happens to the president like impeachment or death. Examples are during the first term of President Obasanjo (Majority Christian) in 1999 to 2003 he gave a lot of authority to his Vice President Atiku (Majority Muslim) a Christan-Muslim ticket but in their subsequent second term 2003 to 2007, Obasanjo and Atiku felt apart. And Obasanjo first attempted to remove Atiku which he was told it is unconstitutional that only the National Assembly can remove Atiku by impeachment which Obasanjo knew that he will not get the necessary votes to do that so he relegated Atiku to the background as if Atiku does not exist in their government. The 2007 to 2011 presidency of late President Yar’Dua (Majority Muslim) and Jonathan (Majority Christian) a Muslim-Christian ticket, we saw how a vice president became almost non-existent when Yar ‘Dua was sick and the cabals that surrounded Yar’Dua refused to let Jonathan to become acting president and they were acting on behalf of Yar ‘Dua until the National Assembly used “the doctrine of necessity” to make Jonathan acting president pending when Yar’Dua will be well enough to resume his presidency. And the most recent example which is highly commendable as an example of how the Constitution should work in which the president delegates to the vice president and also he/she is able to limit the influence of his/her vice president in the case of the first term (2015 to 2019) and second term (2019 to 2023) of President Buhari (Majority Muslim) and Vice President Osinbajo (Majority Christian) a Muslim-Christian ticket. Here when Buhari was sick he immediately transferred power to his vice president Osinbajo as acting president while he proceeded to London for care and when he came back from London and for few months upon his return he requested the National Assembly to let Osinbajo continue to be the acting president until he gets much well better to resume his presidency. That is, in our history we once had in Buhari-Osinbajo at a time both an acting president and president simultaneously both sitting in the Abuja which no one could have imagined possible. That is, President Buhari is an example of a president who delegates a lot of responsibility to his vice president and also knows when and how to limit the power he gave his vice president. Buhari-Osinbajo is an example to emulate and their example is for all those who fear about Muslim-Muslim ticket, that what they need to concentrate ultimately on, is the president, the top of the ticket, acceptable to them to lead as a leader whom they trust to exercise the power of the presidency and will not play a second fiddle to his/her vice president no matter how powerful the VP becomes? This is because ultimately the president has the power to limit the influence of his/her vice president absolutely. That is, the vice president is as powerful as the president wants to make him/her be and when necessary the president can relegate the VP to the background.

From the above analysis, one can summarize that in the election of the presidential ticket, the choice is influenced by our Constitution which stipulates that Nigeria is a SECULAR STATE and that the president has the final decision delegating or not delegating any function/authority to his/her vice president, that the ticket must get 25% of votes in each of the two-third of the States in Nigeria (currently 24 out of 36 States), and our three-legged diversity of religions, regions, and ethnicities as analyzed above on Majority Muslims and Majority Christians (religion), regions (NW, NE, NC, SW, SE, and SS) and ethnicities (Yoruba, Hausa, Fulani, Ibo, Kanuri, Ibibio, Igala, Ijaw, and other minorities). This three-legged complexity of religions, regions, and ethnicities finally influences on the reality that the majority of Muslims in the North will only vote for the ticket that has a Muslim as the number one (president) or number two (vice president). And on the other hand, the majority of Christians in the South have no preference or are less influenced by the religions (Muslim-Muslim, Muslim-Christian, or Christian-Christian) of the ticket as backed by the outcome of a recent opinion poll with participants who are mostly Yoruba resident in the SouthWest region that 64.5% of about 8,000 participants have either no opinion or no concern on a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket.

Therefore, Tinubu a Yoruba Muslim from SW (therefore consider a Minority Muslim) faced with the reality of the situation with the prior advantage of knowing the composition of the tickets of his main opponents especially Abubakar Atiku of PDP –Muslim from NE (consider a Majority Muslim) and a Fulani with a Christian-Vice President Ifeanyi Okowa Ibo from SS. VP candidate Ifeanyi Okowa doubles as both from SS and SE, an Ibo from SS making him qualify in a reality of Nigeria situation as simultaneously an Ibo from SS and SE. It goes without saying that it is the fact that Dr. Okowa an Ibo doubles as SS and SE, and great potential electoral votes to win both SS and SE votes made Atiku picked Dr. Okowa as his VP candidate against the popular choice of his party’s big guns to choose Governor Wike of Rivers State a Majority Christian from SS. Therefore Atiku-Okowa ticket is a Majority Muslim-Majority Christian ticket. Tinubu must have also noted a less threat to his candidacy by Peter Obi, the Labor Party- Majority Christian from SE with a Majority Muslim VP Yusuff Baba-Ahmed from the NW ticket.

