VP Choice: Reflecting Nigeria's Secularity – – The Tide

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By the Independent National Electoral Commission’s (INEC) timetable, all political parties fielding presidential candidates must have named and submitted their vice presidential nominees by the latest last Friday. The heated discussion engendered over the past week was the joint Muslim-Muslim ticket and its likely impact on the electoral victory of any party that adopts the option. The matter has raised fresh apprehension in the country already divided along religious and ethnic cleavages.
For the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Labour Party and most other parties, there is no anxiety about the issue because the candidates and their running mates have been chosen from the two domineering religions of Christianity and Islam. Specifically, Atiku Abubakar, a Muslim from the North, has picked Dr. Ifeanyi Okowa, Governor of Delta State, and a Christian from the South.
The same, however, cannot be said about the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) which has a Muslim presidential candidate from the South-West. Normally, and going by convention, the candidate is generally expected to choose a Christian running mate from the North to balance the geopolitical permutations and to create a feeling of belonging to most ethnic and religious groups in the country. Alas, that was not the case.
The APC presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, has already named Ibrahim Kabiru Masari as his running mate for the 2023 elections. A chieftain of the party, Kabiru Faskari, confirmed this during an interview. He said, “Ibrahim Kabiru Masari is our vice presidential nominee. He was the Welfare Secretary of the APC under Oshiomhole (former national chairman of the party). He is a well-known politician in Kaduna State, and his name has been submitted.”
Faskari further explained that picking Kabiru, who hails from Katsina State, did not violate the country’s laws as against the clamour for a Muslim/Christian APC ticket. “He is young; he represents the youths and is grounded in politics and was even a national official of the APC. He is quite close to the presidential candidate and has been with him for a very long time.” According to the APC chieftain, the decision followed wide consultations and the party needed a person from a region with a large voting population.
Although the ruling party claimed it was putting Kabiru as a placeholder to beat INEC’s deadline for presidential candidates to submit the names of their running mates, many believe that the party’s explanation is intended to hide behind a smokescreen. This decision has now placed the APC at a crossroads, even as leaders of Christian pressure groups, and defenders of the rights of people, fly in and out of temper over the issue.
Regardless, there have been pockets of support for a Muslim-Muslim ticket by politicians including Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai; former Minister of Aviation, Femi Fani-Kayode, who said he would back Tinubu if he chose a Muslim running mate; former Abia State Governor, Orji Uzor Kalu; and Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) who believe that what matters in the choice of a vice president, more than religion, are his “credibility, integrity and competence.”
Conversely, the Nigerian Youths Coalition (NYC) stated that any such plan would amount to the APC “beating the drums of religious war” while the Coalition of Arewa Forum for Good Governance (CAFGG) believes any such arrangement would “increase crisis across the country” and that it should be jettisoned “in the interest of equity, justice and fairness.”
Since the present political dispensation from 1999, politicians and their parties have deliberately avoided fielding the same religion ticket. The only exceptions were in 1983-1985 when the then Major-Gen Muhammadu Buhari and late Major-Gen Tunde Idiagbon, both Muslims of Northern extraction, held sway as military Head of State and deputy; and in 1993 when the defunct Social Democratic Party (SDP) presented a Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket in the persons of the late Chief Moshood Abiola from the South and Alhaji Babagana Kingibe from the North.
Unlike the 1993 scenario where the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) supported the Muslim-Muslim ticket, the association has come out strongly to denounce any such arrangement. Its position is buttressed by glaring facts that Nigerians of the Christian faith have suffered more than any other group from the insurgency, terrorism, kidnapping, raping and outright killings that have become the order of the day, particularly in the last seven years of the present government.
The point at issue is an imposition of a ticket that may arouse disaffection at a time such as this when an outgoing leader has badly mismanaged the country’s fault lines that aspiring leaders are claiming do not matter. This is tragic in the extreme when we should be scrutinising the quality of the agenda and indeed manifestos of our presidential candidates. It is not a good legacy for the Buhari administration.
Nigerian politicians have invariably exploited the polity for voracious reasons and consequently obliterated the finesse of the country’s sophisticated diversity. The level of mistrust and suspicion between the two major religions in the country has become so high that it has made it implausible, unrealistic and unwise for any political party to field a same-religion presidential joint ticket.
