Why Tinubu will choose a Muslim running mate

There is probably no other politician in Nigeria today who recognizes the imperative of choosing a Muslim from northern Nigeria as his running mate for the 2023 presidential election as Asiwaju Bola Tinubu does. The presidential candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) party has not gone so far in his muscular political career, especially his unfulfilled bid for the presidency, by promoting the doctrine heart cry on pragmatic political consciousness. Those who were convinced that he had no chance of winning the APC ticket, given the combination of monumental conspiracies against him, again underestimate the man’s fearsome practical political intelligence. Tinubu’s tremendous thoroughness on matters of power would most likely lead him to choose a Muslim running mate from the North.

This is not an argument against the “fact” that the “appropriate”, “ethical”, “right” choice, etc., etc. what Tinubu should do is a Christian from the north. Ordinarily, such a choice is justified. In the political balance that was honored in the Fourth Republic, a Christian-Muslim ticket (or the reverse) is the only “correct” and “fair” platform for winning elections by any major party. Indeed, given the nature and pattern of consequences of fundamentalist Islam since the beginning of the Fourth Republic and the ethno-religious stubbornness of the Muhammadu Buhari presidency, a Muslim-Muslim ticket would look like an insolent slap in the face, even violent. Christians, especially northern Christians. However, what those who insist on this position forget is that no Muslim from the South (read Yoruba) has so far been the presidential flag bearer of a major party in the Fourth Republic.

Yet the country’s Christian community, represented by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), has expressed its outright opposition to the idea of ​​a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The body’s national president, Dr. Samson Ayokunle, said such a ticket “would be disastrous [for] the nation.” Ayokunle’s operative values ​​in this regard are “righteousness, justice, and fairness.” Other analysts have pointed out why it would be “indefensible” for Tinubu to ignore the religious balance necessary to maintain of the pact that kept the Fourth Republic afloat. However, it seems CAN and others who dismiss the possibility of a Muslim-Muslim ticket are ignoring the most important factor in Tinubu’s thinking about who his running mate would be: election victory.

The immediate concern of the APC presidential candidate is not “justice” and “equity”; his burden is how to win the presidential election of 2023. He may worry about justice and fairness after winning the election. This is to make things clear, but not imperceptibly. In fact, the Christian community would do well to recognize what is fundamentally at stake here for Tinubu and those invested in the ameliorative politics that is the best possible outcome of the post-Buhari era. Political scientists, especially those who work on international politics, have a name for this: realpolitik. Decisions of this nature – especially given the very difficult circumstances that led to the emergence of two Muslims from the two converse regions as presidential candidates of the two main parties – are based on practical political considerations rather than moral or ideological ones. And no one knows it better than the “Lion de Bourdillon”.

There is one major reason and two subsidiary reasons why Tinubu must choose a Muslim from the north as his running mate if he wants to be the next President of Nigeria. There is only one exceptional circumstance that would recommend him to act otherwise. The main reason is that the northern core of Nigeria (i.e. much of what we call the North West and North East areas and a substantial part of the North Central) will not accept a Christian as his representative on a presidential ticket. It is useless to rise up against this reality. This is the reality of the North as it is presently constituted. Tinubu therefore has no choice but to choose a Muslim from the north, especially since his formidable opponent in the elections is a Muslim from the north. If the north already has a prominent Muslim, i.e. Vice President Atiku Abubakar, as one of its two choices, why should it choose a southern Muslim as its preferred candidate? What would the Islamic clerics who have perhaps the greatest influence on the electoral choices of the northern popular masses say to their adherents if there are no northern Muslims on a presidential list?

The first of two subsidiary reasons is that it is easier to address the concerns and fears of (northern) Christians when you have a Muslim-Muslim ticket than to persuade northern Muslims to accept a northern Christian as their representative in a presidential election. ticket. This is to put it elegantly in the latter case. Those who can be convinced in this context are therefore northern Christians who see themselves as the direct victims of both moderate (dominant) Islam and northern extremist Islamism. They are eager to break the painful cycle of violence and destruction that has plagued their region for so long. Therefore, their greatest need is security. President Buhari has presided over the greatest breach of their safety and security as Christians and as Nigerians. (The same goes for most northern Muslims). Tinubu can respond directly to their fears and reassure them as a Yoruba (Muslim). A candidate who can convince the Christian north of safety of life and property should be able to get them to see past having a northern Christian on a losing ticket. Also, Tinubu comes from a culture that has 401 gods and therefore has no problem with one more!

It may be hard to articulate explicitly in public, but Tinubu could be the representative of the Christian North (and Christians, in general) on the APC ticket. Nigeria 2022-2023 is not Nigeria 1993. While the country has changed since the Abiola-Kingibe (Muslim-Muslim) ticket, neither the Muslim North nor the Yoruba West have changed much in terms of political sensitivities. And since the APC alliance, and thereby the party’s presidential ticket, is essentially one produced by a pact between southwestern Yoruba and the north, with all the other factors in place, a Muslim-Muslim ticket will not hold. not in Tinubu’s way to victory, nor will he pose an additional threat to the values ​​and aspirations of (northern) Christians. Those who think otherwise should go read all the fire and brimstone threats from Christian leaders, north and south, before Moshood Abiola announced Babagana Kingibe as his running mate in 1993. They were the first to endorse the ticket afterwards. What was most important for Christians was to have a president who would be fair to all Nigerians after the plague who was in power.

The second subsidiary reason why Tinubu would choose a Muslim from the North as his running mate is that ultimately, in the absence of the departure (for whatever reason) of the president, the vice-president’s religious affiliation only has a symbolic value. Although I am the first to admit the power of symbols, yet in the practical political challenges facing Christians in the North today, there is a greater need for a president who would be just for all than for a Christian vice-president without power or influence. What has Pentecostal Vice President Yemi Osinbajo been able to do for Christians under the de facto rule of Mamman Daura over the past seven years? Therefore, beyond the possibility of anything happening to the President (impeachment, any form of incapacitation or death), there is not much for northern Christians to have one of their own as vice-president under a Tinubu presidency. The question then would be “why isn’t this issue of symbolism also true for northern Muslims”? This is not true for Muslims in the north not only because they attach greater importance to having a Muslim on a presidential list, but also because they have the electoral power, if not the right of veto, to validate or to sanction recognition or rejection of their vision. , respectively.

The only exception to what I have outlined would be if Tinubu could get Buhari’s full support in choosing a Northern Christian as his running mate. If Buhari could mobilize the mass of northern Muslims who repeatedly backed him in five electoral circles to support Tinubu and his northern Christian running mate, then the Jagaban Borgu would be right to consider a Christian. However, anyone who has any doubts about Buhari’s innate inability to commit to anyone else’s project should have been convinced otherwise by the mess he made of the presidential candidate selection process. gone through his baffling hesitation.

In light of all this, if Tinubu had a chance of beating his former political associate and mutual contender for power, Atiku Abubakar, in the 2023 presidential election, he has no choice but to choose a Muslim. from the north – most likely a sitting governor. . It is not the choice of fairness, fairness and justice. We should wish for such a choice in the Nigeria of the future. For the moment, it is the choice of realpolitik.

Adebanwi, author of Yorùbá Elites and Ethnic Politics in Nigeria, is the Presidential Penn Compact Professor of Africana Studies, University of Pennsylvania, USA.

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