In the final analysis, Tinubu a Minority Muslim from SW faces two main opponents of a Majority Muslim-Majority Christian ticket and a Majority Christian-Majority Muslim ticket with the advantages they have over him on the SS and SE regions votes has no choice since we operate a democracy that MAJORITY WINS than to choose a Minority Muslim-Majority Muslim ticket based on all the permutations we have provided above. Especially that from the total six regions of Nigeria, the Majority Muslims from NE and NW regions will only vote majorly for a ticket that has either the president or vice president and the SE, SS and SW who are majorly Christians are less concerned on the religion of the ticket. A Minority Muslim SW with Tinubu as President and a Vice President Minority Christian from the NW, NE or NC can not win the election from all the factors we have analyzed above.

That is, the first and most important choice for Tinubu is to choose his running mate (VP) from the Majority Muslim in the NE, NW or NC regions. The majority of votes from NE, NW and NC are from NE and NW that overwhelms combination of other regions so he will need to choose from a Majority Muslims from NW or NE to maximize his chance to win. This choice to win will now narrow to geopolitical ethnicity either a Majority Muslim Fulani from NW region or a Majority Muslim Kanuri from NE region. From information and data at Tinubu’s disposal that this author has no insight or knowledge of, he settled for a Majority Muslim Kanuri from the NE region. Now whom does Tinubu chooses from the Majority Muslims NE region? The next variables to make this choice will now be on competence, acceptability, pedigree, and many other qualities including someone that he can work with and who has political experience as good as his own that he can delegate to when necessary. One of the persons that overwhelmingly meets all these criteria is no other person than Kashim Shettima, a former commissioner, a former two terms governor and current senator from Borno State that plus he brings to the table the afore mentioned major criteria of winning being a Majority Muslim Kanuri from NE region. That is, why I do not know in any details the actual criteria and elimination sequence used by Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu for the choice of Alhaji Kashim Shettima constituting, therefore, a MUSLIM-MUSLIM ticket, this contribution has shown that the choice is a reality choice to win the election. As also shown, the competence criterion of the choice for the vice president only comes after crossing the hurdle of our three-legged complexity of religions, regions, and ethnicities that overlay influence of reactions of Nigerians to the Muslim-Muslim ticket as discussed above in detail.

In conclusion, the choice of Kashim Shettima as the VP to Tinubu is not because he is the most competent Muslim from the North but he was chosen, I think, after carefully considering all the necessary permutations needed to win the election that include our three-legged complexity of religions, regions, and ethnicities among other consideration. In fact there are others both Muslims and Christians in the North that can be identified who are more competent or as competent as Shettima. For example, the current governor of Borno State, Professor Babagana Zulum, a majority Muslim and Kanuri (I presume) from NE is as competent as Shettima. As we all have read, Zulum publicly yielded consideration of the position of VP to Shettima his benefactor and predecessor as governor of Borno State.

