Opposition against the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the All Progressives Congress deepened on Friday as popular Christian members of the party vowed to mobilise voters against it in 2023.
The aggrieved Christian members said the decision of the party’s presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, to pick a fellow Muslim from the northern part of the country as his running mate was an error that they would fight with their voter cards in February next year.
Some northern Christian leaders in the APC on Friday called on Nigerians to reject any ticket that was not mixed between Christians and Muslims during the 2023 elections.
According to them, since the Muslim-Muslim ticket for the presidency is divisive, it must be rejected by all patriotic Nigerians.
They barred their minds during the APC Northern Christian Leaders’ Summit, saying the insinuation that northern Muslims would not support a Christian running mate to Tinubu was untrue and divisive.
Among the leaders, who spoke during the event, were a former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal; a former Speaker, House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara; a former Minister of Youths and Sports Development, Solomon Dalung; and Senator Ishaku Abbo (Adamawa North).
Lawal, who was the chairman on the occasion, said many within and outside the APC had expressed shock and disbelief over the reaction to the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket, adding that it was a grand conspiracy against northern Christians.
The former SGF said, “Our opposition has some historical basis. There were times in the past when Christians produced deputy governors in Kebbi, Niger and Kaduna states. Now, it is wholly Muslim-Muslim ticket.
“It is worth noting that all these are happening in APC-controlled states. They are threatening to do likewise in Gombe, Kogi and Adamawa states.
“It is also now a recurring practice in the North whereby any Christian traditional ruler that dies is replaced with a Muslim prince, albeit from the ruling family even if the most qualified and preferred prince is a Christian. The recent case of Billiri Chiefdom in Gombe State is still fresh in our minds.
“Proof of its anti-Christian agenda is that our party itself has completely eliminated northern Christians from its NWC (National Working Committee) and NEC (National Executive Committee). All our protestations as party members have been completely ignored by the party leadership.
“But as members of the APC, we have the right to continue to express our indignation at these happenings and will not give up until we secure the justice that is due us.
“The main purpose of this historical narrative is to let you know that for the APC, a Muslim-Muslim ticket has been a long-term political strategy and not a one-off decision. Thus, all this talk of competence as the reason for the choice of the Muslim VP candidate is balderdash and diversionary. This is a calculated anti-Christian exclusion agenda that is being implemented.
“One might ask: why is the APC itself mute about our rejection of this Muslim-Muslim ticket? And why has none of the other perpetrators of this crisis reached out to Christians for a dialogue? Why are they instead hiring fake bishops and taking church groups to further embarrass the church? Why are they embarking on a vicious media war against CAN and the church instead of seeking reconciliation? Truly, things are not adding up.”
“Implied in this ticket is the insinuation that northern Muslims are not willing to vote for a ticket that has a Christian on it and on which they are not represented. It is our belief that northern Muslims would have seen the justice in a Muslim-Christian ticket and would have given it their overwhelming support had the party been inclined to do so.
“A corollary to this mindset is that Christians should also not vote for a ticket in which they are not accommodated. Unfortunately, this is the message we get loud and clear from this MM ticket. This is truly a wakeup call for all Nigerian Christians. We didn’t start this religious politics; the APC and its candidates did; so all of us should take note and act as appropriate.”
While advising his colleagues in the APC to spare them the sanctimonious lectures on competence and the cliché of the religion of the candidates do not matter, the ex-SGF added, “The truth is that the 2023 presidential election will be all about religion, and sadly, you started it; religion does matter in this context, so be ready for the consequences.
“It is important to reiterate that we Nigerian Christians want to live in peace and harmony with all practitioners of other religions. We want to enjoy social and economic developments like other parts of the world but without peace, justice and religious harmony, this is not possible.
“On our part, we neither seek to oppress nor dominate any one or any religion. But we will also resist any one trying to discriminate against us and our religion. We were not the ones that started this fight. The APC started it and must be ready to carry the cross it has created. Blaming Christians and heaping insults on CAN will take them nowhere.
“For, how do they expect Christians to keep silent when a northern state governor publicly stated that they pressured Tinubu to get a northern Muslim VP because they did not believe him to be a good Muslim? Is the VP going to be the national deputy Imam? How do they expect us to keep silent when another northern state governor goes to Osun State and urges them to vote for someone just because he is a Muslim? Was he there for the election campaign or dawah? What can be a better example of religion in politics than demonstrated by these governors?
“Clearly, there is an agenda to politically, religiously and economically suppress and oppress the northern Christian. But we are up to the task. We will protect ourselves. The PVC and our prayers will be our weapons of choice and we will massively deploy them in 2023.
