In this opinion pieces, Professor Ojo Emmanuel Ademola a professor of Cyber Security and Information Technology Management, and Nigeria’s first professor of Cyber Security. Who had a rich teaching culture that cuts across several universities in Europe, America and Africa. An ordained minister of God and, and indeed, an official of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the diaspora.Currently, He is the Proprietor of the Ademola Ojo Emmanuel Foundation, which is presently establishing the first ever University of Professional Studies (UNIPRO) in Igbajo-Ijesha, Osun State Nigeria shared his perspective about the subject matter.
The 2023 general election in Nigeria is fast approaching, and the necessary politicking is nearing frenzied heights. The actors and gladiators are helming in and pressing their advantages. The primaries have been concluded, the parties have selected their respective candidates for the various offices, and the stage is set for the commencement of full campaigns.
I wish all the parties and their candidates’ luck in their various political desires.
However, I note that the decision of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket for the 2023 presidential race has drawn heated reactions from many Nigerians. This is because, so far, APC is the ruling party, the most formidable party, the most likely party, with the most significant structure to win the election.
While most of the reactions were borne out of the desire to be partakers in the anticipated victory of the APC, others were borne of the desire to capitalise on the religious fault lines in the country and employ the same to demarket and weaken the ruling party, thereby boosting the chances of the opposition in the coming election.
But then, I acknowledge that some adverse reactions against the APC choice are borne out of genuine concerns from some people in a country where religion has been negatively employed as a divisive and rancorous factor when it should be a uniting factor.
Having said this, I have to weigh in here and state my position and beliefs on the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC.
First, I must state that Religion is a spiritual affair that should not become a political tool. In this, I note that the time has come for all Nigerians to rise to the urgent imperative to detoxify the religious content wrongly built into our politics and governance by ignoring every effort to interpret apparent political and governance issues along religious lines. There should be clear boundaries that separate politics from religion, and this must be clearly adhered to if Nigeria must record progress. There is no linking chain between them. So we should stop the penchant for using the religious microscope to examine clearly political issues and offer interpretations that continue to divide us and eventually pull the country down.
During elections, we are not required to elect leaders that will lead us to heaven but leaders that will employ all indices to chart our progress as citizens and the growth of Nigeria. Christian, Muslim, Traditionalist or any other belief should not matter in leadership selection. Countries that have made real, significant developmental strides have not bothered about the religion of their leaders. They have not elevated such to the very height of their priority during elections.
Before recently, the religious belief of occupiers of political offices in Nigeria was immaterial. Thus, Chief Obafemi Awolowo contested for presidency in the second republic with Chief Philip Umeadi on a Christian-Christian ticket while Dr Nnamdi Azikiwe ran with another Christian. Prof. Ishaya Audu in the same second republic without any fuss.
What’s more, the current President, Muhammadu Buhari, governed Nigeria as Military Head of State with his Deputy, a Muslim too, and many people didn’t even notice. One of the most successful regimes in Lagos was that of Lateef Jakande, and his deputy, Rafiu Jafojo, both were Muslims and Lagosians never cared. There are legions of similar cases, and no one tried to stoke the fires of intolerance, enmity, and anger because rightly. Nigerians knew that good governance, the ultimate reward for the right democratic choice, does not depend on whether the leader attends church or mosque.
So the furore being instigated mainly by opposition politicians against the choice the APC has made is as immaterial as it is needless in choosing the next President of Nigeria.
Again our constitution didn’t make any provision for religion as a pre-requisite for political office in Nigeria. Because it is unnecessary and clearly of no importance to governance, the laws of the land clearly treat religion as a non-issue in governance. So why should we use religious adherence as a prerequisite for leadership selection?
Besides all these syndicated religious hooplas, my interests are on who is most competent, qualified, capable and demonstrably equipped to lead Nigeria to developmental glory amongst the people jostling for the presidency.