The Christian communities especially from the Northern region who are aggrieved, felt slightled as inconsequential, and felt that Tinubu’s Muslim-Muslim ticket choice is insensitive to the current situation in Nigeria will see reasons as advanced above that Tinubu’s choice was placed on him by the present reality in Nigeria if he wants to win. This is because a Minority Muslim-Minority Christian ticket that they are suggesting to Tinubu will not win an election in the present Nigeria if we want to be realistic. To that extent, the Christians should take consolation to the fact that Tinubu is not a fanatic Muslim. If for anything he is a person whose wife of about 40 years is not only a Christian but a pastor in one of the churches of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG). If Tinubu can not covert his wife to Muslim but supported her to increase her Christian faith then it makes sense he is not going to be working against the interest of Christians in Nigeria. Plus most Nigerians know that Muslims of Yoruba origin of SW abide by a culture of religion tolerance where in the same family Muslims, Christians and Traditionalists coexisting together more than any region and/or ethnic group in Nigeria. As also discussed, the top of the ticket, the president, is the one that makes the final decision and he can if he wishes delegates some power to his VP and at his will, he can take such power back. The question is, does Tinubu has the characteristics of being a leader who will not, under any circumstances, play a second fiddle to his VP and will at all-time be in charge? The answer is a resounding YES from all we publicly know of Tinubu as a former senator, and a former two terms governor of Lagos State and who also extended his influence in governorship of all the remaining five States that constitute the SW long after he was no longer the governor of Lagos State. And if any one is still in doubt be he/she a Christian or a Muslim, should doubt no more that Tinubu has the leadership quality to know what he wants to achieve and how to achieve it without playing second fiddle to anyone following the sequence of “EMI LO KAN” (it is my turn to be president of Nigeria) at his APC presidential aspirant rally in Abeokuta in May 2022. It will be a long discussion that is beyond the scope of this contribution to ask if a Minority Muslim-Minority Christian ticket (Christians in the North are considered Minority Christians, and Muslims in the South are considered Minority Muslims) that is being suggested that Tinubu adopts be better for Christians in the current fears of Boko Haram, bandits, ethnic cleansing perceived/real, land grabbing (RUGA), Fulani herdsmen, etc. against the Minority Muslim-Majority Muslim ticket that Tinubu has chosen? The answer without any detail is difficult to predict the outcome and more so because we currently have as our President Buhari (Majortity Muslim, Fulani from NW) and our Vice President Osinbajo (Majority Christian, Yoruba from SW) and yet their two terms from 2015 to till to date did not improve our concerns on insecurity, bandits, etc. they inherited from their predecessor, President Jonathan, a Majority Christian an Ijaw from SS with double benefits of a mother (Ibo) from SE and Vice President Sambo, a Fulani Majority Muslim from NW. If a Majority Muslim-Majority Christian and a Majority Christian and Majority Muslim presidencies could not do it, it becomes logical that it is not the religion composition of the ticket that will solve our problems. And I will add without any proof or any insight that let us give Tinubu’s APC Minority Muslim-Majority Muslim ticket a chance to run in the 2023 presidential election with Tinubu a Yoruba Minority Muslim from SW in the driver seat as the president who is tolerant to different religions outside his own. I am optimistic that, Asiwaju Ahmed BolaTinubu, will personally reach out to the concerned Christian communities to allay their fears that his choice is not being insensitive to the Christians feelings and to let them know that he will equally protect the interests of Christians, Muslims and Traditionalists as required by our 1999 Constitution if he wins the election. As a food for thought, in our history, an NPN President Shehu Shagari a Fulani Majority Muslim from NW with VP Alex Ekwueme an Ibo Majority Christian ticket won the 1979 presidential election against the UPN Chief Obafemi Awolowo a Yoruba Majority Christian from SW with VP Chief Philip Umeadi an Ibo Majority Christian from SE loss the election. Also, more alike to our present situation, an SDP Moshood Abiola a Yoruba Minority Muslim from SW with VP Baba Gana Kingibe a Kanuri Majority Muslim from NE won the annulled presidential election of 1993 against the NRC President Bashir Othma Tofa a Kanuri Majority Muslim from NE with a vice president Dr. Sylvester Ugoh former Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria an Ibo Majority Christian from SE. Nigeria is a secular state and we have tried almost all the possible combinations of Muslim-Muslim, Muslim-Christian, Christian-Muslim, and Christian-Christian presidential tickets so let all tickets’ religions combinations run in the 2023 presidential elections without too much emphasis on our religious differences. Note: (1993 Election Result: Yoruba Minority Muslim SW –Kanuri Majority Muslim NE won against Kanuri Majority Muslim NE-Ibo Majority Christian SS.
2023 Election Result???: Yoruba Minority Muslim SW –Kanuri Majority Muslim NE ???? against Fulani Majority Muslim NE- Delta Igbo Majority Christian SS/SE- VP qualifies to be identified as both SS and SE because of his ethnicity as Igbo of SE extraction from SS region.)

Dr. Emmanuel Abiodun Dada, Founder, and Chairman; Renew Our Hope, a USA-based, NGO, PAC founded in 2012 in support of the reelection of President Obama

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