Therefore, in line with CAN’s position, we reject the Muslim-Muslim presidential ticket of the APC and other political parties in the country. The outcome of this insensitive act will be disastrous. The same religion ticket is a threat to the fragile peace and unity of Nigeria. With Nigeria’s trajectory and its challenges, it is crucial for political parties not to further polarise the country by opting for Christian-Christian or Muslim-Muslim presidential combination.
Imagine how terrible it will be if, in present-day Nigeria, there are two Muslims in power. Even the extant Nigerian Constitution promotes ethnic and religious balance. So, if any political party attempts a Muslim/Muslim ticket, it will be doing so at its peril. Tinubu’s running mate should be a Christian from the North; Abubakar Atiku’s running mate should be a Christian from the South, while Peter Obi should take his deputy among the Muslims from the North. Anything contrary means the defaulting political parties bother less about Nigeria’s unity.
Buhari’s crass failure to secure the lives and welfare of Nigerians as required of him by the Constitution is responsible for the clear division, suspicion, and lack of trust encompassing opposition to a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The President’s party, the APC, or any other for that matter, should desist from heightening the tension in the polity by attempting a same-religion presidency configuration. Such is simply out of tune with the current reality in the country.
Ekiti Poll: Task Before INEC
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There is palpable anxiety in Ekiti State as the governorship election will take place in the South West
state on Saturday, June 18, 2022. On that day, the Ekiti people will decide who will succeed Governor Kayode Fayemi, whose term ends soon. In the final list published by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC), 16 political parties will take part in the election, including 14 male and two female candidates.
A few of the parties and their candidates include Reuben Famuyibo of the Accord Party (AP), Oluwole Oluyede of the African Democratic Congress (ADC), Kemi Elebute Halle of the Action Democratic Party (ADP), Biodun Oyebanji of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Olabisi Kolawole of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), Segun Oni of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and Ranti Ajayi of the Young Progressives Party (YPP), among others.
But despite the presence of more than a dozen political parties in the race, the governorship contest is actually a three horse race among the three most renowned parties in the state. They are the ruling APC, the PDP, which remains the dominant opposition party since it lost power nearly four years ago, and the SDP, a new participant in the power equation.
This development is a radical departure from the normal trend where the APC and the PDP had always emerged as the parties to beat in the governorship race, and most other elections in the state. But the threat posed by the SDP and its candidate, former Governor Oni, cannot be wished away as some people are staking on the party to probably spring incredulity by snatching away the saddle from the two leading challengers.
As the people of Ekiti prepare for the exhilarating election, it is expedient that the necessary atmosphere is set for the contest. Security agents and critical stakeholders should maintain the peace and stem any possible violence. Everyone has to recognise that elections come and go, but the state will remain.
Violence prior to, during and after the election is unjustified because the state is not at war. The kernel of election is to enable the will of the people to preponderate. Democracy is not about killing or bloodshed, it is about choosing willingly. Candidates must instruct their supporters to act in accordance with the law.
It is gratifying that the National Security Adviser (NSA), Babagana Monguno, has assured that the election will be free of malevolence. Speaking at the Inter-Agency Consultative Committee on Election Security organised by INEC, the NSA, represented on the occasion by Sanusi Galadima, explained that the security agencies were monitoring developments in Ekiti.
Our disquiet stems from the unhealthy role of security agents during elections since the return to democracy in 1999. While it is salient to note that the functions of security personnel are essential in elections, their abusive deployment to intimidate perceived oppositions creates a sense of insecurity itself. We implore them to do the right thing in Ekiti without prejudice. They should prevent human rights violations while at the same time helping to protect and preserve the sanctity of the entire electoral process.
Unfortunately, security operatives actively participate in and finesse the election process. They have also been involved in ballot theft and, of course, they have assisted politicians to espouse some unorthodox wonts. The trend is worrisome. We hope that steps will be taken forthwith to put an end to the situation before the international community takes a greater heed in it.
The sway of money in the country’s electoral process has thickened in worth in our political atmosphere, especially as reflected in the recent presidential primaries of the two dominant political parties. In our opinion, the usual hoard of money in exchange for votes should be discountenanced and halted. The high level of poverty ravaging the country notwithstanding, the electoral body, stakeholders and the anti-graft agencies should wage war against this act in Ekiti, and call on voters to desist from trading their mandates.