This isn’t a difficult task because Asiwaju Bola Tinubu stands many poles ahead of the others presently in the ring. He is the most competent and has demonstrated impregnable knowledge of leadership and the basic requirements of governance far above all the others desiring to govern Nigeria.
Talking of competence. Asiwaju has Lagos as an unbeatable template; no other candidate in the race can either argue or contest. Today, Lagos remains the oasis that drives the country’s survival when other states have crumbled under poor leadership such that Lagos today offers a redemptive impetus to citizens of other states fleeing from the leadership tragedy in their respective states. From the solid foundation laid by Tinubu as Lagos Governor, between 1999 and 2007, Lagos has transformed from a ‘jungle’ which then President Obasanjo dismissed it then to the fifth largest economy in Africa and still growing exponentially-all thanks to Tinubu’s vision, competence and grip in governance, which none of the contenders to the Presidency has.
It gladdens the heart that his chosen running mate, Sen. Kashim Shettima, has an equally brilliant run as Borno Governor, and both raised equally competent successors who have continued their visions in both states. No other candidate and his running mate has a similar success story! What’s more, no one, not even the die-hard religious bigot and dedicated zealot, can point to any form of religious persecution Tinubu or Shettima or their successors did in Lagos or Borno to the advantage of Muslims and the disadvantage of Christians!
Again, Tinubu is perhaps, the country’s most successful talent hunter, with a redoubtable capacity to identify and poach the best brains for various tasks. This has gifted him with perhaps the most competent and dedicated discipleship among Nigerian leaders today. As Lagos Governor, he assembled the best team ever in any state in Nigeria to govern the state, and they had the best result ever. Shettima had the same record in Borno, and it was from such repertoire of leadership acumen that the wonder boy, Gov. Zulum, was poached from. Leadership is all about identifying talents and deploying them to deal with daunting challenges. Tinubu is Nigeria’s best here, and that is why Lagos is perhaps the biggest success story to have come out of Nigeria. We are equally seeing the wonders being done in Borno by current Gov. Zulum, which is a credit to Shettima’s own capacity to identify and poach the best talents for developmental tasks.
So a combination of Tinubu and Shettima promises to be a leadership record-beater that comes once in the lifetime of any nation.
Amongst all the candidates on display in Nigeria, Tinubu is the only one with proven technocratic competence acquired while working in such octopoidal multi-national company as Mobil both in the United States and Nigeria. He is the only one with a reputable record of working for very respectable international accounting and auditing firms. This accounts for his unbeatable record in Lagos and why he is the best hand, Nigeria can boast of to turn its fortunes around. None of the other contenders comes near this record in their work lives!
Among all the candidates, Tinubu is the only one that has a noble history of fighting for the present democracy. No other candidate has that history. Tinubu risked his life, sacrificed his resources, his comforts, etc., to lead the fight against the military and gift Nigeria with the present democracy. No other candidate did, so he is best qualified to lead Nigeria, having long been a stakeholder in the battle for a better Nigeria.
I just want to leave it at these few instances where Tinubu towers far and ahead of every other contender for the 2023 presidency and return to the vexed issue of religion which is where the other candidates seek to invest in to shore up their own sagging challenges.
Tinubu’s choice of a Muslim deputy is a purely political option he took. It was the only option left to him, given that as a Southern Muslim, he is a religious minority in the South. Given that his choice of deputy is informed by the need to boost his electoral chances (like every other candidate), he wouldn’t have chosen a deputy from among the Northern Christians, who equally are minorities in the North. This would have made both him and his deputy two minorities, and this would have impaired his electoral chances in a country where religion has been tuned to a tool for religious exploitation. So, insofar as we are dealing with politics and leadership. Tinubu’s choice is sound and the best option open to him.
But then, given the antecedent of Tinubu, a Muslim married to only one wife for over 40 years, whose wife is not only a Christian but a pastor, those mischievously shooting religious darts will hardly hit the target in their quest to smear Tinubu with their mischievous religious tar.
