Babachir/Dogara: Who made you kings over us?

According to the second book of the Bible, Exodus 12:14, when Moses wanted to separate two Israelites who were fighting, one of the fighters asked him: “Who made you an official judge over us? …”

Moses then was a self-appointed ‘leader.’ God had not yet called him. He “appointed” himself.

Just as it happened during the Old Testament days of Moses, two prominent Nigerians and chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) have appointed themselves as official spokesmen and defenders of Christians in Northern Nigeria.

Since the unveiling of Senator Kashim Shettima (former Governor of Borno state) by Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu as his running mate on July 20, 2022, former Secretary to the Government of the Federation (SGF), Babachir Lawal, and former Speaker of the House of Representatives, Rt. Hon. Yakubu Dogara, have appointed themselves as the spokespersons and defenders of Northern Christians.

Curiously, Daily Trust of July 12, 2022, published a story revealing “How Babachir’s panel recommended Kashim Shettima” ahead of 10 other persons. But, even before the unveiling of Shettima by Tinubu, Lawal started strongly condemning the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the APC. Dogara has added his voice in the same vein. For some time now, they have been operating “pari passu” as political emergency Northern Christian leaders for mesh of porridge.

Apart from speaking through the media, the duo went as far as organiding an “APC Northern Christian Leaders Summit,” which held recently in Abuja with no backing of renowned Northern Christian leaders like General Yakubu Gowon (Plateau), General Theophilus Yakubu Danjuma (Taraba), Senator (Dr.) Barnabas Gemade (Benue), Prof. Jerry Gana (Niger), Air Commodore Dan Suleiman (Adamawa), General Zamani Lekwot (Kaduna), among others. 

At the summit on July 29, Dogara kicked against the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the APC. He maintained that it was “hogwash to assert that no Christian was competent to be Tinubu’s running mate.”

Dogara asserted that the ticket would create disunity in the party and the country at large, while describing Tinubu’s choice of Shettima as a “fatal error of judgement.” But Dogara forgot so soon that he betrayed Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto and today Tinubu. Tinubu and Tambuwal assisted him politically and, as such, Dogara does not have the locus standi to say anything for he has betrayed his masters; an antecedent that will follow him perpetually – that he cannot be trusted with power.

Apart from the summit, Lawal and Dogara have visited Governors Nyesom Wike (Rivers) and Samuel Ortom (Benue), with whom they held closed door meetings also on this Muslim-Muslim ticket.

On July 30, a communique from the APC Northern Christian Leaders Summit was jointly signed and released by Prof. Doknan Decent Danjuma Sheni (Plateau) North Central; Brigadier-General Ishaya Bauka (Taraba) representing North East; and Prof. Sa’idu Ibrahim (Jigawa) North West.

The communique said: After thorough consideration of the Muslim-Muslim ticket move by APC, the participants found out that “it [the Muslim-Muslim ticket] is divisive, unjust and insensitive,” so the Northern Christians in APC will never support the party’s Muslim-Muslim ticket decision. Who said so? The APC is a political party and does not accept party members based on religion. The party’s choice of Asiwaju Tinubu and Kashim Shettima is based strictly on core competence, experience and trust for they have changed the narrative in their previous positions as game changers/change agents and should be regarded as such, and not on religious grounds.

The self-appointed political Northern Christian leaders (in 10 states and the FCT), before now, declared that they would soon convene an inter-faith summit and agree with their Muslim counterparts on the next line of action concerning the contentious Muslim-Muslim ticket adopted by the APC.

The political evangelists, Lawal and Dogara, including the hypocrisy displayed by other sermons traversing from one state to another, shows you the very nature of persons they are. Men who are disgruntled, filled with hate for having lost out of the vice presidency, but couldn’t swallow their pride and let the sleeping dog lie.

They have, overnight, put on cassocks bearing the toga of Northern Christian leaders. This is all in a bid to deceive gullible Nigerians as to their true intentions of hate, bitterness and bad belle against the same party that made them over the years. They are fanning the embers of divisiveness and bad blood for their selfish inordinate ambitions.

Can Lawal and Dogara tell Nigerians how many churches they have built, impacted and assisted materially, financially or through sponsored mentorship programmes all these years, so that Nigerians will now have a reason to look at their grievances? If that is done the generality of Nigerians will scream: “Let them (Lawal and Dogara) be heard, because it is now obvious that people like Lawal and Dogara only look to the next election time. That is when they remember they are Christians and nothing more. 

A search on the signatories of the communique reveals that Doknan Sheni is Professor of Optometry and hails from Shendeam LGA. He was Vice Chancellor of Plateau State University (PLASU), Bokkos (now Solomon Law University). His profile reveals that he was Senior Pastor, Shalom Christian Mission International, Polo Kwane, South Africa (2003-2012).

It is obvious that Prof. Sheni is aggrieved, because he thought he was the most qualified person for the Plateau South senatorial constituency ticket on the platform of the APC. However, current Governor Simon Lalong clinched the ticket by polling 335 out of the 340 votes cast by delegates.