INEC cannot afford to fail. We hope the electoral umpire is fully predisposed to hold the first election in Nigeria since President Muhammadu Buhari signed the new Electoral Act into law, which legalises electronic transmission of results. The June 18 gubernatorial election has been deemed by many as a litmus test to ascertain the effectiveness of the newly amended Electoral Act. INEC, therefore, has to ensure the effective deployment of the Bimodal Voter Accreditation System (BVAS) for the election.
While the BVAS achieved reasonable success in the Isoko-South 1 Federal Constituency bye-election in Delta State, its deployment in statewide elections like the Anambra governorship and the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Area Council was marred with widespread malfunctioning and other challenges, leading to the extension of voting time. Hence, the Ekiti election presents another occasion for the assessment of the functionality of the BVAS and the capacity of INEC to resolve all obstacles observed with its operations in Anambra and the FCT.
Moreover, the use of BVAS is incredibly crucial because the new Electoral Law provides for the deployment of a technological device for the accreditation of voters. Similarly, INEC’s guidelines have made it mandatory to deploy the BVAS as the device now plays a pivotal role in safeguarding elections and in guaranteeing that technical glitches do not disenfranchise any eligible voter who turns out to vote. The Commission is responsible for indemnifying that the BVAS functions optimally on the election day.
Furthermore, the election management body should carry out proper arrangements and make certain that personnel deployed to administer the poll are well-trained. There should be an early deployment of voting materials at the units to facilitate the timely start-up of the polls. The electoral umpire must assure that poll officers conduct themselves in a non-partisan and professional manner throughout the election process. This will bolster citizens’ confidence in the process and enhance participation.
INEC should recognise that Saturday’s election will also set the climate for a similar poll on July 16 in Osun State. Although elections have distinct peculiarities, we firmly believe that the outcome of the Ekiti ballot is likely to influence Osun’s poll in public perception. As candidates are emerging for the next year’s general election, the June 18 voting will open up the electoral space of what to expect in the campaigns and the contest next February.
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Just when the world thought it had taken a furlough from global pandemics, and to an extent had accepted that COVID-19 was here to stay, the monkeypox disease suddenly reared its hideous head. The recrudescence of the virus is rapidly generating anxiety that could likely put the entire world on alternate health surveillance. Little is known of this disease, except that it does not spread as rapidly as the Coronavirus, but has obvious symptoms without a cure.
A reported case of the virus by the United Kingdom Health Security Agency (UKHSA) in London has snowballed into a substantial epidemic of another round of the malady in Nigeria, following its corroboration by the Nigeria Centre for Disease Control (NCDC). The report raised immediate questions over speculation that monkeypox may be disappearing on a global scale. Strangely enough, UKHSA stated that the patient had recently departed Nigeria. Why was the malady not detected in Nigeria?
Already devastated by many other deadly infections, the eruption of the monkeypox virus this year is adding to Nigeria’s alarming health problems. According to the NCDC, as of May 29, there had been 21 confirmed cases in nine states and the Federal Capital Territory. The only death was a 40-year-old patient with an initial substrate condition. The nation’s anti-disease mechanisms must be activated to contain this illness and others.
Nigeria is plunged into health wars on many fronts, spurred by poor health infrastructure, inadequate investments in health care, inaccessibility of quality health services and a stagnant health workforce. Diseases are dispersed across the country. These include Lassa fever, cholera and measles, to name a few. Our country has also been impacted by COVID-19. Now, monkeypox has declared its disturbing presence.
Monkeypox is a transmissible viral zoonotic disease (transmitted to humans by animals) caused by infection with the monkeypox virus. It is transmitted to humans by infected animals, usually rodents. There is also the potential for human-to-human transmission of the disease when one person comes in contact with another who is infected with the virus. The disease can also be acquired in association with materials contaminated by the virus which causes it.
Experts say the symptoms of monkeypox are similar to those of smallpox. They include fever, rash, headache, back pain, swollen lymph nodes, chills and unusual tiredness, etc. These signs can last two to three weeks as a period of manifestation. This means that the incubation period (infection to manifestation of symptoms) is about 14 to 21 days – that is how long it takes for someone to know if he or she has monkeypox.