As the great development in Lagos recommends Asiwaju for the country’s leadership, his cosmopolitan, cultured and liberal attitude to religion makes the task of the religious bigots harder. Here was a Muslim governor who instituted the yearly thanksgiving by Christian leaders as an official tradition in Lagos! Here was a Muslim governor who not only handed schools back to the Christian missions but whose government partially funded those schools when they were returned to the missions!
Here was a Muslim governor with very close and enduring personal relationships with leading Christian leaders like Cardinal Okogie!
Equally, we have been overwhelmed by profuse and overwhelming testimonies by revered and leading Christian leaders on Sen. Shettima, flowing from the liberal and tolerant policies he carried out as governor. We have heard from the very leadership of CAN in Borno, who threw instant support to Shettima as soon as he was named as Tinubu’s running mate. We had heard and still hear from the very President of the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria, Archbishop Ignatius Kaigama, who reiterated the position he made when Shettima was governor because of the policies of the former governor, which eschewed religious bias and intolerance.
With these, among several other compelling reasons, why should anyone or interest stoke fear, distrust, intolerance, and acrimony over these two liberalists, very competent and dedicated leaders, based on the religion they profess?
As I earlier said in this piece, choosing a president, his deputy or any other political leader, we are not choosing anyone to lead us to heaven. We are choosing leaders to tackle our problems and challenges, so whether they attend churches or mosques or worship in their ancestral shrines is very immaterial. Tinubu and Shettima emerged purely through the political process, using political criteria. God did not commission them to win souls for Him, which is the prerogative of religious leaders, so Nigerians will be shooting themselves in the leg if they allow bigots and charlatans to deceive them to employ religion to stymie their progress and future. Religion should be left to where it belongs.
As a Christian leader and pastor and a former official of CAN in diaspora, it makes no sense to me that some of my brethren are seeking to use religion to abort our best chance to improve the lots of our people. Why don’t they ask the faith of pilots before boarding planes to their various destinations? Why don’t they ask about the religious beliefs of drivers before boarding cars? Why don’t they ask the religion of doctors that attend to their health issues? Hypocrisy, purely misguided political hypocrisy! In recent years, I have seen the effect of the SUKUK bond, taken from the Islamic bank to fix our decrepit federal highways, which had left our roads far better than they were. I should have expected those zealots and bigots now desperately splashing religion all over to reject plying on these roads because they were fixed with loans from Muslim banks!
We should not forget that in 1993, Nigerians faced such similar scenario (though of lesser magnitude) when the late Chief MKO Abiola chose Alhaji Baba Gana Kingibe as his running mate. Religious zealots made frantic efforts to poison the political climate with similar hoopla and insipid propaganda as we have today. Nigerians ignored these evil gospels and voted massively across all states for the Muslim-Muslim ticket and gave Abiola and Kingibe an overwhelming pan-country mandate. It took the noxious act of then Head of State Ibrahim Babangida to annul this great wisp of fresh air callously, and the action nearly crumbled Nigeria.
Through Babangida’s unfortunate indiscretion, Nigeria lost a golden opportunity to deal decisively with religious bigotry-for that was what Abiola-Kingibe’s election was.
I expect Nigerians to rightly use the opportunity of the Tinubu-Shettima ticket to deal the final death blow to this religious ennui that clearly enchains our progress as a nation. I recommend we massively vote for the Tunubu-Shettima ticket firstly because it is the most competent, the most capable and the best equipped to govern Nigeria irrespective of whether the duo go to church or mosque. Secondly, voting for the Tinubu-Shettima ticket will put the final nail on the divisive religious politics that has been sowed in the Nigerian polity to divide and cause a perpetual crisis in Nigeria. It will fulfil the aborted resolve Nigerians took on June 12, 1993, to do away with the noxious infiltration of religion into our politics and governance.