The Fallacy Of APC’s Muslim-Muslim Ticket

The Fallacy Of APC’s Muslim-Muslim Ticket

By Emeka Alex Duru

Take away the unceasing tide of insecurity, the harsh economic climate, perhaps, the most topical issue among Nigerians, today, is the ticket of the All Progressives Congress (APC) flag bearer, Bola Tinubu and former Borno State governor, Kashim Shettima, as running mate, for the 2023 presidential election.

Both are Muslims from the two major divides of the country – south and north, respectively. And that is the issue. The choice has been long in coming, preceded by speculations and permutations. When it eventually came, it confirmed fears in some quarters and has raised concerns in many.

The shock arising from the team, is not surprising. In Nigeria, religion is a big issue. Given the complexities of the country especially the fragile relations between the adherents of the two major religions – Islam and Christianity, it is a subject that is treated with caution and extreme care. At no other aspect of national life is this sensitivity observed as in selection of candidates and assignment of duties for political purposes, especially at the presidency.

This explains why in Nigeria’s elections since independence, except in few instances, there has been the consciousness on religious balancing over the choice of flag bearers by political parties. The last of such exceptional cases was in 1993 presidential election when the then Social Democratic Party (SDP), picked two Muslims, MKO Abiola as candidate and Babagana Kingibe, as his running mate.

Since the onset of the current dispensation in 1999, the tradition of delicate balancing has been maintained. In 2015, at the formation of the APC, the pull was strong for the candidate, General Muhammadu Buhari, to run with Tinubu but consideration of that tricky factor, made Buhari settle for Prof Yemi Osinbajo, a Pentecostal Pastor. That is how thorny the issue is and the danger of the APC candidate subverting it.

Some may argue that it should not matter, now, especially when taken from the extent the country has gone down and the desperate need for competent hands to reposition it. That seems a sound argument, on the surface. Others may even choose to play the ostrich and seek to know if the constitution has in any way been breached by the combination. That, also may have some logic. But then, every system is a laboratory of its own democracy and etiquettes. Ours, in particular, is a peculiar case. For us here, symbolisms matter. I guess it is also same, elsewhere.

Harvard University Political Scientists, Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt, argued as much in their insightful book, “How Democracies Die”. According to them, democracy is not a street basketball but an engagement with established norms. “Democracies”, they argued, “do have written rules (Constitutions) and referees (the courts). But these work best and survive longest in countries where written constitutions are reinforced by their own unwritten rules of the game. These rules or norms serve as the soft guardrails of democracy, preventing day-to-day political competition from devolving into a no-holds-barred conflict”.

They further observed that norms are more than personal dispositions and do not rely on political leaders’ good character but are rather shared codes of conduct that become common knowledge within a particular community or society – accepted, respected and enforced by its members.

Democracies begin to die when these principles are ignored or circumvented. 


When people talk about fair representation, it is not that a group or persons from a particular section of the country or faith, cannot accomplish a given task. It is rather about equity, fairness and inclusion.

The excuse by Tinubu for choosing Shettima on grounds of competence and loyalty, flies in the face. Rather, in the brazen selection, he and the APC are simply saying that there is no Christian in the North capable enough to be a Vice President if the party wins in 2023. For a people that have given in much at critical times in the nation’s history to keep the ship of state afloat, that is not the best way to show them reward. But more than that, the APC candidate and his henchmen have in this crass bigotry, demonstrated their level of disdain and insensitivity to the Christians all over the country, including the members of their party.

Nigerians, particularly the Christians, have in the last seven years witnessed unparalleled alienation on account of the provincial and parochial tendencies of the Buhari administration, especially in key appointments, even when there is a Christian Vice President. Under APC, we now have a Muslim Presidential Candidate (Lagos), Muslim Vice Presidential Candidate (Borno), Muslim National Chairman (Nasarawa), Muslim Deputy National Chairman (Borno), Muslim President (Katsina); Muslim Senate President (Yobe); Muslim Speaker (Lagos); Muslim Deputy Speaker (Plateau). Exceeding this scary bar can be an overkill.

That is why the argument that Nigerians should use their votes to determine their choice in 2023, may not be an effective way of explaining the situation. That, even, conveys a message of impunity. Again, truth be told, Nigerians are yet to be sufficiently convinced that their votes would count in next year’s poll. Experiences of the past and preparations for 2023, are not too assuring for the people to go to bed, believing that their votes would speak for them.

The people involved are also masters of the game. They know how to waddle their ways out of the swamp. We were here in the Second Republic, when in the face of obvious failure to provide good governance, the then ruling National Party of Nigeria (NPN) boasted that even if the people did not vote for it in 1983 general elections, the trees in the bushes and birds in the air would vote for its candidates. Nigerians, of course, did not pay much attention to the remarks till the party executed its massive rigging scheme resulting to its so-called “landslide victory”, to the point of scoring votes that outnumbered registered voters in some polling booths and constituencies. That is what we may see in 2023.

If you watch the body language of Kano State governor, Abdullahi Ganduje, his Kaduna counterpart, Nasir el-Rufai and even Shettima who have championed the Muslim-Muslim ticket and their records in their states, you will understand where Tinubu is drawing his audacity from. His declaration that being president of Nigeria has been his ultimate ambition, is also a testament to the extent desperation can take him.

What is at stake, in all these, is the corporate existence of Nigeria. All the fault lines in the country are already present and wide. We are clearly on the edge.  A further push may be dicey and unpredictable. That is the danger of the Tinubu-Shettima Muslim-Muslim ticket.

— DURU is the Editor, TheNiche Newspapers, Lagos.