On the other hand, Brigadier-General Ishaya Gangun Bauka was Commander, 4 Mechanized Brigade, Benin City till September 7, 2008.

He contested for the Taraba South senatorial seat in 2015 on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) but lost to Senator Emmanuel Bwala.

On his part, Sa’idu Ibrahim is professor of Medicine/Chief Consultant Physician and Clinical Endocrinologist and was engaged with University of Calabar.

Lawal and Dogara have effectively taken advantage of the gullibility of some Christians to influence and “indoctrinate” them. No wonder, religion is often referred to as “the opium of the people.”

According to Wikipedia, “The opium of the people (or opium of the masses) is a dictum used in reference to religion, derived from a frequently paraphrased statement of German sociologist and economic theorist Karl Marx: ‘Religion is the opium of the people.’ In context, the statement is part of Marx’s structural-functionalist argument that religion was constructed by people to calm uncertainty over their role in the universe and in society.”

While the likes of Lawal/Dogara are hiding under religion, the vice-presidential candidate of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Malam Ahmed Buhari, in a recent interview with Arise News, advised Nigerian politicians to consider the interest of the generality of Nigerians first before their personal or party’s interest.

He narrated that people have been asking him why he did not take a direct shot at the presidency, but in his answer to them, he said, he believes that “power should go back to the South in 2023.” He further explained that, that is why he teamed up with Dumebi Kachikwu to run on the same ticket.

According to Malam Ahmed, he did this just to make Nigerians know that “they can find competent people everywhere irrespective of religion, political party, ideological status, or tribe.”

In all ramifications, this is how a right-thinking Nigerian patriot should reason. What Christian Association Nigeria (CAN) and other Christian stakeholders across the country should be concerned with is the political manifesto, the candidates’ relationship with people over the years and the plan of the APC flag-bearers as it encompasses all sectors of the economy and passion of their preparedness to change the landscape for our collective good in a world of ideas, concepts and initiatives.

The Muslim-Muslim ticket is about transformative leadership for good governance and people-oriented policies and programmes and must be taken seriously by Nigerians for what it stands to bring on board, which is competence, delivery of dividends of democracy and the security of lives and property of Nigerian citizens.

These are indeed interesting times that can be viewed as being specially arranged by the Almighty God Himself. For instance, a new President of CAN, Most Rev. (Archbishop) Daniel Okoh was unveiled on Wednesday, July 27. Coincidentally, the Islamic New Year (1444AH) began on Saturday, July 30, after sighting the new lunar moon (the month of Muharram).

Interestingly, the APC issued a statement through its National Publicity Secretary, Felix Morka (a Christian) in which it advised all Muslims to continue to support the government and person of President Muhammadu Buhari. APC also asked Nigerians to pray for harmony, development and progress, security and good governance in the country.

The national publicity secretary stated: “The Nigerian Muslim Ummah should, in the new Islamic year, strive more to emulate Prophet Muhammad (SAW) by preaching social justice, love, peace and unity in our country.”

Also, many Nigerians are fast realizing the essence of harmonious relationships. For instance, Tinubu sent a congratulatory message to the newly unveiled President of CAN, Archbishop Daniel Okoh.

Tinubu, who noted that Okoh was a “worthy successor to Ayokunle,” also lamented the current security situation in the country. He added that “Nigeria is in a critical moment,” where misguided and terrible actors attempt to destroy social harmony and reign violence on everyone.

Peter Obi, presidential flag-bearer of the Labour Party (LP), has also sent his goodwill message to Nigerian Muslims on the occasion as they celebrate the Islamic New Year. He wished them “peace, love, good health and prosperity” as they mark the New Year.

On the other hand, President Buhari also congratulated the new CAN president Daniel Okoh. He noted that the diction of the new Archbishop Okoh “by the very important Christian body is a testament to his devotion to the Church of God in the country and beyond, distinguished vocation as a Christian leader and abiding commitment to promoting ecumenism and inter-faith dialogue.”

The president said, he “values the counsel and spiritual contributions of Christian leaders to nation-building by encouraging, advising and criticizing those in authority.”

One wonders why these “Christian leaders” are desperate and what their true motive is. A keen observer noted that these people are only out to convince the targeted political party presidential candidates, that they have large followership and could give them bloc votes. But their true motive (which is now veiled) is to collect huge sums of monies in “exchange” for the promised multitude of voters from the “highest-bidder.”

Many Nigerians also believe that Lawal and Dogara are only being hypocritical in their much fuss over religious issue. For instance, a Facebook user, Otunba Akintola Akinwunmi Peter, was quoted by Joe Igbokwe (a staunch Tinubu supporter) on July 31, as alleging that Lawal and Dogara were among the “stalwarts” who backed Tinubu during the APC presidential primary.

Peter went ahead to reveal that the duo also worked against vice president Yemi Osinbajo and did not consider religion at that time.

