There are indications that Christian leaders in the country have decided to reconsider their stance on the vexed issue of Muslim- Muslim ticket and may have given the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the benefit of doubt ahead of the 2023 polls.
The emergence of former Borno State governor, Sen Kashim Shettima as vice presidential candidate of the governing APC was greeted with stiff opposition from the Christian community in the country, with Christian leaders and politicians vowing vehemently not to vote for a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
But in what appeared to be a default to the belief that his intentions to govern Nigeria could be honest, the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) yesterday presented a charter of demands and issues to the APC presidential candidate.
The Christian body demanded equal rights for all religions and their adherents, right to self-determination by all ethnic groups, right to control natural resources by communities that bear them, state police or a decentralised policing system, devolution of power to states, and equitable electoral system that guarantees the right to vote and be voted for by all among others.
CAN however told the APC standard bearer that it is vehemently opposed to open grazing in the country.
Tinubu who met with the CAN leaders in Abuja at an interactive session assured them that the same way his administration did not discriminate against anyone either based on tribe, religion or gender when he was Lagos State governor, he would not begin such discrimination if elected president in the 2023 general polls.
He was accompanied to the session by his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu; his running mate, Shettima, Speaker of the House of Representatives, Femi Gbajabiamila, Governors Hope Uzodinnma (Imo), David Umahi (Ebonyi), Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Abdulrahman Abdulrasaq (Kwara); deputy Senate leader, Senator Boroffice Ajayi; Senate chief whip, Senator Orji Uzor Kalu; minister of Special Duties, George Akume, among other APC chieftains.
Presenting a document containing their demands during the interactive dialogue with the president candidates for the 2023 presidential election, president of CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh, explained that the document makes genuine recommendations for resolving Nigeria’s recurrent crises bordering on justice and fairness, equality of all ethnic and religious groups, equal access to basic economic and social rights, political freedom and an egalitarian and just social order.
Archbishop Okoh noted that Nigeria today has the worst economic indicators than at any time in its history, while the country is more divided than even the days that led to the civil war.
He stated that Nigeria also faces one of the gravest insecurity situations than at any other time in its history, adding that CAN is not interested in looking around for who to blame.
For this reason, he said CAN decided to develop a strategic policy document that carefully diagnoses the Nigerian crises and offers a considered framework for its resolution.
He added that in the new document, the association believes that the next president must give clear indication that Nigerians have common citizenship and that every Nigerian should be treated as a Nigerian, no matter his religion, tribe or where he lives.
The CAN president stated: “No Nigerian should be discriminated against on any matter of goods and services provided by any authority in Nigeria, whether at the federal or state levels.
“He (the next president) has to sign an executive order requiring all public officers and authorities in Nigeria to ensure they do not discriminate against any Nigerian on matters of ethnicity or religion.
“The Executive Order will require that all ministries, departments and agencies of the federal and state governments must follow strictly federal character in appointment, promotion and staffing.
“The president will signal this federal character and balance by making sure all appointments into all military and paramilitary agencies, including the Armed Forces, Police, DSS, NIA, NSCDC, etc., are balanced between Christians and Muslims and between ethnic diversities.”
On religion and the state, the CAN president said, “The next president should use Executive Order to mandate that where anyone legally purchases a landed property in Nigeria for religious purposes, they should not be denied Certificate of Occupancy on account of their religion.”
Opposing open grazing, CAN said, “No to Ruga, yes to ranching Education and free healthcare to all Nigerians (including Almajiri) No open grazing (rather modernization of animal husbandry) Local control of local economy, including waters, rivers, and forest.”
On his part, Tinubu assured the CAN leadership that he will not run his administration on the basis of religion if elected President of Nigeria.
Tinubu said, “My belief in the need for secular government and faith-based organizations to work in unison is not something adopted recently to benefit my campaign.
“As Governor of Lagos, I partnered with the Christian to improve lives and foster education. For instance, I returned mission schools to their owners, most of who are Christians.
“I instituted yearly Christian Denomination Service at the Governor’s residence as we approached the new year. This tradition continues in Lagos.
“More importantly, we fostered an atmosphere of religious tolerance and inter-faith collaboration. My cabinet was diverse and talented. In the exercise of government, I did not give a thought to whether a team member was Christian or Muslim, Yoruba, Igbo or Arewa.
“I have never lent myself to baseless prejudice and discrimination. To do so would be a recipe for failure in the governance of a diverse society and I am not a man that is familiar with failing.
“I never chased people out of Lagos nor made them feel unwanted. Under my administration Lagos welcomed all comers and continues to do so today.
“After me, Lagos has had one Muslim and two Christian governors. I may not be perfect. What human being is? But I am not a petty man secretly wedded to secret biases and prejudices.”As such, I see all Nigerians as equals and as brothers and sisters in our national family. This means no one is inherently inferior or superior to anyone else, regardless of faith, place of origin, social status and gender. Anyone who does not hold this fair and equitable view, should not run for president in a country such as ours.”
He said the Christian body has a great role as the moral compass of the society which he cherishes and will always support.
On his choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as his running mate, which has generated a lot of controversies, Tinubu assured the Christian body that he made the best available choice at his disposal without recourse to religious sentiments.
