October 3, 2023

Religion and the Nigeria Senate president


By Bolaji Akinyemi

The heat, debates and controversies generated by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu (BAT’s) preference for a Muslim/Muslim ticket in a country of disputable population of Christians and Muslims are yet to die down!

This is basically because Nigeria is a heterogenous population of Christians and Muslims. This factor triggers agitations for equity, fair play and balancing in power distribution in government circles because no religion would want to be cheated nor beaten to the game.

Against this backdrop, many God- fearing Nigerians, in particular, in their quest for freedom, justice and fairness, have continued to mount pressure on BAT to yield ground and give consideration to a Muslim/Christian ticket.

It is interestingly apparent that a Muslim/Christian ticket will prevail in the emergence of the Senate President and the deputy tomorrow amid religion factor that is always crucial to election of government officials.

Today, Osun has a governor (Ademola Adeleke) who doesn’t bother whether he is a Christian or a Muslim. But the entire state is on the dancing floor with him. It is worthy of note that we must learn to lean on personalities like Senator Francis Fadahunsi to find our way back to the dancing floor of secularism where religion does not matter, for our collective humanity to prevail.

May I congratulate the president while he is still savouring the moment of the most contentious political victory in the history of Nigeria. But I must not fail to let him know that he is presiding over the most divided nation on earth today.

If Nigeria was divided in 2015, it has been further fragmented in 2023 throughout the eight years of Buhari’s refusal to be pragmatic in leadership, particularly with respect to the activities of non-state actors!

Today, all the regions are standing alone. Worse-hit are South East and North Central. Both deserve great considerations if stability and fairness should be our priority!

Unfortunately, still within our regions is the slitting sword of religion tearing the people apart!

Our states are not spared. Kogi, is an example of politics taken too far in state-sponsored arson!

In order not to digress, I wish to inform His Excellency and all well-meaning and sincere Nigerians that substance has been given to our fear for Islamization as an official agenda of APC as a political party. Do we really need to ride with a bus driver whose final bus stop his conductor has exposed?

It was a tactical deception for Nigerians, particularly Christians who gullibly gave preference to competence over Christianity in a nation of about 100 million Christians!

Leadership is by example and if BAT’s ambition couldn’t be invested for justice and fairness to our faith, why should other party men do? If Orji Uzor Kalu is magnanimous to consider himself as a deputy and not the Senate President, what then is my reason for losing sleep!

Consideration for lives of Nigerians was what cost Goodluck Ebele Jonathan his desired ambition for second term as president. For him, the blood of one citizen was worth more than the ballots of a million!
He let go of a million ballots to stop blood from flowing on our streets!

Now that Tinubu, a Muslim is the President, Shettima a Muslim, is the Vice President, we suddenly remember there are Christians in this country who should have representation at the national level through the office of the Senate President and ambition of an individual against the rule of the class as being equals, having right to Senate Presidency should be traded!

Alas, Christians who agreed that Shettima was more competent than every single Christian in Northern Nigeria have started saying they hope I am not supporting Yari in an election I have no vote.

If it was difficult to find one competent Christian in a nation of 100 million Christians to balance out BAT’s ticket, then the caucus that produced Yari, a Muslim and Kalu, a Christian deserves to be commended for being meticulous enough to get a Christian to pair with Yari!

Those who saw Atiku /Okowa, Obi/Datti and Sowore/Magash but rooted for BAT/Shettima are telling us of the option of Akpabio/Barau, Christian/Muslim, against Yari/Kalu Muslim/Christian pairing. All we asked for was balance of ticket from APC and we were denied. I wish there was a caucus offering Muslim/Muslim ticket in the 10th senate. What is good for Tinubu/ Shettima is good for all!

They are now suddenly awoken by the nightmare of Muslim/Muslim/Muslim when in actual fact where we are headed is Muslim/Muslim/Muslim/Muslim!

For if the foundation be destroyed, what shall the righteous do? Our foundation of leadership and pattern of its balance for many years was broken over one man’s thirst of injustice and unfairness to win an election. Please others also have ambitions!

If you ask me how we got here I will remind you, it was when our tree of leadership structure under which we took shade was cut down to cultivate a new tree. The sun is now overhead. We are scrambling for shade under which we can shelter!

Tinubu has cut down the tree of justice and fairness and it will take time to grow another, when the seedlings have not been found, not even to talk of nursing it in the nursery!

The tree our faith as Christians in the political space fell with Buhari’s integrity against Goodluck. Tinubu has removed the stump of it with his claim of Shettima’s competence. If we neither have integrity nor competence, why should we be considered for leadership?

And trees take time to grow. “Se ko ma lo bee lori owo yen!”

Dubai is a Muslim country and things are working. Now I am ready to live in an all Muslims leadership structure. At least, that is the vision of APC!

If however we desire to find our way back under the tree of life before the fruit of religion was eaten, then I will go with Fadahunsi and encourage all senators in hope of secularism and humanity to do same. I am not from Osun, but he is my senator at the Senate on the Greater Nigeria Project (GNP).

Just as BAT has no right of interference, same way we don’t! It is a privilege to be consulted as stakeholders but we have no votes!

All 108 senators are classmates. Let them all dream and let their choice be respected!

Dr Bolaji Akinyemi is the Founder and President of
Apostolic Round Table (ART), a Non-Governmental Organisation in the vanguard of advocacy for good governance.

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