21 June, 2021
Your Eminence and my father,
Overall national discourse and our previous discussions on the above subject refer.
I commend Your Eminence and the leaders of the faith in Nigeria for your stated position on the need for all political parties to apply the principles of inclusivity in the composition of their ticket for the 2023 Presidential Elections, and particularly geographical and religious spread.
May I humbly commence by clarifying that myself and my principal, His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State are practically the poster boys for inclusivity and diversity management in Nigeria‘s current political dispensation – and I beg that my submissions herein will be received in that light.
As Your Eminence and many other leading members and blocs of CAN can personally attest, we have spent our 6-and-a-half years in office dismantling agelong imbalances in tribe and religion in Kogi State, as well as in gender, age, class and physical ability.
Accordingly, the ideas canvassed herein are limited, and should be strictly construed as my own attempt, out of the great love in my heart for the House of my God, to proffer a roadmap out of the strange political realities we have found ourselves in the country, and for the consideration of the Christian Community in Nigeria.
As of today, the composition of the tickets of the four leading parties with regards to geographical spread and the religion of their nominated presidential and vice presidential candidates for the 2023 Presidential Elections is as follows:
A cursory glance at the above listing shows that the APC and the Labour Party appear to have offended the inclusivity principles in their tickets by choosing people of the same faith, with the Labour Party (LP) even going further to choose two southerners, totally excluding the North and Muslims.
In as much as both the APC and the Labour Party have said that their current vice presidential candidates are placeholders who will be substituted in due course, the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) has insisted that ‘placeholders’ have no place in Nigeria‘s constitution or electoral laws.
This means that for the Labour Party, barring any change of mind by the party or last minute legal hurdles, the current vice presidential candidate can be substituted to a muslim northerner within the period allowable by Section 31 of the Electoral Act 2022, ie, before 90 days to the 2023 Presidential Elections.
On the other hand, the APC, having chosen a southern Muslim for her Presidential candidate, the party is having a harder time settling for a northern Christian for fear of electoral rejection by northern voters who are considered decisive to electoral victories in Nigeria.
The foregoing are the hard facts, and the times are such as require the wisdom of Men of Issachar within the Church. 1 Chronicles 12:32 describes the ‘Men of Issachar’ as those who ‘had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do’.
The Church not only needs her people who have understanding of these evolving political times but clear ideas/visions of what the Church (the Israel of God) should do in the circumstances. I do not arrogate to myself such wisdom, for I know nothing as I ought to know, but as a high-ranking politician and devoted Christian, I endeavour to make a few thoughts known.
Whereas the Christian Association of Nigeria has warned that two Muslims running on a joint presidential ticket in 2023 will not be accepted and can lead to the country’s collapse, she has been countered by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs led by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar III, which insists that the most important thing should be competence and that is what Muslims are praying for and will be voting for.
It is however almost certain that if the tables were turned and major parties presented a Christian-Christian ticket, both the NSCIA and the Muslim ummah will have as much, if not more, difficulties, accepting same as CAN and Christians are currently having with accepting a Muslim-Muslim ticket from the APC or any other party.
Accordingly, it is clear that the two main components of Nigeria‘s volatile religious atmosphere, the Christians and the Muslims, are reacting differently to the above developments, indicating that if care is not taken, the 2023 Presidential Elections will be another referendum on, not just political parties and their candidates, but the two major faiths and their electoral powers or values.
Personally, and I speak as a devout Christian politician who is zealous for the Lord’s House, I do not for one moment believe that any other party, irrespective of the way her Presidential ticket is configured, has shown capacity to defeat the APC in 2023.
Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu, the APC Presidential Candidate is on his own a formidable political power-base with a fearsome political machinery, largely self-built and therefore fiercely loyal, serving him across the length and breadth of the country – the vast majority of them youths with fire in their bones. His wife, Senator Sister Remi Tinubu, is also a major asset to him in this matter, being herself a long time ordained and faithful minister of one of CAN’s largest blocs.
Of course, I make the foregoing commentary from purely political permutations as a man and political practitioner, and utterly without prejudice to the uniqueness of what only God, Who rules in the affairs of men, can do. It is just too apparent at the moment that the APC, even with a Muslim-Muslim configuration, is going into 2023 with a considerable edge over the other parties, especially the humongous benefits of her powers of incumbency, not just at the Centre, but also in more states controlled.
