Disambiguating the Muslim-Muslim ticket

WHEN Patrick Carroll wrote the article titled “4 Differences between the Freedom Brand and the Freedom Philosophy,” he didn’t have Nigeria in mind. America was his focus. Carroll believed Americans have failed in properly understanding the real import of freedom. Carroll’s conception of freedom is like a coin with two sides. On one side is the freedom brand while freedom philosophy occupies the other. Americans, he argues, have been preoccupied more with the freedom brand as against the freedom philosophy. Four differences distinguish the latter from the former. First, freedom brand tends to be about preferences. On the other hand, “principle” is the root of freedom philosophy. Secondly, while freedom brand highlights more of what it is against, freedom philosophy states what is stands for. A third differentiating characteristic is that slogan is very common with freedom brand. Conversely,“substance” underpins freedom philosophy. Fourthly and finally, unlike freedom brand that merely recreates the past,freedom philosophy envisions tomorrow. In other words, while one looks to the past, the other eyes the future. Carroll believes America is a country flooded by the freedom brand. But that is not enough. For America to truly be a country of liberty that is at the heart of its founding, Americans, he reasoned, have to “learn the freedom philosophy and resolve to live it out.”

A background to the problem. Ahead of the 2023 presidential election, the All Progressive Congress (APC) decided to field a duo of single-faith, Muslim-Muslim candidate for the presidency. Currently the ruling party in government, the political party was formed in 2013. It was a coalition of four political parties with a sprinkling of a break-away faction from the then ruling party – the People’s Democratic Party (PDP). All of the party’s founding fathers and leaders were veterans in Nigerian politics.  Twice, in 2015 and 2019, the party had selected presidential candidates. On both occasions, they produced a mixed Muslim/Christian joint candidate. For the 2023 election, however, the party chose differently. It had a same-faith, Muslim-Muslim joint candidate. The choice has ignited public debate on the propriety of the decision in view of the multi-religious nature of Nigeria and its departure from a religious sensibility norm that had seemed to be in place. Arguments have surfaced however from the two sides of the debate. Some say it is right while others find it repulsive. The purpose here is to disambiguate the controversy through verifiable evidence so that there can be informed understanding of the decision. In other words, should the choice be turned into a hypothesis asking what does same-faith,Muslim-Muslim candidates connote for the evolving Nigerian democratic journey,what would the evidence say? Extending the inquiry a bit further, if the decision is put under the democracy brand or democracy philosophy crucible, what would the outcome be? And what is there to learn from this single faith, Muslim-Muslim ticket?

Does the argument of protagonists of Tinubu/APC’s same faith, Muslim-Muslim ticket replicating the Abiola/Kingibe 1993 presidential election conform to democracy brand? And what does this imply for the future growth of democracy in Nigeria? The first question has a straight-forward answer: Yes. It is a democracy brand. Furthermore, growth and advancement is not about “recreating the past” as the protagonists of Tinubu/APC’s same faith, Muslim-Muslim ticket are arguing. Breaking the walls of restriction to unveil new possibilities is what democracy philosophy is all about. It is also a point invalidating the argument of those attempting to relate “an unintended error from Nigeria’s past” with “a deliberate action taken to pervert a working democracy defensive order” arising from selfish reasons…It is evident that the Muslim-Muslim, single-faith candidature of Tinubu is a form of triggering identity politics in Nigeria. Ironically, Tinubu and APC ought to be the last and the least of Nigerian political leaders and political parties to engage in such a below-the-line, parochial politics. Tinubu and APC profess to be progressives. The major defining credential of a progressive is progressivism. Progressivism means breaking barriers, creating new vistas, exploding myths, challenging status quo and setting forth in a new direction from the conservative past. What is wrong in Tinubu/APC therefore picking a Christian from the North as his vice-presidential candidate for the 2023 presidential election and working to make such a novel move politically correct?

Apart from the two states that have consistently had Christian governors since 1999 (Benue and Plateau states), there are four others – Kaduna, Adamawa, Taraba and Kogi – that have had mixed-faith Christian and Muslim governors at one time or the other. Nigerians of both faiths live in those states. They voted for the candidates. Instead of deepening one of our fault lines, Tinubu/APC should have used the opportunity of the 2023 presidential election to attempt a brave integration of the Christian minority in the north into the mainstream of the region’s public life. A northern Christian vice president benefitted with high visibility by reason of office and position of height in political leadership of the country may be the beginning of breaking the walls of the deep seated religio-cultural antagonism of the minorities in the north. It may be the beginning of sowing the seed of acceptance, equity, inclusion, justice, togetherness, tolerance, accommodation, and participation of all citizens irrespective of religion and origin in north. A North where Muslims relate with Christians with no animosity, distrust, and all ready to subject themselves to the rule of law and the credo of democratic governance may be the beginning of a new North, and indeed,a new Nigeria by extension.

The APC/Tinubu, for that reason, made a bad choice with the same-faith, Muslim-Muslim ticket. It is a decision that is flawed politically and faulty theoretically. The choice represents a nonsensical democracy brand. It takes away rather than add to the established defensive democracy mechanism that religious sensibility has built for Nigeria’s political process over the years. Paradoxically, Tinubu is not realising the damage – present and future – that the decision is exposing him to. Here is a man that has the potential of becoming a statesman, indeed a man to whom history has beckoned to emerge as the “father of a modern Nigeria.” Courage is what he needs, the bravery that saw him dismantle every stumbling block in his path towards winning the APC’s presidential ticket. Now, the lion can’t dare, scared to do the right thing. As the Irish-born British statesman and politician, Edmund Burke said, “The great difference [between a statesman and a politician] is that one sees into the future, while the other regards the present; the one lives by the day, and acts on expedience; the other acts on enduring principles and for immortality.” If Tinubu/APC made Buhari acceptable to the South-West in 2015, why can’t the same party and Tinubu now in 2022 sell a Christian vice-presidential candidate to the North-East and North-West? Why?

  • Gbesan, a journalist, writes in via ggbesan@gmail.com





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