I will not and cannot ignore the religious concerns and ethnic sensitivities of our people. Taking them into due consideration is an important part of good and able governance. But religion, ethnicity, and region cannot always and fully determine our path. To forge ahead as a nation toward development and prosperity, we must break free of old binds. We must recalibrate our political calculations to where competence and fairness matter more than reductive demographics”.
That was vintage Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), making a passionate case for his choice of running mate and Nigerians to look at the bigger picture of loyalty, dedication, competence, good governance, and to, for once, ignore the petty details of individuals’ personal choice of how to worship God.
Tinubu, in that historic statement that he signed on July 10, to announce Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate ahead of the 2023 election, urged Nigerians to look back at the days of the country’s glory where ethnicity mattered little and religion mattered even less, and voters united on June 12, 1993, to vote for the fantastic duo of late Chief MKO Abiola and Babagana Kingibe, in what has been described as the most credible election in the country’s history.
The announcement of Shettima did not come to any keen observer of Nigerian politics as a surprise. It had been coming for a long time and even with the organized opposition to the choice of a Muslim running mate, Tinubu had little choice at all because if he had to stand the best chance of winning the election and pick a very loyal and committed person who is also competent to serve as Nigeria’s Number Two Citizen, it had to be Shettima. A few other names were mentioned in the days before the announcement, but it was obvious that Shettima ticked all the boxes and Tinubu is smart enough not to punish a very deserving person based on the coincidence of his religion.
In Shettima, a serving senator from Borno Central, the Jagaban will have a dependable, loyal, charismatic, diligent, articulate, purposeful, visionary, and intelligent ally as his deputy.
A leader is always expected to be courageous, fearless, committed to his belief, and stand by his conviction no matter the consequences. Shettima was extremely vocal and consistent in fighting for Tinubu to get the ticket to the party and there was never a time he waivered or relented. Tinubu has also doubled down on his choice of Shettima as his running mate despite the groundswell of opposition against it by career rabble-rousers who will always wail no matter what happens. Though Shettima is on record to have repeatedly said he never supported Tinubu during the primaries for the self-centred aim of being on the ticket but for the common good of all, the fact that the two great men took turns to fight for each other and stood by each other at difficult moments means there will be remarkable chemistry and spirit of camaraderie that will overwhelm the Presidential Villa to Nigeria’s advantage if they win…
And to clear the air on all the misconceptions, propaganda, and lies about a so-called Islamisation agenda, we all know Tinubu has no history of religious bigotry or extremism. This is a man who married a Christian and in their decades of living together supported her to become a pastor in one of the largest churches in Nigeria and also allowed his children to practice their faith freely. It was also Tinubu as Lagos State governor who released mission schools to their original owners, a feat that has proven difficult in other states up till today. How can a man who literally ‘Christianised’ his own family and allowed Christians to have their way in Lagos ‘Islamise’ Nigeria?
As for Shettima, he is on record to have protected the Christian community in Borno State from the wickedness of the evil Boko Haram sect when he served as governor. He spent over a billion naira to rebuild all the churches destroyed by the demons, sponsored the highest number of Christians to the Holy Land in Jerusalem, and appointed a good number of them into important positions in government. So he did not only stand up to the terrorists; he fought them to a standstill even as they tried to kill him and hurt his family. How on earth would such a man want to be part of an Islamisation agenda?
For Shettima, accepting Tinubu’s offer was merely a call to duty that he could not say no to even though he never lobbied or campaigned for it.
This is how his running mate, Tinubu, in that memorable statement, captured the essence of Shettima’s appointment and the value he would bring to the ticket, and governance if they win: “Senator Kashim Shettima’s career in politics and beyond shows that he is eminently qualified not only to deliver that all-important electoral victory but, also, step into the shoes of the vice president. As a man with the talent, maturity, strength of character, and patriotism, he has my implicit confidence and faith.”
On the needless emphasis on Shettima’s faith, Tinubu further wrote: “I am aware that many will continue to focus on a particular detail, the question of his faith. However, if we truly understand the challenges upon us as a nation, then we must also see the imperative of placing competence in governance above religious sentiment.”
“In 1993, Nigerians embraced Chief MKO Abiola and a fellow Muslim running mate, Babagana Kingibe, in one of our fairest elections ever held. The spirit of 1993 is upon us again in 2023. As such, the ticket we present today represents a milestone in our political history. It symbolizes our party’s determination to be a leading light among political parties in Africa,” he added.
In 1993, Abiola and Kingibe called their ticket ‘Hope 93.’ Thirty years later, Nigerians will indeed have a realistic hope of robust, outstanding, and qualitative governance in these two excellent gentlemen, if they win the election.
Indeed, the spirit of 1993 is here …
- Maigana writes from Wuye District Abuja.