Three governors yesterday gave a robust defence of the All Progressives Congress (APC) presidential team, saying the Muslim-Muslim ticket is not anti-Christian.
The ruling party’s national chairman Abdullahi Adamu also said Christians have no cause for worry.
At separate fora, Governors Abdullahi Ganduje (Kano), Rotimi Akeredolu (Ondo) and Aminu Masari (Katsina) dispelled insinuations of insensitivity by the ticket.
Ganduje objected to the claim by former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF) Babachir Lawal that the choice of Senator Kashim Shettima as running mate by the presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, portends disaster at the poll.
He also dismissed as unjustifiable the insinuation by the Adamawa politician that the Ganduje Foundation, a philanthropic organisation, was being used by him to force Christians to join Islam.
Masari, who spoke with reporters in Katsina, said the choice of Shettima was a wise decision, assuring that Christians and Muslims will vote for the ticket.
Senator Adamu also allayed the fear of some Christians about the ticket, saying that they have nothing to fear.
Akeredolu urged the electorate to ignore religion and vote for competence in next year’s election.
The governor, who spoke during the swearing in of new commissioners in Akure, the state capital, said the buck stops at the president’s table, adding that the vice president’s religion does not affect the performance of any administration.
Second Republic member of the House of Assembly in Imo State Ugochukwu Nnawuike advised critics to stop lamenting over the APC ticket.
He said their lamentations cannot produce any result, except the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) and Labour Party (LP) agree to forge an alliance ahead of the 2023 poll.
Lawal, a prominent APC chieftain, had on Wednesday described the Muslim-Muslim ticket as a “disastrous error” by the president candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu.
The ex-SGF, who recalled that he had warned Tinubu against the option, commented that by choosing a Muslim as running mate, he has brought religion to the front burner of politics and taken sides with his own religion.
Lawal said: “He (Tinubu) must also be told that there will be consequences for his choice. Christians all over the country will revolt against the APC to put the chances of his election in serious jeopardy.”
The former SGF also accused Ganduje of an agenda to convert Christians to Islam.
He alleged that the primary purpose of his foundation is to force Christians to become Muslims.
Ganduje preaches tolerance
However, Ganduje, in a statement by the Kano State Commissioner for Information, Mallam Muhammed Garba, cautioned Lawal against inflammatory utterances.
He lamented that Lawal, who claimed to be Tinubu’s friend, has indulged in falsehood at a time when the country required an atmosphere of unity for religious tolerance and national development.
Ganduje said the ex-SGF should re-dedicate himself to the APC’s search for quality leadership for the country instead of making false allegations.
He also clarified that there is no religious compulsion in Kano, stressing that his administration has fostered freedom of religion and association, while also guaranteeing the economic, cultural and political rights of non-Muslims.
He said there was never a time any Christian or non-believer was forced to embrace Islam by the foundation because it negates the teachings of Islam.
He said non-believers are only called to Islam at their wish just as missionaries go to villages in Kano to invite them to embrace Christianity.
The governor said the 40-year-old foundation was set up for philanthropic, humanitarian and charitable activities, including giving medical support and assistance to the needy in the society.
He said the foundation has built many schools, healthcare centres, distributed free school uniforms and instructional materials to new intake in primary schools, construction of boreholes and mosques.
The governor said no fewer than 380, 000 people have benefited from the foundation’s eyecare programme, including treatment for cataracts and glaucoma, as well as distribution of medical glasses.
Ganduje said his position on religious harmony is exemplified in the creation of the Ministry for Religious Affairs, where the state chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) is a partner, and the introduction of an Inter-Faith Dialogue for promotion of religious harmony between Muslims and Christians.
Akeredolu: It’s about performance
Akeredolu, urged Nigerians to ignore religion and vote for competence.
The Ondo governor, who said Tinubu would rescue the nation, added: “Muslim/Muslim ticket has nothing to do with performance.
“Let’s vote for someone that can do something. The work stops on the table of the President. It is the president that you are voting for. He decides what happens.
“Whether it’s a Muslim/Muslim or Christian/Christian, it should not matter to us in the South because we fought for this.
”I have no doubt that given the opportunity, from what he has done in Lagos, Asiwaju Tinubu will turn things around for better.”
Competence is what matters, says Masari
Masari described Shettima’s choice as good news to the party, describing him as an “intellectual, brilliant and accommodating person with all the qualities to be considered as the Vice President.”
Masari said: “I am in full support of Shettima’s nomination.
“What is most important is for a leader to be good, just and fair, irrespective of his faith and wherever he comes from.”
The governor also assured Christians that they had enothing to fear, adding: “We assure you of good governance come 2023.”
Adamu: Christians have nothing to fear
Adamu believes Christians have nothing to fear.
He said: “The party’s Muslim/Muslim presidential ticket is the work and the will of God.”
Adamu, who spoke in Daur, when he led the party’s National Working Committee (NWC) on a Sallah visit to President Muhammadu Buhari, explained that the party went through a “rigorous practical assignment during the selection of the running mate”.
He described Shettima as a bonafide Nigerian who does not need to be either Muslim or Christian before being considered, based on his qualification.
The APC Chairman also applauded Christians for showing interest in the Muslim/Muslim ticket.
He said: “APC is working hard and praying to win the forthcoming 2023 general elections. We are also confident to win Saturday’s Osun governorship election.”
‘Why PDP, LP should allign’
A former Imo State House of Assembly member under Chief Sam Mbakwe administration, Ugochukwu Nnawuihe, advised Nigerians to stop lamenting over the Muslim-Muslim ticket.
Nnawuihe, former Commissioner for Agriculture under Achike Udenwa, said: “Lamentations against the Muslim-Muslim ticket won’t change anything since the APC has made that choice.
“What the PDP and Labour Party should do as a matter of urgency is to come into alliance for a formidable force that would challenge the APC in the election.”
Nnawuihe urged the PDP and LP to make sacrifices, adding that the PDP presidential candidate, Alhaji Abubakar Atiku, should drop Governor Ifeanyi Okowa for Peter Obi to step in as his running mate.
He said it would be counter-productive for Atiku and Obi to divide their votes.
His words: “Once PDP and LP form an alliance, and Atiku and Obi running as presidential and vice presidential candidates, they would form a strong alliance.
“Unfortunately, we do not have political thinkers as we had in the Second Republic. They would have gone to the drawing board to look at what APC has done and come up with the best way to make the election more competitive.
“The only way to respond to that is for the PDP and the LP to come together and form a formidable common front that would require Okowa stepping down as Atiku’s vice presidential candidate for Obi to step in. The situation requires sacrifices.”