In the aftermath of the outbreak, the Federal Government banned the sale and consumption of bushmeat to prevent the spread of the monkeypox pathogen. The ban was issued by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development after the disease was officially confirmed in the country.
The Minister of Agriculture, Dr Abubakar Mohammed, issued a statement urging hunters and bushmeat traders to suspend the endeavour. The ban should be sustained as the virus is thought to be disseminating in some rodents and squirrels. The consumption of such animals for food purposes may be a source of transmittance.
There is a need for Nigeria to avoid a repeat of the dereliction that enabled Coronavirus to gain easy access into the country despite weeks of advance warning to put premonitory preventive measures in place. The country has gone through complete or partial lockdowns in its most productive states and has spent monumental sums of money battling the plague and furnishing services to assuage its effects. Such blunders, including the failure to purchase, stock and make adequate arrangements to administer vaccines, should be prevented from occurring.
Recently, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control implemented a series of measures, including the isolation of suspected cases, the accumulation of smallpox vaccines and a community awareness campaign. Nigeria can do the same through containment measures to reduce the spread. Although general vaccination has been excluded for the moment, the government at all levels should quickly acquire medicines and isolation centres to manage the disease and the victims.
The authorities should not wait until the state of affairs worsens before assuming their responsibilities. The anticipatory measures already put in place should be maintained to stem a public health concern which could weaken a large part of the population if not controlled. Nigerians travel extensively in all parts of their country, which is why the disease has the potential to spread easily.
Monkeypox is endemic in West and Central Africa. It was first identified as a laboratory monkey in 1958. The first human infection occurred in 1970 in the Democratic Republic of Congo. An outbreak in the United States in 2003 was attributed to a pet store selling imported Gambian rodents. Controls include isolating suspected or confirmed cases, strict adherence to universal precautions, especially frequent hand washing with soap and water, and the use of personal protective equipment.
Experts say there is as yet no single confirmed cure for monkeypox, but they support the use of drugs used to treat smallpox and other remedies. Some physicians are hopeful that the smallpox vaccine will be useful for monkeypox. Consequently, surveillance measures should be enhanced to ensure the adequacy of all essential medicines. A task force similar to the Presidential Steering Committee on COVID-19 should be established to coordinate the anti-monkeypox fight.
The Nigerian government should be proactive in controlling the monkeypox epidemic in the country. Since the virus encompasses countries all over the world, it should be seen as important to global public health. In this regard, we strongly advise the nation’s health authorities to raise awareness of the disease, prevention measures and treatment options available. All travellers from countries with an outbreak of the virus must be screened prior to admission to the country.
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It was exactly 29 years yesterday when a most memorable presidential election was held and its result was criminally nullified by a ravenous cabal. The desire of the Ibrahim Babangida and Sani Abacha regimes to invalidate the election also had a particularly sinister dehumanising and macabre political logic, in addition to its endemic barbaric proportion. But, the emerging nationwide battle for emancipation gave an incredibly defective Constitution, which returned the country to civil rule on May 29, 1999, and returned the military to the barracks.
The persistent clamour and devotion of Nigerians to the principles of June 12 climaxed in the recognition of the day as the annual Democracy Day by President Muhammadu Buhari. It is also to observe that remarkable polling day in 1993 when Nigerians, across ethnic, religious and demographic fault lines, endowed their hopes in freedom in Chief Moshood Kashimawo Olawale Abiola, the presumed winner of the election, and the supreme sacrifice he paid in his quest to redeem his mandate.
Unfortunately, nearly 30 years after, rather than sweeping revelries, pessimism still pervades throughout the country as Nigerians encounter the painful truth that the democratic vow of freedom and the pursuit of contentment have been envenomed terribly by purblind leadership, a debased Constitution and an obsequious citizenry. Instead of the inauguration of democracy, the people paid dearly for the baneful mix that has simply conveyed a civil rule with all its concomitant drawbacks.
Thus, the citizens are learning the hard way that deepening democracy and its tremendous ability to emit the imaginative and creative powers of the people goes beyond outward showing of intermittent elections, presence of legislature and other chaotic emblems of government. Democracy has become a mere covering for a few to hijack power and public treasury when these isomorphic institutions fail to achieve the real democratic objectives of personal, political and economic liberty and the pursuit of the greatest good for the most significant number.
