The first instalment ended with a question: does a Muslim-Muslim ticket have the capacity to rescue, unify and rebuild Nigeria along the path of sustainable development, or does it have the potential to intensify our fault lines and completely destroy what is left of Nigeria of today? And as a follow-up, what are issues that make the fears of such a ticket palpable? Nigeria of today in all intents and purposes, has been hijacked security-wise and destroyed. This is not the country we grew up in, over the years and the change that occurred along this hijacking and destruction trajectory, appeared to be incremental but looking back, it was a rapid one in just over a decade and got worse under the Buhari administration.
Again, in addition to the hijacking of the country by forces many citizens do not know, the country is also not politically, economically, and socially healthy. And any further exacerbation of our fault lines with one of the most centrifugal forces called religion (through a Muslim-Muslim ticket), will make Nigeria of today to be completely destroyed to the level of other failed states in Africa and Asia. If a centrifugal force will destroy us, then what we need is a centripetal force that would unite us. First and foremost, Nigeria needs to be rescued from the current level of destruction, then unified with a centripetal force, and then rebuilt under peaceful and conducive environment before one can begin to talk of delivering good governance.
This therefore means that those promising us good governance with Muslim-Muslim ticket, are missing the point completely because you cannot deliver good governance in a country that is insecure, economically impoverished, and politically and socially divided than ever before. A Muslim-Muslim ticket would therefore lack the capacity to keep Nigeria on the path of sustainable development no matter the degree of capacity the leaders promoting it claim to have. But do they actually possess such competence and capacity or are such over-hyped? The claim is actually hyped.
By the way, as my 2019 Inaugural Lecture reveals, many so-called (or self-styled) progressive states (whose leaders are now promising us good governance with same-faith ticket) could not pay the national minimum wage of N5,500 at the state level when it came into effect in 2020 during the Obasanjo administration. The federal government was paying N7,500 and the states government were to pay not less than N5,500, and even at that, they could not pay. Some of the ‘progressive’governors cited Chief Obafemi Awolowo’s Capital-Recurrent budget ratio as major reason why they would not pay the approved and legal minimum wage. Consequently, there were harvests of strikes in these states because of the governments’ unwillingness to pay, rather than lack of capacity or ability to pay. This important point I made in 2019, was reiterated by Rotimi Fasan (in his Talking Point column, of Vanguard newspaper, July 20, 2022, in a piece titled “The change Osun needs”. He recalled the history of “anti-worker policies that the so-called progressives are known for whenever they are in power. It was the same anti-worker policy the people had to endure under the administration of Chief Bisi Akande in the early 1990s”, he pointed out. So the truth of history remains and cannot be changed. And when people now begin to make misleading claims about competence and capacity, they should also know that the people are very much aware of the past and no media propaganda (even if majority of media organisations conspire) can deceive people in today’s Nigeria. Many things have changed that have opened the eyes of the people particularly the way propaganda (and sometimes outright lies) have been used with impunity in this country in the last seven years.
Aside these issues that have to do with misleading argument about competence and capacity, there are many other factors that make the fears of same-faith ticket palpable by many rational and non-sentimental Nigerians.
First, Nigeria under the Buhari administration has been a nightmare with respect to security. The way and manner the insecurity problem has been handled does not give many citizens hope of a country that would ever be stable if nothing changes. For example, it took the federal government many years and reluctantly too, to declare bandits terrorists, and even at that, they are still being treated with kid gloves. Conspiracy theorists accuse the government of complicity in the whole insecurity issue. The role that Sheik Ahmad Gumi plays in the whole issue is even adding credence to the alleged complicity. For many knowledgeable Nigerians, this country needs to be rescued from those who have hijacked it. And much worse, the All Progressives Congress (APC)-led Federal Government appears completely incompetent in handling this existential threat. The idea of proposing a same-faith ticket by them again appears rubbing salt to injury.
Secondly, the All Progressives Congress (APC) as a party has not helped matters in this conspiracy theory. And since it supports the Buhari administration and wants continuity of this status quo, its adoption of a very divisive all Moslems tickets heightens the suspicion that there might be a hidden agenda. This hidden agenda alleged by conspiracy theorists is a twin project called Fulanisation and Islamisation of the entire country. A party whose government is accused of this serious issue is the same one showing outright insensitivity to those who feel aggrieved. And instead of assuaging the aggrieved, the party leaders are sweeping it under the carpet. While its party chairman said it is an act of God thereby rubbing salt to injury, many others are also making mattes much worse by saying that the choice was based on competence and capacity in a country where many Northern Christians have amply demonstrated both competence and loyalty to accepted as having equal rights to govern this country. By this singular exclusion, the party demonstrated without an iota of doubt that the Christians do not belong to the mainstream of what they are now calling the ‘Nigeria Project’. Any ‘Nigerian project’ that does not carry Christians from the North and South along is not a unifying project. It is centrifugal rather than centripetal in process, orientation and goal. And with such level of exclusion that made a loud statement, unifying the country becomes a herculean task.
Thirdly, the Federal Government has adopted many measures and also proposed and vigorously pushed some policies that heighten the fears of Christians thereby making them to believe in the conspiracy theory of a hidden agenda. Think about the following that have happened in recent years: (a) the one-sided appointment of Service Chiefs for many years who were predominantly made up of people from the North and excluded the whole of the South-east; (b) the turning of deaf ear by the Federal Government to the atrocities of the herdsmen across the country by not seriously prosecuting those who were caught by the people. The police are known to always release them under the excuse of order from above. Again, herdsmen are sacking indigenous communities and taking over their lands in some states and nothing is seriously done to stop them; (c) the Federal Government’s vehement opposition to the law against open grazing in some states and yet the laws were legitimately passed by State Houses of Assembly; (d) very controversial Ruga settlement issue being pushed by the federal government; (e) the Water Bill which is also being pushed by the Flederal Government in spite vehement opposition. All the above (a, b, c, d & e are aimed at promoting the interests of the Fulani ethnic group which you can call Fulanisation agenda). For lack of space, just think about other policies being encouraged in some states in the Southern part of Nigeria such as Hijab policy even in schools owned previously by Christian missionaries and which are still bearing the names of the Missions, etc. Such policies are being used to secure the support of all Moslems across the country and this one you can call Islamisation strategy.
These and some other factors are why critics would not be convinced by the proponents of Muslim-Muslim ticket. I personally also would not support Christian-Christian ticket for whatever reasons as there are many competent and capable Moslems in this country. We want peaceful co-existence and we encourage our Moslem politicians to know that this country is a very fragile federation that should be managed with political dexterity. Unfortunately, many of these proponents have demonstrated that they lack it because to start with, none of them read political science to understand the intricacies of the dangerous trajectory they are leading Nigeria into and unfortunately again, with false confidence and sometimes with arrogance.
•Prof. Obasi, a public policy expert is of the Department of Public Administration, University of Abuja. Email: [email protected]