2023: Christians not against Tinubu, says Dogara

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FORMER Speaker of the House of Representatives, Yakubu Dogara, says Christians are not against their Muslim brothers or the presidential ambition of Bola Tinubu, the candidate of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC).

Dogara, who spoke yesterday at a summit organised by APC Northern Christian Leaders in Abuja, described as “hogwash” the argument that the choice of former governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, as the vice presidential candidate of the party was based on the consideration of competence rather than his religious leaning.

Speaking on the theme of the summit, ‘Righteousness Exalts A Nation, But Sin is a Reproach to Any People’, Dogara said notwithstanding his love for the party’s presidential candidate, Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the argument that Christian votes would not count as that of the Muslims lacks any logical basis, noting that Nigerians irrespective of their religious leanings had ensured the emergence of former President Goodluck Jonathan and Olusegun Obasanjo in the past.

He noted that it was unfortunate that the APC was no longer an inclusive political party.

Dogara maintained that the adoption of a Muslim-Muslim presidential and vice presidential ticket by the APC was capable of leading Nigeria to disintegration like Yugoslavia.

He reiterated his support for the Tinubu candidacy but stressed that the call for a Muslim-Christian ticket in the APC was aimed at entrenching justice, fairness and equity in Nigeria.

Recalling how he emerged Speaker of the 8th House of Representatives with the support of his Muslim colleagues, he faulted the notion held in certain quarters that Christians could not muster the votes to ensure victory for Tinubu at the presidential poll.

His words: “When we talk about a Muslim-Muslim ticket; God forbid that we should be understood to be objecting to Muslims or that we don’t want Asiwaju Bola Tinubu to be president. It is not about Senator Kashim Shettima either, but it is about what is right and what is wrong. It is about justice, fairness and equity.

“It is about Nigeria; its diversity and how it can be harnessed in an inclusive manner for the greater good of all of us. Be that as it may, some of us really wanted Asiwaju to be president because he has sacrificed much for our party, the APC, and for what he represents to so many people. So, our position cannot be against Muslims or Islam. That fact cannot be denied in any way.

“But when it comes to choosing between the love and admiration I have for an individual and what is right and what I believe represents my vision for Nigeria, my choice will clearly be for the latter. After all, my rise to the position of Speaker was never going to be possible without the support of some Muslim members who believe that our diversity must be reflected in national positions for the unity, peace and advancement of our dear country.

“What gives me more hope about the Nigeria project is that there are many of our Muslim brothers and leaders who did not only warn the APC, but have had to call out the APC for adopting a Muslim-Muslim ticket which resulted into the party ructions we are witnessing today.

“In 2015, when we were called “janjaweed party”, my response was usually very simple. I could then say that, His Excellency, John Oyegun was the chairman of my party and my vice presidential candidate was Pastor Yemi Osinbajo.

“We don’t enjoy that luxury anymore as the President, Senate President, Speaker and his deputy; Senate and House Leaders; National Chairman and the Deputy National Chairman; Presidential and the Vice-Presidential candidates are all Muslims, leaving the Christians with just the position of Vice President Osibanjo and Deputy Senate President Omo-Agege at that level in a country whose population is fairly split between Muslims and Christians.

“Granted this scenario, can any God-fearing Muslim, Christian nay even the amoral and the atheist say this is fair, just and righteous? Does this represent the act of a just God? This is the real context of objections from the Christian community not just the presidential ticket and the VP slot.

“For me, it is a rude awakening and I am so happy it happened sooner than later. The very fact that they said we should not worry about a Muslim-Muslim ticket while a Muslim-Christian ticket gave them sleepless nights should make you worry the more.

“To worry about a Muslim-Christian ticket while counselling others not to worry about a Muslim-Muslim ticket is the very textbook definition of cognitive dissonance and an attempt at gaslighting gullible Christians. Truth must be told that anyone who is not bringing us together is consciously tearing us apart.

“The other funny argument in the media is the claim that without a northern Muslim on the ticket, elections cannot be won. The implications of that argument are quite unambiguous; Northern Muslims don’t vote for the South – even if the candidate is a Muslim like them – and, of course, don’t vote for Christians.

“However, nothing can be further from the truth. If you stretch this argument further, it may lead to questions such as, “if Muslims in the North don’t trust a southern Muslim for any reason(s), why should Christians in Nigeria trust a Muslim from the South and North?” These are the kinds of arguments I hate to engage in and which we must avoid if we hope not to injure the health of our Republic.

“Other unhelpful framings of the debate by the so-called pundits posit that Christians in the North are so small in number that their votes don’t count. This strange argument seeks to reinforce the satanic agenda of dividing the church in Nigeria into North and South, and also ignores the fact and reality that Nigeria is evenly split on religious lines.

“These pundits are still not smart enough to tell us what is in the Muslim-Muslim ticket for southern Christians. The argument also ignores the fact that our official policy excludes religious affiliation from census data. There is therefore no scientific basis for these bizarre conclusions. Let us now look at a model for managing diversity.”

Continuing, he noted: “Why do I consider the decision by the APC to settle for a Muslim-Muslim ticket not a bold but bad decision? There are ample reasons but I will highlight a few for want of time and space.

“It is a bad decision because it fuels inequality. We must always bear in mind that the liberty we enjoy is as rare as it is fragile. Inequality has a way of upsetting the balance due to the universal law of cause and effect.

“Throughout history, every revolution has been waged to either consolidate or destroy inequality. Just like all revolutions, they first seem impossible and then improbable until they become inevitable.

“When you think of revolutions, what comes to your mind? Is it the pictures of savage invasions, crushing battlefield defeats, sacked cities and unlucky rulers put to death or a cascading series of minor, individually unimportant failures which are now replete in our polity?

“You may not understand the structure of revolutions until you trace the progression of the Nazis from an unpopular fringe group to the most powerful political party in Germany.

“Those who are dismissive of those who built conflict generating structures such as the Muslim-Muslim ticket in a pluralistic society always end up as enablers of revolution or violent changes. That was how Nazism was dismissed as a fringe idea that will never make it into the mainstream of civilised Germany until it led to the death of an estimated 40 million people.

“It is a bad decision because it breads division which is counter-productive to our collective aspirations for a united and prosperous nation. My last check reveals that the word division is a construct of the word “vision” with a prefix “di” which means double in Latin. Just imagine what double vision does to an individual, much more a nation.

“Our national creed or motto if you like, is unity and faith, peace and progress. Embedded in this great idea is the fact that unity precedes peace and progress. The question therefore is: How do we unite our disparate peoples in a manner that ensures peace and progress? This is not the only question, it is every question.

“Of course, our strength is not in numbers but unity. You are not strong because you are many; you are strong because you are united. Nigeria cannot survive if we merely tolerate each other or if the happiness of one group is the unhappiness of the other group. But if we are united, we will be indomitable.

“And if all of us: Muslims, Christians, atheists, the old, the young, women and men work together and pray together in unity, believe me; we will be invincible. On the corollary, many are the Nations and Empires that could not withstand divisions.”

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