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Tinubu/Shettima: Time To Change Aso Rock Villa Into A Temple Of God

By Ali Abare

The controversy trailing the decision of the presidential candidate of the All Progressives Congress (APC), Asiwaju Ahmed Bola Tinubu, to pick the former governor of Borno State, Senator Kashim Shettima, as his running mate, is a needless trajectory fueled by the elites for selfish ends.

This pseudo-religious renaissance in a 21st century democratic and secular Nigeria, however, portends great dangers, especially considering the orchestrated attempt to turn the country’s democracy into a religious miasma.

Those clamouring for the elevation of religion above popularity and acceptance, the basic concepts of democracy, must realise their futility in as far as the seat of the federal government, the Aso Rock Villa, is not a temple of God, but an edifice signifying the collective decision of Nigerians, who may either be Christians, Muslims, pagans or even free thinkers.

Agreed, there are Christians and Muslims in Nigeria but Nigeria is a secular society practising democracy patterned on the free market economy. The agitation for religious representation in our politics is agreeable but it shouldn’t be taken as far as pitching the country on the path of religious intolerance.

Even as various stakeholders agitate for space in the country’s political terrain, the continuous projection of religion over capability especially in a democracy demanding service delivery, particularly at this point in the history of the country, with mounting challenges of insecurity and high cost of living, is not only ludicrous but self-serving.

Those who are spearheading the religious campaign should rethink and instead challenge our political leaders to lead and live religiously while in office. There is too much religion in the country without the fear of God. If not, the numerous cases of mind-blowing corruption and sleaze among public officials won’t be there. Instead, our clergies continue to insist on religious representation while abandoning the teachings of the religion.

If truly we desire religion to play a critical role in our democracy, then it shouldn’t be about representation but living a life that aligns with the teachings of our religions. Of course, Christianity and Islam are not the only religion in Nigeria. By the time members of the Grail Message Movement, free thinkers, traditional worshippers, and Eckankar members, all join the agitation for representation, the ensuing chaos is better imagined.

Truth is, there is no genuine conversation on the true situation of this country. The opposition parties appear to be at their wit ends and lacking any tangible point with which to confront the ruling party, they desperately cling at every opportunity, to try to cause problems for the APC.

Or else, how could one justify the enormous time, energy and resources, being channelled towards fueling the Muslim-Muslim ticket controversy, as if religion is the guiding principle of a secular, democratic nation like Nigeria.

Even the APC presidential candidate, while making known his decision to pick Shettima as his running mate, tried to appease every sensibility, stressing that neither religion nor ethnicity was a factor in his choice but the need for the party to ensure good governance that will bring about development across the country.

“Today, I announce my selection with pride because I have made it not based on religion or to please one community or the other. I made this choice because I believe this is the man who can help me bring the best governance to all Nigerians, period, regardless of their religious affiliation or considerations of ethnicity or region,” Tinubu stated.

It’s paradoxical that the same Nigerians that hailed the APC for insisting on zoning its presidential ticket to the South, which is predominantly Christian, could turn around and still castigate the party when the APC presidential candidate decided to pick a Muslim from Muslim dominated North as running mate.

This is true, a necessary turning point in the political history of the country. This is the moment when Nigerians agree to throw away the politics of patronage and embrace only merit and capacity. With this decision by Tinubu, it’s clear that henceforth, merit and competence should be the deciding factor in the country’s push for a more robust democracy.

Instead of focusing on issues that bother national development, the opposition and their agents are fixated on the religion of the vice presidential candidate of the APC.

Asiwaju Ahmed Bola, who appears to be in the eye of the storm, has however remained unshakable, and resolute.

At a ceremony to unveil Shettima as Tinubu’s running mate, Asiwaju restated his strong belief in competence over any other considerations.

“All my life, my decisions regarding the team I am around and those I work with are guided by the principle of competence, innovation, compassion, integrity and adherence to excellence. In politics, those principles are non-negotiable. Without them, there cannot be victory, there can be no joy,” he said.

On his part, the APC vice presidential candidate, Senator Kashim Shettima, dismissed the controversy over his religion as an invidious agenda of a few.

Speaking on the controversy over his faith, Shettima said some persons also dispensed similar bigotry ahead of the APC primaries in June but the outcome showed that Nigerians are rational people.

“We all witnessed the decisive blows dealt the bigotry dispensed by a hopeless minority, ahead of the APC presidential primaries, last June. The futility of their propaganda showed that Nigerians aren’t the unthinking robots some are quick to call them. Nigerians are rational beings with the capability to tell an invidious agenda apart, from a sincere concern for them,” he stated.

While detractors are wont to fuel the Muslim-Muslim ticket controversy, it’s worthy of note to consider the opinion of students of democracy. Democracy is alien to our culture which explains why as our democracy evolves, we will continue to whittle down our excess baggage until we attain true democracy.

Political scholars agree that democracy and religion need not be incompatible. Quite the opposite. Democracy has proved to be the best framework for freedom of conscience, the exercise of faith and religious pluralism. For its part, religion, through its moral and ethical commitment, the values it upholds, its critical approach and its cultural expression, can be a valid partner of a democratic society.

That proponent of religious inclusion in our politics should rather concentrate more on preaching morality to our leaders, towards ensuring that our leaders remain true to their oath of allegiance to their various offices. Let them be fear of God in governance and leadership.

In as much as the Aso Rock Villa is not a temple of God but the seat of government, the least our religious propagators could expect, is for our leaders to remain true to their chosen faith. Anything short of that is tantamount to asking for the Villa to be converted into a temple of God.

Abare is the Nasarawa State Coordinator, BAT-3G, a Tinubu support group.

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