Connoisseurs and crackerjacks of the art and science of politics consider this as truth. Good and savvy politics run on the machineries of the pursuit of self-interest. Self-interest may not necessarily qualify as selfishness, it is self, first. It is ‘what is in it for me’ first. It is ‘how do I win’ first. It is ‘how do I submerge every other runner’s dream and make mine live’, first. Then other players’ interest should come last. This may sound like a Vito Don Corleone Mafioso manoeuvring and machinations, but it is the mindset of politicians. Even when they scream ‘national interest’ or “it’s about the people’ believe them not. It is self-interest and it trumps others’ interests. It is what politics all over the world is about. So, if you are a hater of politics and its intrinsic intrigues, you are not crazy.
Former Borno State Governor, Kashim Shettima, will be Asiwaju Bola Tinubu’s running mate in next year’s Nigerian presidential election. Shettima, like Tinubu, is an avowed Muslim. The optic of this Muslim-Muslim ticket is nauseating to very many people. In these times of a metastatic volcanic eruption of religious strife and discordance, in this season of an all-out insurgence by Islamic fundamentalists terrorising the nation; and on this tenebrific watch when bandits freely walk into any assembly of Christian worshippers, slaughtering mothers and ridding infants’ frail bodies with bullets from AK47s, this arrangement is unsettling to millions of Christians across the nation. And their fears are real. After spending billions of dollars on security under the current President, nobody has been able to put these attack-dogs of terrorism on the leach.
If the Tinubu-Shettima team cruises on to win the election, for the first time in the history of Nigeria, a democratically-elected presidential team of men of the same faith will be spewing out orders from Aso-Rock. And for the first time in our history, the Bible will not make an appearance on the swearing-in stand at the Eagles Square. And for the first time, an Alhaji/Alhaji alliance takes its hold in the Nigerian presidency. For Christians, this is a creepy thought and shadow of what they believe is about to come to believers in Jesus Christ in Nigeria.
Many Nigerians believe that day-by-day and from the backdoor, their country is being morphed and moulded into an Islamic State by depraved men who hold the gavel of power. They believe that a Muslim-Muslim ticket is an insult on a secular state like Nigeria, an affront on non-Muslims, an affirmation that the All Progressives Congress is a synonym of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Party and an assemblage of sympathisers and sponsors of Boko Haram and Islamic State West African Province terrorist groups. Non-Muslims are now more afraid than they were a week ago. Is Islam now the official religion of the APC? Is it now considered more supreme than the religion of other Nigerians? These are questions now being asked. An Alhaji/Alhaji alliance is now perceived as an affirmation that the APC truly believes that Nigeria is an Islamic nation, and that Christians are only tolerated while Muslims are celebrated.
Don’t knock those who are effusively pushing back at what they see as a scary political arrangement that’s unfolding before their eyes. If you live anywhere in Nigeria today, heightened will be your apprehension of a Muslim President running the nation’s life alongside a Muslim Vice-President who sits just one heart-beat from power and authority. Today, Nigeria is a terrorised state, where Christians and their loved ones have been beheaded in their houses of worship, firebombed while asleep at home, kidnapped while working on their farms, and their women raped at will by Islamic terrorists. A Muslim-Muslim presidency is now seen as a possible entrenchment and prolonging of the evil that Islamic terrorism has uploaded on Nigerians and their ways of life.
Aeschylus was an ancient Greek tragedian and one described as father of tragedy. He once said, “There are times when fear is good. It must keep its watchful place at the heart’s controls.” According to Aeschylus, anticipation and fear of negative vibes that may likely come is good. And it helps one to resist the bad vibes. Finally, that which many fear, the Alhaji/Alhaji alliance is now here with us and may likely be turbaned on a secular Nigeria eight months from now.
But is it possible for a Tinubu presidency to ‘Islamise’ Nigeria? I have a deep respect for Asiwaju because of the many lofty things he’s done in times past. But in this election cycle, I do not share his political viewpoints. He was not my choice during the party primaries, and he is not one as at today for a few reasons. However, I have no scintilla of fear that Tinubu will ‘Islamise’ Nigeria. His antecedents don’t line up with that manner of concern. Tinubu thinks about bigger things than hounding Nigerians about religion. He has a large and accommodating heart regarding religion and ethnicity. His wife, a sitting senator, is an ordained pastor in Nigeria’s biggest Pentecostal church. He never attempted to ‘Islamise’ her soul mate. More than that, Asiwaju is a Yoruba man. It is not in the DNA of Yorubas to go berserk and bananas in an attempt to coerce others to serve a particular God. If Asiwaju becomes President, ‘Islamising’ Nigeria will be far from his desk.
This however is the caveat. What is the agenda of his deputy, Shettima? We have no idea the thinking of those who will be working around Tinubu, especially those from the North. Shettima was believed to have huddled with terrorists as governor. There is pictorial evidence all of it on the social media. He has been branded by a few of his people as the inventor and sponsor of Boko Haram. Politics to politicians is about votes and how they can be gathered to gain the upper hand over opponents. Asiwaju has made his choice. It’s his prerogative. He has laid his political bed and definitely he must lie on it. And not too long from now, we shall see which side of the bed he gets up from when the people, Christians and Muslims, and men and women of no faith, cast their votes.
I have expressed it in public and private discussions that it is insane to get doped up in the opium of religion. What really is the bottom-line here for ordinary Nigerians in a Muslim-Muslim team or a Christian-Christian team? What actually will make Nigerians happy with whoever emerges the next President will be flooding the economy with jobs, food, money and a new lease of life different from the present pervasive crippling quagmire. If this happens, only very scanty few individuals, that is if there would be, will be the ones screaming Christian-Christian; Muslim-Muslim malarkey. Nigerians desire and deserve a President who will erase the pain unleashed on Nigerians in the last twelve years. Nigerians need a President who will create jobs and more jobs. We are more interested in a Nigerian President who is literate in job creation; not a rambling and clueless commander who is commanded by bandits. The next President must know what paying workers’ salaries feels like in his personal business. Except God pulls a fast one on all of us in 2023, One of Tinubu, Atiku Abubakar or Peter Obi will become the President. I ask God for the release of much wisdom on the next President. May he be endowed with the fortitude to change this ugly and frustrating narrative.