Ahead of the 2023 general election, the presidency in concert with the Caretaker/Extraordinary Convention Planning Committee (CECPC) of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) are said to be considering a Christian from the Southern part of Nigeria as their presidential flagbearer.
However, the proposal has not gone down well with loyalists of Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, former governor of Lagos State and national leader of the party, who are insisting that religion should not be a criterion in selecting the presidential candidate of the APC.
Daily Independent had few days ago reported that in a bid to ensure cohesion within the party, the presidency has enlisted fact-finding group to carry out background checks on those seeking to become the party’s presidential flagbearer ahead of the 2023 elections.
Also, Senator John James Akpanudoedehe, National Secretary, APC CECPC, had said the party will come up with a consensus and agreeable presidential candidate that will fly its flag in 2023.
A reliable credible source in the party told Daily Independent that the general belief in APC at the moment is that in a bid to foster unity and togetherness in the party, the zoning between the North and South must be honoured.
He also said there are others who strongly believe that the issue of religion should also be considered, especially among Christians and Muslims, the two major religions in the country.
He said if President Buhari, a Northerner and Muslim, can settle for a Christian vice president from the South in 2015, then it is imperative that a Christian presidential candidate from the South will emerge in 2023 and that person will choose a Muslim running mate from the North.
“That position is very true. There is a strong belief in the APC now that the next presidential candidate must be from the South. We can’t afford to gamble with another Northerner after President Buhari has served for eight years. However, there are also others who are of the view that if the candidate must come from the South, the person must be a Christian”.
“That is how it has always been since 1999. Obasanjo, a Christian, and Atiku Abubakar, a Muslim, ruled from 1999 to 2007. The late Umaru Yar’Adua, a Muslim from the Northern part of the country became president in 2007 and Goodluck Jonathan, a Christian from the South was the vice president.
“When Yar’Adua died, Jonathan became president and he chose Namadi Sambo, a Muslim from the North, who was former governor of Kaduna as his vice. When President Buhari became APC presidential candidate in 2014, he almost settled for Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, a Muslim from the South, but even within the party, there was uproar against a Muslim-Muslim ticket and he had to settle for Prof. Yemi Osinbajo, a Christian”.
“I don’t think the situation will change in 2023. There are some people who are already grumbling that will another Muslim take over from President Buhari in 2023 even if the ticket is zoned to the South? These are issues we are considering and it is important it is given utmost attention because all indices matter in politics, especially for a country like Nigeria”.
However, Daily Independent gathered that the development is already causing ripples as loyalists of Tinubu have vowed to resist it, saying what the party stakeholders are canvassing is that the zoning agreement between the North and South should be respected, and not religion.
When contacted, Hon. Bosun Oladele, a former member of the House of Representatives, who is the Secretary of the South-West Agenda for Asiwaju (SWAGA) 2023, a political group seeking support for Tinubu’s emergence as president in 2023, said religion should not be a criterion in determining who becomes the next president of Nigeria.
He said, “I think religion shouldn’t be criterion in selecting our presidential flag bearer. What we should consider is the ability to deliver. That should be the major criterion. If we are looking for a Christian, any pastor so-called should be the president.
“If we are talking about Muslim, any Imam should be the president. If we are talking about politics, it is a pity that we are trying to put the cart of religion before the horse of politics. So, religion shouldn’t be a criterion at all. Ability to deliver and provide good leadership is what we should consider.
“Nigeria is one of the most religious countries in the world but how far has our claim to being religious taken us? We close down warehouses, shut down factories because of churches that are not promoting businesses, and because of beliefs that are not leading to developmental strides.
“In the same warehouses turned churches, we gather and start praying so that we can have jobs. Is that not an irony? So, if we keep emphasising religion all the time, we will be sacrificing developmental politics. So, my take is that religion shouldn’t be a criterion.”