“But while we are ready to battle this politics of exclusion and oppression, we are open to discussions with anyone who wants to engage with us in good faith. As I always do, I want to end with this quotation from Romans 8:31, ‘What then shall we say in response to these things. If God is for us, who can be against us?’ May God bless and reward all our collective efforts at seeking to live in peace with one another in Nigeria, our blessed country.”
Dogara said with the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC, Nigeria was going the way of Nazi Germany.
Dogara, who said the APC wanted to disintegrate Nigeria like the former USSR and Yugoslavia, added that the party looked like a “janjaweed” party.
According to him, the Nigeria of 2022 is not the Nigeria of 1993, adding that the presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu, had made a fatal error of judgment.
He also supported the position of other Christian leaders on the Muslim-Muslim ticket, with a call on Christians to seek alternative platforms in 2023.
“Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a reproach to any people. Truth must be told that anyone who is not bringing us together is consciously tearing us apart,” Dogara added.
Abbo said no northerner would fight his brother because he is a Muslim, adding that they were fighting injustice.
He called on Nigerians to reject every divisive tendency of individuals to divide the people.
‘They abandoned us’
In a separate interview with one of our correspondents, Lawal said neither the party nor its candidates had reached out to the northern Christians, adding that they were behaving as if they had won the election.
He said, “No, they have refused to reach out to us. They ignored us totally. They are behaving as if they have won the election already.
“We will show them. We will tell them that we are not useless. We will use our numerical strength to tell them who we are and how powerful the God we serve is.”
The ex-SGF said the fight against injustice would be total, adding that any act of injustice against anyone was against all.
“We will not fight with canes and muscles. We will fight against evil with prayers and action. We are not going to stop,” he added.
Barely a month after he dumped the APC over the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket, Daniel Bwala has announced that he has joined the Peoples Democratic Party.
The Special Adviser on Legal and Constitutional Matters to the Deputy Senate President, Ovie Omo-Agege, announced his resignation on July 10.
While defending his position to quit the party, Bwala said his decision was based on “principles and conviction.”
In his reaction, National Publicity Secretary of the APC, Felix Morka, stated that the party never engaged Bwala as a counsel, adding that Ahmad Usman El-Marzuq remained the legal adviser.
In another development, it was learnt that the inability of the ruling party to constitute its presidential campaign council was due to the issue of religion.
Sources close to the party said the top hierarchy and its caucuses had not been able to agree on who should lead the campaign.
It was gathered that while others were of the opinion that religion should not be an issue, others argued that the issue was enough to divide the party.
A top member of the party, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the APC leadership, its governors and Tinubu had yet to agree on the composition of the campaign council.
He said while Tinubu had ceded the power to appoint the director-general of the campaign council to the governors, the governors were divided over those being nominated to lead the campaign.
The source said, “Tinubu wants a former governor of Edo State, Adams Oshiomhole. The governors have rejected that and he seems to have agreed to that.
“However, the governors have not been able to agree on whether the replacement to the former governor of Edo State should be the Governor of Kaduna State, Mallam Nasir El-Rufai, or his Plateau State counterpart, Simon Lalong.”
‘Campaign council ready’
When contacted, the Director of Media, Tinubu Campaign Train, Bayo Onanuga, said, “We are not going to comment on the matter.”
On whether Lalong was being considered as the director-general of the Tinubu Campaign Council, he said, “People should wait for us to release the names of those to be appointed to the campaign council. By next week, everything will be clear. By then, we will know who will be the DG and who will be the chairman. By next week, everything will be clear.”
Asked again to confirm if the campaign council would be announced next week, Onanuga said, “We are hoping that everything will be clear next week.”
Meanwhile, the APC National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka, said it was not correct that the ruling party had consistently sidelined Christians.
He stated, “The current Vice-President of Nigeria is not just a Christian, but a pastor of the Redeemed Christian Church of God. How has the party ignored Christians? This is APC’s second term of about eight years by the way.
“We have a southerner, who was elected the presidential candidate of APC. The PDP zoned their presidency to a northern Muslim. Why is that not the issue?
“In any event, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu has made a decision and we are hoping that our Christian brothers everywhere, whether in the North or in the South, will understand that what the APC has done is a decision made by a candidate and it is not meant to denigrate or in any way suggest that Christians are incapable.
“We have Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu as our presidential candidate and Kashim Shettima as our vice-presidential candidate, and we are looking forward to the election in 2023.”