“I did not choose Senator Shettima so that we could form a same faith ticket. The ticket was constructed as a same progressive and people-based ideology ticket.
“I offer a confession. I selected Senator Shettima thinking more about who would best help me govern. Picking a Christian running mate would have been politically easier. But the easy way is rarely the right one. The selection of a running mate is at once a very momentous yet very intimate decision.
“Resting such a key decision on religious affiliation as the primary weight did not sit well with me. I am not saying there were not good and adequate potential running mates of the Christian faith,” he noted.
Dispelling insinuations that his choice of shettima was meant to suppress Christians, Tinubu said, “I know people have reacted harshly to my selection. They have done so without knowing the man or giving him or me a fair chance.
“The rumour that this is some plot to suppress the Christian community is untrue and unfortunate.
“I can no more suppress the Christians of this nation than I can suppress the Christians in my own household, my very family. You all know my wife is Christian and a pastor. My children are Christians. I can no more disown them and their choice of faith than I can disown myself. As a husband and father to Christian wife and children, hearing such allegations is hurtful.”
He further shared his campaign policies with the Christian leaders, asking for their support.
In their contributions, Shettima, Gbajabiamila, Governor Ganduje and Kalu attest to Tinubu’s character and integrity.
They said he usually places merit and competence above any other factor in choosing who to work with and he is always moved to act in the best interest of the country.
I Will Form Government Of National Unity – Atiku
Meanwhile, presidential candidate of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Atiku Abubakar, said yesterday that he would form a government of national unity if elected the nation’s president in the forthcoming general election.
He promised to improve the economy of the country by encouraging a liberalised economy and promoting a private sector driven economy .
Speaking as a guest at the Nigerian Editors Forum in Lagos yesterday, Atiku said the PDP would form a government of national unity as a way of uniting the country where members of the opposition parties would be given roles to play in the government in power
He said those that will be in the government would be chosen across the six geo political zones.
Atiku noted that that was what the PDP government did under President Olusegun Obasanjo regime when members of the Alliance for Democracy AD and All People’s Party APP were included in the government after PDP won the election in 1999.
He said, “Even though PDP won overwhelmingly in 1999, we still included members of the opposition parties in a government of national unity and with that, we were able to ensure unity”.
Atiku promised not behave like President Muhammadu Buhari who picked almost all the heads of security operatives from a section of the country, saying if he becomes the president, he will ensure every geo – political zone is represented in the headship of the security agencies.
On the economy, he promised to continue the economic policy the former President Olusegun Obasanjo adopted between 1999 and 2007 by continuing with privatisation of the public enterprise.
Atiku who was also the vice president during the period said most buoyant economies in the world are private sector driven and the government has little or no interference.
Atiku said, “We brought liberalisation of the economy,more private driven economy,the most successful economy allows the private sector to play its role, we saw prosperity.”
According to him, rather than the government borrowing money to build roads, bridges, such can be conceded to the private sector, and then there will be jobs and prosperity.
On how he will improve the security situation, Atiku said he will ensure more recruitment of personnel, more equipment, more training and more votes for the security.
He also supported the creation of state police.
Atiku promised to include more women in governance, noting that PDP has included more women in government when it was in control of the country.
He said he has been an apostle of restructuring even when the North was not well disposed to it, even as he promised to ensure resource control and granting of more power to the states.
Atiku explained that he has assembled a pool of constitutional lawyers to help him put together legislation that can be forwarded to the National Assembly and do the necessary amendment to the constitution to ensure restructuring.
Earlier, the President, Guild of Editors, Mustapha Issa, said the Guild of Editors designed the forum to give opportunity to various candidates to present their policies to the Electorate before the election.
He advised all the candidates in the 2023 election to avoid mudslinging and attack on personality but urged them to concentrate more on issues that could promote the future of the country.
PDP Reconciliation Must Be Based On Equity, Justice -Wike
Meanwhile, Rivers State governor, Nyesom Ezenwo Wike, has reiterated that the G-5 governors of the PDP will only be disposed to reconciliation based on equity, fairness and justice.
Wike disclosed this yesterday while speaking at the inauguration of the Rumuepirikom flyover in Obio/Akpor local government area of the state.
The flyover, which is the eighth so far constructed and completed by his administration, was inaugurated by former Edo State Governor, Comrade Adams Oshiomhole.
The governor pointed to how, prior to the crisis rocking the PDP, some members of the party were singing praises of him and colleagues that make up the G-5 governors.
He said the same people have turned around to call them names because they are clamouring for equity, fairness and justice.
Wike said: “I’m sure those of them in my party, before, cannot say anything without mentioning Wike. But now, because I said let the right thing be done, let agreement be agreement, I have now become an enemy. These were people who were praising me morning, night, any day.
“But because we said, ‘look, we had an agreement; do this, do that, and some people believe that they will not and we said it must be done.
“We stand for equity, fairness and justice. That is what the G-5 will continue to preach. We have said we are not against reconciliation, but reconciliation must be based on equity, fairness and justice.”
The governor stated that politics is about interest and Rivers people must be sure of what they stand to benefit from any support they will have to give ahead of the 2023 general elections.”