By Emmanuel Mogbede
AAs parties prepare for large-scale campaigns ahead of the 2023 general election, many observers of the evolving national political scene are eager to see what shape the election campaign will take.
In previous general elections, religion and ethnicity always figured prominently in campaigns. Considering Nigeria’s multi-ethnic makeup and a fairly divided population between Christianity and Islam, this is no surprise.
Nigeria’s politics have followed this pattern since independence, with parties that were mostly ethnic/regional in nature, including during the Second Republic, when Alhaji Shehu Shagari’s Nigeria National Party was widely seen as a Northern Hausa/Fulani party.
In the same vein, the Unity Party of Nigeria led by the late Obafemi Awolowo was seen by many as a Yoruba party, while the Nigerian People’s Party of the late Dr. of the Southeast / Igbo.
However, the story changed dramatically in 1993 with the emergence of MKO Abiola of the Social Democratic Party after a bipartisan presidential election involving the elder and Alhaji Bashir Tofa of the National Republican Party.
Abiola’s victory at the polls demystified the politics of ethnicity and religion as he won despite choosing Alhaji Babagana Kingibe, another Muslim, as his running mate. He garnered enough votes in all states of the country, regardless of their religious backgrounds.
Under the current dispensation, after hotly contested primaries, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu chose the presidential ticket of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC). Former Vice President Atiku Abubakar was elected by the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Mr. Peter Obi became the Labor Party’s presidential flag bearer.
In a dramatic departure from the norm of choosing a running mate from another ethnic group and religion, Tinubu opted to choose his running mate, Senator Kashim Shettima, another Muslim and former governor of Borno in a movement that reproduces the Abiola-Kingibe couple. .
However, the current political campaign has generated so much heat in the system. Many observers have interviewed political party presidential candidates and their running mates based on religious and tribal considerations.
One of the most vocal critics of the couples is the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) which has expressed unease with the APC’s Muslim-Muslim ticket. For the APC’s northern Christian leaders, the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket is divisive and insensitive because it does not project the interest of all religions in the country.
“The adoption of a Muslim-Muslim ticket by our party, the APC, in defiance of protests from well-meaning key national actors, including prominent Islamic and Christian leaders, is divisive, unfair and callous” , said the leaders of a Christian party in the north. block in APC says. According to them, the decision may divide Nigeria along religious lines and generate “toxic media debate”.
The group led by former Federation Government Secretary, Mr. Babachir Lawal expressed their sentiment at the APC Northern Christians Political Summit on the theme “Justice exalts a nation, but sin is a reproaches all people”.
In addition, another bloc that describes itself as central-north actors kicked the Muslim-Muslim ticket. During a demonstration against the twinning in Abuja, the leader of the group, Mr Dauda Yakubu, said that “we are concerned that the various indices at play with our great party suggest that Christians in northern Nigeria are considered in the party scheme. Business.
But APC decided to ease the tension. APC National Vice President, North West, Dr Salihu Lukman, after a recent closed-door consultative meeting of North West party stakeholders, said the party had no intention of exclude any ethnic or religious bloc from its political permutations.
“They are about the Nigerian project, they are not fake projects and that is the focus and I think as a nation we need to look a lot more positive,” he said.
Similarly, Mr. Adams Oshiomhole, former National Chairman of the APC, while speaking on development, said that the challenge of building a great Nigeria goes beyond tribe and religion. “I think the question we need to discuss is what any of the presidential candidates will do differently to expect a different result, not what a Christian or a Muslim will do.
“Throughout my life, my decisions about the team that surrounds me and supports me have always been guided by the principles of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity, fairness and respect for excellence. “, did he declare.
The Coalition of Northern Groups (CNG) demands that before campaigns begin, politicians prepare issue-based campaign topics rather than presenting themselves as champions of a particular religion or ethnic group.
The group, in a statement released at the end of its two-day retreat, urged voters in the North to resist the temptation to vote for a candidate based on region, tribe or religion and to choose instead. install a credible leadership.
A similar position was taken by a religious cult leader and founder, One Love Family, Satguru Maharaj Ji.
“What we should be concerned about is the ability to perform. The Muslim-Muslim ticket is okay, as long as they can score the desired goal,” Maharaj Ji said in a recent media interaction.
Political scientists point out that Nigeria is not the only multi-party, multi-religious and multi-ethnic democracy in the world, citing India and Malaysia as examples.
In a study on “Malaysia’s Political Polarization: Race, Religion and Reform”, from the US-based Carnegie Center, Bridget Welsh argues that polarization over race, religion and reform has plagued Malaysia for decades. and powerfully shaped his electoral politics.
Similarly, in a survey of “the politicization of ethnicity in post-independence India”, Samrudh Kopparam postulated that: “the land of diversity has more than a thousand ethnic groups spread across the country. While encouraging and defending the principles of diversity and secularism, it poses multiple challenges, one of them being the “politicization of ethnicity”.
Despite their differences, these countries have made massive progress in human, economic and infrastructural development.
Many Nigerians are of the view that if these countries could excel in the face of these differences, Nigeria can do the same if we elect leaders based on skill rather than ethnicity and religion. (NAN Features)