Samuel Enyi Otsapa

Samuel Enyi Otsapa

Enyi Ochapa

It is my firm believe that one of the main architect of the puerile effrontery by Bola Ahmed Tinubu in particular and APC as a political party by extension in announcing a Muslim – Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential election is Governor Nasir Elrufai of Kaduna State. Once upon a time, the diminutive strong headed man fell out with his first term deputy governor, Bala Bantex; a Christian from Southern Kaduna. One of the many issues that made the duo who knew each other from their days at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria to draw daggers at each other was the governor’s insistence to demolish the Gbagyi Villa, a growing residential neighborhood in the Christian part of Kaduna metropolis located behind Kaduna Polytechnic.

Those who know Kaduna metropolis already know that there is an iron wall that separates adherents of the two religions in the city. The Christians live on one side of town and the Muslims, the other. Bala Bantex, now of blessed memory, on behalf of his people resisted Gov. Elrufai’s demolition plan because residents of the area were allocated the plots by the government before Elrufai, so their stay there is legitimate. This issue became a vexed one and we heard that there was a slapping and a retaliation by the two. The courts also ruled in favor of the people against Gov. Nasir Elrufai’s oppressive Kaduna State Government.

Following this feud and in the buildup to the 2019 gubernatorial election in the state, Gov. Nasir Elrufai unsurprisingly dropped Bala Bantex as his running mate. Fine – because can two work together except they agree? No. But we expected him to pick another Southern Kaduna Christian – instead he picked a Muslim woman and called the bluff of Christians. Since 1999, as with the federal government, Kaduna State had always ran with both religions in every election because the two have huge representation in the state, unlike other Northern states where Muslims overwhelmingly dominate. Even when for the first time a Christian, Patrick Yakowa of blessed memory, by sheer providence became the state governor, his deputy was a Muslim. The people protested but Gov. Elrufai and the APC won’t bulge and he went on to win the 2019 election. Whether that election was credible, free and fair is a discussion for another day.

And this became a prototype for the APC.

Recall that in 2014, General Muhammadu Buhari had wanted to run with Bola Ahmed Tinubu in the newly formed APC but Muslims within the party, spearheaded by Bukola Saraki, opposed it. Desperate for power after contesting three times and failing, General Muhammadu Buhari had to drop Tinubu for PASTOR Yemi Osinbajo. Before this time, Buhari had never met Osibanjo. Tinubu never forgave Bukola Saraki because his plan was to be vice president for eight years and like Osibanjo tried but failed to do, succeed President Buhari in 2023. This year, Bola Ahmed Tinubu was able to emerge as the flagbearer of the APC and Gov. Nasir Elrufai categorically told him that he is able to achieve his long preferred Muslim – Muslim ticket in 2023 because Kaduna State has proven that it is not impossible, particularly in a country where elections are rarely credible, free and fair. Convinced and reassured by Gov. Elrufai, Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC threw caution to the wind and presented a Muslim – Muslim ticket in a country fiercely divided by religion.

In his address announcing his running mate, former governor of Borno State and serving Senator Kashim Shettima, and justifying his choice, Bola Ahmed Tinubu gave the reasons as seeking quality and experience and that the country must tower above religion in it’s body polity citing the Abiola and Kingibe ticket of the SDP in 1993 that went on to win the election. Reading his statement, I couldn’t help but laugh and sneer at these rookie reasons advanced by a master political strategist like Asiwaju. One, if it is about quality and experience, are there no qualified and experienced Christians in the whole of Northern Nigeria? Except for those who are gullible, this is not about quality and experience but everything about electoral expediency. The man and his party and with Gov. Elrufai as their guiding light and prophet, believe that a Christian Northerner cannot drag in substantial Northern votes for them. Gov. Elrufai and the APC did it in Kaduna State and they believe they can do it again with Nigeria.

Secondly, only a rookie political observer and analyst would compare today to 2023. During a recent interview with Arise TV, I told of how 1993 happened mainly because Nigerians were in a hurry to send the military back to the barracks and so they didn’t care about the religion of Abiola and Kingibe. Add to this the reality that MKO Abiola was loved across Nigeria because of his philanthropy. This is 2022 and Nigeria is transitioning from one civilian rule to another so there must be religious consideration on every presidential ticket particularly seeing that the country is currently, no thanks to the outgoing Buhari administration, fiercely divided along ethnic and religious lines. Add to the mix the reality that Bola Ahmed Tinubu is not half as popular and accepted across Nigeria, like MKO Abiola.

The 2023 presidential election would certainly become one of the most fiercely contested since 1999 because of this insensitivity by the candidate of the ruling party. A vast majority of Nigerian Christians are angry with this decision and this would certainly lead to new converts for Atiku Abubakar and Peter Obi, the presidential candidates of the PDP and Labour Party, in the months leading to the election. In a credible, free and fair election, I do not see how Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the APC would win in 2023. Although in textbooks, religion ought to be separated from politics, it is rarely the case in most countries, even in America; the poster child of liberal and representative democracy.

In America, and because the country is overwhelmingly dominated by one religion, what comes to play is the Christian denomination of candidates. There are times and states where a candidate must belong to the Catholic denomination before he/she can stand a chance of winning in an election. Drag in Nigeria, a State with an almost equal Christian and Muslim population, and you realise that a Muslim – Muslim ticket should be dead on arrival. But would the 2023 general election, with the APC as incumbent and a noticed preference for the party by INEC (remember how INEC kept pushing the deadline for the presidential primary to fit APC’s plans) be credible, free and fair? As peace loving Nigerians, we hope it would be but time is a leveler. As 2023 approaches, Nigerians must not forget that in Africa, a BAT is considered as an evil and unfortunate bird.

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