As the 2023 general elections continue to draw close, controversy has surrounded the decision of the All Progressive Congress (APC) to field Muslims as both their presidential and vice-presidential candidates. A senator who is representing Kogi West Senatorial District has proposed a bill to end same religion tickets. Senator Smart Adeyemi announced the proposal at a conference on September 4, 2022. The media reports that it is “a bill for an act to amend the electoral act 2022 and for other related matters connected 2022.”
Following the APC’s presidential candidate and Lagos political godfather’s choice of former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, as running mate, there has been debate over whether a country divided into roughly two (between Islam and Christianity) should have two Muslims in the highest offices. The Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah, has condemned this choice. He said, “I think that as a Christian, this is totally reprehensible. It is not acceptable to me.”
Senator Adeyemi says he is in support of CAN.
If the bill goes through, same religion candidates would not be allowed to share a ticket in all elections after 2023. The Christian Association of Nigeria has been particularly vocal about its lack of support for the APC ticket. Senator Adeyemi says, “I am in total support of the issues and concerns named by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). I am a practicing Christian, but we must not confront these issues in such a manner that will obstruct the fabric of our national unity.
“Yes, there have been oversights in key appointments in the past, which tends to keep Christians at a disadvantage.” However, he emphasized that “it must not be seen that there are no Christians who are eminently qualified to occupy any of these positions.” Presently in the ruling party APC, the president of Nigeria, the chairman of the party, the deputy chairman, the president of the senate, the speaker and deputy speaker of the house of representatives, the presidential candidate and his running mate are all Muslims.
Is this the ruling party’s issue and why does it matter?
On July 11, 2022, Christian political leaders in the APC in the 19 northern states met in the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja to discuss this bias. They said that the party’s constitution stated that it “will guarantee equal opportunity for all … eliminating all forms of discrimination and social injustice among Nigerians.” On the other hand, the two other significant parties do not have structures like the APC. The opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is led by a Muslim, former Vice President Atiku Abubakar, but his running mate is the Christian governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa.
Similarly, the presidential candidate of the Labour Party, Peter Obi, a Christian, chose a Muslim former Senator Yusuf Baba-Ahmed as his vice-presidential candidate. Some have wondered if this is an APC issue and if the party’s risk could be detrimental to its chances of success in 2023. Christians make up roughly 50 percent of Nigeria’s population. Section 14(3) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria says: “The composition of the government of the federation … shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect, the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty.”
Many do not believe a Muslim-Muslim ticket is fair.
Many do not believe that a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket will fairly support the issues of Christians and call for a more representative government. Meanwhile, Governor of Kaduna State, Nasir El-Rufai had told the media, stakeholders, partisan party members, and the masses to separate politics from religion because good governance does not discriminate between adherents of a particular religion and others. He argued that religion does not matter when competence and ability to pilot the affairs of the nation are involved.