From Fred Ezeh, Abuja
Presidential Candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Ahmed Bola Tinubu, has disabused the minds of many electorates who are raising fears and concerns that the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima, a Muslim, as a running mate in the forthcoming presidential election will herald the islamization of Nigeria.
Tinubu, at an interactive meeting with the leadership of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), in Abuja, on Wednesday, said that such fears and concerns are irrelevant, stressing that some members of his family, including his wife, Senator Oluremi Tinubu, are Christians, and he has been unable to Islamize over the years that they have lived together, not to talk of entire Nigeria as a nation.
He, thus, appealed to the Christian leaders to disregard the actions of some members of the society who are bent on planting divisive measures to create acrimony and enemity among Nigerians of different faith to achieve cheap political gains.
He said: “This brings me to the question on the minds of many Nigerians. Why Senator Kashim Shettima? Why a same-faith ticket?Well, 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 selected Senator Shettima thinking more about who would best help me govern than who will help me worship. 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. What I am saying is that the times we inhabit do not lend themselves to the good or adequate. We have urgent problems that lend themselves not to a Christian or Muslim solution. We need the best solution.
“Every time I thought about it, and I did think a lot; I came to the same conclusion: Kashim Shettima. His faith was immaterial. He is a brilliant man with superior intellectual capacity. He is studious and detailed oriented. Enjoying excellent organization skills. Shettima fully understands the vital difference between governance and politics.
“This exceptionally gifted human being has humility of spirit, courage of his convictions and a strongly progressive world view in harmony with my own perspectives on government and its relationship to the governed. I trust the calibre of the man. I know the great lengths he went in fighting Boko Haram in his state. He did his best to protect the Christian community and rebuilt damaged churches.
“He understands the value of our national diversity in all of its ramifications, including religious, and he possesses the courage to stand up to those who would wreck that diversity and freedom.”
Tinubu, however, promised CAN officials that his doors would remain open for them, and they would be regularly consulted for input in any national issues.
CAN President, Dr. Daniel Okoh, in his welcome remarks, explained that the meeting with the presidential candidate was to extract their commitment to giving adequate attention to issues that concern Christians in Nigeria, adding that candidates of other political parties have been invited to meet with CAN leadership for similar purposes.
CAN Vice President, Stephen Panya Baba, in a presentation, reminded Tinubu and his delegation that Nigeria is on the verge of collapse and need urgent action particularly constitutional changes and other managerial changes to be resuscitate it.
He said: “Our problem as a nation is mostly constitutional and partly managerial. We have to properly diagnose the constitutional roots of our problem as a people. The founders of Nigeria in 1960 set for themselves and future generations of Nigerians a grand vision of a prosperous and united country founded on justice and equity. Today, that vision has not been realized.
“Nigeria is a poor and conflict-ridden country with neither justice nor equity. Nigeria failed because of incoherence between the vision of justice, prosperity and unity in diversity, and its institutions and practices of politics and economy.
“In place of inclusion, Nigeria instituted and entrenched the politics of exclusion; in place of protection of fundamental rights, Nigeria embraced violations of the rights of its peoples; in place of justice for all, Nigeria practiced privilege for the few; and in place of secular, democratic governance, Nigeria promoted theocratic, neo-feudal governance.”
He observed that beyond constitutional issues to the rescue, Nigeria need to have urgent managerial interventions, stressing that leadership failure has compounded the constitutional dysfunction of the Nigerian state. “Fixing constitution may be a longer process and some of the features of a constitutional change are not completely in the control of the President. But there are administrative actions that will help recover Nigeria and restart it on the path of development and freedom.
“The key leadership failure is that Nigerian leadership elites have been reluctant to address the root of the Nigerian crisis. They have rather acted to compound these crises. The new President of Nigeria must start on a different note. He must undertake strategic actions on three fronts, namely, nationality and citizenship, religion and the state, devolution of government function.”
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