Nigeria: Senator proposes bill to end same religion presidential ticket

By 'Tofe Ayeni
Posted on Monday, 5 September 2022 14:28

APC party's new presidential candidate Bola Tinubu shakes hands with Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari during the party's convention in Abuja, Nigeria June 7, 2022. Nigeria's Presidency/

Following the controversy surrounding the decision of the ruling All Progressives Party (APC) to have Muslims on both their presidential and vice presidential ticket, a senator representing Kogi West Senatorial District has proposed a bill to end same religion tickets.

Kogi Senator Smart Adeyemi announced the proposal at a conference on 4 September. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) says it is ‘a bill for an act to amend the electoral act 2022 and for other related matters connected 2022’.

Following presidential candidate and Lagos political godfather Bola Ahmed Tinubu’s choice of former Borno State governor Kashim Shettima as running mate, there is debate over whether a country split down the middle – between Islam and Christianity – should have two Muslims in the highest offices.

Catholic Bishop of the Sokoto Diocese, Matthew Hassan Kukah condemned this choice, saying: “I think that as a Christian, this is totally reprehensible. It is not acceptable to me.”

If the bill goes through, same religion candidates would not be allowed to share a ticket in all elections after 2023.

Supporting CAN

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has been particularly vocal about its lack of support for the APC ticket. Senator Adeyemi says: “[…] I am in total support of the issues and concerns named by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). I am a practising Christian, but we must not confront these issues in such a manner that will obstruct the fabric of our national unity … Yes, there have been oversights in key appoint[ments] in the past, which tends to keep the Christians at a disadvantage.”

However, he stresses that “it must not be seen that there are no Christians who are eminently qualified to occupy any of these positions”.

An APC problem?

Currently, in the ruling party, the president, chairman of the party, deputy chairman, president of the senate, speaker and deputy speaker, presidential candidate and his running mate are all Muslim.

On 11 July, Christian APC political leaders in the 19 northern states met in the Federal Capital Territory to discuss this bias, stating that the party’s constitution states that it “will guarantee equal opportunity for all … eliminating all forms of discrimination and social injustice among Nigerians”.

Significantly, the main opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) is led by a Muslim, former vice president Alhaji Atiku Abubakar, but his running mate is the Christian governor of Delta State, Ifeanyi Okowa.

Similarly, up-and-comer popular candidate for the Labour Party, Peter Obi, a Christian, chose a Muslim, former senator Yusuf Baba-Ahmed, as his vice presidential candidate.

Some wonder if APC’s risk could be detrimental to its chances of success in 2023.

Why does it matter?

Christians make up roughly 50% of the population, and Section 14(3) of the 1999 constitution says: “The composition of the government of the federation … shall be carried out in such a manner as to reflect … the need to promote national unity and also to command national loyalty.”

Many do not believe that a Muslim-Muslim ticket will fairly support the issues of Christians and call for a more representative government.

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