Igbokwe quoted Peter: “You will think these people are fighting for Christianity. No! They are fighting for their personal and selfish interest”

“Now, that they fail to get the VP slot, they suddenly remember the definition of Christianity!

“I am a Christian, [but] I hate hypocrisy. I am not saved by the faith of anyone but my own faith in Christ.”

Even the newly unveiled President of CAN did not direct Christians to vote for a particular candidate of a party. Rather, while giving a sermon at the 2022 International Men’s Conference of Christ Holy Church International in Abuja on Sunday, July 31, Most Rev. Daniel Okoh stated: “… the citizens have gone beyond casting their votes based on political party fielding candidates.” He added that people now look into the credibility and character of the candidates before they give them their votes.”

Most Rev. Okoh, in the sermon, entitled “By Faith, Give Leadership,” further admonished that people of God at this time should have eyes open, while advising the electorate to know the people they are giving their votes to. “Today, people are looking at individuals, their credibility, character, experience, capacities and antecedents in relation to the positions they want to occupy,” he observed. 

The Anglican Primate of all Nigeria, Most Rev. Henry Ndukuba, has tasked all eligible Nigerians to ensure that they participate in the 2023 general elections to elect credible leaders for the country.

Ndukaka, who is also the Metropolitan Archbishop, gave the advice at the Conference of Chancellors, Registrars and Legal Officers from Anglican Communion in Abuja last Tuesday with the theme, “Behold, I Will Do a New Thing.”

He added that Christians should “show sensitivity as far as our ethnic and tribal linings are concerned, sensitivity as far as our religions are concerned; also, as far as our social engagements are concerned and our social cultural issues and interests are to be taken into consideration.”

The Archbishop admonished Nigerians to “use their votes to elect credible leaders that would turn around things in the country for the better.”

Also, speaking about the Muslim-Muslim ticket, at a different forum, William F. Kumuyi of the Deeper Christian Life Ministry, advised Nigerians to overlook the same faith ticket and embrace God’s will for the country. He further noted that they (Christians) should stop fighting and attacking one another. They should (rather) allow God to take charge over the affairs of this country.

Rev. Stephen Gbejero, founder of Christ the Lord Church of God, Warri also spoke with reporters on the Muslim-Muslim ticket. He observed: “The Bible said in Psalm 25:14 that the secret of God is with them that fear him. I do not succumb to their position, because, according to the Holy Bible, you look at the goodness of man and not his religious background.”

He added that, “Quite honestly, at the initial stage, I was not also happy about this Muslim-Muslim ticket, but when I heard testimonies about how ex-Governor of Borno State Kashim Shettima re-built churches that were destroyed by enemies of Christianity, Boko Haram, in Maiduguri and environs, I had a change of mind. This is the reason why CAN members from the North are in support of Shettima.

He gave his examples: “When you look at Luke 10:30-37, the story of the Good Samaritan is there for all of us to see. All the men of God in that story did not help the wounded man… At the end of the day, it was a Samaritan, who was not as religious as the first three men, that took care of the wounded man.

“Another example is the story of Rahab in the Bible, who was a harlot. If you read Joshua 5:1-30, Rahab saved the lives of the two spies that were sent to Jericho by the Israelites. This her good gesture saved her and her family when Jericho was destroyed.”

Rev. Gbejere then asked: “So, why should a Muslim man who showed compassion and mercy by re-building churches that were burnt down by Boko Haram in Borno State be denied the vice-presidential slot, just because he is a Muslim?”

For him, “What we need today is not religion, because there are [some] Christians and Muslims in the country that are more wicked than native doctors. So, there is nothing wrong with the Muslim-Muslim ticket.” 

The Very Rev. Dr. Okegile, a former Chaplain of Marina Chapel, Lagos, can attest that Tinubu’s form of religiosity is filled with love and welfare for others – Christians and Muslims. Tinubu, according to him, “demonstrates religious tolerance; he accommodates and believes in that cardinal principle of the Nigerian Constitution, that “no one should suffer discrimination on the basis of creed or opinion.”

According to him, Tinubu has the ability to blend religious, economic, history and political concerns as a powerful and persuasive man of understanding, seeing wealth and prosperity that have the potentials to place Nigerians on the path to peaceful co-existence, stability and prosperity.

As for Lawal/Dogara, just like the aggrieved Israelite asked Moses, we now ask them: “Who made you kings over us? Or do you want to betray us as you betrayed Tinubu (your benefactor)? Northern Christians should not allow these political Christians to hide under the canopy of religion to seek cheap popularity and amass quick riches.

In conclusion, Nigerians need to inspire a new thinking amongst our people; they need to know that it is more important to preserve the nation. Leaders will come and go only if the nation is placed above self, tribe and religion. The Asiwaju/Shettima ticket is our sure bet.

Aigbegbele is a media scholar, activist, brand adviser, research fellow and communications specialist; former media adviser to the former President Goodluck Jonathan (2010-2015)

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