As the political cloud thickens ahead of next year’s general elections, the selection of the running mate or vice-presidential candidate for the respective presidential hopeful remains topical. This is because the position of presidency is the highest in the land and everyone is concerned and interested in who emerges as this would go a long way in determining the future of the people and the nation. Not only that, the success or otherwise of the performance of the would-be president would depend largely on the intellect, loyalty and the ability of his/her deputy.
In the last few week, what has dominated the public space borders on religion as the key factor to be weighed in choosing the said running mates. I have observed more closely trends concerning this discourse with regard to who becomes running mates to leading aspirants like Asiwaju Bola Tinubu of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Alhaji Atiku Abubakar of Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), and Mr. Peter Obi of the Labour Party (LP). Many parameters can be used to select preferred candidates resonating around geopolitical paradigm more that religion, godfatherism or other consideration that have dragged us backwards as a nation.
It is logical to expect a working combination in the line of southern-northern configuration in a highly pluralistic country such as ours. In otherwords, for candidates such as Tinubu (south-west) and Obi (south-east), their running mates should come from the north-east, north-west, or north-central geopolitical zones. The least, most primitive and parochial sentiment should be along the line of religion, just the way call on the aspirants to pick their choices within the prism of Muslim-Christian or Christian-Muslim combination becomes louder.
A few questions requiring answers include: Is this the line that we should toe? Should presidential running mates be selected on the basis of religion? Should faith be the rationale for getting the right candidate for the job? Should the ability to deliver, build a strong leadership team, possessing the capability and capacity to bring dividends of democracy be sacrificed on the altar of religious bigotry? Why the fuss over the choice of Tinubu to select a Moslem running mate from the north, or Atiku selects another Moslem from the south, or better still, Obi picking his preferred Christian candidate from the north? The truth is that the state of affairs in Nigeria today has gone bad to the extent that nothing seems to be working again.
Security is almost zero, poverty is at its highest level, unemployment level has reached an alarming level, corruption is killing by the day, capacity utilisation of industrial actors is at the lowest ebb, while the purchasing power of the people has almost crashed beyond salvation. It is for these reasons that the leadership that the country needs at this trying times is one that is competent, sincere, adequately equipped, understanding, sensitive, compassionate, frank, proactive, and understands the problem and knows what to do. Hence, the dissenting voice calling for Muslim-Christian ticket at all cost should be silenced. What the country requires at this critical moment is quality and purposeful leadership that can never be guaranteed by any ethno-religious arrangement.
By the way, who says Muslim-Muslim ticket cannot work for Tinubu or Atiku? Before we continue further, let us revisit the fears of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and other interest groups that Muslim-Muslim ticket is not acceptable. The Tinubu example, as a former governor of Lagos State, is an example. Can’t we see in him a detrabilised Nigerian with a large heart and high level of religious tolerance? Remember that despite being a staunch Moslem, he allowed his wife to practice her faith without any hinderance. Infact, Senator Oluremi is a pastor in her church. How many CAN members can marry a non-Christian, or allow their spouses to practice another faith different form theirs?
On the other hand, how many Moslem men can live peacefully with their wives that practices another religion without forcing her to covert to Islam? It is instructive to note that while Tinubu was governor of Lagos State, he was never myopic nor tribalistic in this appointments. This benevolence made it possible for non-natives to become commissioners and heads of state government establishments in the state. Let me say without mincing words that I am neither a member of any political party nor embarking on a campaign for any candidate; just saying it as it is.
The point I am trying to make is that the best candidates should be allowed to do the job irrespective of his/her religious inclination provided the north-south sentiment is accommodated for the sake of peace and unity. More importantly, the presidential aspirants should look beyond their political parties to get the best materials. This is because many eligible candidates may not necessarily be party men or women. Tinubu and others should take a different route and search for seasoned and tested professionals in the diaspora, academia, and the private sector to get the best for themselves and in securing a bright future for the nation.