Opinion

Tahir Sherrif: Why We Must Not Worry About Religious Ticketing

Great Zik of Africa began with two years, three hundred and nineteen days as Governor General, and followed it immediately with another two years, one hundred and seven days as President of Nigeria. Ironsi followed suit with merely a hundred and seventy seven days in office, he however paved the way for Gowon to spend a total of eight years, three hundred and sixty two days (the longest in Nigeria’s history).

As time went by Olusegun Obasanjo added three years, two hundred and fifty eight days to this record. Shonekan was unlucky, a measly eighty three days cut short by the tyrant Abacha. Nonetheless, this isn’t so bad when you add Olusegun Obasanjo’s return of eight years in office and top it with Goodluck Ebele Jonathans six year since Yar’Aduas exit. Now if we keep this calculation up, GEJ is likely to magnify the records with an additional four years to his credit to push the records to an outstanding ten straight years. What does this imply? In the language of religious politicians, Christians would have ruled the country for an amazing 37 years out of the nation’s 59 years after independence.

This is the language known to political bigots who have become the representatives of today’s Nigeria. An attempt to close people’s minds with an elaborate connection of meaningless information, by dwelling on issues with no practical benefit in a bid to stage their political agendas.

On and on political pundits have generated media momentum over whether or not the All Progressive Congress (APC) should adopt candidates of similar religious affiliations. I think this is rather an unserious approach towards the challenges the country currently faces. It also takes the political discussion into a realm faced with complexities and absurdities older than a thousand years old.

The politricks of telling people why they should not pick a candidate because he is a Muslim or Christian, or Ibo, Hausa or Yoruba is what has gotten the country to its current state. It is the kind of discussion that discredits a qualified candidate even before the selection stages. It is the type of argument that connects imaginary idealistic dots with practical requirements of day to day living.

How does the religious affiliations of a President and his Vice affect the quality of governance? This is yet to be explained. We have stark examples on how irrelevant such an argument can be. We have places like Zamfara; a living testimony of how the wishes of a Governor to politically dominate the state was achieved by enbarking on a religious agenda which installed what has now become accepted as Sharia in the state. Is Zamfara state a Sharia state? Perhaps when it’s time to slice amputate hands or flog adulterous wives, but it fails on the premise of providing sufficiently for its citizens to a point that they do not even consider stealing. In my opinion, Zamfara is not a Sharia state. It is a state plagued with high levels of illiteracy, higher levels of unemployment, low standards of living, and equally home to a Senator who remains as unrepentant as ever when re-scripting religious texts to suit his personal agendas. We have other cases like Lagos state which has consistently voted only Muslim governors, and Southern states like Rivers, Cross-Rivers, Akwa-Ibom and Delta as well as a majority of the Eastern states where the religious population is such that it has only produced Christian leaders, yet these states have continued to improve on the lives of its citizens.

So why should we be concerned about which religion the President and the Vice President belongs to when tickets are to be issued? Because it may help APC to defeat PDP? Because a history of previous governments arranged in this order has brought about needed development? Because it is the best the country can hang on to for now? Or because our current leaders are so un-creative about the political process that they are stuck in the ever effective technique of pressing upon emotionally connecting issues like religion and ethnicity. I am more inclined to accept the last option.

The Tiv people will always wriggle with the Idoma’s where leadership in Benue state is concerned. The Igalas and the Ebiras of Kogi state have their share of grudges, and the Itsekiris may not remain comfortable with the Urhobos in Delta state, under the current arrangements. It is not their ethnic origin which is responsible for this, such problems spring up from the actions of past leaders, leaders who failed in respect of judiciously distributing the resources of the state and thus allowing those short-changed to reach out into such possibilities when attempting to analyze their losses. The habit of getting apprehensive over a Muslim/Muslim ticket or a Christian/Christian ticket is a behavior of such origin, one which needs to be weeded out if better candidates are to emerge.

There are bad Muslim leaders, there are bad Christian leaders, and there exist those leaders who excel by rising to the challenges of their people and solving them. For those who want to remove Governors like Fashola, Ameachi, and Rochas out of the political equation of 2015 so that serial losers like GMB and serial failures like GEJ can remain to slug it out, please don’t use religion to promote such an agenda. It is not only a wrong reflection of the tenets under which these religions are built, it is also a consistent act of disenfranchising Nigerians from what they deserve the most today, an improvement in their lives.

Records over race, capacity over ethnicity and development over religion, this should be the standards. Not the calculations being forced down Nigeria’s throats, best options, not worse case scenarios.

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Article written by Tahir Sherrif, in-house freelance reporter with NewsWireNGR in Abuja

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