It is therefore my humble appeal and suggestion that in considering her final positions on the Muslim-Muslim ticket conundrum into which the APC has fallen, CAN should prayerfully consider adopting an option that allows her to have a say in who the APC picks to deputise Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu.
It is better for CAN to take the lead in this matter by screening the proven records of possible candidates and suggesting them to the APC for possible addition to her Presidential ticket than to be presented with a fait accompli as is almost going to be the case now.
I am suggesting that CAN consider taking the initiative by getting ahead of the final decision-making in the APC and making a statement that recognizes the APC‘s mistakes while presenting her with a more excellent way that is not tantamount to electoral loss, ie, the adoption of a Muslim from any part of the North whom CAN can attest to his moderation and forward-looking policies and actions in matters of religion.
Should the CAN be persuaded by my argument, and if I may go further and suggest such a personality, I humbly and wholeheartedly proffer my dear boss and brother, His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State as the best candidate for CAN to adopt.
His Excellency is a Muslim, but his former Chief of Staff and now Deputy is a christian; his Secretary to the State Government has always been a Christian; two Heads of Service including the present one, the Speaker of the Kogi State House of Assembly and the Chief Judge of Kogi State are all Christians.
Your Eminence is aware that for the first time after 28 years of Kogi State‘s creation, a befitting Chapel stands in the precincts of the Kogi State Government House, built for the use of Christian faithfuls by Governor Yahaya Bello.
CAN, Kogi State Chapter, can confirm that His Excellency has bought and distributed at least 25 Buses for Evangelism to the organization and other Christian bodies within and outside Kogi State over his years in office.
He has displayed organic respect for Church leaders and has played host to numerous Christians fathers of the faith, often travelling back to the State from official trips to personally receive and welcome them to the State.
He has refused to discriminate in the release of monthly subventions in support of both Moslem and Christains organizations alike, both in sums given and times of release.
Among many such-like things that he regularly does.
My father, His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State came into office in a state where 20 worshippers died from a terrorist attack on a church in 2012 and where Christian were serially marginalised and he not only ensured that inclusivity became the order of the day, but it is on record that not one church or minister has been threatened, invaded or attacked in the last 6-and-a-half years, except in random security or kidnap scenarios that are quickly resolved. Surely, the same cannot be said for many parts of Nigeria.
I am especially urging prayers for the many Nigerians who are still in captivity in Kaduna and other States, many of whom are Christians and all of whom were abducted because non-state actors felt sufficiently emboldened by a lack of consequences to launch endless attacks on citizens. This is a situation that was developing in the Kogi State axis before His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State took the war to the various camps of the killers, including the deadly Darusallam terrorist group, discomfited them thoroughly and made sure they never regrouped. Surely, it is a situation the Church prays to see replicated all over Nigeria.
To summarize, I am praying Your Eminence and CAN as follows:
That CAN consider taking the initiative by stipulating that if APC, which has boxed itself into an electoral quagmire where necessity seem to be laid on her to field a Muslim-Muslim ticket if she wants to have a fighting chance in the 2023 Presidential Elections, then a moderate Muslim with proven credentials in diversity management and inclusivity, one who is friendly to the Church and has shown her unforced fidelity over the years, will be the only one acceptable on her ticket.
That Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State, having proven himself in divers manners to be a Friend of Christians possesses these requirements, and is therefore the only Muslim politician who approximates to CAN’s and the aspirations of Nigerian Christians in this matter.
Your Eminence may wish to recall that you personally presented to Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State an award of ‘Friend of Christians’ on 9th of March, 2021 during the dedication of the Chapel he built in the Government House, Lokoja. This event was widely reported on that day by The Cable, Vanguard and numerous other media outlets.
I still believe that with the option of a Muslim-Christian having likely eluded the APC, the next best thing to having one of our own in the Aso Rock Villa with Asiwaju Bola Ahmed Tinubu when he wins the 2023 Presidential Elections is for CAN and other well-meaning stakeholders in the Nigerian enterprise to impress on him and the party to select His Excellency, Governor Yahaya Bello of Kogi State as his running mate.
May the Lord bless Your Eminence, increase your greatness and comfort you on every side!
With all Humility and Zeal for the Church of Jesus Christ,
EDWARD DAVID ONOJA
Deputy Governor of Kogi State