A former Secretary to the Government of the Federation, Babachir Lawal, has warned the All Progressives Congress against picking a Muslim as running mate to its presidential candidate, Asiwaju Bola Tinubu, who is also a Muslim.
Lawal pointed out that Nigerians are still conscious of ethnoreligious factors in politics. According to him, Tinubu would have been running mate to the President, Muhammadu Buhari, when the latter became the candidate of the APC in 2014 but for the discouragement of a Muslim-Muslim ticket.
He issued the warning while speaking on a programme on Channels Television on Thursday.
Tinubu, a former governor of Lagos State and National Leader of the APC, had emerged as the flagbearer of the ruling party on Wednesday.
There are concerns that Tinubu, a Muslim, might be forced to pick a Muslim running mate from the North where Christians are the minority.
When asked if it was time for northern Christians allegedly marginalised to be placated with the nomination of one of them as Tinubu’s running mate, Lawal said, “I will answer this question in a roundabout way. A political party is in the business of winning elections and to win elections you need to get the votes to beat your opponents. The way I see it is that in choosing your vice-president, that must be paramount in your mind. You can have the best ticket but if you don’t win elections, it is a waste of time.
“So, whatever candidate we are going to choose, we will bear in mind that that vice-president will contribute to winning that election. How does he (or she) continue? It is either he (or she) is popular and can bring in the votes or he (or she) can bring the money that will help our logistics in getting out the votes, so we can win the elections.
“But then, there is also the requirement that you want to run a united country; you want to run a country where you don’t he friction in the society – peaceful, settled and everybody goes about their business.
“To that extent, you must factor in Nigeria’s peculiarities in politics. That is why, for example, in recognition of these peculiarities, the northern governors and the majority of us in the North felt that the presidency ought to shift to the South.
“It is not a requirement in the Constitution that it has to shift. There is no zoning. But it is so we can have a country that is united; that everybody can go about their business in a peaceful environment.
“It could have been possible for a northern (presidential) candidate to emerge. But then, you would know that running the country in that manner would have the southern part of Nigeria (to be) hostile to that government. So, we allowed it to shift.
“Now, extending that consideration to the Muslim-Muslim ticket, I have lived among the Christians and I know that among the Christians, the question of a Muslim-Muslim ticket is a no-go area. It is dead on arrival. Buhari himself, even at that time, had to drop this present presidential candidate (Tinubu) because of the tension of a Muslim-Muslim ticket. And we have not seen anything in the country that has changed significantly to allow that to happen.
“On the contrary, it has worsened. The religious divide has increased. Tribal divisions have increased. Regional divisions have increased. So, it would be a good thing if APC would settle for a Muslim-Christian ticket because we know (that the) PDP, that is what they would do.”