More than 20 years of civil rule, it is sad that most Nigerians are not in any way better. Corruption still characterises governance, intensifying poverty and inequality, economic loss and inefficiency, public and private sector dysfunction, failures in infrastructure, rigged economic and political systems, impunity and injustice, organised crime, terrorism and diminished state capacity.
As corruption, in particular, state capture becomes the new normal, public disgruntlement and misanthropy permeate the land. The essential components of democracy — rule of law, social justice, citizens’ participation, responsible political parties, active free press, independent parliament and judiciary — in scanty existence are likewise under ferocious assault.
Significant progress can be assessed by an examination of how far the country has gone in accomplishing these key facets of democracy. For the past 29 years, it has been hard to exacerbate these fundamental values because the executive arm is viciously irresponsible, the legislature pathetically vulnerable, and the judiciary precariously negotiated. The three, of course, share a common DNA — corruption. Dictators or at best deprecating despots have been romping themselves as democrats with their common enemy being freedom of speech.
Democracy faces obsolescence when the citizens are laid-back and freedom is menaced when the media is muffled. Perceiving something that the government claims is satisfactory and pointing out why it is atrocious is a major idiosyncrasy of democracy and a constitutive function of the press. Indeed, it is one of democracy’s most imperative safeguards. The undiscerning Buhari’s regime has been trying to browbeat the media into tractability. The administration plans to criminalise “hate speech,” under a law that may necessitate mass scrutiny and proximate tracking of social media.
Yet, it is generally acknowledged in free societies that what counts as odious is subjective, so “hate speech” laws can be malleable tools for criminalising dissension. Notwithstanding the country’s dynamic press, it ranked an impoverished 115 out of 180 countries on the World Press Freedom Index 2020, where Ghana was 30th, South Africa 31st and Burkina Faso 38th. In defiance of the Constitution and court judgements, the government illegally detains people. Recent cases in Kaduna, Katsina, Cross River and Akwa Ibom States for the non-existent offence of “insulting the President” or a state governor illustrate the people’s gloom.
The constitutionally overly planned separation of powers among the executive, the legislature, and the judiciary that are recognised as a major pillar of representative rule is unstable. At the National Assembly, it has been a contour of legislators permanently seeking group and personal ennoblement; many governors have reduced State Assembly to contemptible subordination, thereby making short attrition of the fragile system of checks and balances. The dysfunction is made complete by the debilitating of the judiciary through corruption and coercion by insubordination to court orders.
Getting elections right and having people of candour to seek public office are necessary precedence for good governance. The differentiating factor of a democracy are the legislators, who are the concierge of the people’s yearnings and authority. But far from being champions of the people’s privileges and advocates of the safety and welfare of the citizens, the federal and state lawmakers are seen as pathetically selfish persons who are mainly involved with accumulating wealth. The captious task of making good laws, exercising oversight over the executive and keeping an eagle eye on public funds have gravely convulsed.
Nigerians must maintain democratic values through active participation. They have been missing in action, largely leaving the space for politicians to define, direct and corner the extras of civil rule. Inclusion and liberty are never achieved on a platter; they could be a long-drawn affair. The people need to constantly wield pressure to secure the ideals. French democracy has its catchwords of “liberty, equality and fraternity,” but citizens reserve their right to pour into the streets to affirm their discretion, irrespective of representative state institutions. Nigerians too need to recoup their vigour and passion in holding public officers accountable.
To halt the trend, civil society groups should re-strategise and re-energise. Labour and student unions need to chuck their unhealthy snug with the corrupt political class and rediscover their activist and progressive tradition. Professionals and academics should re-acquire the spirit of national service and work for the uplifting of the country. Common people as well should shake off complacency and rise above arm-twisting.
The time to act is now. This dismal circumstances demand determined pressure by the people to possess democracy and become masters of their destiny. Nigerians must make democracy work for them, or remain eternally miserable and disheartened. Political restructuring and electoral reforms are imperative. The first will allow for robust federalism while the other will ensure that elections reverberate the free expression of the will of the people.
It is left for the youths to uphold and crystallize what has been accomplished and heighten the democratic culture, values and good governance, without which democracy loses its lifeblood. The media should remain steadfast in its role as a defence against dictatorship and a watchdog to conserve public interest. But, perpetually, the June 12 resolve remains a dominant denotation of national democratic aspirations and a mobilisation point for real assimilation.
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